One of the few sedan's I'd love to own one day...June 23 2011 at 11:20 AM
|Dino944 (Login Dino944)|
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I've always been a fan of design of the old Mercedes Benz 450SEL sedans. But the 6.9 is something truly special! In the late 1970s it was one of the fastest sedans available. It was cable of reaching 60 mph in about 7 seconds and exceeding 130 mph while cradling its occupants in an environment of sumptuous leather and burled wood. This was at a time when there were no AMG models available at your local dealership. This was the finest performace sedan available from your Mercedes dealer...or maybe from any dealer!
Although produced from 1975 through 1980, it was only available in the United States from 1977 through 1979. In a decade filled with gas shortages, ever increasing governmental regulations, and engergy concerns, the 6.9 was the ultimate expression performance, engineering, exclusivity, and quality when money was no object. This car also cost an outrageous amount of money in the 1970s. In the late 70's when a Porsche 930 Turbo was around $35,000 and a Ferrari 308GTB was $36,000, to own a Mercedes Benz 6.9 you had to transfer $52,000 from your own pocket into the pocket of your local Mercedes dealer.
I met the owner of the above pictured pristine example of a 6.9 a few days ago. It is probably one of the nicest original examples I've ever seen. It belonged to his father-in-law who purchased in new in 1979. Luckily for him, he was the only one in the family with an interest in cars so it came to be in his care. Its totally original and it looks like it just left the showroom floor.
Its still riding on its correct 14" alloy wheels. If you look closely at some of the design details you will see just how much chrome was used on this car. It even has chrome and rubber covered mini bumpers to protect headlamps and tail lamps from fender benders.
While new Mercedes have small sleek radiator shells, the 6.9 has a tall upright radiator shell/grill that stands proudly at attention anouncing to all that are familiar with Mercedes that this was the one time "King of the road"
And it has covered a mere 36,000 original miles in the 32 years since its was "born." This example was equiped with the optional but no additional cost sunroof, along with the extra cost option of a heated rear bench seat. I believe the front seats were heated as standard equipment.
Here is a quick photo of the command center.
These cars define the terms "vault like solidity." Jags and BMWs seem as though they are made of tin when compared to a 6.9. Just open and close the doors on one and you will know what I mean.
For anyone who wants to see what this car looks like in action, look up the chase scene from the Robert Deniro movie "Ronin" on youtube, or better yet rent the movie its worth your time. There is a great shoot out and then chase scene involving a metalic brown 6.9.
Seeing this automotive icon of the 1970s brought back great memories of my childhood, which was filled with Matchbox cars, the original Star Wars movie, and disco music.
Hope you enjoyed a few photos of this rare sedan from a time before AMG meant anything to most motorists in the USA.
Thanks for the stroll down memory lane! The 6.9 was an icon of its time...
|June 24 2011, 11:33 PM |
AP Discussion Group
That was back in the days where
|June 27 2011, 8:28 PM |
you could buy a MB and drive it for two years and sell it for what you paid for it. Those were well built cars.
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Yes, times have changed drastically...
|June 28 2011, 7:51 AM |
back then there were far fewer Mercedes (BMWs, Porsches, Audis, and other fine European cars) being produced per year. There were also far fewer dealers. My father bought a new 1975 BMW 530i (the original 5 series car) and the nearest dealer was 2 hours away!
Back in the 70's and even into the mid 80's in the city where I lived, it was special to see a high end European car. The only foreign cars that were seen with some frequency were old 240D diesel MBs, 2002 BMWs, MGs, and an occasional 914. Today, I take for granted how many MBs, BMWs, and Porsches I see in any given day and I live pretty close to where I grew up.
Yes, today's cars all depreciate, and quality is often questionable even in some of the finest cars. With all the latest car electronic drivers aids and how complicated cars have become it really should not surprise us that quality has dropped off from what it was. That and perhaps our expectations are higher now.
I remember reading an article years ago that said that in the 1970's Mercedes used a heavy gauge of leather, very fine woods, and other high quality materials that you would not find in cars of today. It said that the level of workmanship and the quality of materials used back then would be far too costly to use in a Mercedes today.
As much as I like some modern cars, I really like the Pre-1980 MBs, BMWs of the early 70s, and Porsche 911s from the 1960s through the late 80s. They all still feel like cars largely made by hand at much smaller factories. Today, robots and mass production have killed that feeling.
|June 30 2011, 9:22 PM |
It was said that they were built to a standard, not to a cost.
I agree with a lot of what you wrote above concerning complexity. But on the other hand, the 6.9 was as complex a car as you could get. Quality (or reliability...) is nowhere near 70's levels. Thank God.
(BTW I am intrigued as to what you mean by 'made by hand'...the BMW 2500 my family had was probably the most sterile car we'd owned up till then...)
But to me, the eye opener is that I recall Dad and I marvelling over a 6.9 when I was a kid....a handbuilt Mercedes-Benz V8 with capacity greater than the 'yank tanks' around the place. A monster.
Now, it's output is shadowed by humble Camry engines...
How technology marches on.
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|July 1 2011, 8:46 PM |
As I stated in my original post "the 6.9 was the ultimate expression performance, engineering, exclusivity, and quality when money was no object." Saying, "They were built to a standard, not to a cost" is an interesting way of putting things. Although, as mentioned, several years ago I read in a Mercedes based magazine, that these cars used materials and workmanship that was so costly that it would be prohibitive to for Mercedes to build cars in such a manner again.
It should be noted that quality and reliability are not necessarily interchangeable terms. Back in the 1990s, my father had an Acura and my father-in-law had a Lexus. Both cars never broke down nor left their owners stranded so they were reliable transportation. However, the leather interiors in both were garbage. Both my father and my father-in-law had to have the drivers seats replaced at least 3 time in each of their cars (during the 1st three years of ownership) because within 8-12 months the drivers seats would wear so poorly that the leather would wear away, and there would be holes in some areas of the seats. Those were reliable cars buy the matterials used were of poor quality. I've seen leather seats in Mercedes that were 25 years old that still looked to be a pretty good shape.
As for the sterile description of your family's BMW 2500, I'm not sure exactly what you mean. If you are saying it was somewhat austere, I would accept that. BMW's were generally sportier than MBs, but far more austere. Still as for my saying they felt "made by hand" or feeling like they were made at a time when MB, BMW and Porsche were smaller companies...to some degree its a feeling I've had usually when inspecting or sitting in some of these older cars. I'd suggest you take a look at a BMW 3.0CS , specifically one with a leather interior. The leather looks sumptuous, yet sturdy as though stitched together by a German grandmother intending it to last a long time. Then look at the frames to the front seats which are fitted with beautiful chrome trim around the sides and back. Thats not done by a machine. Then compare that to the 70's disco lounge interiors of Cadillacs or Lincolns of the same period. I'd also suggest taking a look at the interior of a Porsche 930 Turbo. Look at the way the dash and door panels fit. Feel the leather on the door panels and look at the stitching. Then open and close its doors. For a small sports car the doors never felt cheap and tinny. They close solidly, and the materials are high quality. Then look at the interior of a Porsche 996. The 930 seems built to last a life time, while the 996 seems built to be made as inexpensively as possible.
As for engine output its all relative. Back in the late 1970s the Jaguar XJ12, Maserati Quattroporte (series 3), and Aston Martin Lagonda were the only other sedans with output on par with or greater than the 6.9. But those cars had reputations for spending the majority of their lives in repair shops rather than on the road. That's a rather special crowd of competitors. Don't forget that although we now think of Corvettes producing 400+ HP, Ferraris and Lamborghinis producing 500+ HP, and Porsche 997s producing around 345-385 HP, however it wasn't always that way. 1984 was a big year here in the USA...the C4 Corvette was released with 205HP, the Ferrari 308GTB/S QV was released with 240HP and the Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 was released with 200HP.
I think we're...
|July 4 2011, 11:54 PM |
...pretty much in furious agreement!
There's little doubt that those 6.9s were intended as the epitomy of Mercedes-Benz engineering. It is cars like that that helped them with their reputation for solidity. Your example of leather is very apt. The hides used for cars such as these were likely benchmarked off proper furniture, not the cheapest split-skin with vinyl facings that would allow you to put 'leather seats' in your brochure.
Relatively minor elements of those cars (and I include the early Porsches in this) such as door hinges and locks were made to a standard that would see other cars with sagging frames (I don't want to even think of those 70's disco interiors...fortunately, I've been spared spending much time at all in them)
The sterile comment concering the 2500 comes from a background whereby the earliest family car I can remember was a Riley 2.5, followed by a Triumph TC and a brace of Series 1 XJ6s...compared to which the BMW did seem sterile and less handbuilt. (we won't compare the reliability or the quality of those cars...ahem....
And finally, the comment on the 6.9s output wasn't meant to denigrate it. It's just a sign of the march of technology. I am not a particular fan of modern engines, but I cannot fail to be impressed by the combination of output, reliability, low fuel consumption and emissions that modern engines (even humble ones) possess.It just goes to show how much has been learnt and how much has been applied.
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Now I understand you...
|July 5 2011, 9:38 AM |
If we had owned some Jaguars, then I'm sure interior of a BMW 2500 would probably have seemed stark or unfinished. In the early 1980s my Dad did consider a Jaguar XJS, but one of his co-workers that owned a Jaguar convinced him not to get one.
Technology has changed the auto industry drastically. This goes for building techniques, costs, fuel consumption, horsepower, safety, etc. However, I can't help but feel that while many improvements are made each year, not all changes are for the better and some things are actually lost. I recently met an owner of a 1986 Porsche 911 Turbo (you'll see photos in my upcoming German Car Day Post). He had owned Porsches for many years. He started buing 911s in the 1980s and then he moved on to water cooled "911s." He had a 996, then a 996 Twin Turbo, and more recently some variation of the 997. His take on it was, the newer cars are very fast, have lots of horsepower, and many creature comforts. But they no longer feel like 911s. While, it is well understood that Porsche had to move on to water cooled cars, they have over engineered everything out of these cars that made them 911s. For those that did not like the old 911s quirky handling, odd ergonomics, and "patch work" ventilation, heating, ac systems, the newer cars are a welcome improvement. But not for this guy. He recently sold his 997 and searched until he found the right 930/911 Turbo. He said he just missed the way the 911/930s drove and felt on the road. He said the 997 is a great car, but that his 930/911 Turbo is a more satisfying experience.
Anyway, I think we do agree largely that the 6.9 was a very special automobile. With time we gain perspective and sometimes our tastes change. For a daily driver, I know I enjoy all the computer aided safety features, comfort features, and improvements in fuel economy that come with a modern car. But if one has room for a weekend fun car, sometimes one from the past adds a little spice and entertainment to our usual diet of modern offerings.
|July 6 2011, 7:28 PM |
Modern cars largely uninspiring. Proficient and efficient, yes. But involving, no.
I agree with your Porsche guy. The very stuff that made the cars, helped give them their reputation has been designed/engineered out. I'm not such a luddite that I long for the days of setting points gaps, but in gaining so much, we've lost some things, too. 100% with you there.
In another irony, these cars we love so much - from humble Alfa sedans or MGs, to an engineering tour de force like the 6.9, to up to the real exotica - are probably easier and less frustrating to own and run now than they were when new. Not only have our expectations of them changed, but so has access to information and parts.