Friday, August 22, 2014

12k: Legendary Lunacy: Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9

The flagship car is one featuring cutting-edge technology, performance, and aesthetics that will one day power entry-level commuters is everyone's favorite trickle-down theory. Deep in the 1970s fuel crisis, Mercedes curiously began the practice with a tank of a car accompanied by a bewildering price tag. Even today, the now-infamous 450SEL 6.9 commands a premium over its W116-chassis siblings, but this is one of the cheapest driving examples we've seen. Find this 1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 in San Francisco, CA for $12,000 via craigslist.

Besides a colossal price tag, the 6.9 was also afflicted with a self-leveling hydropneumatic suspension, not unlike the ones powering Citroens. Just like four-wheel steering (aka 4WS) and bungee cords, it's only fun when everything works. The seller promises it's been replaced recently, presumably with Germanic magic beans or some other voodoo, along with the brakes.

Compared to the 450SE's V8, the 6.9L displaced 2,300 more cubic centimeters and made 60 more horsepower, to 250, lopping off 2.4 seconds on its 0-60 run. But that's mostly thanks to a taller automatic gearset that didn't shift into 3rd until 66 mph. You can get away with tall gearing when you have 350 lb-ft of torque, or enough to embarrass most other cars of the fuel crisis era.

This 6.9 badge is the sole evidence of this car's eminence, and it isn't even that convincing. Yet its price earns its attention - most drivable 6.9s sell in the upper end of the Daily Turismo range, while show-ready examples crest $40k. This mammoth cruiser is priced and equipped for daily duty, assuming the suspension stays in line. 

See a cheaper, historic, hot rod sedan? Email us at

PhiLOL actually likes the tuna here, but abhors structural rust. Save the manuals.


  1. Not even an under the hood shot. If I lived within 100 miles of this thing I would be an interested looker..

  2. There's something about that generation of big Benz that never did it for me. I mean, the back seat of the LWB versions is just about big enough to make the motel room optional when you decide to get frisky with three of your wife's best friends, and the diesels are old-tech pre-smog devices that'll just go on for ever, but the shape is just too connected with the bad part of the '70s for me.

    I'm sure the old 6.9 is probably a better car than the earlier 300SEL 6.3, certainly the W116 was a whole lot more modern in a few areas both inside and underneath (rear suspension, transmission, etc.) but I'll take the earlier car for character and freedom from the smog Gestapo.


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