The Mercedes-Benz 600 was a high-end luxury sedan and limousine produced by Mercedes-Benz from 1963 to 1981. Generally, the short-wheel-base (SWB) models were designed to be owner-driven, the long-wheel-base (LWB), often incorporating a central divider with power window, by chauffeur.
The forerunner of the modern Maybach marque, the 600 “Grosser Mercedes” (“Grand Mercedes”) succeeded the Type 300 “Adenauer” as the company’s flagship and most expensive model. Positioned well above the 300-series Mercedes-Benz W112, its few competitors included certain models of Rolls-Royce and Bentley, the Cadillac Fleetwood 75, stretchedLincoln Continental Lehmann-Peterson, and the Chrysler Imperial Crown Ghia.
Production began in 1964 and continued through to 1981.During this time, production totalled 2,677 units, comprising 2,190 Saloons, 304 Pullmans, 124 6-door Pullmans and 59 Landaulets.
The 600 came in two main variants:
- A short wheelbase 4-door sedan, available with a power divider window separating the front seats from the rear bench seat, although most were built without this feature.
- A long wheelbase 4-door Pullman limousine (with two additional rear-facing seats separated from the driver compartment by a power divider window, of which 304 were built), and a 6-door limousine (with two forward-facing jump-seats at the middle two doors and a rear bench-seat).
A number of the Pullman limousines were made as landaulets, with a convertible top over the rear passenger compartment. These were notably used by the Pope and the German government, as during the 1965 state visit of Queen Elizabeth II. Production of this model ended in 1980.
Mercedes also made two coupés, one as a gift for retiring long-time Mercedes chief designer Dr. Rudolf Uhlenhaut, and the other to one Dr. Fritz Nallinger. These cars had a wheelbase 22 cm (8.6 inches) shorter than the SWB sedan. A third was constructed by 600 experts and restorers Karl Middelhauve & Associates of Wausau, Wisconsin from a SWB sedan.
Karl Middelhauve has also created a pair of matching Chevrolet El Camino-style coupes from 600 SWB sedans. One of them has a Vortech supercharger.
A single example of a SWB 4-door landaulet, combining the handling of a short-wheelbase with the qualities of a landaulet, was built by Mercedes in 1967 for former racing driver Count von Berckheim.
The 600’s great size, weight, and numerous hydraulically driven amenities required more power than Mercedes’ largest engine at that time, the 3-litre 6-cylinder M189, could produce. A new V8 with more than twice the capacity was developed, the 6.3 L M100. It featured single overhead camshafts (SOHC) and Bosch mechanicalfuel injection.
The 600’s complex 150-bar (2,176 psi) hydraulic pressure system powered the automobile’s windows, seats, sun-roof, boot lid, and automatically closing doors. Adjustable air suspension delivered excellent ride quality and sure handling over any road surface.
In 1967 the M-100 engine and hydraulics were fitted to the much smaller but still substantial 300SEL 6.3, creating the world’s fastest four-door sedan. Upon the introduction of the W116 chassis, a larger 6.9 liter version of M-100 was installed in the Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9.
Famous owners of the 600 have included the Pope and prominent celebrities such as Coco Chanel, Hugh Hefner, Elizabeth Taylor, John Lennon, George Harrison, Karen Carpenter, Jay Kay, Kim Jong-un, Aristotle Onassis, Jack Nicholson,Simon Spies, Ronnie Wood, Bob Jane, Frank Packer, Elvis Presley, Rowan Atkinson, Jay Leno, and Jeremy Clarkson.Jay Leno had his 600 (a 1972 SWB) fitted with a supercharger by Karl Middelhauve and Associates, making it the only 600 Kompressor in existence.
Clarkson’s 1973 600 was featured in the Top Gear Challenge “Mercedes-Benz 600 vs Rolls-Royce Corniche Coupé challenge”, when it was pitted against James May’s 1972 Rolls-Royce Corniche, eventually winning the challenge.
Notable heads of state included King Khalid Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (13 February 1913 – 13 June 1982) was the fourth king of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia between 1975-1982 as Mercedes-Benz 600 was his favorite car, Park Chung-hee, Josip Broz Tito, Nicolae Ceaușescu, Pol Pot, Enver Hoxha, Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, Emperor Hirohito, F. W. de Klerk, Leonid Brezhnev, Idi Amin, Fidel Castro, Robert Mugabe,Jomo Kenyatta,Daniel Moi, Ferdinand Marcos (who owned four, including a Landaulet, a 1981 bulletproof and a six-door version), North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un have also owned a landaulet (both seen in the 65th anniversary parade in Pyongyang on October 10, 2010), and Saddam Hussein, who owned a long roof landaulet that was recovered after the fall of Baghdad today owned by the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles. Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlaviand the royal court owned multiple 600 models. Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, former Chinese Foreign Minister Chen Yi, Deng Xiaoping, wife of the first Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai – Deng Yingchao, and the former King of Cambodia Norodom Sihanouk, all used the 600. The first Senegalese regime (1960–1980) under president Léopold Sédar Senghor had three 600s, a short wheel base, a long wheel base, and a Landaulet, later replaced by the W126-based Carat Limousine.
The first President of Indonesia, Soekarno, also own the 600 SWB. President Anastasio Somoza Debayle of Nicaragua bought a SWB for his wife Hope Portocarrero from the very first production run.
Religious leader Guru Maharaj Ji owned one, as did Colombian drug dealer Pablo Escobar, a LWB six-door 600. destroyed in an attack on Escobar in 1988 in Medellín.
In cinema the Mercedes 600 was featured in the James Bond films, most notably as transport of the villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever. Kamal Khan is also seen leaving Sotheby’s in a 600 in Octopussy. In television, a Mercedes Benz 600 limousine was used by fictional Channing/Gioberti family matriarch Angela Channing in the American television series Falcon Crest. Images of the car driving from San Francisco over theGolden Gate Bridge to the Falcon Crest vineyard were featured in the opening credits of the first four seasons. It was also prominently featured in the television show Friday the 13th.