There was never a better Mercedes than the 600 and probably there will never be. The Mercedes-Benz 600 “Grosser” was an iconic limousine – and one of true luxury – built by Mercedes between 1963 and 1981. The Spanish magazine Diario Motor designated it the best in the world. Let’s find out their reasons!
Only 2.677 units of the Mercedes 600 were built, all by hand, all reaching a level of quality that would make other vehicles of those times and these times, too, seem ridiculous. The history of the 600 is little known, but the reasons of it being the best Mercedes ever made are known even less.
1. Everything is hydraulic Mercedes 600
Hydraulic systems use a pressurized fluid – similar to oil – to operate mechanically with great power, yet very gently. It seems a matter of logic that the best Mercedes of all times employs a hydraulic system pressurized to 220 bars for all its mechanisms. And when we say all, we really mean it. Its air suspension is powered by a hydraulic system as well.
The windows are not electrical, but hydraulic. The tailgate cannot close manually, it is also hydraulic. The seats adjustment is not electrical, but hydraulic as well. And so are the sunroof, the air intakes, the doors.
The hydraulic system is surprisingly reliable if properly maintained and its operations are magically quiet.
2. It was built without considering the costs
The Mercedes 600 – nicknamed “Grosser” – was conceived and built in the beginning of the 60s and first models were sold in 1963. While building it, the Germans have not spared a singlet Deutsche Mark. A complete restoration can reach the seven-figure mark, mostly due to its complex hydraulic system. Surprisingly, the few models still kept today have not fallen prey to rust. Its steel body was of the highest quality and the chassis was as rigid as that of a Mercedes 300 at that time. So it was miles apart from being a light car.
The kerb weight of the short wheelbase version already reached 2.600 kilograms, at the length of no less than 5.45 meters. It came with a 6.3-liter V8, which delivered 250 HP to the rear wheels via an automatic 4-speed transmission. The passengers of the 600 had no reason to envy those traveling by a Rolls-Royce.
3. If not cared for, the Mercedes 600 can do a lot of damage
The hydraulic system of the Mercedes 600 operates by pressurizing a special fluid to 220 bar. A break in a hydraulic line pushbuttons windows is like a knife chopping off fingers. These windows can also kill: the closing speed is variable – it depends on how hard the passenger presses the button – it can be so fast and strong that it can even break the neck of an adult. The hydraulic system is very powerful and unforgiving. And it seems that his way is not a coincidence.
Well-heeled people living in dangerous areas around the world ordered armored versions. Living in a war zone meant they had to close the windows quickly at times. The tailgate activates pretty much the same. If one tries to manually close it, the hinges can bend their arms, so it is better turn away when pressing the button to close it. The hydraulic system provides enough force to break an adult’s arm or all fingers.
4. The horn of the Mercedes 600 can ridicule that of a ship
Not many know that the Mercedes 600 features two horn speakers. Or rather, a 2-speed horn. In its standard mode, the horn sounds like in any other car. In its most powerful mode – that is activated simply by pressing a selector – a high-power air horn can make the sailors jump. This is the loudest speaker ever installed in a production vehicle. Maybe only trucks can try to rival it.
5. It was the favorite car of the singers, movie stars, state leaders and dictators
Because of its exorbitant price – $ 20,000 back in 1963, in the US, 10-15 times more than a conventional car – and exclusivity, it was a car that only the rich and famous could afford. The long wheelbase version, the Pullman Landaulet, was the favorite of many heads of state on official visits or military display car. Interestingly, it was a car that fell in favor of dictators of half the world. The Mercedes 600 was seen as the ultimate status symbol, especially in Africa, South America and obviously, the Middle East.
Among the world famous owners, there were Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Mao Tse Tung or Kim Jong-il of North Korea. It was also the top favorite for VIPs of the entertainment industry like Elvis Presley, George Harrison, John Lennon, Hugh Hefner, Jay Kay (the lead singer of Jamiroquai) and of Jack Nicholson. Jeremy Clarkson is also the master of one and believes it is one of the best cars he has ever laid his hands on. Jay Leno, the proud owner of a 600 himself, would never dare contradict him.
6. The fixing and the maintenance need tons of money
Although very expensive, full restoration is not much more costly than the simple replacement of some particular items in the car. A routine inspection can cost about 20,000 euros, assuming there would be no need to replace any element in a car that is more than 50 years old. In most of the cases, that plan still stands. The owner would have to pay more than 10,000 euros just to replace windows controls. Usually, those who buy it – besides the price they pay for its purchase, might need to invest €40,000 – € 50,000 more. It is definitely not budget car.
7. It was built by hand and only by request
The Mercedes 600 “Grosser” was produced in a limited number, in 20 years. 2.677 were built between 1963 and 1981, all of them by hand, in Germany, by the best technicians and engineers in Stuttgart. Even though the car might display simple looks, the attention it was given during construction was obsessive! Of the total number of vehicles, 428 units were built with in a long wheelbase version, also available with a six-door body. 41 units were bulletproof.
8. The man who designed the 600 built the best cars of the 60s and 70s
The designer of the Mercedes 600 was Paul Bracq. The French studied in France, at the time the Citroen was the pinnacle of the automotive modernism. He soon became a leader in the Mercedes-Benz design department. Not only the 600, but also other legendary Mercedes cars came out of his mind and hands. It was the famous 280 SL “Pagoda”, but also the very precious W108/109, W111, y W114/115. He was involved as a consultant in the building of the high-speed train, the TGV, before getting on top of the design department in BMW.
Source: Diario Motor.