Lest anyone forget, in 1973, Mercedes was still a few years away from releasing its first production estate (unless one counts the W110 Universal made by Belgian firm IMA). If the amount of custom coachbuilt wagons on the market was any indication, Stuttgart deferred making its decision to offer any of its sedans in longroof form until it was clear there would be a solid demand for one.
It was at that time that this custom W116 wagon was made; just the ticket for the wealthy family who would only carry their brood around in the best car available. The best Mercedes sedan of the era, with a 6.9 liter dry-sump V8 and full hydropneumatic suspension, still coddled its occupants with manual seats and manual side view mirrors. So it’s no surprise that this slightly less opulent car comes with MB-Tex vinyl seats and without a sunroof.
Given that the bulk of W114/W115 production was devoted to four-cylinder and diesel cars, the larger sonderklasse cars were the preferred (though not exclusive) basis for wagon conversion, at least at the high end of the market in 1973. This car, with its more conventional 4.5 liter V8, makes for a much more pleasant way to carry five passengers and their luggage than a 220D would, but don’t expect genuine speed.
Like a lot of what-ifs, this 450 SE estate looks just a little bit wonky, but it’s actually one of the better conversion jobs out there. Built in Bremen by Norddeutsche Karosserrefabrik, a pretty decent job was done of integrating the side window with the rest of the car’s profile, with the drip rail continued and the belt line remaining uninterrupted over the length of the car.
Compared to the more popular (if you can use such a word) Crayford conversion, illustrated by this burgundy long-wheelbase car, our metallic champagne example represents a somewhat more natural extension of the sedan’s shape.
In the case of the German coachbuilder, it looks as though the fuel tank was moved to the spare tire well, since it’s not in its traditional location behind the rear seatback and the extra wheel is evidently stored on the left side of the cargo area.
The spare tire well, however, has been maintained and has fuel lines coming out of it. Even without the Detroit big block V8s common in other big wagons of the day, these aren’t especially efficient cars and needed all the fuel they could get. I would love to know just how many gallons can fit in the custom tank, and how many times a driver would have to fill up on a round trip from Jacksonville, Florida, where this car was shipped in 1974, to Miami or Disney World.
This unique car is currently located in the Atlanta area and one hopes it’s spent its entire life down south. Its current bid is set at $9,800, though the reserve has not been met. I really don’t think it’s worth that much, but with its small bumpers and unique bodywork, it does a great job of standing out from the other W116 sedans. And until one of us comes across a Shelby Dynasty, it will have to do.