When the W100 Mercedes-Benz 600 limousine was introduced at the Frankfurt International Auto Show in 1963, it replaced the venerable W186/189 “Adenauer” 300 and was aimed directly at the Rolls-Royce Phantom V. It was the first “Grosser,” or grand Mercedes, since the pre-war 770K , and was Mercedes-Benz’s first V-8 powered car.
The 600 was a stunning design, powered by a new 300 horsepower, 6.3-liter, fuel-injected, SOHC, dry-sump engine. The styling was a collaboration between Bruno Sacco and Paul Bracq, and the design has certainly stood the test of time. Despite its size, the 600 was a very capable road car, able to cruise at over 100 mph with a top speed of 135 mph.
The 600 was offered from 1963-1981 in two wheelbase lengths. The “short” wheelbase sedan was 126 inches, and the most popular with 2,190 sold. The gigantic Pullman had a 153½-inch wheelbase and was favored by royalty, movie stars, and heads of state around the world. Mercedes-Benz built 428 Pullman limousines including four- and six-door versions, and 59 rare landaulets that featured a folding rear roof.
Virtually every conceivable power option graced the Mercedes-Benz 600. Most famously, the car’s self-leveling air suspension was powered by a 2,200-psi hydraulic pump, which also operated the power disc brakes, opened the doors, and powered the seats, trunk, windows, and sunroof.
Maintenance on these cars is complicated and specialized, and can be the make-or-break issue in ownership. Restoration costs are exceptionally high and routine work is similarly expensive. As such a pre-purchase inspection by a qualified shop is essential, and it often makes more sense financially to buy a “done” car.
Is it worth it? Well here’s how good these cars are: In 1965, with six adults on board, Stirling Moss came within five seconds of breaking the saloon class lap record at the Brand Hatch racetrack in England. All this in a car that weighs nearly 6,000 pounds and delivers one of the premier riding experiences of the era.