Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Rarer than hen's teeth (and drives a lot better)

I know this isn't a Cars for Sale site, and this one isn't for sale anyway. I fell so hard for this car about 45 years ago and could never get it out of my mind...or off my list of cars I must drive and or own one day. (Neither of those things has happened, yet.) The reason I had to post about this particular make and model is its out-and-out rarity. To see even one, ever, is an uncommon occurrence. I found it sitting at a repair garage and screeched to a halt to examine it closer and take a few shots. I am guessing that this example is a 1971 or 1972 - a few were built as late as 1981. In the world of million-seller cars and trucks, they didn't make but a handful. Said to be the "pinnacle of automotive engineering," it is huge in size and comfort. The Mercedes-Benz 600 is a truly unique and exquisite example of automotive motoring in the style of kings, popes and sultans. Wherever in the world one can think of that combines immeasurable wealth, prestige and luxury, a Mercedes Benz 600 was there. (Or still is.) If you want to tour a Mercedes 600 site, click HERE.) If you read my last post, it's funny that the M-B 600 was said to have had the loudest HORN ever put in an automobile. (I wonder if the Mercedes folks ever measured this car's horn against a train horn blaster?)

Production began in 1964 and ended in 1972 (plus the few built into the '80s.) During this time, only 2,677 vehicles were made in total. Because of the “important” passengers that would be in the back seats, they didn’t take any chances with the 600 and installed redundant, dual systems throughout the car. It has dual alternators, dual brake systems, and compressors for air conditioning and suspension. Everything on this car seems to be operated hydraulically. Suspension. Trunk. Windows. Mercedes' first V8, the 6.3L, 6332 cc, M100 engine which developed 300 horsepower, was installed in the 600 and could move the two ton vehicle to 130 mph and probably cruise all day at that speed. It was built to go fast and be as solid as a tank (and weigh almost as much), all the while keeping the passengers wrapped in a cocoon of luxurious and exotic wood, leathers, wool and sumptuous fabrics.

Aside from the Pope and many of the world’s governments, here is a partial list taken straight from Wikipedia of some of the owners of 600s: Coco Chanel, Jason Kay, Hugh Hefner, Elizabeth Taylor, John Lennon, Aristotle Onassis, Jack Nicholson, Hirohito, Simon Spies, Bob Jane, Elvis Presley, Communist leaders Nicolae Ceauşescu, Josip Broz-Tito, Fidel Castro, Pol Pot, Leonid Brezhnev, Kim Il-sung and religious leader Guru Maharaj Ji.

African revolutionaries Idi Amin Dada, Jomo Kenyatta and the former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos had four 600s including a Landaulet. Other notable owners include Saddam Hussein, Chinese Foreign Minister Chen Yi, Deng Xiaoping, wife of the first Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai - Deng Yingchao, and the former King of Cambodia, Norodom Sihanouk all drove in a 600.

There is only one other car that I have coveted almost as long and still have never driven or owned. It's a Facel-Vega. Only 2,900 were built from 1954-1964. The best had Chrysler Hemi engines and were said to be the fastest production automobiles of their day. And as cool as any Ferrari but more luxurious and head-turning. (Think Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly on the twisting roads of Monaco.)

I will just keep on dreaming and perhaps one day I may get to drive a Mercedes 600 (or, in my widest dreams, a Facel-Vega.)


Don and Krise said...

I don't blame you for stopping. I'm assuming at some time in my life I've seen one but didn't even realize it. How fortunate you were to not only see one, but fully appreciate it too. What a magnificent piece of automotive machinery. Thanks for sharing Frank.

Lois said...

That is one good looking car. I have no idea if I've ever seen one before, but after reading your post I will surely notice from now on!

B SQUARED said...

Indulge yourself, Frank. Go for it!

Steve Myers, Broker said...

I don't think I've ever seen one before, it's a very interesting looking vehicle though!

Anonymous said...

It is a fine looking car and even looks hand crafted. There is a rare car show I see sometimes on HD cable and sometimes they have things like this. Rare though. Nice shot.