By John Sweeney | IMG Last King of Scotland
NOTED in a 1965 issue of Road and Track: to buy a new Mercedes-Benz 600 that year would require a pile of dollar bills slightly higher than 7ft 1in tall basketball star Wilt Chamberlain.
Or, to put it another way, for the price of a 600 in 1965, you could have a Lincoln Continental, a Buick Riviera, two Pontiac GTOs and have enough left over for three Volkswagens to run about town in.
Whichever way one chooses to look at it now, the 600 was in a sphere of existence which contained only the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow as a possible contender.
Even then, the Rolls-Royce would simply not have cut it for many potential 600 owners. The Royce didn’t quite fit the impression a large portion of the ownership demographic were aiming for. Owning a Mercedes-Benz 600 in the 1960s and 70s gave you instant membership of one very exclusive club: Despots.
You see, the 600 has had a pretty diverse clientele.
Reading a list of 600 owners is like scanning a ‘Who’s Who’ of VVIPs: Aristotle Onassis, Emperor Hirohito, Elvis, John Lennon, Elizabeth Taylor, the Pope and Rowan Atkinson of Mr. Bean fame have all owned one.
Unfortunately, so have half the world’s dictators, totalitarians and other less well-regarded folks: Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Idi Amin, Nicolae Ceausescu, Pol Pot and Jeremy Clarkson all have been (or are) happy 600 owners.
For them, the Rolls-Royce was just too symbolic of capitalism and privilege to be considered suitable. Or, in Clarkson’s case, because the 600 had a louder horn.
Still, you could always be like Leonid Brezhnev and own both, if you really wanted to. As long as you drove the Royce under cover of darkness, that is.