Junkyard Find: 1978 Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL
The W116 was the first Mercedes-Benz to get the S-Class designation from the factory, and it was sold in North America from the 1973 through 1980 model years. During the darkest days of the Malaise Era, the W116 was a rare bright spot of performance and build quality, and I still see quite a few of these cars during my junkyard travels (because they took this long to wear out). Here's a late-production W116 sedan, found in a self-service Colorado yard last summer.
I'd say that the 450 SEL was the king of Mercedes-Benz sedans in 1978, but that honor goes to the 450 SEL 6.9, a version with a monstrous V8 optimized for high-speed Autobahn trips.
The MSRP on the 6.9 was $39,377 in 1978, however, and that comes to around $187,565 in 2022 dollars. The regular 450 SEL cost a more reasonable $27,090, or about $129,040 today.
The de Ville had more power than this car (190 versus 180 horsepower), but the W116 had the advantage in the build-quality and depreciation departments.
This jolting metallic green color was known as Cypress Green Metallic (if I'm reading the data plate on the radiator support correctly).
The only transmission available on the US-market '78 450 SEL was a three-speed automatic.
The leather seats have suffered greatly in the High Plains Colorado climate.
Likewise, the paint has faded and cracked, revealing old body-filler repairs.
These HVAC controls were futuristic stuff in 1978.
There's rust, not too bad but enough to render this car economically undesirable for restoration (though the rough interior had that department handled already).
I wish I could tell you how many miles were on this one at the end, but a junkyard customer bought the instrument cluster before I got here. Most of the W116 odometers I find show at least 200,000 miles.
[Images by the author]
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MaintenanceCosts on Jan 04, 2023
Just noticed "This was the first big Benz to get the S-Class designation from the factory." I don't think that's right, and Wikipedia's claim of it is based on a throwaway line in the source. The S designation stood for the very beginning for "Sonderklasse," just meaning "special class." Mercedes first used the designation on the facelift of the Ponton cars in the mid-50s, and continued using it without a pause on the Fintails (with the odd exception of the very base 220) and the W108s. I'd consider the Ponton 220S to be the first S-Class car.
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