When 3 are not enough
When the US specification 450SEL 6.9 was introduced in 1977, the cover of the portfolio presented to journalists had a long shot of a silver 6.9 being heaved through a high speed downhill plunge known by road racers around the country as Road Atlanta Raceway’s ‘esses’. Respected motoring journalist Brock Yates – the man behind the daft Cannonball Run cross country road race – was behind the wheel.
The Mercedes PR folks figured the blunt spoken Yates would deliver an unvarnished assessment that would reflect what MB already knew: the 6.9 was a bullet-proof 140 MPH 4,400 lb executive sedan. And a pretty good handling sedan as well. Yates proposed quite a challenge: 40 laps (100 miles) of Road Atlanta’s high speed twisting 2.52 mile course that rose and fell over the Georgia countryside.
A family friend bought one new and it shared garage space with his Lamborghini Muira SV, a Lamborghini LP400 Countach and a 1963 Ferrari 250GTO purchased from my father in 1964.
The 100 miles unfolded without drama and Yates quickly raised the pace to 8/10ths of a flat out racing pace commenting, “I could find find nothing to complain about during the entire run.”
Aside from some scuffing of the fat Michelin XWX tires and the bundt style alloys showing some brake dust, the car looked like it “just returned from a low speed tour of Central Park.”
Collecting an Icon
Massively expensive when new – a full 44% more than a standard 450SEL – used models became sought after and within 10 years of ceasing production, good ones became collectible. I’ve owned over a dozen. Which brings me to the reason for this article.
I have a client with a penchant for full size Mercedes sedans. He has a 1972 600 SWB, a ’91 560SEC and a 380SEL with but 43k km on the clock. And 3 full Europeans 6.9s. Yup, three. His passion for the 6.9 began when he learned his grandfather had a 6.9 (as well as an full spec AMG 1000 SEL).
And surprisingly, he badly wants a 4th 6.9 to round out the collection but it must be a color other than 861 silver green, 931 magnetite blue or 735 astral silver. And it must be a full European version which were fitted with the original tidy chrome bumpers and with the higher compression (8.8:1 vs US 8.0:1) 286 HP engine. A US certified Euro model would be acceptable as well.
6.9 By the Numbers
The resulting article that Brock Yates wrote of his experience flogging the new US model 6.9 piqued the interest of well-heeled US buyers. The 6.9’s exotic technical spec – dry sump lubrication, hydro-pneumatic suspension – and breathtaking price ($52k for a 1978 model) appealed to serious motoring enthusiasts. A family friend bought one new and it shared garage space with his 1972 Lamborghini Muira SV, 1976 Lamborghini LP400 Countach and a 1963 Ferrari 250GTO purchased from my father in 1964.
Of the global production of 7,380 units, only 1,816 cars came to the US. European models offered more horsepower (286 HP vs 250 HP) and more torque (405 ft/lb vs 360 ft/lb) but both shared the same 2.65 final drive ratio. As is always the case, buy a good one if you’re after a 6.9. And please contact me @ 650-343-7980 if you know of a great Euro model that might be available.
roy spencer/editor mercedesheritage.com
photography/daimler media and undisclosed