Sometimes a manufacturer moves so far ahead with a new model that the car is so high end that its traditional customers are priced out of the market. One car that comes to mind is the Volkswagen Phaeton W12, which was so high end for the “people’s car” manufacturer that few were sold and the car was never seen again.
Another automaker at the higher end of the market, Mercedes-Benz, did the same with the W140 S class. The top end 600 SEL was so well engineered and constructed that it was also much more expensive and exclusive than the S Class sedan it replaced. The Mercedes-Benz tagline of “The Best or Nothing” was never better exemplified than in the W140 S Class.
The Pick of the Day is one of the range-topping models, a 1993 Mercedes-Benz 600SEL that has covered only 41,000 miles from new, according to the Garrison, New York, private seller advertising the Benz on ClassicCars.com.
This Mercedes-Benz has always been garaged and properly maintained, the seller says, and received new tires about a year ago. The leather and interior wood trim is perfect with no cracks, the seller adds, and the paint is completely original and sparkles like new.
Rumor has it that Mercedes spent an exorbitant $1 billion to design and engineer the W140, more than the company had ever spent on a single model. This is an amazing amount of money to spend on a new car model, but the W140 S Class was an amazing car.
The new S class featured innovations and ideas never before seen in any Mercedes car, including double-pane windows, electrically assisted door closure, parking assist, and what at the time was the most-advanced climate-control system in the world.
In addition, the 600SEL was the first Mercedes sedan to feature the M120 engine, a 48-valve DOHC 6.0-liter V12 with 408 horsepower that could propel the huge sedan from 0-60 in 6 seconds flat, with an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph.
Suddenly, the Mercedes S Class was more in the league of Rolls-Royce or Bentley, and no longer in the same universe as BMW.
This, however, left buyers unwilling to spend the money necessary to buy the Mercedes, which had a base price in 1991 of $125,000, with most models selling for more than $150,000 including options. That would translate to nearly $280,000 in today’s dollars.
This was in many ways the end of an era for Mercedes-Benz, in many expert opinions, because the S Class cars that came after never reached the pinnacle reached by the W140 cars during its era.
There is an upside to this story in that the W140 cars, even the range-topping V12-equipped 600SEL can now be had for a fraction of what they sold for when new.
This 600SEL had a list price of more than $150,000 when new, but this low-mileage example has an asking price of just $18,000.
Keep in mind that the sales price for this car is only the cost of entry. A car like the 600SEL requires the best of servicing to continue to be all it was designed to be, and that is not going to be cheap. But as a collector car, it could be classified as a future classic of rising value.
To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.