It’s intriguing – amusing even – how some people’s cars which were manufactured by the millions and sold for peanuts, have evolved into icons and suddenly command quite attractive prices as classic cars. It’s even more mind-boggling when the very same classic car market dictates that certain luxury vehicles which were reserved for the wealthy – and offered them the very best of luxury, performance, technical advancement and build quality – can now be purchased for a fraction of the money required for one of those classic people’s cars.
Perhaps one of the most obvious examples of this is the grand Mercedes-Benz W116 S-class. Here is a car which in period was regarded as quite possibly the best car in the world, rivalled only – depending of course on personal opinion and priorities – by the majestic Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and elegant Jaguar XJ12. The W116 was obviously more teutonic in character than its two British rivals, but with it came a build quality worthy of a tank and ground breaking German technology in terms of both passive but also active safety where the Mercedes-Benz was the first production car to offer ABS brakes as an option from 1978 onwards.
When Mercedes-Benz first introduced the rather masculine W116 S-class in late 1972 as a new ’73 model, there was an option of three different engines starting with their iconic 2.8-litre twincam straight-6 with either a Solex carburettor or Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection. But if you really wanted to impress the neighbours, you obviously needed to splash out on the 200hp 3.5-litre V8 option. However, within only a year, Mercedes-Benz had upped the game even further. First came the long wheelbase SEL providing rear seat passengers with 10cm of extra legroom, and shortly after followed the more powerful 4.5-litre V8, which also benefitted from a plusher interior with either leather or velour seats in place of the lesser models chequered cloth seats and differently designed door cards too. With this new 450SE / SEL, the big S-class even managed to win the award for European Car of the year in 1974, which was and still is quite uncommon for an executive saloon to even be considered for.
In 1975 Mercedes-Benz introduced their fire-breathing factory hot rod saloon by shoehorning a sledgehammer of a 6.9-litre V8 into the otherwise very civilised S-class. This was the biggest European engine since the end of World War II and immediately a legend was created. Needless to say, the 6.9-litre version is both very coveted and equally expensive today.
But as long as you don’t require your executive saloon to lay down rubber in true dragster style, then you might be surprised by just how much S-class you can get for a very humble outlay indeed!
Which leads us to this week’s Prime Find. Now let’s be clear right from the word go; if you’re dreaming of owning an absolutely concours W116, you should probably just move on. There’s nothing of interest here. This car is not the right candidate. However, if you’re after a driver in the truest sense, then it might just be worthwhile reading on.
With more than 363,000 km on the clock, this 1979 Mercedes-Benz 350SE currently for sale in the Netherlands is hardly a low mileage car, even if mileage like that shouldn’t represent a problem for a Mercedes-Benz of this era – at least not if maintained and service properly. There’s also a decent amount of patina on the S-class some of which is rust which was as much an issue for the W116 as it was for any other car of this period. From the pictures it doesn’t appear too serious, but let’s not kid ourselves, it will no doubt need attention at some point in the not too distant future. Personally, I know I wouldn’t be able to live with that crusty sunroof surround forever.
So what does this 350SE have going for it then? Well for starters, the olive green metallic paint is only about the best colour ever available for the W116! Presuming you can distract yourself from the cosmetic rust issues, this car just looks absolutely fabulous. There’s also a set of factory Barock alloy wheels, a factory sunroof and the green chequered cloth and vinyl interior looks surprisingly presentable considering the mileage. But more importantly, if you’re planning on actually driving this big old luxury barge, it comes with a current Dutch MOT which is valid until February 2020, and the vendor adds that the S-class is currently in almost daily use and both drives and shifts great. To my ears, that sounds just about right for a classic daily driver which you won’t be afraid of using while you perhaps slowly and bit by bit improve it. Here are som pictures borrowed from the advert:
And to buy into this, all you need is Euro 4,750. It seems entirely insane that such a fine luxury saloon can be yours for less than what it would take to purchase a classic Mini, a FIAT 500 or for that matter, even a Trabant 601. Am I tempted? Hell yeah! And I know you are too, so here you have the full advert which for once has significantly more pictures of the car than what we have showed you here on ViaRETRO: 1979 Mercedes-Benz 350SE
With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to firstname.lastname@example.org