Category Archives: Finding Antique Mercedes Performance Cars

Mercedes-Benz W116SEL – 6.9 Class – a Performance Classic

1978 6.9 Mercedes W116 450 S

We here at welcome our newest car that will be given a thorough restoration by the team. It is a top luxury sedan with an ultra high performance engine.  It is a 1978 Mercedes-Benz limited-production 450 SEL 6.9.

This classic  provides a smooth ride with a self-leveling hydropneumatic suspension.  It is designed for long distance cruising in comfort with more than enough room for a chauffeur, and roomy backseat leg space.  It also has extraordinary performance output.  It can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 7.4 seconds.

450-mercedes-selMagazine Advertisement for the 1978 450 SEL



The 6.9 M-100 engine is the largest most powerful V8 the company offered at the time and is factory rated at 140 mph.  The 6,814-cc V8 engines were hand built and  each bench tested  for 265 minutes, 40 of which under full load.  The engine generates an enormous output of 286 hp (210 kW) at 4250/min and a maximum torque of 56 mkg at 3000/min, providing the car with top-notch sports-car performance.

This fine example of German engineering was meant for the most discriminating of customers in the luxury market. There were only 7,380 of these cars ever built.  It’s formidable engine and luxurious options made it a favorite for tycoons, industrialists, politicans, and celebrities.  In 1978 the it’s last year of production in 1979 it sold for 81,247 DM or $45,703.33 US dollars.  In today’s dollars that equals $167,378.12.

At this particular level of wealth, often a subtle approach is the preferred means of travel.  The car could be ordered with option 261, which meant omitting the displacement figure on the trunk lid. This is exactly the case with this car as the 6.9 designation is not on the back. Those not in the know would never be able to detect the power the formidable engine that sits under the hood.

The W116 automobiles were the first Mercedes-Benz models to be officially called S-Class, although earlier sedan models had already unofficially been designated with the letter ‘S’ – for Sonderklasse or “special class.” The 450 SEL 6.9 W-116 was built on it’s very own dedicated assembly line by Daimler-Benz in Stuttgard, Germany.
The 6.9 also was the first car to debut the anti-lock braking system (ABS) – a safety system  that we take for granted today.

Press review of the Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9Automobil Revue, Switzerland, May 15, 1975:

“It is highly gratifying to see that at a time like this, a car appears that offers the highest levels of motoring enjoyment to the connoisseur – at all speeds. The 6.9 bears witness not only to the confidence those responsible have in the future but also to their courage to stand up for their beliefs.”

Car, England, June 1975:
“A car of such speed and weight must have demonstrably good roadholding and handling, and this one is no disappointment in anything from a hairpin to a three-figure bend: the suspension soaks up the bumps, the transmission is wonderfully smooth and admirably easy to control (either by a sensitive accelerator foot or a hasty hand at the lever), and the steering is servo-assisted in a way that highlights the nearly neutral responses of the vehicle.

Auto, Motor Und Sport, Germany, no. 21/1975:
“In measurements carried out by auto motor und sport on this, the most powerful German sedan, we recorded acceleration from standstill to 100 km/h in 8.2 seconds and 28.8 seconds for one kilometer from a standing start. We also registered a top speed of 234 km/h. While these figures are highly remarkable in themselves, the way in which they are reached in the perfect interplay of engine and automatic transmission is even more astounding. Notwithstanding the car’s weight, the overwhelming power of its quiet and smooth engine generates the highest levels of comfort and motoring pleasure.”

Britain’s Classic & Sports Car  – April 1999:
Ranked the Mercedes-Benz 6.9 fourth on their list of the “world’s greatest saloons.”

Mercedes Enthusiast May 2004:
Ranked the 6.9 number fifteen on their all-time top twenty list of great Mercedes-Benz automobiles.

The car’s top speed was factory tested at 140 mph, and weighs in at a substantial 4,200 lbs for comfortable Auto Bahn cruising. For stability it features an impressive self-leveling hydropneumatic suspension. The special hydraulic fluid required by the system is stored in a tank inside the engine compartment. The system is completely self-adjusting, and also ride height can be altered by a dash-mounted push-pull knob under the speedometer.  It can raise the car an additional two inches (50 mm) for increased ground clearance.

1978 6.9 Mercedes W116 450 S

The impressive M100 power plant with 6.9 litre displacement (417 CID) was made from cast iron, a V8 configuration with single overhead camshafts. It used sodium-filled valves (the kind found in piston-driven aircraft) against hardened valve seats on each aluminium alloy cylinder head.

Brock Yates an automotive journalist tested a factory issued 6.9 driving at street level speeds averaging around 72 mph from Manhattan to the Road Atlanta grand prix race track in Georgia.  When he arrived at the grand prix race track he drove it for an additional 40 laps (just about 100 miles).  The journalist reported no problems at all except just a bit of dust on the bodywork from the Michelin radial street tires.  Also the magnetic CB antenna blew off at 130 miles per hour.


Go Mercedes Team Road Trip: Operation Save a 1978 6.9 Mercedes

Go Mercedes Team: Search & Rescue Mission

Date: Sunday, September 18, 2016
Primary Mission:  Save a rare 1978 450 SEL  6.9 Mercedes Benz with Hydraulic Suspension from extinction
Challenge:  Car in the middle of a meadow near an abandoned soup factory and “ghost” 1931 vacation resort called Chalet Suzanne in Lake Wales, Florida
Super Challenge:  Trying to live through 100 degree heat,  a bizarre GPS that wouldn’t let us leave a “Bate’s” like motel, not much water and a whole lot of wasps.


Our primary Mercedes obsessionist, (I mean enthusiast), Angelo, had located the car about two months prior through his constant searches throughout the United States.  After connecting with the owner the proper arrangements were made and we were off to collect the newest found treasure.

The morning was bristling with excitement as the Go Mercedes team headed out to save this worthy classic  Mercedes from certain extinction.  We downed plenty of hair raising coffee at the local breakfast joint, gobbled down breakfast and quickly headed out for the central plains of Florida.

Moving quickly due east we headed through the sprawling horse country of Florida.  Upon arrival in Lake Wales our primary objective was to pick up a u-haul trailer to pick up the car.

motel on way to get mercedes

We pulled up to the Grove Motel which just happened to also double as the local u-haul rental establishment.  We nervously joked a little bit about  it’s “distinctive Bates motel ambience”.

As we waited for the u-haul manager to wake up.  It was afterall still 11:00 ish,  we busied ourselves with a little walk around.  We got some curious stares, as a little chihuahua scurred about, and a bored resident pulled wheelies on his bicycle in front of the place.  A little girl came running up excitedly to ask if we were going to move in.  “Naw sorry, we’re just here to rent a u-haul”, we replied.


We were informed that the manager was in room 5 but alas he wasn’t answering the door.  Not sure what to do at that point we continued our informal walkabout.

no vacancy with bullet hole

The Grove Motel is quite popular.  Here’s their official “Sorry No Vacancy” sign.  For added effect, if you look real closely you will see a bullet hole over the “A” in “Vacancy”.  Hmm, not sure whether a guest was thwarted from a cozy night’s stay or someone just didn’t care for the room service.


This sign says it all about what it’s like to stay here.

Finally the u-haul manager appeared scratching his belly and yawning, muttering something about a busted water pipe in the motel.

At last we secured the keys to the u-haul and trailer.  But trying to leave the motel was somewhat like trying to get out of the Bermuda Triangle.  The GPS had the caravan turning around and around and we passed the same Grove Motel sign no less than three times until we figured out we needed to just use common sense to get out.  At last we turned left instead of just doing circles and we were hot on the trail with the fresh scent of a new Mercedes capture filling the air.

About 20 minutes later we had the car within sights.  But we needed to make a pitstop in order to procure essential provisions.  The list included one giant bottle of Orange Crush, licorice whips, and a Mountain Dew super sugar instant diabetes drink.  (Later the purchase did seem rather frivalous on our part.  The 100 degree heat and humidity later proved quite a challenge.  Water  would of been a lot more welcome then a hot orange crush bottle on the floor board of the truck.)

At last making our way down the country road, we pulled  up and got our very first glimpses of the hidden German beauty.

Mercedes 450
Viola, the target: a Mercedes 1978 450 SEL 6.9

There it was, at last.  A 1978 450 SEL 6.9 with hydraulic suspension nestled in the grass.  This particular model in the 1970’s was considered to be at the pinnacle of Mercedes engineering.   In it’s day only a couple of Ferrari’s could match it’s performance.  (Unfortunately weighing in at over 4,500 lbs,  it was introduced right in the middle of the gas crisis in the US.  Oops, so not exactly the best timing market wise.)

450 SEL 1978 Mercedes BenzH
Hidden Treasure:  The Green Bean



adam and angelo happy with their new mercedes find
Adam and Angelo posing with their new find

Figuring out the logistics of pulling the Mercedes 450 SEL onto the trailer
Contemplating the logistics of moving the car out

Adam working his magic to get the 450 SEL Mercede loaded
Adam working his magic to get her loaded.

Affectionately called by the code name “Green Bean” the car was found in a very unusual area. Sleeping for awhile, she was resting in a meadow in  Lake Wales, Florida right next to an old abandoned 1931 chalet style resort, restaurant and soup cannery called Chalet Suzanne.

Chalet Suzanne - Lake Wales, Florida
Chalet Suzanne built in 1931 

This quaint Swiss style hideaway  was once where the rich and famous of the 30’s used to come for gourmet dining and rest.  Complete with it’s own private airstrip, grape vineyard, shooting gallery and soup factory, patrons were once served by waitresses dressed as Swiss maidens.

1931 - antique sign for Chalet Suzanne - Lake Wales Florida
Chalet Suzanne’s carved wooden sign from 1931

This quirky resort was owned by the same family for 81 years.  It recently “retired’ along with its owners in 2014.   Today it sits quietly resting nestled in overgrown flowers and butterflies.

The abandoned boiler area for the soup factory.

The  Mercedes was in nice condition but just happened to  be a bit ornery when it came to being taken out of the meadow. Adam, aka “Atom Bomb” cranked in the hot sun for 2 1/2 hours to get her loaded up onto the trailer.  In addition, the tires were flat and the suspension was decidedly unsuspension-like which didn’t help much in getting it loaded.  But as luck  would have it, Angelo had his trusty Mercedes tire inflator that came standard with his AMG black beauty.   Adam and Angelo were able to jockey the car around using the cigarette lighter powered compressor to fill up the tires enough to get it on the trailer.

Mercedes ready to go
At last the car is loaded and ready to go

Mercedes Benz made it home for restoration
At last we are back at the Go Mercedes Ranch.
Ready for restoration!

Stay tuned for updates!


Extra Bonus Scenes from the Adventure at Lake Wales

more barn find cars
A Ford quietly napping near the barn and in the weeds

old classic car barn finds

Another Mercedes on the property.
Sadly the condition inside & engine is too far gone for restoration
classic car barn finds
View of sleeping beauties from inside the barn

Trees vs Barn

air strip near where the mercedes was
Believe it or not this is an official FAA airport.  
Complete with freshly mowed runway.

Closeup of artwork from Chalet Suzanne
Closeup of exterior tile from Chalet Suzanne

Classic Ford Thunderbird
Classic Ford Thunderbird sitting in grape vineyard

classic car logo


Steering column of classic car
Steering column of Thunderbird


old statue from days gone by
An elegant lady waiting patiently.
Reminder of the glory days of the chalet.

Hawk with a snake he just caught in the lake
A hungry hawk flew past the photographer with his freshly caught dinner from the nearby lake.   

Chalet Suzanne Abandoned Soup Factory - Lake Wales, FloridaA

Assembly line of abandoned soup factory

Distressed Door of Barn where old Mercedes was found
Distressed door inside barn where car was found