1971 Mercedes Benz 300SEL 6.3 - In Mein Merry Muscle Car

Jamie Kitman
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1971 Mercedes Benz 300SEL 6.3 - In Mein Merry Muscle Car

OK, I give up, I confess.

That was me listening to Jethro Tull, the '70s band that hipsters love to hate, while blasting through Ohio on I-80 one disgustingly humid evening this past August. Having left New York that same afternoon in a big old 1971 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3 headed for Empire, Michigan (population 378), I was undertaking what you might call a multipronged, long-distance salute to the past. And tune-wise, I thought, hipsters be damned. If you can't let it all hang out in your own private automobile, you might as well be on the bus. Why not a musical interlude with the flute-wielding egoist Ian Anderson and his merry olde band of rock conjurers? Why not march back to the time of Tull?

Long trips in big cars that get terrible gas mileage-like the 6.3-take us vividly back to that time, the 1970s, while somehow reminding us of yesterday, when cars got appalling mileage, too. They fairly cry out for sound tracks of indefatigable pretension.

We are, however, led to believe that such journeys may soon be history due to high gasoline prices. Which could be just as well at a macro level.

But here at Automobile Magazine, we say there's nothing wrong with paying a little respect to the great American gas-guzzling road trip, while we can. We're not quite ready to bid it a fond farewell. We admit that $4.65 for a gallon of premium ain't traveling cheap-and that's before you even factor in the old-technology riot (especially if something goes wrong) that is the Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3, a marvel for the ages but one hard-drinking guzzly bear. Then again, what isn't costlier these days?

As many who read this magazine can attest, history is fun in an old car, even more so in a fast old car. What can we say? Apologies to the polar bears and our children's children, but burning gasoline is still a gas. Which is not the reason I chose my old Merc for this trip, although it sure has the incinerating petroleum thing covered. How does less than 13 mpg grab you?

Like old people, old cars carry you back to the time of their creation. OK, thirteen miles per gallon was insane, even in 1971. But when it's 2008 and you're being overtaken on the inside by some lunatic in a BMW 3-series while reliving history at 105 mph with power to spare in the passing lane of a Pennsylvania mountainside, you can't help but imagine what an awesome thing a 6.3 was in its day, when everything else was slow.

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