German Technocruiser or British Luxury Liner?
Presidents, CEOs, celebrities, dignitaries, and dictators alike all need fittingly grandiose automobiles—something large, luxurious, expensive, and clearly demonstrative of one’s status in the world. If you found yourself at the helm of a large corporation or country in the mid 1960s to ’70s, your choices were sometimes limited to your geographical location and/or political alliances—behind the Iron Curtain, politburos were chauffeured in ZiLs and Tatras, during which time Nixon sat in the back of a Lincoln. Unburdened by such ideologies, the famous, rich, and less-legitimate politicians of the world, however, were free to choose a car reflective of their own style and personality. The two featured here represent the period’s pinnacle of style, prestige and comfort in two very different ways.
First up is a beautiful example of the deceptively titled “short wheelbase” Mercedes 600 Grosser. Short is a relative term, and this one features a nearly 11-foot-long stretch between the axles, compared to LWB Pullman versions faintly ridiculous 12.5’. In true Teutonic style, the car was a rolling showcase of technology advanced engineering, with a hydraulic system running at an astronomically high 2,200 psi that powered everything from its windows to seat adjustment and automatic door closure, self-leveling air suspension, and available features like in-cabin TVs, refrigerators and telephones. The 600 was so heavy that it required its own large capacity V8, the famous 6.3 M-100 that later went on to power MB’s factory hotrod 300SEL 6.3.
On the other side of this ostentatious coin, we feature a more subdued and traditional car, the Bentley T1. From the days when Bentleys were little more than re-badged Rollers, the T1 offered absolutely no sporting pretentions but gave plenty of old-world style bespoke craftsmanship in return. Walnut veneers, wool carpets, and Connolly leather hides cover every square inch of the cabin. Switchgear and instrumentation could almost be described as austere in its simplicity, were it not for the wonderful warmth endowed by the quality of its materials. Pulled along silently by an early version of Bentley’s classic “six-and-three-quarter liter” V8, a derivative of which to this day powers their latest Mulsanne, its power was described simply as “adequate”, the details of a car’s greasy bits considered to be too vulgar for polite discussion.
So, which is more your kind of mobile smoking room?
1973 Bentley T1
1970 Mercedes-Benz 600-Series