Rare Rides: The Sports/Luxury Mercedes-Benz 6.9 of 1979

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • ShoogyBee ShoogyBee on Apr 06, 2018

    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.

  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Apr 24, 2018

    My God, that is beautiful.

  • Stephen My "mid-level" limited edition Tonino Lambo Ferraccio Junior watch has performed flawlessly with attractive understated style for nearly 20 years. Their cars are not so much to my taste-- my Acura NSX is just fine. Not sure why you have such condescension towards these excellent timepieces. They are attractive without unnecessary flamboyance, keep perfect time and are extremely reliable. They are also very reasonably priced.
  • Dana You don’t need park, you set auto hold (button on the console). Every BMW answers to ‘Hey, BMW’, but you can set your own personal wake word in iDrive. It takes less than 5 minutes to figure that that out, btw. The audio stays on which is handy for Teams meetings. Once your phone is out of range, the audio is stopped on the car. You can always press down on the audio volume wheel which will mute it, if it bothers you. I found all the controls very intuitive.
  • ToolGuy Not sure if I've ever said this, or if you were listening:• Learn to drive, people.Also, learn which vehicles to take home with you and which ones to walk away from. You are an adult now, think for yourself. (Those ads are lying to you. Your friendly neighborhood automotive dealer, also lying to you. Politicians? Lying to you. Oh yeah, learn how to vote lol.)Addendum for the weak-minded who think I am advocating some 'driver training' program: Learning is not something you do in school once for all time. Learning how to drive is not something that someone does for you. It is a continuous process driven by YOU. Learn how to learn how to drive, and learn to drive. Keep on learning how to drive. (You -- over there -- especially you, you kind of suck at driving. LOL.)Example: Do you know where your tires are? When you are 4 hours into a 6 hour interstate journey and change lanes, do you run over the raised center line retroreflective bumpers, or do you steer between them?
  • Mike Bradley Advertising, movies and TV, manufacturing, and car culture have all made speeding and crashing the ultimate tests of manhood. Throw in the political craziness and you've got a perfect soup of destruction and costs.
  • Lou_BC Jay Leno had said that EV's would be good since they could allow the continued existence of ICE cars for enthusiasts. That sentiment makes sense. Many buyers see vehicles as a necessary appliance.
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