Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 | Spotted

The best big engined Benzes aren't just AMGs…

By Matt Bird / Friday, 8 December 2023 / Loading comments

Believe it or not, a Mercedes-Maybach S-Class remains on sale. They’re available to configure on the website (priced from £175k, with a V8 or a V12) and out there in the wild as well, though presumably in quite small numbers. Given how good the current S-Class is, and how luxurious Maybach interiors seem, they do look like pretty wonderful ways to travel. A taste of the old school in a brave new world. Don’t have to mess about with charging, for one thing. 

It’ll be interesting to see how history remembers what will surely be the final Maybach saloon with an engine, whether it’ll be another of the iconic S-Classes or relegated to ignominy like those comeback cars from the early 2000s. We’re already 50 years into the S-Class story, with the W116 – the first model officially recognised as an S – launched in 1972. And now we’re almost half a century from the introduction of the most memorable ‘116 of all: the 450 SEL 6.9.

The further we get from the 1970s, the crazier the 6.9 seems. It’s anything but the delicate old relic from days gone by. That it even exists still boggles the mind, its 1975 introduction just a couple of years after the fuel crisis that crippled so much of the world. Yet along came Mercedes, with the largest engine from a European maker in the post-war era, slotted into its flagship four-door. It was no special edition or stripped-out supercar, just the ultimate executive express. 

The 6,834cc V8 (capacities are sometimes rounded up in Germany; see the 6,208cc ‘63’ engine as well) was an evolution of the 6.3-litre M100. Amazingly enough, this was brought about because of the tougher emissions standards post-crisis; with engines strangled, extra capacity was needed to make up the shortfall. The sheer size is why the 6.9 was dry-sumped as well, to drop the engine down and keep the bonnet low. Never mind that it needed 12 litres of oil – the SEL looked cool.

290hp was never the important number – 405lb ft was, for enormous, effortless performance: 60mph was reached in seven and a half seconds (with a three-speed auto!) and the top speed was 149mph. The SEL was as much tech showcase as muscle car, too, with four-wheel hydropneumatic self levelling suspension and ABS from 1978. 

Nevertheless, it was a very large and very powerful Mercedes-Benz, and thus the SEL 6.9 attracted attention from the rich and influential folk of the time. This one has an interesting history (though it seems like they all do) as a left-hand drive car with a km/h speedo that’s spent its whole life in the UK. The seller believes that the Mercedes was used for ‘diplomatic duties’ in its first decade of driving, which must have made for quite the entrance at whatever events diplomats must attend. Magnetite Blue with Beige velour really is quite the combination. 

More recently, the SEL benefitted from a two-year recommissioning between 2018 and 2020, with a host of parts renewed or replaced. Sourcing anything for a W116 6.9 can’t be an easy job. Note too the modern Becker Mexico that’s been added in recent years, allowing Bluetooth streaming without spoiling the retro aesthetic. Smart. It all looks pretty wonderful, truth be told, as good as could reasonably be expected for a car of this vintage. The burr walnut, the Mexican hat wheels… even the velour seems to be holding together okay. The history file has receipts totalling £26,525, which we’re going to assume is from a few years’ use (and restoration), but clearly a classic Mercedes of this calibre will require a lot of money to keep in fine fettle. Still, what could be more deserving of investment than an SEL 6.9? Just double that maintenance spend and you can buy the whole thing…


Engine: 6,834cc V8
Transmission: 3-speed, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 286@4,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 405@3,000rpm
MPG: You have to ask?
CO2: See above
Recorded mileage: 62,000
First registered: 1978
Price new: £21,995
Yours for: £52,950

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