Brutish W116 Benz, bargain basement

The original ’bahnstormer barrels its way back into tempting sub-£15k territory

Everyone’s favourite Seventies Mercedes dragster – the bad-boy W116 450SEL 6.9 – is starting to look like a bargain. In March during the RM Sotheby’s Palm Beach online sale, a very well-presented ’74 in dark blue with mushroom leather and 74,000 miles made a tempting £17,500. Even with 5% import duty and shipping that’s still cheap for a moderate-mileage example of this boisterous bruiser.

But this slide in values has been happening for a while. Back in November 2018 at Historics, even the ex-James Hunt ’79, fully restored in original Topaz Brown, only made £27,000. A month earlier, Coys at Syon Park didn’t find a buyer for its handsome silver right-hand-drive 1980 example despite it having just 83,000 miles, history and a come-on estimate of £10,000 to £14,000. In April 2019 RM Sotheby’s sold a nice ’77 at Auburn Falls with 74,000 miles in dark blue with grey leather for £19,000; later that year Historics at Mercedes-Benz World didn’t sell its well-presented rhd 1980 in Astral Silver with blue hide and 83,000 miles. The Market, the online auction site in Oxfordshire, recently sold a nice left hook ’79 in Milan Brown with Tobacco velour, 112,000 miles and £20,000 of bills in its substantial history file for just £15,300.

‘For less than £20k you’ll own one of the greastest and gutsiest saloon cars of all time’

These slipping prices suggest that a decent-driving, shiny and historied 6.9 could soon be £15k territory. Buyers are rightly wary of the complicated Hydropneumatic suspension, body rust and epic restoration bills, but find a cherished 6.9 with bundles of past invoices and at under £20k you’ll own what is undoubtedly one the greatest and gutsiest saloon cars of all time.

The 1974-1980 W116 450SEL 6.9 was described by American magazine Car & Driver as ‘An exclamation mark on the story of an entire automotive era.’ This was once the World’s most accelerative five-seater saloon, good for sixty in seven seconds and a 145mph top speed – serious numbers in the Seventies.

In 1976 French film director Claude Lelouche strapped a 35mm camera to the front bumper of his 6.9, and early on a Sunday morning drove through Paris, flat out in eight minutes and seven seconds dead. His legendary short film, C’etait un Rendezvous is definitely worth watching, although because the Benz was so quiet at speed, he was forced to overlay the soundtrack of a Ferrari 275GTB. I’m sure Stuttgart’s engineers smiled wryly.

VALUE 2014 £17.5k

VALUE NOW £17.5k

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