Mystery Mercedes 600 six-door Landaulet heads to auctionMon, 03 Feb 2014 00:00:00 -0800
There are ambitious project cars, and then there is this: a 1971 Mercedes-Benz600 Six-Door Pullman Landaulet that'll be offered at RM Auctions' Retromobile sale in Paris on Feb. 5. One of just 26 built, this example was recently rescued from the state motor pool of an unnamed African country with the consignor unwilling to reveal the car's exact provenance. Said to be hidden away for three decades, this is essentially a one-owner car offered here by the person who found it.
While the Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman is known to collectors and classic car fans, few will remember that there were a few different variants of them out there. The "standard" Pullman model had an inserted section from the B-pillar back, but there was also the option of building that inserted section as a row of doors. The second row of seats in the interior were occasional jump seats rather than the conference-style seating that debuted in later SEL and S-class models, so the six-door limousine was ideally meant for just four passengers, with the jump seats serving as footrests in folded form. The six-door versions were far rarer than the standard stretched limousines, and even rarer was the opening Landaulet roof top that opened like a convertible top for the benefit of the rear seat passengers.
This one seems to feature every luxury imaginable, including a radiotelephone, air conditioning (which you've probably noticed already by the tell-tale vent in the rear panels), and a Sony 9-inch television. Power is of course provided courtesy of a V8 engine mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.
The dash has either been harvested for parts, or for souvenirs.
The Landaulet version of the Pullman was typically used for parades, with heads of state standing in the back and waving to the adoring (genuinely or otherwise) crowds. Buying these new was perhaps the cheapest part of Pullman ownership -- and no original buyer really had to "save up" for one -- though keeping one going or restoring one now really could consume a good chunk of the budget of a small island nation.
Neglected Mercedes-Benz 600s come up for auction pretty regularly, and most have the same story: purchased new for official motor pool, no service records for the last 30 years, trim missing. This lot is perhaps the poster child for that kind of back story, right down to the more-than-lightly-patinated interior and a dash that's been ripped apart either for parts, or for souvenirs.
"We're pretty confident it's the last Landaulet out there, so for a Mercedes-Benz collector it's the holy grail," said auctioneer Max Girardo, the head of RM in London. "The current owner rescued it, though he didn't want to exactly say where in Africa, just to be cautious."
Most of the interior will have to be replaced if the car is to be restored.
It's curious that previous ownership was not revealed here, as this is the sort of thing that bidders and auction observers love talking about. We wouldn't be surprised if someone pinpoints previous ownership with some credible evidence within a few weeks of the sale. After all, there were only 26 of these made, and through the process of elimination someone should be able to identify the country that this example came from. Perhaps the new owner will find a few coins under the carpets, or a letter from Mercedes-Benz dated from 1975 urging the new owner to send a plane to Stuttgart to transport a five-man service team to have his or her Landaulet serviced on site.
As for the restoration, the new owner has their work cut out for them. These were complex machines when new, and they're still complex machines today as they utilized a bewildering array of hydraulic systems for virtually everything. The dash of this example will be difficult to make right, but not impossible -- and that's just the front dash. Right beneath the powered partition window is the second dash, and there are no parts cars out there for that -- it'll have to be remanufactured from scratch. The rest of the interior will have to be completely redone, but it looks like most of the trim is (thankfully) still there. The cost of restoring one in this condition to a concours grade level just might eclipse $200,000, so once again the cheapest part is buying one.
Speaking of which, this Landaulet is expected to fetch between $100,000 and $160,000, though these machines always have the potential to surprise on the auction floor.
By Jay Ramey