Curbside Classic: 1997 Mercedes-Benz S600 (W140) Lorinser – Panzer In The Weeds

Just like the Bluebird we saw a couple days ago, we’re going against type here and checking out a Tokyo find that is not the traditional trailer queen, to say the least. But it is something left field. Emphasis on the word “field.” It’s massive. It’s rare. It’s overtaken by grass! What kind of a world are we living in where a LWB 12-cyl. Benz could just be left to slowly sink into the very earth it was parked on?

I’d love to know this car’s story. Someone spent a good chunk of change on ordering the top-of-the-line Benz saloon and even went through the trouble of getting it Lorinser-ified, only to turn it into the world’s heaviest four-door lawn ornament. Something went very wrong somewhere.

There was a strange beauty about this black luxobarge devoured by greenery. But also quite a lot of frustration: the Lorinser stuff is basically a body kit, and most of it was invisible amongst the flora. Well, there was one solution: since this Panzer wasn’t about to be pressed back into service anytime soon, I just needed to wait for the grass to go away. Fast-forward to…

A couple years later, at the beginning of April 2023. I came across the Lorinser S600 again, almost by accident; I had sort of forgotten about it. But now, it was much more CC-friendly. Wheels aside, this is the genuine article, I think. Not that I have any other Lorinser W140 to compare it to, except those on the web, and there aren’t too many of those. But it seems pretty kosher.

Lorinser is a tuning specialist outfit, like Brabus or AMG. It predates those two as a business, having been founded back in 1930 as an independent car repair shop in the Stuttgart area. The company soon became a rather important Mercedes dealership, but only got into the tuning game in the ‘70s. Lorinser still does the lion’s share of their work on M-B cars, but have now broadened their scope to Toyota and MG.

As far as I know (which isn’t much, as there isn’t a lot out there about these), Lorinser did not do any special tuning to the W140’s engine or suspension. Their involvement was strictly to do with the body: special bumpers, side trim, wheels and the like.

The original Lorinser kit, as fitted to the first series Mercedes W140s (1991-93), would have included these famous wheels, which are conspicuously absent from our feature car. Then again, those wheels are so sought after that it is conceivable that they were sold off. The Lorinser kit was modified and expanded to the W140’s mid-section later, probably when the car underwent its facelift for MY 1994.

With just under 400hp in stock form, the all-alloy 48-valve DOHC 5987cc twelve is certainly able to get this sizable slab of black forest gâteau going. Sure, it’s not the 7-plus litre 500-odd-hp behemoths that AMG was making, but the Lorinser is not aimed at the same (small) crowd.

So who was this super-special S-Class trying to seduce? Well, the whole spiel that Lorinser was pulling here was better aerodynamics. That and big chrome rims. So the target audience was probably rappers, Hollywood heartthrobs and young-at-heart oil sheikhs. Apparently, one could also add a few Japanese connoisseurs. Still pretty niche.

Whoever ordered this one even went as far as deleting the hood ornament. Hey, if you’re looking for the path of least wind resistance, some symbols are going to have to go. The standard-issue V140 (that’s apparently the code for the LWB cars) boasts a drag coefficient of 0.31, which is already impressive, given the size of the beast. But I guess every little helps.

I’m not a huge fan of the W140’s looks (too massive, especially the rear end), but that cabin has to be one of the best-looking of the ‘90s. It looks a little weathered and unkempt in there, but it’s nothing a little elbow grease and a vacuum cleaner couldn’t fix.

That’s more than can be said about the exterior. A nice thick tarp would have been a lot cheaper than the respray this sad old Benz will require to be rejuvenated. The small twin antenna on the left side of the backlight is a TV aerial, by the way – those were de rigeur on Japanese market luxury cars in the ‘90s.

I took these pictures about a year ago, and I’m glad I did: knowing that this post would be up soon, I went back to the place where this sonderpanzer was languishing a few days ago, just out of curiosity. It was gone. Did someone clock it for what it was, purchase it off the owner’s relived widow, pump enough air inside those tyres to get it to a specialist repair shop so it could be brought back to its former glory?

We can only hope. I’ll be sure to keep an eye peeled for it – it’s not like there are too many W140s about anyway. It’s strange, as Tokyo is chock full of W124s and W201s, so there was a great appetite for Benz products in those days. The W140’s size may be the underlying reason for its rarity here, be it Lorinser or notinser.


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