The Mercedes-Benz 600 was a large luxury automobile, intended to represent the absolute pinnacle of automotive engineering. When introduced in September, 1963, it had few competitors, except Rolls-Royce and stretched limousines produced by Cadillac and Lincoln. It was also at this time the most expensive car in the world. It was intended to be driven by a chauffeur, and featured an internal power window separating the front and rear seats.
Production began in 1964 and most 600 variants were built until 1972. The oil crisis, as well as the introduction of new S-Class models, slowed demand. Modest production continued until 1981. During this time, 2,677 vehicles were made.
The 600 featured many luxuries, including a complex hydraulic system which powered everything with a pressure of 150 bar, from the windows and seats to the automatically closing doors and boot.
The 600 is also notable for having the world's loudest horn fitted to any production car and also has a hydraulically-operated sunshine roof, as demonstrated by Jeremy Clarkson in episode 5, series 11 of Top Gear.
Apart from the Pope and governments, famous owners of the 600 include celebrities such as Coco Chanel, Hugh Hefner, Elizabeth Taylor, John Lennon, George Harrison, Jay Kay, Aristotle Onassis, Jack Nicholson, Simon Spies, Bob Jane, Frank Packer, Elvis Presley, Rowan Atkinson, and Jeremy Clarkson, Communist leaders include Nicolae CeauÅŸescu, Josip Broz-Tito, Fidel Castro, Pol Pot, Enver Hoxha, Leonid Brezhnev, Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-Il also owns a landaulet (as seen on a parade in Pyongyang with Chinese prime minister, Oct. 2009) and religious leader Guru Maharaj Ji. African revolutionaries Idi Amin Dada, Jomo Kenyatta and the former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos had four 600s including a Landaulet, a 1981 bulletproof and a six-door version.
Iran royal court and Iran's Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi owned multiple 600 models that were used for official and personal use of the late Shah and his court. Some of them were sold after the 1979 islamic revolution and about a dozen of them are in the National Car Museum of Iran in Karaj
Other notable owners include Saddam Hussein, Frederik Willem de Klerk, Eamon De Valera and Herbert Grier.
Mao Zedong in fact never owned a 600, but rather the Russian made ZIS-110 (as gifts given by Joseph Stalin) and latter the Chinese made FAW Hongqi CA72 and armored CA722. However, former Foreign Minister Chen Yi, Deng Xiaoping, wife of the first Chinese Primier Zhou Enlai - Deng Yingchao, and the former King of Cambodia Norodom Sihanouk when he fled to Beijing after the Cambodian coup of 1970 all used the 600.
The model came in two main variants:
Mercedes made two coupÃ©s, one of them as a gift for Dr. Rudolf Uhlenhaut when he retired. He had designed the car, together with Fritz Nallinger and Karl Wilfert. A third coupe was constructed from a 600 SWB by Karl Middelhauve and associates.
Some companies altered the car, according to wishes of customers. A funeral coach (hearse) was made from an SWB car. This car, and the two coupÃ©s mentioned above, survive to the present day in the United States.
The 600 was so heavy that the largest engine of Mercedes at that time, the 6-cylinder 300, was inadequate. Instead a new engine with more than twice the capacity was specially developed to move the vehicle and its hydraulically powered amenities, the massive 6.3L V8 "M100" engine with single overhead camshafts, dry sump and Bosch mechanical fuel injection. Adjustable air suspension gave the car a smooth ride and good handling over any road surface.
Produced from 1964 to until 1981 in low numbers, this model had no equal in the Mercedes-Benz lineup until the introduction of the modern Maybach 57 and 62 models in 2002.
The 600's "M-100" engine and air suspension were fitted to the 300SEL 6.3 model in 1968, providing the lighter (and more affordable) car with more competent propulsion. Upon the introduction of the "W116" chassis, a larger version of the M-100 was installed in the limited-production Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9.