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    CAR MERCEDES-BENZ 450SEL 6.9

    Year of manufacture #1976
    Recorded mileage 33,487km (see text)
    Asking price £49,950 Vendor Avantgarde Classic, Tamworth, Staffs; tel: 07968 694448; www. avantgardecars. co. uk

    WHEN IT WAS NEW #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9 / #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9-W116 / #M100 / #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL / #Mercedes-Benz-W116 / #Mercedes-Benz-M100 / #M100 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes / #Mercedes-Benz-S-Class / #Mercedes-Benz-S-Class-W116 /

    Price £21,000
    Max power 282bhp
    Max torque 406lb ft
    0-60mph 7.2 secs
    Top speed 140mph
    Mpg 17

    This non-sunroof W116 is splendidly original and well kept, with a fantastic history file including all of the factory books and tags. The firstaid kit remains unopened and the spare, probably still with its first XWX, retains the cardboard tag, though it’s no longer wired to the valve stem. The car was bought new in Cannes and has been in Germany for the past seven years. It was painted during the latest ownership, and every fuel receipt kept shows a diet of only super unleaded. There are 12 stamps in the service book, the first seven from the supplying main dealer. The body is straight and rot-free; it was resprayed after a deer strike that slightly dinged the right eyebrow, and the owner insisted on a full repaint. All of the chrome is smart, the alloys unscuffed and shod with newish Toyos. Beneath, you can still see the M-B green underseal.

    Inside, the factory hide has never been Connollised. The driver’s seat base has a few creases, but that’s about it. The Becker Monza radiocassette player remains, with its handbook and warranty card. The speedo was changed at 105,000km, so the real figure is 138,000 – or 86,000 miles. The motor is tidy, having had the cam covers and airbox refinished. Its fluids are clean, the transmission fluid nice and pink and sweet smelling. The inner wings are excellent, and the underbonnet sound deadening is new because it’s pretty much a consumable on Mercs of this era.

    The 6834cc V8 starts instantly, and playing with the ride height setting reveals that the air suspension is functional. Oil pressure when warm is the usual Mercedes full-deflection 3bar, dropping to 2bar at tickover, and the temperature steadies at c80ºC. It squirts off (in near silence) with some alacrity, and feels as if it would simply keep accelerating at the same rate until it hit 140mph, all delivered with a sublime ride. It’s not intimidating, but it does convey a slightly menacing air – even in Thistle Green. Quite remarkable, and the aircon works. It will be sold with a fresh MoT.

    SUMMARY
    EXTERIOR Repainted to a high standard, on a rust-free structure.
    INTERIOR Leather pretty much as it left Untertürkheim, plus some patina.
    MECHANICALS Iron fist in a velvet glove.

    VALUE ★★★★★★★★✩✩
    For Stonk; ride; rarity
    Against Air suspension can get expensive, but it’s spot-on

    SHOULD I BUY IT?
    If you want what’s probably the best in the UK, and wish to be hurtled in comfort, look no further.
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    Nathan’s W123 (left) meets its big brother – the #Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 W116 / V116 I’ve fallen victim to the hard SEL.

    THE STORY SO FAR

    CAR #1980 #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9-W116 / #M100 / #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL / #Mercedes-Benz-W116 / #Mercedes-Benz-M100
    Borrowed by Nathan Chadwick
    Time borrowed Three weeks
    Miles this month 150
    Costs £150 (!)
    Previously The W123 is back on the road

    ‘How far away do your parents live?’ editor Phil asked. I eyed the keys to the Mercedes- Benz 450 SEL 6.9 sat teasingly on my desk. ‘Forty quid,’ I grimaced.

    I was exaggerating, but a round trip of 32 miles in an SEL 6.9 is not to be considered lightly. It’ll happily do the journey – my steed for the trip may look crispy around the edges but it’s had a thorough mechanical revitalisation, and is just awaiting some TLC to the body and paint.

    No, the biggest problem is its enthusiasm for fuel, because this is more than just a big old luxury Mercedes-Benz. It’s a six-nine.

    I’d seen them take centre stage in Ronin, Lost Highway and Rendez-vous. I knew manchild hero James Hunt had one, as did Frank Sinatra and Telly Savalas. Brigitte Bardot had an estate version. Fangio embarrassed a racing car on track with one hand on the wheel in his.

    So when Justin Lazic, who’d sold me the fresh engine for my W123, mentioned he had a six-nine and asked whether I’d like to borrow it for a few weeks, my answer was yes, yes and yes again. Please.

    But as Justin and I approached the SEL in its underground car park lair, I had mixed feelings. Would it be a disappointment? After all, its headline horsepower figure – 286bhp – isn’t exactly huge these days. I needn’t have worried. Dissecting our way out of west London, heading towards the freedom of the motorway, I lost count of the perplexed-looking faces of Range Rover owners left standing at the lights by this rusty old Mercedes-Benz.

    The key figure is the torque – 405lb ft, delivered at 3000rpm. Acceleration isn’t a punch, it’s an unstoppable surge akin to water breaking through a dam – the Hoover dam. There are no flat spots in the torque curve, no kickdowns (unless the driver’s being a hooligan), just pure, analogue heave. And it’s deeply addictive.


    So much so that any journey soon involved a mental recalculation of just how much food I had left for the month – it doesn’t take much provocation for the castiron M100 #V8 to imbibe in the manner of an undergraduate during Happy Hour. An empty, straight road? Just how many chicken breasts do I have left in the freezer? More pertinent food for thought is just how accomplished the SEL is – it’s difficult to think of a car that does everything so well, and so quickly. It’s stupendously fast, luxurious and deeply refined. At whatever speed, any passenger and I could calmly discuss everything from the rigours of my W123’s likely sunroof rubber repair to the wonderful, Apache gunship-style whirring noise the six-nine makes when pushing on.

    Day-to-day commuting was a challenge because it takes a long time for the engine to fully warm up – using that to excuse why I was late to the office each day elicited only bemusement after a week. Then there were the sizeable slurps of 98-RON that the SEL took when I just had to take the long way home. That’s what temptation does to you. In the end, my bruised wallet breathed a sigh of relief when I handed the keys back to Justin, but I soon missed the six-nine. I desperately want one. As for the fuel consumption? Well, I need to go on a diet…

    ‘What do you mean I have to give it back?’
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    For #1980 , #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-W116 introduces the most relentlessly efficient automobiles in its history.

    Dramatic fuel mileage gains of from 14.3 to 33.3 percent in gasoline models — without downsizing bodies or engines a whit. All five Diesels gain new power — without spoiling their famed fuel efficiency. A remarkable engineering accomplishment. But just what you’d expect from Mercedes-Benz in times like these.

    Stringent efficiency is no sudden demand to the engineers of Mercedes-Benz. For 94 years they have built cars with little else in mind.

    For 1980, these engineers have inched the standards up another notch. The result: eleven automobiles that stand as the most relentlessly efficient Mercedes-Benz has ever built. Evolution, not revolution.

    This new peak was reached without panic. Without downsizing bodies or cutting engine capacity. Without cutting hundreds of pounds of weight.

    And without cutting corners in safety or comfort or quality. From the solid “clump” when you shut a door, to the deep safety padding that envelops the cabin, down to the last lovingly hand-rubbed enamel coat, you can rest assured a Mercedes-Benz is still a Mercedes-Benz.

    Through meticulous technical refining, it is simply an even more efficient Mercedes-Benz.

    Diesels — and more power to them

    In any ordinary year, it would be major news that Mercedes-Benz engineers had boosted the performance of their Diesel- powered cars.

    And boost it they did — to a healthy degree. The muscular 300 SD Turbodiesel W116 is even more muscular. The five-cylinder 300 TD Station wagon, 300 CD Coupe and 300 D Sedan move more briskly. The 240 D Sedan enjoys new punch.

    But 1980 is no ordinary year.

    The best news is that the legendary Diesel fuel efficiency remains legendary. The economy of the 240 D remains in the rarified air usually reserved for compacts and mini-cars. For 1980. the 240 D with manual transmission has an EPA estimate of 28 mpg. That beats every compact, mid-size and large car listed in the official FPA fuel economy information for 1980, published September 7. 1979.

    All of this has been accomplished without tampering with the 240 D's solid 1.5 tons or its first-class accommodations.
    The 300 SD Turbodiesel gains a full 10 horsepower, further increasing its lead as the most efficient Diesel yet installed in a car. But while performance soars, fuel mileage remains the same as last year. Compare this to other cars. Your mileage may differ depending on speed, weather conditions and trip length! Mercedes-Benz engineers did enjoy a rather unfair advantage over other engineers working on other 1980 Diesel cars: the advantage of a 44-vear Diesel heritage.

    The pleasant shock of efficiency

    Mercedes-Benz offers the American buyer a choice of six gasoline-powered automobiles again in 1980. All six remain object lessons in advanced design.

    But the connoisseurs who always admired the 450 SFL Sedan as the nr plus ultra of automotive travel get a bonus in 1980. So do advocates of the six-cylinder 280 F. and 280 SF Sedans, and 280 CF Coupe. And enthusiasts of the 450 SL Roadster and 450 SLC Coupe may also be in for a pleasant shock.

    In these cars for 1980. fuel efficiency gains some makers might be pleased to achieve in two. three or five years have been achieved in one. Advances ranging from a 14.3 percent increase in fuel mileage for the 280 CE Coupe, 280 F and 280 SF Sedans, to a 33.3 percent gain in the 450 SEL Sedan, the 450 SL Roadster and the 450 SLC. Coupe. Compare this to other cars. Your mileage may differ depending on speed, weather conditions and trip length.

    Quality service: reaffirmed commitment
    With every new Mercedes-Benz comes a dual commitment: to provide unparalleled engineering in its cars and to provide unparalleled service — through the unstinting efforts of over 400 authorized Mercedes-Benz dealers across the United States.

    A challenge since 1886

    Every car maker today speaks of its cars being “right for the times.” Mercedes-Benz is no exception.

    But it is worth noting that Mercedes-Benz — having never let its cars grow too long and large and heavy — is not now forced into radical redesign to bring them back in line.

    Making its cars more efficient does not loom as “the challenge of the eighties” at Mercedes-Benz.
    It has alums been the challenge. Engineered like no other car in the world.
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    Best of the Best - #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9 W116 Driven / - #Mercedes-Benz-W116 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9-W116

    What it's like to drive a luxobarge with more torque than a Ferrari of similar years. This is the car that really paved the way for the super-saloons that are preferred by the super-rich today.


    Today, the richest 1% of the population glides through city streets in monstrously powerful symbols of opulence like it’s nothing. The over-engined #Mercedes-Benz-S-class is power, a new-money V-sign to petty concerns like fuel prices, austerity and public opinion. And the more things change, the more they stay the same. In fact in May #1975 , when the 450 SEL 6.9 went on sale, more than a year after its official unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show, this fuel-guzzling statement car was even more dramatic, as the oil crisis of the early 1970s sent petrol prices through the roof.


    Mercedes-Benz delayed the launch when the pumps ran dry, but eventually had to let the best saloon in the world free. Running a car that returned just 10.1mpg in Sport mode was still the equivalent of lighting a fat cigar off a £50 note and James Hunt’s own 6.9 ended up on bricks in his drive.

    It was the wrong time for a car of this ilk but, at the time of its inception, Mercedes-Benz was determined to overthrow the #Jaguar-XJ12 . It also wanted a successor to the world’s first real Q car, the 6.3-litre W109 300SEL 6.3, created by M-B engineer #Erich-Waxenberger , which was once the fastest fourdoor saloon in the world. This one continued the ethos: the only things to mark it apart from the lesser 450 were the 6.9 badge and wider tyres.

    Mercedes-Benz stripped the 6.9-litre M100 V8 from the 600, together with the trick hydropneumatic suspension system. Aluminium cylinder heads, hardened valve seats and sodium-filled valves, together with #Bosch-K-Jetronic fuel injection and dry-sump lubrication were all revised for the handbuilt 6.9. After all, this was an engine designed to make an impact on the world.

    Today anything less than 500bhp is barely breaking a sweat, but back then this 286bhp titan with its 420lb ft of torque was Top Trumps stuff. The #1976 #F1 World Champion #James-Hunt declared: ‘It looks like a taxi, goes like a Ferrari.’ That was slightly optimistic, but it’s a glowing testimony nonetheless.


    Others were equally keen. The great American journalist David E Davis said this was, ‘the ultimate manifestation of the basic Daimler-Benz idea of how automobiles are supposed to be designed and built. It is the best Mercedes-Benz automobile ever sold.’

    Like Davis, who claimed the big Benz handled like a Mini, CAR magazine was entranced with the road manners of this hefty hunk of car, which tips the scales at 1935kg. That’s 200kg more than the standard 450, thanks almost entirely to the big V8 up front. ‘A car of such speed and weight must have demonstrably good roadholding and handling, and this one is no disappointment in anything from a hairpin to a three-figure bend,’ the magazine said. Swiss automotive newspaper Automobil Revue, which is hardly known for going too far, called it: ‘The best car in the world.’

    So it’s good, then

    The 450SEL 6.9 cost DM69,930 (£12,880) at launch, but inflation took this to £24,950 by 1978, which was less than £2000 cheaper than a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II and almost twice as much as a #Jaguar-XJ5.3. For a car with cloth seats and not so many creature comforts inside. It was ludicrously expensive, but this was by far the fastest, most capable and brilliant saloon car in the world. It was a technical tour de force that came together in the face of environmental pressures making today’s Green movement look passive, and it a car that set the benchmark fo engined saloons everywhere.

    JFK Junior, Frank Sinatra Telly Savalas and the Shah of Iran all drove a 6.9, as did heavy metal star David Lee Roth, who painted his black and put a skull and crossbones on the bonnet. It was, then, a fashion icon and the public took to it. Despite its staggering price and fuel consumption, 7380 were sold between 1975 and 1981. That means they’re readily available today at a reasonable price – but that is surely set to change in the years ahead as the much-revered 6.9 becomes harder to source.

    As impressive as ever on the road

    It’s amazing how much perspective 40 years provides, as the eulogies bestowed upon the 6.9 simply don’t hold true today. US motoring scribe David E Davis suggested the big #Mercedes-Benz could be thrown around like a Mini, but after picking up the car here from Mercedes-Benz HQ in Milton Keynes we glide right over the first mini roundabout. The steering simply isn’t quite as pin-sharp as I was led to believe.

    The hydropneumatic suspension that was a development of Citroën’s system handles the weight well for a car of its era, but I still have to set up for the bend to avoid understeering into oncoming traffic. It’s well-damped in high-speed corners, holding the line effortlessly. The big Benz also tramples the mini-roundabout with barely a bump and squashes bumps and potholes without transmitting them to the cabin. It’s every bit as well damped as a modern car, more so even.

    Adjustable ride height seems like overkill for a saloon car, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless. The self-levelling front and rear and anti-squat technology to keep the car level under heavy acceleration and braking are more relevant. At the rear, the 6.9 inherited the standard S-class rear semi-trailing arm, along with a Watt’s linkage to help with enthusiastic cornering. That 200kg hanging over the front end still dictates a slow in and fast out style in slower corners. But, my Lord, it’s fast out, even in a modern context.

    The performance figures are impressive, with the big barge hitting 60mph in 7.4sec and a top speed of 140mph, but it’s the way it lets rip from 60-100mph that is shocking even today. The languid nature of the car simply does not match up to the way it acquires speed. It could absolutely shred your licence these days.

    That rumbling V8 is distant, insulated, like a distant storm. It makes its presence felt with every stab on the bounteous accelerator, though, as the scenery starts to rush past at a surreal rate and the fuel gauge seemingly drops before my eyes. There’s no getting away from the scary consumption – the Benz consumes a third of the 96-litre tank in 60 miles, but then you shouldn’t buy a 450 SEL 6.9 without knowing what you’re letting yourself in for.

    Thankfully for a car that builds speed so fast, it’s equipped with disc brakes all-round that seem stronger than the tyres’ ability to lay the braking power to the road. It will lock up, but that’s inevitable with this much weight going that fast, even though post- #1978 cars come with a rudimentary anti-lock system #ABS / #Bosch .

    Modern AMGs could learn a thing or two from the understated looks. Many owners deleted the 6.9 badge, making the big Mercedes-Benz look like a totally standard 450 on the outside, with just the 6.5J x 14in alloy wheels and wide tyres marking it apart. That aside the W116 is a comical blend of understated elegance and fussy detailing such as the double-deck bumpers, overly complex chrome window surrounds and louvred light lenses.

    Inside it’s typical 450 fare, with a few extra warning lights thrown in to accommodate the handbuilt engine that remained more or less maintenance-free for the first 50,000 miles. Those cloth seats seem out of place in a car that cost this much, but they’re supportive and suit the style of the car, allowing me to hang back with a single finger on the wheel. I can even mess with the #Blaupunkt stereo, with its digital display. It’s the one item on the car that isn’t period. The oversize handbrake is an item that never once fails to bring a smile to my face, even if starting out from an overnight stop at silly o’clock when nothing else is funny. The heavy wood veneer also takes me back to a bygone age. But the rest, including the cruise control, feels fresh.

    That’s the real surprise with the 450SEL 6.9. It might be an icon, but it’s a car that can hang with modern executive saloons. It’s a classic that simply doesn’t make any demands on the driver beyond a simple adjustment in driving style to cope with tight bends. In short, it’s a 40-year-old car you could drive every day that will still put a smile on your face when you flatten the throttle. There aren’t too many of those in this world.

    ALTERNATIVES

    Jaguar XJ12

    It’s fast enough to put a smile on your face, so if you can’t stand the thought of buying a Mercedes, the Jaguar will be more than enough fun. What’s more, you’ll be buying British.

    Bigger wheels are about the only giveaway that this is not a standard 450 SEL, especially if you remove the 6.9 badge.

    Target price £14k
    Target price £15k

    Above, man with smile on face, having just flattened the throttle.

    Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 vs. #Rolls-Royce-Silver-Shadow

    Much slower, more luxurious and with that quintessential English charm, the Rolls-Royce is a stylish alternative if you don’t give two hoots about performance.

    Yes, cloth upholstery. In a car chosen by plutocrats, heavyweight politicians, music superstars and Telly Savalas. David Lee Roth thought it looked better with a skull and crossbones. James Hunt said it looked like a taxi.

    Rolls-Royce and Bentley owners may sneer at the M-B approach to car interiors, but it’s comfortable and long-lasting.

    Select ‘S’ and you’ll appreciate that 420lb ft of torque. Three-dial convention, and a few more warning lights.

    The 6.9-litre engine is handbuilt, has aluminium cylinder heads and drinks petrol at the rate of 10mpg.

    SPECIFICATIONS

    ENGINE 6834cc/V8/SOHC #M100
    POWER 286bhp @ 4250rpm
    TORQUE 420lb ft @ 3000rpm
    MAXIMUM SPEED 140mph
    0-60MPH 7.4sec
    FUEL CONSUMPTION 10-15mpg
    TRANSMISSION RWD, three-speed auto


    OIL CAPACITY
    ENGINE 12.4 litres
    GEARBOX 8 litres
    AXLE 4.8 litres
    OIL GRADE
    ENGINE Castrol Classic XL20w/50
    GEARBOX Castrol Dexron 11
    AXLE Castrol Axle Z


    WHAT TO PAY

    CONCOURS £30,000
    NICE £20,000
    USABLE £12,500
    PROJECT £1000
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