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Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL - chauffeur car with all the extras

Uli Jooß
Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL in the driving report
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M ercedes friends, that's not what they say for no reason, they are more interested in the equipment line-up of their car than in the condition. What do rusty wheel arches or perforated sills bother when such coveted goodies as velor upholstery, microfiber heating panels, cruise control or the electric steel sliding roof are on board?

Wheel arches can be replaced, sills welded. But retrofitted extras are only half as good as those fitted at the factory. After all, many a Mercedes-Benz left the Sindelfingen production line in the 1970s in bare basic equipment. Their interior may have looked as homely as the driver's cab of a tram railcar back then. The list of possible special equipment was so extensive when the W 116 was launched that the cost price of a 280 S could easily be doubled. And only the bare minimums for driving were standard on board.

The Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL had a lot of additional options

How much money the neighbor actually made easy for his new 116 only revealed itself on closer inspection. Especially if the Mercedes buyer had chosen the popular and free option “Elimination of type designation on trunk lid”. The Swiss director, who had ordered the astral silver 450 SEL on these pages in 1978, on the other hand, did not care much about envious looks. He left the prestigious lettering on the trunk lid and ordered unusual extras from the extensive equipment catalog such as leather armchairs in bamboo and the exotic, extremely elaborate automatic air conditioning, which is listed per se in the 1978 price list at 3,416 marks.

On the other hand, the director saved money at his chauffeur's workplace: In this case, the SEL driver had to do without cruise control and rev counter. After all, his armchair is covered with leather just like the bench in the rear. And the boss donated a center armrest while he treated himself to an electrically adjustable rear bench seat.

The Mercedes 450 SEL is designed as a chauffeur's car

Enjoy the temperature-controlled The driver comes with air anyway. Because that is perhaps the most surprising thing about the former Swiss executive car that is for sale at the Mercedes specialist Böhringer: The one that is notorious for being unreliable and capriciousThe automatic air conditioning fanned cool air into the SEL as calmly as if it were still on the Sindelfingen-Zurich transfer. Only the somewhat loud fan is a reminder that the cooling system has been in service for almost 30 years. Perhaps you feel more secure in the rear than behind the large valance with the 1972 innovative baffle plate. But even in this large Mercedes designed as a chauffeur car, the best seat is in the front left.

The steering wheel is still at hand even when the driver's seat is pushed forward so far that the secretary of the board could cross her legs next to the boss. The 'L' in the type designation stands for 'long'. And that is meant seriously. The long version has a full ten centimeters more wheelbase, with the rear compartment benefiting entirely from the increase. The SE and SEL bodies are identical up to the B-pillar. In addition, the Mercedes stylists around boss Karl Wilfert understood better than any other Mercedes how to hide the growth in length. Whether a 450 SE or SEL is in front of the viewer can only be said immediately by real connoisseurs. This modesty did not go well with the brisk appearance of the W 116.

Lush chrome trim, striking headlights and a sweeping radiator, which was actually an anachronism on the tail fin, clearly document the unadulterated Mercedes self-image of those days : We build the best cars in the world. The fact that this applied only to a very limited extent to corrosion protection worries the collector scene today, but in 1972 it played a rather subordinate role. Not least because of this, the W 116 series had to walk through a dark valley of tears and rust bubbles before it became a collection area. The successor W 126 presented in 1979, developed under the direction of Bruno Sacco, degraded the 116 with its emphatically sober, aerodynamically sophisticated shape to an old car overnight. The 116 remained in Bonn's government fleet well into the Kohl era.

The standard three-speed automatic of the Mercedes 450 SEL works without any problems

But on the more mundane streets of the republic, it has long been the semi-silks and backyard tuners who drove big Mercedes. They screwed cheap aluminum on it, blackened radiators, cut glass roofs in, and rottweilers and pitbulls tore the velor on the benches. There were of course a few far-sighted people who were on the lookout for well-preserved 116s, drove them carefully or put them away. And some stubborn bosses may have refused to exchange the old SEL for a new one for 25 years. So it must have been in the case of the 450 SEL from Switzerland, which has only covered around 150,000 kilometers to date. Some paint defects and small wounds are reminiscent of the SEL's 27 years of service, but it is technicalwell-groomed Daimler very healthy. This is also proven by the intact automatic air conditioning.

The eight-cylinder starts to work with an inconspicuous grumbling, the standard three-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and smoothly. After all, both were old friends when they found their way into the W 116 in 1973. The eight-cylinder made its debut in 1969 in the predecessor model W 108 as a 3.5-liter. The 4.5 liter was already available for the US market. In the W 116, the 4,520 cubic centimeter V8 developed 225 hp - which is of course not a breathtaking liter output. The development goals were also rather rich torque and outstanding smoothness. So, today on the road in the 450, sometimes the feeling arises that the eight-cylinder is a little overwhelmed with the soft converter design and the almost two tons of curb weight. Then the engine gets a little loud and sounds a bit strained. You can understand why the 116 customers from the beginning missed the 300 SEL 6.3 a little.

For this very performance-hungry clientele there was the 450 SEL 6.9 from 1975, which with its enlarged M100 eight-cylinder put an end to all performance discussions. A look at the bare numbers also confirms that the 450 was not quite as superior as one might assume. The sprint from zero to one hundred and the top speed of the 450 SEL were almost exactly on the level of the less powerful brothers 280 SE and 350 SE. Manual copies could even show the 450 the barriers. In the first test in auto motor und sport 20 of 1973, the 450 SEL needed 10.5 seconds to 100 km /h and ran exactly 211.8 km /h.

The comfort of the Mercedes 450 SEL was decisive

A 185 hp 280 SE completed the sprint in 9.7 seconds and reached 204.5 km /h. There is hardly any class difference. This is revealed in a direct comparison of driving: Motorway gradients and intermediate sprints, which a 280 can only manage with the accelerator depressed and a hectic downshifting four-speed automatic, require little more in the 450 than a little more emphatic acceleration. And if you don't do it too well, the eight-cylinder is still quieter than the air conditioning. This plus in sovereignty was worth a surcharge of around 15,000 marks for quite a few contemporaries, roughly the equivalent of two standard Beetles. After all, 59,578 buyers opted for the 450 SEL, making it the most popular eight-cylinder in the model range. The 25,000 mark jump to September 6th was probably too big for most of them.

After all, the difference would easily have been enough for a 123 coupé for the wife. In any case, the comfort qualities of the extended limousine were much more important than sober car quartet numbers to those ordering in the boardrooms. Which, in turn, connects them to today's collectors. If a 450 SEL by today's standardsis properly motorized at best, its comfort is still worth all honors. He doesn't need to shy away from comparisons with modern luxury limousines. Yes, the heavy load leans far outward when cornering faster. But the way the big Mercedes floats over bad roads, cracks in frost and long bumps in the road is very impressive. And the steering is a little indifferent, on the other hand, incredibly smooth and bump-free. The 116er can do without the air suspension of the predecessor.

After all, it has what is probably the most elaborate chassis that a series-production Mercedes has been granted until then. The double wishbone suspension of the C111 is used at the front, the trailing arm suspension of the W107 and Strichacht replaces the single-joint pendulum construction of the W108 /109 at the rear. As if to linguistically document that the long loyalty to the pendulum axle was not a technical failure, the new design was given the name diagonal pendulum axle. That doesn't matter to today's Mercedes friend who is lucky enough to find a well-preserved W 116 with the right equipment. Especially if it is a 450 SEL. Because the 450 is perhaps the most balanced and desirable model in a series that has advanced from a used car to a cult classic in recent years. Need a 116? Yes please, but only a 450 SEL with automatic air conditioning. Preferably in milan brown, with Brazilian velor, steel wheels with hubcaps and without a sunroof. As you can see, it's contagious!


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