|Vehicle:||1971 Mercedes-Benz 600 6-door Pullman Landaulet|
|Number Produced:||Pullmans, 487; Pullman Landaulets, 59; 6-door Pullman Landaulets, 26|
|Original List Price:||Pullman (FOB West Coast): $29,617 (Landaulet price as quoted)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$2,500|
|Chassis Number Location:||Plate on upper cross-member in front of radiator next to hood latch|
|Engine Number Location:||Upper left side of engine block|
|Club Info:||Mercedes-Benz Club of America|
|Alternatives:||Rolls-Royce Royal state limousine, 1969 Lincoln Continental presidential limousine, 1983 Cadillac Fleetwood presidential limousine|
This car, Lot 16, sold for €537,600 ($719,680 including buyer’s premium) at RM Auctions’ Paris sale on February 5, 2014. For a barn-find example of the Grand 600 like this, which will require substantial restoration to even be put on the road, the result is unprecedented.
No one can argue with the collectibility or significance of an automobile that was one of the fewer than 2,700 units of the “Grand 600” limousines that were produced during the 18 years they were at the top of the Mercedes-Benz pantheon.
Collectors who are fascinated by these vehicles often refer to them as M100 limousines for the high-powered (434 pound-feet of torque) V8 engine that was designed specifically to handle the weight of the vehicle, which could be as much as three tons. Beyond the standard engine, common body lines and interior designed specifically to be chauffeur-driven, each 600 was distinctive and tailored to the purposes for which it alone would be used.
Making it the rarest of the rare, this example was built to order on the long-wheelbase “Pullman” version of the 600 chassis, with six doors and seating for seven, in the landaulet body style. This body style was intended for the primary purpose of conveying a member of royalty or a head of state in parades. For example, one was commissioned by the Vatican in 1965 for the public processions of Pope Paul VI, and that car has been displayed in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart since 1985.
Many more checks ahead
The cost of a nut-and-bolt restoration of any Pullman today is estimated by the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center to be approximately 1 million euros ($1,373,000). The condition of this example definitely pushes the cost to the top of that range, which begs the obvious question: Why pay such a high price for this car when so much more will have to be spent before it can be used or displayed?
There are a number of reasons to wonder. First, the description is notably silent on the identity of the dignitary for whom this car was built. However, the small number of such cars built, its short ownership, and the completeness of records — including apparently the build sheet — would suggest that information must be available. We can only conclude that the seller believed the celebrity value of the first owner might negatively affect that car’s value.
Second, though the description presents the car as “remarkably complete,” a quick examination of the photos of the engine compartment and interior suggests this car has been cannibalized for the parts unique to the 600, including, significantly, the hydraulic pressure pump that drives the adjustable suspension and the Comfort hydraulic systems. These systems not only allowed the driver to adjust the suspension for desired ride quality — regardless of passenger and cargo load — but also silently raised and lowered the windows, adjusted the seats, and operated the door and trunk latches. All of these operations are integral to the character of the 600. In the past, poor operation of these systems, much less their complete absence (as appears to be the case here), would be a deal-breaker for any 600 buyer.
Looking further at the images, all of the standard interior trim and custom equipment that once would have made this car a rolling combination of office and living room is missing. Replacing those components would add an enormous cost to the restoration, as the 50 or more pieces of interior wood — and the period electronic components — would have to be reconstructed or sourced. It seems unlikely that this car can ever be restored to the specifications of its unusual build sheet.
It’s interesting to note that two of the three most recent comparable sales of 600 Pullmans in the SCM Platinum Auction Database were dusty, dilapidated cars. None of these cars were Landaulets.
Then again, find another one
The only possible answer to whether the price was justified is that the buyer might be calculating that this will be the last privately owned 600 Pullman Landaulet that will ever come on the market. That might make this car a reasonable investment — even if the buyer has no intention of actually investing in the restoration.
On the other hand, this purchase might be one of the first symptoms of an incipient speculative bubble in prices being paid for one-of-a-kind collectibles. Your crystal ball is as good as ours. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of RM Auctions.)