1971 Mercedes-Benz 600 LWB Landaulet
Lot 40 | Monterey Jet Center Auction | Estimate $2,000,000 - $2,500,000
Chassis No. 100.015-12-001861
Engine No. 100.980-12-001943
The Mercedes 600, a car that ruled the luxury car kingdom for nearly 20 years, was owned by those discerning individuals who favored space, civility, and a comfortable ride, including famed celebrities Jack Nicholson, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and George Harrison. It's debatable if any of them actually took the wheel and if they did, it would have been a dalliance. According to Mercedes-Benz the purchase of any 600 Pullman included a two-day course to familiarize the driver – not necessarily the owner – to the system functions, operation, and numerous adjustments of this unique motorcar. In fact so revered was this car within Mercedes-Benz, it was stipulated that an employee with less than 15 years of experience could not lift a tool to assist in the assembly of this superb vehicle.
The Mercedes-Benz 600, nicknamed, “Der Grosse Mercedes” (The Big Mercedes) was the flagship vehicle for the company, if not the entire country of Germany. The 600 featured a number of innovations for the company, even one as technically adept as Mercedes. For the first time Mercedes used a fuel-injected V8 engine delivering 250 hp from its 6.3-liter capacity. All four wheels featured disc brakes arranged on a dual-circuit system offering a maximum of safety with each front corner receiving two calipers each. The Grosser was generously equipped with air suspension adjusted from under the dash and many other standard items that were completely unheard of at that time, including door central locking, multi-zone electronic heating and air conditioning, and a hydraulic system replacing many electrical components as Mercedes believed electric motors at that time did not possess the necessary level of refinement for the 600. The hydraulic system is particularly interesting as it assists in most aspects of adjustment during vehicle operation including all movements of the front and rear seats, opening and closing of all windows, and if optioned, the partition divider, and landaulet top. Even the fuel filler door, trunk, and, on early versions, the doors, are hydraulically assisted in both opening and closing. A studious eye will notice that even the 600's hood ornament and badges are designed in scale and are larger than those on other Mercedes models.
In 1968, Innes Ireland, Formula One racing driver and winner of the 1961 USGP for Lotus, stated in his Autocar column titled “Weekend with the Grosser” that, “She could be steered to a hair and I was amazed to find that her vast wheelbase did nothing to detract from the cornering ability. By moving a lever on the control column to put her on hard ride, roll was almost completely eliminated, even when cornering enthusiastically.” Ireland was so taken with the 600 he did not want to return it to Mercedes, “And so our beautiful relationship came to an end; like all the best love affairs, it had been short and oh so sweet.”
The 600 was available in a number of standard forms with each of these customizable. According to the Mercedes-Benz Archive, 2,677 “W100” series 600s were built between 1963 and 1981. 2,189 of these special vehicles were built as a standard 600 sedan, 429 were Pullman limousines, leaving just 59 Pullman landaulets constructed. Of these 59 Pullman landaulets, Mercedes produced 32 four-door and only 26 six-door variants. The “Short Top” landaulet was optioned on just 16 of these 26 six-door landaulets. According to Mercedes-Benz, a hydraulically actuated glass partition with intercom system could be added to the rear passenger compartment that featured a large rear bench seat and additional forward facing fold-down jump seats. Of course, these were the basics, and even if there were many different body styles the list of choices and options did not stop there. Paint, interior layout, and requested special equipment, including telephones, televisions, and security features were all on the table such that Mercedes-Benz believes, “it is probably impossible to find two cars with identical equipment - especially among the Pullman limousines and landaulets.”
In early 1971, Mercedes-Benz received the order for this special 600 from far afield in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The order that came from the Presidential palace in the DRC's capital city of Kinshasa was an expansive one: One 1971 600 Pullman six-door landaulet with forward facing fold-down chairs, partitioning glass divider option with intercom system, Behr Air conditioning, a Becker Grand Prix TR radio, heat-insulating glass, tropical battery, and a fire extinguisher, all finished in “DB 040” Black. Normally this alone would be a fantastically ordered car. However as this was not a normal 600 it was created with a separate production order (Produktions-Auftrag I). The customer listed as “Staatapräsident Mobutu”, requested additional features: microphone intercom in front trays, radio remote control system in rear, Grundig “AC220” tape recorder with microphone and connection to Becker radio, two separate loudspeaker systems with 14 total speakers, extra safety belts, rear armrest with cosmetic case and Braun “Sixtant” electric razor, “SEL FuG 9” public services radio, a “Moba 8050” antenna, a Sony "9-90 UM" television and front flag holders, left and right.
According to the international press, President Mobutu enjoyed his new 600 using it in all manner of parades and social events before it was retired from presidential duties. It is suspected this took place sometime in the mid-1980s when he transitioned to a Cadillac limousine. Much of the time between the retirement of this 600 and its emergence in 2014 remains a mystery but it is believed that it resided in Zaire for some time.
Once purchased by the consignor in 2015 it must be noted that this 600 landaulet was in an unrestored state. However, while in need of a complete restoration, it was a solid, accident free, unmodified, matching numbers car. To that end, it was sent to Kienle Automobiltechnik in 2016 for a total ground up restoration to the same high standards that Mercedes-Benz held themselves to over 50 years earlier. To begin with, the Pullman was completely stripped down to the bare unibody shell with each section of the car broken down into their individual components, laid out and organized. Once stock was taken it was time to begin sourcing, restoring and fabricating necessary parts. The 600 does not share many parts, even with the higher end Mercedes of the era, and the six-door landaulets were engineered with many additional, unique, hand-made parts beyond that of a normal 600 sedan.
The unibody, all 20 plus feet of it, was taken down to bare metal. Many hours and considerable effort was expended test fitting panels and parts and adjusting gaps in preparation for its new coat of Black paint. Once painted and the body panels reinstalled, the high quality bodywork underneath is plainly evident. With bodywork and final paint was completed, special attention was paid to the exterior. Hundreds of exterior trim pieces, large and small, were stripped of their plating, straightened, metal finished and re-plated.
This four-year restoration project was not just focused on bodywork and paint. Mechanically, the 600 was brought back to life, with special focus on the numbers matching 6.3-liter 250 hp “M100” V8 engine. Most famous for powering the 300 SEL 6.3 beginning in 1968, these special engines were first utilized in the 600. Now subject to a total rebuild, this strong V8 pushes its power through the fully rebuilt four-speed automatic transmission. The 600's complete under-dash adjustable air suspension system was restored, along with the central nervous system of hydraulics, the electrical system, lighting, air conditioning, cooling system, brakes, and wheels.. the list goes on. Each and every mechanical component was cleaned, polished, plated, rebuilt and inspected at Kienle before being properly reinstalled with all work completed at the highest level possible.
The entire, spacious interior was completely retrimmed with new MB Cognac leather and perfect walnut wood trim. Much of what made the interior special, the audio equipment, TV, and all manner of small gadgets were missing and needed to be located. However, whatever could be saved and restored was, and the special features and character that existed when this special 600 left Germany were recreated when it returned home during this restoration. The hydraulically operated landaulet top did not escape Kienle's watchful eye. To ensure the top is smooth running, functions reliably, and seals tight it was completely disassembled, rebuilt, and retrimmed. It is clear during operation that it did not suffice that the top simply works, no, Kienle saw to it that it functions as the Mercedes-Benz craftsman intended in 1971 so if it happens to rain on this parade entry the hundreds of hours spent retrimming the interior will not have been in vain.
Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the Head of Passenger Car Design famously had three main points of focus when creating the 600 Grosser: maximum passenger comfort, maximum safety and superb performance. It is understood that any Mercedes-Benz 600 is a special car, however this 600 Pullman six-door landaulet – just one of 26 built, has stood the test of time. Built to be the best, without concern for cost or compromise by Mercedes in 1971 and now spectacularly restored by Kienle Automobiltechnik, this is likely the finest 600 Pullman six-door landaulet in existence.