In addition to its usual array of old Land Cruisers and Land Rover Defenders, my old money ‘hood occasionally produces something really cool. This is that.
Shown above (and below, which, admittedly, is odd) is a Mercedes 450SEL 6.9, which debuted in the mid-1970s as a predecessor to virtually every normal sedan with a huge engine offered today. (Think BMW M5.) Actually, that isn’t strictly true: the 450SEL 6.9 was technically the successor to the hot sedan that started everything, the 300SEL 6.3.
But some might argue that the 6.9 is cooler.
To make the 6.9, Mercedes took its typical long-wheelbase S-Class sedan and added a 6.9-liter V8 that made 286hp and 405 pound-feet of torque. US models had less, at 250hp and 360 lb-ft.
These numbers may seem small, but keep in mind that the base-level Corvette of the day had – this is true – 165 horses. Even the Stingray didn’t top 200. By comparison, today’s ‘Vette makes 400 horses. So the same proportional increase (51.5%) would mean an S-Class with 604 hp. Which is exactly how much power the range-topping S65 AMG has. Coincidence? Hmm.
In addition to 6.9’s big motor, Mercedes also added self-leveling hydropneumatic suspension of a similar design to those odd-looking 1960s Citroens. At the time, this was very cool. Now, it makes these cars a pariah on the used market since even minor work costs as much as a C-Class.
But back then, no one cared about the problematic future of the SEL’s suspension – especially Claude Lelouch. Lelouch was a filmmaker who created the famous “C’etait un Rendezvous,” which shows him speeding through Paris in the early morning, running red lights, driving at excess speeds and frequently going the wrong way. His car of choice? A 450SEL 6.9 – though he dubbed a Ferrari’s soundtrack over the Benz’s engine note for the final cut.
Of course, by today’s standards, the SEL 6.9 is positively outdated – even with these later SL-Class wheels added by my neighbor. But it should still hold a special place in the heart of anyone who’s ever lusted after an AMG Mercedes.