You are obviously aware of the 6.3’s existence, but it’s hard to envision that such a punk Benz can really exist. I was skeptical myself. Until today.
Several years in this business can make anyone a bit jaded when it comes to appreciating seriously cool cars. I once stood inches from the Ferrari 250 GT SWB Breadvan, possibly the coolest car ever, and while I was mesmerized, I never lost the
ability to keep walking or to control the tension in my muscles of mastication.
A loss of tension in my masseter, temporalis, and pterygoid muscles is precisely what happened earlier today as I was on my way to the office. On a little street in the heart of Budapest’s old Jewish district, a vintage black Benz crawled onto the tarmac and my mouth literally dropped wide open when I saw that the owner had not exercised the badge delete option and there it was: 300SEL 6.3
It thumped and thundered like any large American V8 at idle, except it was a different noise, a complex, more exotic rumble, and the air in the big sedan’s wake was soon heavy with the rich smell of unburned fuel, hanging in the chilly October air like the 6.3’s very own nimbostratus cloud.
Once I managed to snap my mouth shut and start walking, I broke into a jog to catch up with the car, which had fortunately run into a dab of traffic. It is
remarkably small by modern standards, not much bigger than a mid-size saloon. Then again, it’s 40 years old, and cars have a tendency to plump like people fed nothing but high-fructose corn syrup.
The owner was a young man in a nice blue coat and once the cramped conditions allowed he gave the throttle a nudge. The noise was unbelievable, a giant, murderous volume of V8, it hit the buildings like a wrecking ball, then the big Benz rolled off.
Then it hit me, why this car is so ridiculously wonderful. It’s the perfect camouflage supercar. The 6.3 looks like any old grandpa Benz, a boxy, lumbering thing on tall period suspension, until you realize that it was a contemporary of the Lamborghini Miura—the fastest car of its age, the first road car built like a mid-engined racing prototype—and the 6.3 would out-accelerate the Miura to 60 mph, then proceed to a leisurely cruise at 140 mph without stalling, becoming uncomfortable, or spontaneously combusting like supercars are wont to.
It’s an absolute marvel of an automobile. Not that rare, at 6,526 examples produced between 1968 and 1972, but quite possible the most interesting thing Mercedes–Benz has ever done, apart from the Silver Arrow racing cars and the Gullwing.
And it all began with a punk Bavarian engineer named Erich Waxenberger.