Mercedes 450SE W116 – The car I almost bought

I have always admired the W116 model.  However, since the introduction of the W126 in 1980 the W116 has lived in its shadow.   My 450SLC has been my primary car for most of the time I have owned it, but with three children, this is no longer possible.  As I needed something that could fit three child seats in a row, a W116 would fit the bill nicely.   I found a car – this 450SE W116 and agreed to buy it.   Unfortunately, the sale fell through after a major mechanical problem was discovered by the seller before I was going to collect the car.    In the end I wasn’t able to find a W116 for the price and condition I was looking for (in the time that I had), so purchased a 300SE W126 instead.

About the 450SE W116

While Mercedes had used the ‘S’ designation for their upper class cars for some time, the W116 model was the first time they used the moniker ‘The S Class’.  Since the W116, the top of the range saloon car has always been referred to as the S Class.

The W116 was introduced in 1972 and carried over a lot of the styling and running gear from the R/C107 range introduced in 1971.    Mercedes has a habit of introducing a lot of new technology in the S class and the W116 was no exception. For example ABS brakes were available later in production and there were a lot of other clever features in the car.  Many of these taken from the experimental safety vehicles of the time.

The W116 was also the first time Mercedes offered a diesel engine in the S class and the 300SD model with its turbo-diesel motor was very popular in the markets it was offered.     The W116 is probably best known for the 6.9, which was a development of the 6.3 litre motor from the 600 and 6.3, now bored out to 6.9 liters with a dry sump and standard hydro-pneumatic suspension.   These cars are very susceptible to rust, so there are now few W116 in good condition left.

The W116 was available in two body lengths, standard (short wheelbase) and Long Wheelbase with 10cm more room for the rear passengers.

About this 450SE W116

This car is a 450SE W116, meaning it has the M117 4.5 liter V8 and the short wheelbase body.   The car was purchased by the previous owner about 10 years ago, originally to provide an interior for another car.   It has been sitting in a carport for some years and looked a little unloved.    However, once the interior was removed, the car was shown to be generally rust free and the paintwork after a wash and polish in surprisingly good condition.       Therefore, the owner set about doing a mechanical refurbishment and sourced a replacement MB-TEX interior.  He also fitted brand new carpets which looked lovely.

My 450SE Mercedes 019

During the refurbishment, the brakes were rebuilt, the timing chain done, replacement cams fitted, suspension checked, new dashboard and carpets fitted.      The car was put back on the road, but a bad water pump meant that it was parked again for a couple of years as other projects took priority.


Sadly, the car sat under a tarp for 2+ years. During that time the paintwork suffered badly with the clear coat lifting on both the front and back and some surface rust developing.   The photo of the car is from before it went into storage.

Why did I almost buy it?

I needed a car that could fit three child seats across the back seat, but only used 1x per week.   Therefore a pre 1986 car fit the bill because it could be put on historic registration that allows 60 uses per year.    The car would park out in the sun all day near a child daycare center, so a car with low running costs, but some body issues was ideal.

I liked that all the known mechanical issues such as water pump, timing chain had been done as well.    The iron block M117 is very long lived, if the timing chain has been done.

Why didn’t I buy it in the end?

As the car was being recommissioned, it was found that even though 18 months ago it ran great, it had lost all compression on one bank of cylinders.     This was too much work for the seller to rectify for the price I agreed to pay.   In the end, he found another buyer who would buy it in non-running condition.     The car is currently being worked on by a mechanic to get it back on the road.

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