By on April 5, 2018

It’s time to check out the flagship of a flagship. What happens when an S-Class is cross-pollinated with the largest V8 engine Mercedes-Benz can offer, then loaded up with cutting-edge automotive tech?

Why, it’s the 6.9.

Built on the W116 platform that debuted for the 1973 model year, the 6.9 was available starting in 1975. It was, in fact, the second time Mercedes-Benz produced a powerful and discreet S-Class. The first time around, the W109 S-Class (300SEL) swapped its standard six-cylinder for the 6.3-liter V8 from the 600 Grosser. An impressive 247 horsepower sent the 6.3 to 62 miles an hour in 6.6 seconds — incredibly impressive for a luxury sedan in 1969. The company wanted more, and Mercedes began work on the 6.9 after the 6.3 wrapped up production in 1972.

The donor 450SEL received considerable upgrades for its transformation into the 6.9. Its V8 was an enlarged version of the 6.3 from the Grosser and 6.3 sedans, now producing 286 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque. This made for a top speed of 140 miles per hour — though a porkier curb weight, emissions equipment, and more luxury features meant 0-60 times suffered, rising to 7.1 seconds.

Fuel injection was standard, and the M100 now featured a dry sump which extended oil change intervals to 12,500 miles. Mercedes employed Citroën-developed hydropneumatic self-leveling suspension, considerably more advanced than the Grosser and 6.3’s air suspension. Shock absorbers and springs were replaced by struts and actuators in the Mercedes system. This was all pressurized by a hydraulic pump which ran on the engine’s timing chain. The system allowed for an adjustable ride height (like Citroën), however, this was illegal in the United States because of aggressive legislation, so 6.9s shipped to North America had the adjustment knob deleted. It was for our own good, I’m sure.

The 6.9 was not for the faint of checkbook or the skinflint. When it offered to North America in 1977, it came at a cost of over $40,000. Its austere, non-rococo nature was not what the brougham American was used to. Its asking price compared poorly with a $16,000 Cadillac Fleetwood Seventy-Five, or even a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow at a slightly more dear $43,200.

Prices only climbed from there, and by the last year of North American importation (1980), the 6.9 sold for $52,995. Unsurprising then, that the 6.9 reached only 1,816 sales in its four years on the North American market. Exclusivity doesn’t come cheap.

Today’s blue beauty is a 1979 model with 46,000 miles on the precise German odometer. Recent work has been done to the suspension and various engine components, as one might expect of a vintage Mercedes. Both the interior and exterior recall a different time of design and indeed quality at Mercedes-Benz — just look at it.

It’s yours for $39,000, and included in the price is more understated luxury than any current Mercedes-Benz offering.

[Images via seller]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

70 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Sports/Luxury Mercedes-Benz 6.9 of 1979...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Oozes snobbery and elegance…

  • avatar
    danio3834

    My first thought was that charging $52,995 ($169,605 2018 dollars) for the equivalent of this car in 1980 was complete and utter hubris. I looked it up and the new S-Class Maybach starts at $168,600. A bargain.

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    6.9L engines are micro aggressions.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I remember reading the reviews when this thing hit the market. A Mercedes-Benz that does great burnouts and donuts? Yes, I’ll take one.

    Corey, I imagine that the ride height adjustment knob got deleted because of the Federally mandated bumper height regulations. This is why the rubber bumper MGBs got jacked up with a prehistoric lift kit.

    The price sounds steep, but if I had $39k burning a hole in my pocket, I’d go for it.

    • 0 avatar

      That sounds about right. I also considered it may have had something to do with headlamp heights.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        They set a mandated bumper height so that the 5 mph bumpers would bump into each other, instead of overriding or underriding.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          What are bumpers? Do we still have those?

          • 0 avatar

            They’re called grilles now.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Then isn’t everything in violation of the 1973 5mph bumper law? Fedgov never repeals anything, so what gives, why are these “legal”?

            Ah, an answer?

            “4) Are all vehicle classes required to meet the Federal bumper standard?

            No. The Federal bumper standard does not apply to sport utility vehicles (SUVs), minivans, or pickups trucks; only passenger cars. The agency has chosen not to regulate bumper performance or elevation for these vehicle classes because of the potential compromise to the vehicle utility in operating on loading ramps and off road situations.”

            http://sparebumper.com/federal-bumper-standards/

            Its the “classified as a light truck” thing all over again.

            Methinks someone needs to put this to the test, as no CUV is involved in off road situations and they are built on car chassis.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Even the car standards got rolled back to 2.5mph. And all the standard requires is that the car still be drivable and the lights work. You can cause $10K in damage, but that is just fine.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I think Sajeev’s brother owns (owned?) one of these.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Be still, my beating heart.

    My family had a 450SE (the short wheelbase S-class) back in the ’70s, and that was one magnificent car. Can’t even imagine what the 6.9 would be like.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      With the 6.9? Glorious.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Ours had the 4.5. But it was (by the admittedly lame standards of the day) a beast nonetheless.

        Wonderful car, as long as you had the money to keep it serviced properly. Towards the end of its’ life with us, Dad got hit with a $2,000 exhaust job, and this was in ’87 money.

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          Yep. Dad had a ’73 450SEL, bought in 1979 or so. Great car, built to last generations. Terrible air conditioning. 10 MPG. Zillion-coat pale-green lacquer, including on the wheel covers (remember wheel covers?). Epic depreciation made it easy to get on the road; obscene maintenance and repair bills made it challenging to keep there.

          I remember on one road trip it was downshifting randomly and the doors kept locking and unlocking. Vacuum problem…and the locks were vacuum actuated.

          He replaced it with a 300TD wagon: metallic brown, big round headlights, polished alloys, non-turbo 5-cylinder diesel, automatic that started in second gear. Built every bit as well as the stretched fuel-injected S-class, but almost comically slow.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            My 1997 Volkswagen Jetta (GLX VR6) had vaccum-operated locks, if you believe it. The vacuum was electric, rather than engine-operated, and located in the trunk, but if you loaded the trunk with too much cargo and crushed the locks, you’d be rewarded with painfully-slow lock operation.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          If you think the 4.5 is expensive, the 6.3 or 6.9 is in another universe entirely. Though of course these days the Internet is a huge help.

          But absolutely a PROPER motor car in everyway if you can afford it.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      We had one in 4.5 flavor as well, long wheelbase. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a short one that wasn’t a 380 from the next generation– that car must have been really fast for the day. I can’t remember what made my folks trade ours, but by 1988 it needed work that my dad (who ran an indy shop) couldn’t do and didn’t want to pay for. It’s got replaced by an ’86 W126, which was not nearly as cool.

  • avatar
    Dilrod

    That interior! Just wow….

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    421 cubic inches?

    Daddy likes.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The W116 is just about my favorite Mercedes-Benz, along with the W126.

  • avatar

    If I were independently wealthy, I’d buy this sweetheart and send her back to the land of her birth and pay a visit to Mechatronik (https://www.mechatronik.de/en/). The overreaching plan would be to keep as much originality as possible while prepping her for life in the 21st century….

    Oh, the possibilities……

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’d like to do a vacation to Germany just to visit that place. Pure Benz-gasm.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Or as my little nephew noted his first time visiting Germany as we walked through the airport parking lot in Frankfurt…”gee, there are so many German cars here…” Out of the mouths of babes…

        And that 6.9 is simply stunning. Indeed, from a different time when luxury didn’t mean who had the biggest infotainment screen jutting out of the dashboard.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Send a 4.5 or a six-cylinder car to Mechatronik, while keeping the 6.9 and its Citroen suspension intact.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Cool- back on the Ronin theme, Jean Reno drove a cool brown one iirc

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Cool, back on the Ronin theme, Jean Reno drove a brown one.
    The back seat room of these big Mercs is unbelievable. I rode in the back of the next gen 420SEL, at 6ft tall I couldn’t even touch the headrest of the front seat without leaning forward.

  • avatar
    Sundance

    Just for the rivet counters: The W109 was not a S-class (a wonderful car, by the way; I grew up in a W108 280SE, similar, but shorter and with the much smaller 6-cylinder). The W116 was the first car, Mercedes called “the S-class”.

    @FreedMike: Yes, Germany is definitely Benz-gasm… Almost each cab is a Benz over here. :-)

  • avatar

    This was when you bought a Mercedes, and expected to leave it to your heirs.

  • avatar
    Dutcowski

    I recall a mid-70s UK review. 6.9 XJ12 Seville and Silver Shadow. The Seville was RHD novelty and beat the roller on value. If memory serves me right it played out that way.

    LJK Setright or somebody?

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    While this vehicle is an extravagance, looking at it is a reminder of the days when all Benzes were built to a standard, not a price. (i.e. before Lexus).

    I still kick myself for having chosen an Audi 5000 diesel in 1980 rather than a W123 240D at roughly the same price. The Audi was a mechanical disaster; the 240D would probably still be running. Sure, both cars were grossly underpowered (65 vs. 69HP) but in the era of the 55 mph speed limit, that wasn’t too bad. (The Audi’s observed absolute top speed was 65.) . And, the Audi was nice cloth seats vs. the rather unyielding M-B tex of the 240D. But still . . . In fact, a few years ago, my oldest daughter was dating a guy who drove around LA in his 240D. I rode with him once; it felt amazingly solid on the highway.

    Left unmentioned is the no doubt prodigious amount of gasoline this car consumed while motoring down the highway in inimitable style.

  • avatar
    jfk-usaf

    Love it. I need another garage bay. I’d drive this to work with my head held high.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I believe that if I could only have one old car this would be it. (Well, it would be a tossup between this and a 280SE 3.5 coupe.)

    That color is great, but the W116 is one of the rare cars that I think is actually better in grey. I love the dark grey color that was available on late W116s.

    The slow 0-60 was more about tall gearing in the 3-speed automatic than curb weight or emissions. The engine had plenty of power, but it was doing what would be a third-gear start in a modern automatic.

    I can comfort myself that at least I managed to buy a car with hydraulic suspension, even if it (unlike the 6.9) still also has springs — and on mine the height is even adjustable!

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I had both a ’79 300TD and an ’88 300TE with the hydraulic suspension at the back – like a magic carpet ride, and astounding how much weight you could put in without the suspension dipping at all. Not a cheap setup to maintain, but worth it for the results.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I see a lot of the dash, center console and door panels in my 74 450SL. It does have the MB Tex upholstery which is probably a good thing since the original leather MB used seems to have a max service life of 15 years before it starts cracking. The leather in this one is pristine. Someone must have conditioned it every other month if it is original. Also it must have spent all its life except when it was being driven in a garage if the paint is also original. Ah, the life of a garage queen.

  • avatar
    Chetter

    What a car!

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I had a neighbor who bought one of these when he was working in Saudi Arabia in 1979, brought it back with him to the states. So no emissions gear, no sealed beam lamps, and no janked US-spec suspension. He was still driving it when I met him in 2007. I expect he’s passed on, hope somebody’s still driving it. There can’t be more than a few dozen Euro-spec 6.9s in the country.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Friend was the chauffeur of a local business family for 35 years, as they went from mere millionaires to billionaires. He and I had the same hobby.

    So I drove their 6.9 on pristine back country roads about 1978. I was used to musclecars from ten years earlier, all brute V8 thunder, howling rear tires, well all except the Barracuda 340S, which acted like a cheap tin can version of this thing.

    Stand on the gas, and the 6.9 would take off at a rate that did not seem alarming, but very smooth and with a sort of quiet rising hum. After a few seconds, probably about 7, it shifted smoothly into second at 70 mph on tbe clock and continued rapidly up to 110 mph, whereupon it engaged high. After that, you were on your own, because curves arrived quickly.

    It was all a complete no-fuss experience. Quiet and composed. No Detroit vehicle of the era moved like that, it was the malaise era after all. As a thirtyish car nut, I was forced to accept that this beast was imperious, not in a snobbish way, just in the way it performed mechanically, its very smoothness showing where it towered above Detroit’s version of power and handling in the unflappable way it went about its business.

    God, I wanted one badly, but it was almost three times as much as my annual engineer’s salary. Too bad. Was lucky to experience the uber car of its time.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I’ve had the pleasure of a ride in one as well, thanks to being in the MB Club. Great description! I compare it to a large jet airplane on takeoff (but much quieter) – the acceleration isn’t neck-snapping, but it is relentless and it goes on FOREVER. If Mercedes had a 4spd autobox that could handle the torque it would have been a much faster car 0-60, but Europeans really don’t care much about that. This car was ALL about the left lane of Autobahn at a steady 140mph.

  • avatar
    Dawnrazor

    Not only is this car sensational in every way, it is also a screaming good deal for a true classic. It almost boggles the mind that we live in a world where people clamor to pay upwards of $50k or more for some crudely-built muscle car which was priced less than $4k new and probably squeaked and rattled its way off the dealer lot, while this impeccably crafted beauty has barely appreciated to the break-even point with its original new price. Obviously the classic car market has always been driven by mostly emotional factors, but over the past 10 years or so it seems as if every shred of any “left-brained” sensibility has been completely excised from the process; nostalgia must REALLY be one helluva drug!

    I for one would be satisfied for a VERY long time with a garage consisting solely of this 6.9 plus a comparably nice R107 of similar vintage (roughly $25k for one in similar condition as this 6.9).

  • avatar
    V16

    This car defines the term ‘Understated Elegance’.
    Like wearing a tailor made suit of lightweight wool and cashmere.

  • avatar
    KOKing

    I was looking long and hard at these about a decade ago when they were about half this money…

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Its got the euro headlights, but it needs the euro bumpers instead of those awful battering rams.

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    My uncle Heinrich was a passionate Mercedes driver and owned a 280S and later a 350SEL, both were the W116 body style.

    If my memory has not let me down he drove his trustworthy 280S well into the mid-1980s only to lose it to an accident with a W123 Mercedes! When two tanks crash into each other the damage is very extreme. He loved the W116 body so much he purchased a low mileage 350SEL, even though at the time the W126 was already on the market. Eventually the poor fuel economy got the better of him and he downgraded to a base model second hand Mercedes 190D (the 190 series body style) which he amazingly still drives today when his health permits this.

    In the late 1980s I was a young man and uncle Heini (as we called him) allowed me to drive his 350SEL, and what an enjoyment that car that was. It felt heavy but offered impressive handling. I think the 3.5 V8 had at most 200-horsepower, more or less, but it was still an agile and quick car. Around the same time I earned some money as a part-time taxi driver with a 1977 220D W123 that had 60-horsepower and a 4-speed automatic. The W123 and W116 were pretty much similar cars in the way they felt, drove and handled with the exception being that the W123 was slower, particularly if it was a diesel.

  • avatar
    rcx141

    Gorgeous… when Mercedes were worth the money ! Now they are a commodity car at a premium price, like BMW

  • avatar
    peeryog

    Pretty much any sedan today is better then this car is so many ways: safer, less emissions, better mileage , faster, quieter, ad infinitum. We are pretty lucky. I don’t have a lot of love for these cars, my experience with Mercedes of this era have been less than stellar. However this one stands head and shoulders above any modern car for understated elegance, even if the seats are plastic. Its no wonder the demand for Singer modified Porsches.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I doubt very much that ANY 6.9 was ever built with MB-Tex on the seats. That is most definitely leather, you can tell by the creases and crinkling here and there. MB-Tex doesn’t do that at all. Another giveaway is that the seats don’t quite match the door panels in color. If they were MB-Tex they would.

      You are correct about old vs. new cars of course. But that doesn’t make this any less special. The build quality of these things is just unreal, as is the sense of driving a bank vault down the road. No modern car achieves that, IMHO.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    What is the modern equivalent of this?

    Build quality would be an LS460
    Speed/Space might be an S600 or S65? The S65 has over 700 lb/ft of torque.

    Anything else?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      There isn’t one today. I think the closest equivalent in relatively modern times was the VW Phaeton.

      The Lexus just looks like a big Camry (predator face, ugh), and modern Mercedes are too over-the-top. This sort of thing just won’t sell today. Luxury cars have to advertise your wealth in flashing neon.

  • avatar
    baggins

    I am about 5 miles away from this car right now. If I had garage space, I’d love to own something like this.

    I love old Benz’s, such a refreshing directness about the car. The new ones are overstyled, tacky even. I hate the overdone interiors.

  • avatar
    baggins

    I am about 5 miles away from this car right now. If I had garage space, I’d love to own something like this.

    I love old Benz, such a refreshing directness about the car. The new ones are overstyled, tacky even. I hate the overdone interiors.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Protip: if you want to get one, but cheaper, buy a 280SE 4.5. It has 60 less horses, and it’s waay cheaper, and in my opinion the older chassis is better.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Unfortunate US bumpers aside, now THAT is a CAR!

    On a related note:

    indianapolis.craigslist.org/cto/d/1992-mercedes-benz-400e/6519962356.html

    • 0 avatar

      Look at the maintenance required on that thing. Every 3,000 miles it needs a major component.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Typical German car paradigm. They’ll drive fabulously and run forever, so long as you feed them a steady and fairly expensive diet of maintenance and repairs.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I mean that’s just an old German for you, I’m frankly not even surprised or put off by that. It’s in decent shape and arguably one of the best versions of the W124. As long as you know what you’re getting yourself into and ideally have a garage and mechanical inclination, looks like a good buy.

        Honestly there’s nothing on that list that would be unexpected even a Japanese car of that era. An A/C compressor (most expensive thing listed), replacing some valve cover gaskets and some other odds and ends, a set of tires.

        • 0 avatar

          We were talking about the W124 the other day on Slack, and mechanic Bozi had this to say:

          “I hate the W124.”

          They require quite expensive wiring loom rebuilds, and many mechanics won’t work on them any more.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            The late ’80s are generally okay, the biodegradable wiring was on the early ’90s models. Snooty dealers might shy away from them, but any indie mechanic worth a poop shouldn’t be afraid.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Typical maintenance items. The trick is just do it all at once. Then drive another 15yrs. If it hasn’t been done, it needs the suspension going through too.

        Cheap cars just don’t get this stuff done at all. They either limp along, or get junked.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    No tilt wheel in W116s, no power seats, just solid structure and trim and exceptional engineering. I briefly owned a gray-market import 450SE, cypress green with saffron velour. It was a turd by the time I owned it, but what a car.

    I’d be scared of the money needed to keep a 6.9 running, but if the right 450SEL became available I would be sorely tempted.

  • avatar
    ShoogyBee

    My old man bought a 1974 450SE in 1980. He was actually looking at Japanese economy sedans at the time, including the Honda Accord (very difficult to buy due to high demand), Subaru GL, Mazda 626, etc.

    The Subaru dealer also happened to sell Mercedes, BMW, and Volvo. We thought the 450SE was brand new – it was in that good condition. Turns out that it was a used 1974 with 95K miles on its odometer, for not much more than the Japanese cars. He was a physician so he could afford the upkeep and maintenance.

    He didn’t end up keeping it for more than a couple of years. Ended up getting a 1982 Honda Accord sedan, the first model year of the second generation. A few years after that, the Accord was traded in on a 1985 Audi 5000 S.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    My God, that is beautiful.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • -Nate: WEll ; You always wanted a convertible, right ? . -Nate
  • SPPPP: If he had kidnapped a Walmart customer FROM WALMART, then I think so.
  • Lightspeed: The roof at the header is rusting on my 2000 Lexus. It’s really irritating because it’s in a...
  • Lie2me: They also had a maple leaf on the steering wheel hub
  • DevilsRotary86: Back in 2015/2016 when I was considering a new car, Mr Kyree Williams on here suggested that I should...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States