Date registered: Jun 2011
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Semi-OT; Chi Trib article on the W100
Mercedes 600 defined future a half-century ago - Chicago Tribune
Mercedes-Benz stunned the automotive world 50 years ago when, at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show, it debuted the Type 600 (W100). Arguably the best car of its time, it conveyed rock stars, industrialists, and potentates. Elvis, Baron Hilton, Hugh Heffner, Saddam Hussein, and The Pope were among owners.
"It's a sensational car to drive and be driven in — very quiet, very smooth," said Richard Rose, a New Jersey-based Mercedes collector and owner of two 600s. "It's the best-riding of all cars I've ever driven. They're built like tanks, hand-made, with spectacular chrome and wood."
The 600 was available domestically from 1963-72 and could be ordered as a short-wheelbase sedan, four-door Pullman limousine, six-door Pullman, or landaulet parade limo with convertible top over the rear occupants. Only 2,667 were built. Rose owns a 1967 "SWB" and 1969 six-door Pullman.
There is no overstating how advanced the 600 was. In comparative terms, think "Bugatti Veyron". Its 247-horsepower, 6.3-liter V-8 could propel the 5,465-pound sedan beyond 120 mph, faster than a contemporary Mercedes SL roadster. It had an adjustable air suspension and complicated hydraulics to operate the windows, trunk lid, and ventilation. No two were alike.
"You could have any extra thing you wanted — just had to pay for it. Owners could choose almost any paint hue and woodgrain, or add a television, bar, or center divider," Rose said.
Armor plating was optional, and important considering the clientele. The Sultan of Brunei recently had his 600s fitted with modern Mercedes V-12 engines.
Pre-microchip technology can be a challenge to maintain, so think carefully before buying a 600.
"If there is one car you should have checked over by a mechanic, this is it," said Rose. "They can be quite expensive to repair; get one in good condition. I've had hydraulic leaks. Seals eventually deteriorate. Air suspension bellows have a 10- to 15-year life. The 600 demands mechanical attention."
Still highly-coveted, the 600 set Mercedes' reputation for understated, yet technically-advanced automobiles. Consider the 2014 S-Class' Biturbo V-8, collision avoidance systems, semi-autonomous driving, cloud-based infotainment, and camera-assisted active suspension. Like the grand Mercedes a half-century earlier, the S-Class defines our automotive future.