It’s a given that older Mercedes have a good track record for longevity so it’s not all that unusual to encounter a superannuated Benz-o out there in the wild, especially a big S-class sedan. We came across one the other day that stopped us dead in our tracks. It’s a 300SEL from the late ’60s – early ’70s that wears a subtle 6.3 badge on its trunk lid. It’s one of just 6,400 built over the 4 year model run fitted with the V8 that initially saw service in the 600, the Pullman Mercedes that was usually sold to heads of state or drug lords or some combination of the two.
The philosophy behind this move is much the same as that which catalyzed the creation of the far less lordly Pontiac GTO and Plymouth Roadrunner: take the biggest motor you can find and stuff it into a relatively lightweight body and, voila, you have a turn key hot rod. The comparison might seem far fetched but consider that 6.3 liters translates to 385 cubic inches and the GTO’s motor was a 389. The 300SEL 6.3 weighed in at 3800 pounds, the GTO’s avoirdupois was virtually the same. That advantageous power-to-weight ratio resulted in the 300SEL 6.3 being the fastest production sedan of its era.
We really love the counterintuitive thinking that made a dignified, stately sedan into a brilliant muscle car, especially the fact that, apart from the ‘6.3’ badge, there’s nothing that screams “I’m fast” about the car. No racing stripes, no gratuitous scoops, vents or louvers, spoilers, just dead-on, no-prisoners-taken, semi-covert Mercedes menace. And how about those body color wheel covers? Mag wheels and fender flares have no place here; this is for adults, not children.
Even lesser big Benzes have significant presence so we’ve collected a gallery of some others of similar vintage that may not be as fast as the 300SEL 6.3 but do have grown-up appeal just the same.
We understand that maintaining a 300SEL 6.3 represents a significant commitment of resources but we think it’s a pretty good rolling investment since they don’t make cars like this any more. Here’s one in nearby Lake Geneva WI on offer for a shade under $33K. Pretty nice car but we’d worry about how low it sits in the rear. Might be a problem with the air suspension which isn’t something the guy at your local Jiffy Lube can fix. This low mileage (118,000) example in nearby San Marcos CA costs quite a bit more but has a less disconcerting stance.
This MBZ promo video about the history of the S-Class includes a passage about the 300SEL 6.3 around the 6 minute mark; we find it curious that reference to the political upheaval of 1968 is incorporated into to the introduction of the subject. If ever a car screamed “Ruling Class” it’s this one.
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