When I think about Mercedes-Benz, the term ‘hot rod’ isn’t the first thing to come to mind. Or the second. Or ever. In the late 60s, however, Mercedes produced such a car; under the guise of a sedate, luxurious but boring sedan was a real tiger, able to race all but the fastest cars on the road at the time, including the meanest iron Detroit could produce. The 1968 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3 was monster, using the enormous engine from the 600 in a slightly smaller body, and it did its thing with the quiet poise Mercedes-Benz is well known for. Even driving a Ferrari, you’d never know you were about to get your doors blown off by a sedan until you gazed confusedly at a pair of tail lights, wondering what just happened to you and your fancy Italian automobile.
The 300SEL 6.3 was powered by the huge 6.3-liter V8 from the 600 limousine, which produced a smooth 250 horsepower. It could reach a top speed of 135 miles per hour, and accelerate to 60 in less than 7 seconds – 6.8! The 300SEL was a car that was not only fast, but also relatively nimble; it could count on a safe and steady air suspension, which gave a firm but very pleasant ride, as well as disc brakes and a very nice four-speed automatic gearbox. Not only did it accelerate fast, it cornered well and was able to be comfortably driven at high speed for sustained periods of time, not something that was true of many of its contemporaries.
On the inside, the 1968 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3 was as luxuriously appointed as any other Stuttgart automobile – no gimmicks. The car’s only drawback was its terrifying fuel consumption; then again, if you were buying a 300SEL 6.3, gas prices were probably not a real problem.