﹒Top-of-the-range 6.0-litre V12 spec ﹒Full bare-metal respray in 2020 ﹒All-original spec ﹒Over £13,000 spent in the last five years
It’s often said of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class that it’s the model to keep an eye on if you want to see what your family car’s going to be like in a decade’s time. A fertile ground for mould-breaking innovation, this is the ultra-high-tech and uber-luxurious flagship platform that Mercedes uses to roll out the technology that will ultimately trickle down through the model range in the future. And when it comes to the W140-generation S-Class (built from 1991-98), these were seismic innovations indeed; the model sported such tricks and treats as side airbags, automatic rain-sensing wipers, seat occupancy sensors, ESP, Xenon headlights, CANbus, and soundproofed double-glazing. Furthermore, the W140 positively bristled with tasty specs: we’re talking 12-way powered and heated seats, variable ‘Parameter’ steering, heated washer jets, self-levelling multi-link rear suspension, and adaptive damping. A veritable smorgasbord of cleverness.
There was a broad range of engines available, including various straight-sixes and V8s as well as diesel options – but there’s no point messing about, is there? If you want to go full-on plutocrat spec, the S600 is the one you want: this model came equipped with a silky-smooth 6.0-litre V12, effortless churning out 390bhp and 420lb.ft, operating with whisper-quiet stealth while hiding its ballistic reserves of torque just a millimetre or two down the throttle travel. Rear passengers are also treated to four-zone climate control, electric rear seats, the whole shooting match. It’s the car that showed every other car how to be – and now that it’s had a quarter-century to mellow into aspirational modern-classic territory, it’s looking like sensational value for money today.
This car truly has been a labour of love for its current owner. Having purchased it five years ago as an all-original four-owner example, he’s steadily set about perfecting every element he can to bring it up to the standards that his own fastidious tastes demand. Indeed, he reckons that he’s spent somewhere in the region of £13,000-14,000 on the car in that time, using only OEM parts and ensuring that the mechanicals are just as tip-top as the presentation. It’s been dry-stored throughout these years, although still given regular exercise because, of course, cars do like to be driven, it’s what keeps them healthy. Just a few months ago, the S600 was treated to a full respray to a very high standard, and the owner could talk for hours about all of the maintenance that’s been carried out.
Recently, he took the Mercedes on a road-trip across Europe, a final farewell to the car he’s poured so much blood, sweat and tears into. Why ‘final’? Well, despite having bought the car with the idea that it’d be something he’d never sell (hence all the no-expense-spared investment), circumstances do change and, with a number of other cars in the collection, storage is becoming increasingly tricky. And so, with regret, it’s time to let the big V12 brute go…
The original document file is present, containing all of the correct manuals – including the owner’s manual and the stereo handbook. The original maintenance booklet is also in place, which shows the S600’s date of first registration as March 27th 1996, which is verified by the V5 document. Also in the file we find assorted receipts and invoices for parts that have been sourced over the last few years, as well as a handful of old MOTs.
While the outside of the W140 is impressive and imposing, the interior really is the main feature. After all, this was a very expensive luxury car which, as a flagship model, simply had to have all the toys. And let’s face it, a lot of S600 owners would probably be sitting in the back a lot of the time, wouldn’t they? So the shock-and-awe of the specs had to be equally vivid at either end – and it truly is. Back seat passengers get electrically adjustable seats, ceiling-mounted vanity mirrors and plush leather trim, along with oodles of legroom.
The original first aid kit is in place on the parcel shelf (still containing 1990s medical supplies!), and the fold-down armrest slides out evenly with its hideaway cubbyhole working as it should. The only notable blemish in the rear is a little light scuffing on the trim piece around the air vents in the centre panel. The carpets and headlining are all in great condition, and moving to the front we find that essential period accoutrement: an original 1990s Nokia carphone, complete with retro curly wire.
The wood trim on the dash and doorcards is all present and in excellent condition, and there are no marks, rips or signs of excessive wear on the seat leather; the car has also been valeted in the recent past. All of the gauges work as they should, and there are no warning lights on the dash. The interior lighting is all functional, and the electric sunroof works perfectly. The car is very well equipped, and as far as we could tell every single button and switch was working properly, except for the electric adjustment for the wing mirrors, which is most likely motor-related. The boot is tidy, dry and original; the spare wheel is absent, but the CD changer is in place.
The S600 truly is a splendid thing to behold. The crisp design has aged beautifully, with the car looking far more modern than its twenty-five years might suggest. And the owner has gone to great lengths to ensure that the car looks the best that it possibly can: in summer 2020 it was treated to a full body respray in its original factory colour. To do this, the entire car was stripped down to bare metal with all trims, handles, mirrors, bumpers and bonnet removed to ensure the optimum finish. The body was free from corrosion so no welding was required, and only the bare minimum of filler to finesse the surfaces; the highest quality materials were used, and the car really does gleam magnificently now. The seller can provide photographic evidence of all the work that was carried out.
The Mercedes wears its original 18” Eltanin wheels, which are in excellent condition and wear quality rubber. The underside of the car has been cleaned and undercoated in black in the factory style, and again no corrosion was found during the course of this work.
A concours judge may point out the minor milky blooming along the bottom edge of the rear window, and the slight evidence of water ingress within the reversing sections of the taillight clusters, but on the whole this is a remarkably tidy, honest and correct example of an S600. Certainly one of the cleanest W140s we’ve seen recently.
Being the range-topper, the S600 really is a titanic powerhouse. Under the bonnet resides the 6.0-litre M120 V12, a wonderfully smooth and effortlessly powerful unit, and the owner reports that it runs like a dream, offering near-silent wafting and effervescent power. We were also impressed with its behaviour on the shoot – a photoshoot requires a lot of stopping, starting and idling, and the V12 behaved impeccably. It’s recently been serviced, including all filters, spark plugs, oil, vacuum pipes and coolant. The 5-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission shifts smoothly and at the appropriate times, and the filter, gasket and oil have recently been changed. The differential is equally smooth with no troubling noises.
The owner has recently replaced the rear self-levelling hydraulic shock absorbers, including accumulators and pipes, and as a result the car rides impeccably – extremely cosseting, but also surprisingly agile. In addition, he’s replaced the lower front ball joints, upper arms, lower bushes, and fitted new brake discs and pads all round. The owner has also informed us that after the photos were taken, the car was treated to four brand new tyres.
The question is not ‘Why would you want to buy an S-Class?’, but ‘Why wouldn’t you?’. This is a car that offers everything, a true polymath. It’s got sumptuous luxury in spades, both up front and in the back. It has endless reserves of power, more than enough to hustle the car improbably quickly to surprising speeds. It looks magnificent. The ride is pillow-soft, yet it’s eager to play when you throw it into corners. The driver aids make it a doddle to manoeuvre around town, and it’s got the legs to leap across continents in a single bound.
And this particular S-Class is more special than most, for two key reasons. Firstly, there’s the presence of that sublime V12 engine. These days, Mercedes-Benz have stopped fitting V12s to S-Classes, and this jewel-like motor is very much a figurehead for a dying breed. And secondly, there’s the frankly remarkable condition of the thing. It’s always good to buy a car from someone who never intended to sell it, as you know that all of the work will have been carried out to the highest
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