Video: Jay Leno Reviews His 1972 Mercedes 600 Kompressor
Opening to the intimidating tune of Wilhelm Richard Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries, our favorite retired talk show host talks about the burly history and detailed restoration of his 1972 Mercedes-Benz 600 limousine, a car commonly associated with ruthless dictators from third-world countries.
Despite its menacing reputation, the 600 stands as one of Mercedes’ finest cars ever, outshining everything in its day in cost, complexity, and prestige. The Benz features many of the same power functions newer cars have, like power windows, seats, and trunk lid, but nothing was powered by electric motors; everything was hydraulic. A pump kept the system of complex lines filled with pressure and would operate components in near silence. Jay comments several times about how difficult and expensive restoring such a system can be.
The car also came from the factory with one of Mercedes’ largest engines of the day: the 6.3-liter V-8. While it made 300 horsepower from the factory, legendary Mercedes 600 restorer Karl Middelhauve decided to add some extra oomph. Fuel injection and a supercharger were added, which boosted power to nearly 525 ponies.
Middlehauve is responsible for the rest of this 600’s restoration as well, doing all the work in his home-based garage. According to Jay, Karl does his best to restore and reuse nearly every part from the original car, including hose clamps, screws, and of course, the original solid wood trim pieces.
The Mercedes 600 may seem antiquated at this point in time, but between 1964 and 1981 when the car was in production, it represented the pentacle of automotive luxury and prestige.