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One of Mercedes-Benz’s all-time best ever performance sedans
No-expense-spared restoration by marque expert in 1993
Upgraded Mercedes-Benz 6.3-liter V8 engine during restoration
Factory air suspension, air conditioning, power windows, power steering
Includes owner’s manuals, service documents, tools, jack, and spare
Sometimes iconic vehicles begin as something no more than one person’s seemingly ludicrous dream, pushed through by after-hours working and a stroke of brilliance. In the case of the Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3, its creation resembles something like that. With humble beginnings from 1966 starting as a private project of Erich Waxenberger, a Mercedes-Benz engineer, he wanted to have the hugely powerful 6.3-liter engine (M100 V8) inside of a more pedestrian-looking Mercedes. With the V8 powering the extremely-large 600 sedan and limousine, it had horsepower and torque to spare in the subject that Erich chose: a 300SEL W109. What transpired was the creation of one of Mercedes-Benz’s best performance sedans: the 300SEL 6.3.
Waxenberger, as the story goes, was building his prototype without the knowledge of Mercedes-Benz and remained as a passion project for some time. At some point one of Waxenberger’s superiors heard what sounded like a straight-piped V8 engine at one of their testing tracks. Upon investigating, he found Erich inside his prototype sedan. Erich invited his superior (who happened to be Mercedes-Benz’s chief engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut) to drive his creation. Impressed by driving dynamics and power of the car, Rudolf opened the hood at the first streetlight to figure out how big the engine was and how all of the supporting equipment was squeezed into the engine bay. Shortly afterwards, Mercedes-Benz pushed it into production. The factory German “muscle car” with four doors was displayed proudly at the 1968 Geneva Motor Show, helping enhance Mercedes-Benz’s image for performance vehicles (having lacked any major sports-oriented vehicles since the 300SL). It’s 6.3-liter mechanical fuel injection engine produced 250 horsepower and 369lb-ft of torque, which in 1969 was pavement ripping.
The 300SEL 6.3 boasted a host of technological wizardry onboard that set it apart from many vehicles of its time. Standard features included air suspension, ventilated 4-wheel power disc brakes, power windows, central locking and power steering. With a subtle exterior, only those in the know knew what lurked underneath that sloping front hood and what the seemingly-pedestrian 4-door sedan was capable of. With more power and torque than many performance cars of its era, it was a threat at any stoplight and any long stretch of road.
This 1969 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3’s story begins with Dan Smith, a Mercedes-Benz enthusiast who in 1990 purchased his first 300SEL 6.3 and was blown away. Citing the quality, performance, and the conservative nature of its exterior, it was the perfect sleeper car. He continued to drive that car almost 30,000 miles a year as his work vehicle, and while spending this much time in his car an idea formed. He began searching for the best 300SEL 6.3 in the world, wanting to completely restore one to make sure he had the finest in existence, with cost being no object or barrier. He acquired this Mercedes and employed marque expert MBI Motor of Portland, Oregon to completely restore the car to the highest level, no matter the cost. Taking several years, many new-old-stock (NOS) parts were used that many of which are now unavailable today.
The original engine was rebuilt and was upgraded tastefully for maximum performance. Using 10:1 compressions pistons, port-matched and angle-cut cylinder heads, AMG camshafts, and custom exhaust headers, increasing rear-wheel horsepower substantially. The transmission and rear axle were rebuilt; the front suspension and steering box were replaced; and 15” wheels were fitted (the original steel wheels and hubcaps are included). The body was stripped down to bare metal and painted for a show-quality finish. New glass, seals, and wood were installed, and the leather interior was re-trimmed. At last, his perfect 300SEL 6.3 “Silver Bullet” was finished.
Dan was a member of the M100 Mercedes registry, and became friends with the one and only engineer of the prototype 300SEL 6.3, Erich Waxenberger. On numerous occasions Erich visited the U.S., and on one occasion Dan suggested that Erich drive his “Silver Bullet” 6.3 while he had his other 6.3 to drive. Erich even signed inside of the glove box for Dan, a signature that still remains to this day. Erich was impressed by the performance of Dan’s upgraded 6.3, with Dan’s 300SEL boasting a 13.8 quarter mile time in a car that weighed over 4,000 pounds! Reportedly, the 300SEL 6.3 made close to 400hp and would chirp the rear tires in 2nd gear.
Dan kept the car from 1993 until the 6.3 was purchased by a son for his father’s birthday in 2013. Used sparingly in the span of 4 years, the most recent owner, a well-known and one of the foremost car collectors in the world, purchased the car in 2017. Bruce Canepa and a close friend of the collector had attended the auction and inspected the car personally, determining that it was a fantastic example. After the car Mercedes-Benz was purchased, the collector brought the car to Canepa to have it undergo a complete inspection while going through all of the systems to ensure that they were working properly. A comprehensive service was performed over the course of 3 months including: new brake rotors and brake pads, fluids change, engine tune up, air conditioning system repair, chassis lubrication, re-sealing oil lines, new engine mounts, and a complete concours-level detailing. When said and done, $16,514.97 was invested into the car after the owner purchased it, leaving him with a perfectly-performing 6.3.
The owner went on to keep the car for another 3 years, adding few miles and another reason why this Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3 presents as a fantastic example that is both cosmetically concours and mechanically sound. Each and every collector car that comes to Canepa is put through and extensive and diligent process called the “Canepa Difference.” This includes a major and comprehensive mechanical inspection where all systems are checked and serviced as necessary. They also receive an award-winning concours-level detailing, a thorough cleaning of each and every surface that ensures that every car is a sight to behold. Finishing off with a foam-pad-only polish to enhance the paint finish, each and every car is a perfect example and a personification of Bruce Canepa’s impeccable attention to detail.
Now ready for its next owner to enjoy and surprise unsuspecting cars at stop lights or their passengers, Mercedes-Benz’s under-the-radar muscle car is the 60s sedan to own. With this 6.3’s service history, comprehensive restoration, and fantastic performance, it is the perfect concoction of German excellence with just a hint of American exuberance in the power department.