The Mercedes-Benz 600 Limousine made its premiere at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in the fall of 1963. The previous “Grand” Mercedes-Benz were the pre-war 770 models (1930-43), built during a time in automobile history when luxury, power and elegance were at their pinnacle. They were the Daimler-Benz premier product, portraying state of the art of automotive engineering and conceived to transport and coddle dignitaries in opulent style.
The styling of the new 600 was a collaboration of Bruno Sacco and Paul Bracq. Its traditional Mercedes grille and conservative body have stood the test of time, and the car has become one of the most recognized automobile statements of prestige and nobility.
Over the 18-year life span of the model, just 2,677 were built. The most popular 600, the short wheelbase (just over 18 feet in length), sold 2,190 units and accounted for 82% of the total production. The two long-wheelbase models were 20.5 feet in length, and included the four- or six-door Pullman-with room for six to eight passengers-and the rare Landaulet, with a folding rear top section.
All 600s were nearly custom built, with buyers selecting from an extensive list of options. Mercedes-Benz told prospective buyers, “Insofar as it is technically possible, we will accommodate any customer request and strongly recommend discussing your requirements directly with our engineers in Sindelfingen.” Each 600 was practically handbuilt by 50 skilled craftsmen and technicians, taking about 55 days to complete.
The 600 was the first production Mercedes-Benz car to be propelled by a V8 engine. The huge 6.3-liter iron block/alloy head, mechanically fuel-injected, 300-hp powerplant could push these three-ton-plus limos to 125-135 mph. Transmission was a four-speed automatic, connected through a three-piece driveshaft to a limited-slip differential.
The 600 had a unit-construction pressed steel chassis/body unit; the trunk lid was the only aluminum body panel. The self-leveling high-pressure air suspension with adjustable ride height had A-arms attached to a sub-frame at the front and a low-pivot swing axle with special anti-brake drive design at rear. The shock absorbers were driver adjustable to suit driving style and road surface. Brakes were four-wheel discs with massive front dual-caliper brakes with air power assist.
To help put in perspective the handling and power capabilities of this massive car, in 1965 a Pullman 600 with six adults on board and Stirling Moss behind the wheel came within five seconds of besting the saloon-car lap record at the Brands Hatch racing circuit. In 1965, Car and Driver magazine stated, “The Mercedes 600 has proved to our complete satisfaction that it is the finest automobile in the world!”