Classifieds Hero: 1969 Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3

For sheer panache and sturdy mechanicals offering graceful, elegant cruising, you can’t go wrong with a 300 SEL 6.3. Here’s why

Towards the end of the last millennium, Mercedes-Benz was suffering something of a crisis. Despite the marque pulling off a brand image most rivals would kill for, and basking in the glow of Formula 1 glory with McLaren, stark reality reigned back in its showrooms.

Cars were suffering with build-quality problems, electrical gremlins and serious corrosion maladies. Such issues were quietly drilling through the three-pointed star’s previously indefatigable reputation for craftsmanship and market superiority.

Things had once been so much better. Back in the 1960s, when men were men and love was free, the vehicles filing out of the Benz factory upheld a proud mantra for being ‘over engineered’. If you wanted a dependable automobile that was capable of shouldering daily responsibility while taking on the worst Mother Nature had to throw at it, and then charging up the Autobahn at 100mph-plus, you frequented only one showroom; Mercedes-Benz.

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For many, the ultimate example of this dependability is the iconic W124, but for us nothing epitomises that fine balance of engineering and styling quite like the 300 SEL 6.3-litre. It’s not the fastest Merc on the planet by far, and its distinct lack of gullwing doors or V12 means it rarely tops bucket lists – but these attributes, while desirable, aren’t necessarily required to experience Mercedes at its best.

What the 300 SEL does offer is enough poke to keep most modern incarnations at bay while providing the kind of serene comfort usually found in a giant tub of ice cream during a relationship break-up. You could probably drive this car through an earthquake’s aftermath without breaking a sweat, soothed by the gently blowing air-con and mantelpiece dashboard.

Handling remains above par for a vehicle that’s already more than half a century old. You can enter a bend at road speed without having to cling on for dear life, while wet roundabouts raise no cause for alarm. Unlike with many contemporary rivals, new owners didn’t need to order tan leather purely to hide evidence of a rough journey.

Then there’s the styling, which is drop-dead gorgeous in every way – often literally, considering the model’s popularity with dictators. If you found yourself being held within the crosshairs on the bonnet, chances are you’d lived your last moments.

Those lines and haunches are enough to leave a grown man weeping – especially when presented in silver, such as the example currently seeking a new home in the AutoClassics classifieds.

Built in 1969 and propelled by a V8, this 300 SEL 6.3-litre is a fantastic example of the model that claimed title as the world’s fastest production four-door saloon upon launch. Those performance figures still hold up today, and it’s hard to believe this Benz is a product from 50 years ago. Testament to its build quality is the interior, as this example’s woodwork and upholstery appear factory fresh.

The car’s mechanicals are in rude health. Its smooth automatic ’box makes effortless work of speedy gearchanges, while the innovative suspension set-up is more than capable of absorbing undulating road surfaces with ease. Would it ruffle feathers to state that this example must surely be one of the finest currently on sale?

Luckily, Mercedes got its quality control back on track after a turbulent relationship with Chrysler, but that doesn’t mean you have to turn to new models from the Benz repertoire. This 300 SEL 6.3 will do the job without protest…

Get a closer look with the AutoClassics classified advert.

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