So exciting was the 6.3 that famed Mercedes engineer Rudolph Uhlenhaut caught wind of the project and insisted on driving the car. As Waxenberger tells the story, Uhlenhaut drove the car for only a few minutes before getting out at a traffic light. There, he opened the hood, just to see what the hell was making this car go so fast – and how they were able to squeeze the huge motor into the engine compartment.
Given its unprecedented status, sales expectations for the 6.3 were low. In a 1999 article from Classic & Sports Car, Waxenberger recalls that the Mercedes-Benz sales department never expected to sell even 50 units. But, says Waxenbrger, “in the end, they sold so fast I couldn’t get one for my own test department.” Mercedes ultimately built more than 6,500 examples of the 300 SEL 6.3.
If you want to own a 6.3 now–and who doesn’t?–be forewarned that the sedan has a lot of potential issues that might throw off a casual buyer. Every single unit left the factory with air suspension, and–given that these cars were made from December 1967 to September 1972–even the newest ones are more than 40 years old, which might mean trouble. I’d be happy if the air suspension in my Land Rover lasted ten years, let alone forty. Beyond the suspension, the 6.3’s heating/air conditioning system is notoriously complicated. And, of course, the 300SEL includes a wide variety of other age-related issues likely to affect an older car.
But mark my words: one day, the 300SEL 6.3 will find its rightful place on Concours lawns as the performance sedan that started it all. And owners of M5s and E63s will likely walk right by, phone glued to their ear, searching for something flashier, unaware that they’ve just crossed paths with a legend: the grandfather of the performance sedan.