(I’m a bit crunched for time, so I’m going to skip any of my own commentary. I already did that in my CC of this car)
Related: CC 1977 Mercedes 450SEL 6.9: Plenty of Power But None For the Seats PN
Probably the best 4-door car of the ’70s. But style-wise, the older 6.3 gets my vote.
Wow…$35,000 in 1976!
It doesn’t sound all that impressive until you realize that it’s the equivalent of $150,000 today, according to the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) calculator.
The 1976 Fleetwood Brougham started at about $11,000 and loaded would have been about $13,000 with the Talisman pushing $15,000.
Have you really checked out the price of current S-Class? S65 AMG starts at €236,000 as listed in German website…
Ya it was expensive. But all top dog cars are. A Bentley or top end of today’s S class approaches $150k. It costs to be ‘king of road’. Style… I too like the older 6.3. But I was always find of this body style. Even the 280sel. I like it better than the 81 version.
When Detroit made the best luxury cars in the world in the Fifties, they weren’t this expensive.
They weren’t imported from a country with a strong currency, either.
Before World War Two, yes.
Good point. There was a 1932 Deusenberg Model SJ sedan that sold for “Twenty Grand” when new. Also, the Continental MKII sold for $10,400, as much as a Rolls-Royce or two Cadillacs in 1956. In 1957, the $13,074 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham came along to reset the desired order. If you’ve ever seen these two cars in decent condition, you can tell just how far above their contemporaries they were.
In my (biased) opinion, the Last of the Great Benzes.
I will add to that the two R&T articles I scanned and posted here a while back, of the W116’s successor- the W126 (which I think bettered the W116 in every way):
When the W126 came out in the US, they were as malaise era as could be. So much of the luxury feel of the W116 was lost in the name of weight savings, and the engines were synonymous with regulation-induced austerity, at least in the US. I don’t think we ever got the 5 liter V8, and the 560-badged 5.5 finally showed up when the cars were starting to serve as a reminder of how bad things had been under Carter. I remember a ride in a W126 300SD that had me wondering why anyone would accept such a car for the price of a domestic sedan, let alone pay a premium for one. The US 380SEL was just quieter, but little more luxurious or powerful.
I may sound like I’m biased against Mercedes-Benz, but they were my brand for a while. I spent 1988-1991 alternating between a W115 240D and a W124 300E, and I loved driving them both for various reasons. I just remember the release of the efficiency obsessed W126, and all they had to tout was it’s reduced fuel consumption. How did that make sense for a car that cost as much as three bigger ones with more luxury gadgets and working A/C from Detroit?
There was an amusing comment on the previous 6.9 CC that Mercedes decline started when they added power seats.
I prefer my W123 with manual everything (except for brakes & steering)
The W116s DO look so much better with the Euro Bumpers and headlights.
Happy Motoring, Mark
Attended a car show last year which featured among the attendees a W109 6.3 and W116 6.9 parked side by side. Beautiful cars, both. The 6.3 was more elegant (and evidently quicker) but the 6.9’s looks were more suggestive of the power within, despite the lack of body mods from the lesser-engine versions.
My favorite 116 Benz is the SLC. I like it quit a bit more than the SL.
Paul u shud do an article on which classic was the first in which ppl realized it was too complicated expensive to bother. I think it was the BMW 850. 750. These old Benzes are keepers for that reason.
The 6.3 and 6.9 are crazy complex and specialized.
Beautiful car, but I bet the repair bills would be punishing! Then again, if you could afford a car priced at $140k (adjusted) you’d hardly be worrying about such things I guess!
The 6.9 is expensive to repair, like a modern car, but the killer problem is that it has an unusual engine and hydropneumatic suspension. Mechanics with necessary tools and knowledge are scarce.
You can buy a late model Mercedes with similar performance and modern safety and audio features, and there are abundant dealer and independent repair facilities and parts.
I had a pastel grey ’77 that was given to me by my boss in the 1990s. It looked beautiful but drove like a skateboard. Hydropneumatic suspension shot, various and sundry repairs cost me $50K in 5 years time. I got a lot of head turners and people trying to find out if it was a real 6.9 or just a 450SEL rebadged (I wish it were) I am a rare one that actually liked the enormous 6.9 bumpers aesthetically, I also got rear-ended in Beverly Hills. Demolished the guy that hit me, my car looked like nothing had happened. I sold it for $10K in 2001. The shipper picked it up and I didn’t even wave goodbye. Got an email from the new owner a few weeks later that he had totaled it. That particular 6.9 was cursed.
Actually i was more along the lines of ‘other’ old Benzes. But… On the 6.9 the only complicated system is the suspension. I don’t know much about it, but I know that’s its almost the same as the 560sel air suspension. So there’s plenty of parts to source and mechanics that know it. The engine is kjetronic and that is the most simple system to repair. I would say sourcing any specific 6.9 part could be problematic expensive. They sre simple to disgnise. And its a very rare car here. With newer classics like the 850 for eg. The problem is in diagnosing faults. You could spend thousands trying to fix an issue only to find that the problem still exists and 5 different mechanics have 5 different solutions. Computers in the automotive repair world made things difficult in a sense.
I had a murano that had the engine light on. When the dealer scanned it it could have been one of 3 sensors. I was surprised the diagnostics didn’t pinpoint the exact sensor.
James Hunt had one!
Could this be legally purchased and driven in the U.S. when it was manufactured? Just wondering because I’m simultaneously ignorant about M-B in the U.S. and well-versed in EPA smog standards of the era.
Yes. The last paragraph of the article clearly spells that out. The US version had 250 hp vs 286 for the European one. May not sound like much, but that was good for the times.
If we were to discuss the worlds fastest 4 door of the period the 1971 XY Falcon GT-HO Phase 3 would simply blow the doors clean off this luxobarge. Not even close in top speed, acceleration, handling or high speed stability.
Of course there are many counterpoints to this but the facts remain.set in stone.
Even the top of the line doesn’t always mean the external rear view mirror on the right side as standard feature. You wanna one? You gotta pay extra for that. Typical German in the 1970s.
So why wasn’t this just called the 690 SEL? (This was well before the widespread practice of alphanumeric monikers whose number implied a larger than actual displacement, but why *understate* the displacement?)
And how did Mercedes manage a legally compliant height-adjustable suspension in the early 5mph US bumper era that Citroen couldn’t?
Because it would have usurped the MB 600, which was a much more expensive and prestigious car. Numbers meant a lot at Mercedes back then.
450SEL 6.9 was following the tradition with 300SEL 6.3, which people associated with extra oompah and specialness in the engine department. It is equivalent of seeing AMG or Maybach brand on the boot lid.
Regarding your question about the hydropneumatic suspension system, Mercedes-Benz made a couple of changes to its own system, differentiating itself from Citroën.
The ride height adjustment in 6.9 is much narrower (about five cm) while Citroën can be raised or lowered as much as twenty centimetres. The bumper regulations mandated the bumpers to be at specific or within the height range. The 6.9 did not sink down to the lowest height every time the motor is switched off as Citroën did.
Mercedes-Benz used the failsafe system in case of hydraulic pressure failure with the rubber dampers that could double as springs.
Citroën could modify the system to comply with the US regulations if it had extra fund. However, the time in the early 1970s wasn’t kind to Citroën who was haemorrhaging money due to the expensive foray into ‘Italian romance’ with Maserati and due to the failure of its rotary motor programme. Most of precious funding was used to launch make-or-break GS and CX, replacing the ageing Ami and ID/DS respectively.
My 2014 Audi A8 TDI has the same horsepower rating, weighs about that same and has lux fittings MB didn’t even dream of in the ’70s. And the A8 will clock 37 mpg on the highway.
Amazing how far cars have come.
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