What Are The Best Mercedes Benz Classic Cars?
Several years of classics could qualify as the best, but here are some of our favorites.
1986 - 92 Mercedes-Benz 300 CE AMG “Hammer.”
The “Hammer” is one of the best examples of German ingenuity put to the test. As a way of competing against the supercars like Ferrari’s Tesstarosa, and BMW’s new M5, AMG produced one of the fastest cars in the world at the time, The 300 CE AMG. The manufacturer limited production of the car to just 30 units, so if you wanted one, you needed to shell out about $161,000.
When it was first introduced in 1986, this classic Mercedes Benz car had similar features to the E-class, but it was powered by a 5.6L M117 naturally aspirated V8 with modified cylinder heads. The motor generated a monster-like 385 HP @ 5500 rpms and 417.5 lb/ft of torque, which put it on par with most American muscle cars and European supercars. In subsequent years, the German engineers worked hard to make the car faster, raising the displacement to a 6.0L V8.
When the pedal was pushed to the floor, the four-door classic bounded down the track doing 0 - 60 mph in a blinding 4.9 seconds. And if you wanted to outrun every other car on the planet, just push the speedometer past the 190 mph top speed.
The car was paired with an S-Class 4-speed automatic reinforced with a heavier unit than the standard transmission. The RWD car had a pair of 235/45VR-17 tires for traction and succeeded in burning off the start, laying down some smoke, and blistering any car that even dared to challenge it.
The “Hammer” was manufactured in different body configurations; sedan, coupe, and even a wagon. The most common iteration was the four-door sedan, which appealed to Mercedes owners who were used to the convenience and comfort of affluence. With only 30 Hammers made (19 made it to US shores), the car remains one of the rarest vintage cars of all time.
You might expect the interior of a super-fast sedan to be skimpy and sparse, but the AMG Hammer was anything but austere. With leather seating and wood paneling throughout, the Hammer is as comfortable for a long cross-country trip as it is for pushing massive Gs through a curve. The engineers sought to have their cake and eat it, too, so they made a vehicle drawing the very best of both worlds, luxury, and speed.
The Hammer is impossible to find (perhaps because only 20 or so are left), and most of the present models are sitting in millionaires’ garages. Recently, a low-mileage Mercedes Benz CE Hammer brought more than $716,000 at auction, and while that might be a hefty price, it demonstrates the unique rarity of this piece of German engineering.
1979-80 Mercedes-Benz 280 GE
The G-class was introduced in 1979 and was initially designed as a light military vehicle. Built in partnership with Austrian maker Steyr-Daimler-Puch, the initial model was codenamed the W460 (the military version was the W461). The company saw an opportunity to offer a variant for the public for the 1980 model year, which literally began the modern SUV movement.
The 280 GE was equipped with an M110 E28 inline six-cylinder engine (hence the 280 moniker) and produced 156hp and 167 lb-ft of torque. While the engine was exclusive to the GE280, it had more than enough low-end torque to cruise its way on and off the road. The GE280 won the 1983 grueling Paris-Dakar Rally, which put the Mercedes on the map and encouraged the company to continue to produce the “go-anywhere” for a couple of decades before offering it inside the US in 2002.
The earliest models of the GE 280 had austere interiors, with cloth seats, manual transmissions, and oversized, two-spoke steering wheels. The European SUV was such a hit that they began to appear worldwide, primarily in warmer climates. (The first big order was placed by the Shah of Iran, who intended to use the vehicle as a military vehicle. The company even upgraded a GE280 for Pope John Paul’s visit to Germany in 1980).
The significance of the GE280 cannot be understated because it was the start of the G-class wagon with which Mercedes has enjoyed such success. While the late 70s and early 80 versions are rare, they represent an excellent example of precise German engineering. Based on online figures, an 1980 GE280 with low mileage could be expected to fetch between $102,000 - $141,000.
1969 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL Pagoda
One of the most beautiful convertibles ever created has to be the Benz 280 SL. Stylish and plentiful, the convertible offered everything the up-and-coming Hollywood stars of the late sixties could want, a sleek, athletic look, affordable luxury, and plenty of power for cruising the vast open roads of the American West.
The initial hardcover concave top inspired the Pagoda name from the lead designers, although many of the more valuable SL280s are convertibles. The car was heavier than most sportscars of the day, primarily due to the cast iron block. Under the hood, a 2.8L M130 inline six-cylinder produced 157 HP @ 5400 rpm and 181 rpm @ 3800 rpm. The engine was a cast iron monster with aluminum heads; the dual carbs made it purr with a powerful sound that made even American muscle car enthusiasts blush.
The 280SL was mass-produced for sale and found great traction in the American market. The car was paired with a 5-speed manual, although over 90% of owners opted for the 4-speed automatic. Power steering and all-around disc brakes were standard features.
As you might expect, the interior was pure Mercedes luxury, offered in various colors from black, tobacco, red, green, blue, and even white. The leather was plush and elegant, and each cockpit had a padded steering wheel and dashboard. As far as technical amenities went, a Blaupunkt radio and built-in cigarette lighter were just a couple of the comforts offered.
Today, the 280SL is relatively easy to find and can be a wonderful investment if you know how to buy well. Depending on the condition (and the color scheme), Pagodas can fetch anywhere from $35k to $120k. An example of a recent SL280 Pagoda sale was this 1969 Pagoda which sold in 2018 for $105k. These sportscars will continue to grow in value, so if you have a chance to own one, find room for it in your garage.
1963 Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman Limousine
If a head of state wanted an ultra-luxury vehicle, the Pullman limousine was the choice. While Mercedes has always been associated with affluence, these beautiful vehicles oozed ulta opulence with their posh interiors, comfortable seating, and luxurious feel. While Mercedes would continue to build these limos for almost another decade, the 1963 Pullman is an excellent example of the kind of vehicle designed to carry heads of state and dignitaries almost everywhere in the world.
The 600 was powered by a 6.3L M100 V8, which produced a brisk 247 hp at 4,000 rpm and 368 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The cars were powerhouses of almost biblical proportions with a top speed of 120 mph.
Because the car was often the choice of top dignitaries, it was not unusual for it to be equipped with additional armor platings to make them bulletproof. While Mercedes didn’t advertise the ability, they produced more than a few of these vehicles for their fleet, which they rented out for special occasions that needed more than just a typical limousine.
As you would expect, the car came with all the amenities, with hydraulically-driven windows (including the one between the passenger compartment and the driver), a sun-roof, a boot lid, and auto-closing doors. The air-ride suspension offered a cushioned lift to the car that delivered excellent ride quality and precise handling for high-speed manuevers.
The cost of a restored 1963 Pullman isn’t cheap. Online searches indicate that the least expensive Mercedes 600 Pullman was $150 - 200k, so if you run across one, expect to mortgage away your kids'’ college funds to have the joy of re-enacting Driving Miss Daisy.
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
After the war, Germany needed something to put them on the map. The prime years for the manufacturer began in the 1950s. Applying their technical resources to more peaceful pursuits (rather than war production), the company made some of the most iconic cars ever produced. One fine example of post-war energies was the 1955 Gullwing (named for the shape the car had with its doors rising straight up).
The beautifully contoured two-seater was powered by a 3.0L M198 inline six-cylinder that roared to life with 240 hp at 6,100 rpm and 217 lb-ft of torque. The sportscar breezed down the highway at 161 mph top speed. (On the wide open highways of the American roadway, this was the car most highway patrol models didn’t bother to chase). mostly, because they couldn’t catch it).
The car was equipped with rear-wheel drive and paired a slick four-speed manual transmission. The car was super-light, and its characteristic side doors and long snout made it very Jaguar-like. With doors opening upward toward the roof, rather than sideways, makes one wonder why it might not be the perfect car for use in a Bond film.
Since only 3,240 were manufactured, most of the Gullwings in existence are a factory restoration, which makes the cost of these rare beauties incredibly steep. A 1955 Gullwing sold in 2022 at Mecuum for $2.4 million. (Considering that MSRP was a little bit over $7k in 1955, it’s not a bad investment).