Classic: Mercedes 680 S from the W06 series
More than any other German brand, Mercedes stands for an unusual mix of luxury and sportiness. Its beginnings go back to the pre-war period. The Mercedes 680 S celebrated the perfect symbiosis of motorsport and luxury in its very own way, which is still unique today.
The luxury models with the star from different eras are countless and have culminated in the Mercedes S-Class since the 1970s, which has since become the flagship of an entire segment. But Mercedes not only stands for exclusive luxury models, but also for emotional sports cars. Noble luxury for the rich and beautiful of the pre-war period is what the Mercedes 680 S stands for, one of the elite sports tourers of its time – a kind of open S-Class with the internal designation W06. The golden era was the late 1920s, one of the most spectacular times in global automobile manufacturing. Almost everything seemed possible between the two world wars and borders probably only existed in heaven. This was the only way to create an automotive work of art like the Mercedes 680 S in 1928 as a further development of the K model, grandiose luxury of its time paired with a sportiness that can hardly be measured by today’s standards. The interior is dominated by thick leather, dark woods and thick carpets – this is still the way to travel today.
The heart of the Mercedes 680 S is, unsurprisingly, its M06 engine – a 6.8 liter six-cylinder, which with compressor help produces an impressive 132 kW / 180 HP instead of around 88 kW / 120 HP – by the standards of the time it was the open Mercedes thus a super tourer in today’s plus 500 hp league. The power of the rustic running in-line engine is not noticeably noticeable when driving – until you press the accelerator pedal past the normal pressure point and the mechanical charger first provides a powerful roar and then a powerful additional thrust. But otherwise it goes uphill and downhill with a sonorous sound and a lot of enthusiasm. You have to get used to the pedals for at least a short time – brake on the right and gas on the left. Please do not mix them up and without powerful double-clutching, changing gears in the fiddly four-speed transmission can sometimes be a real challenge. Sporty cruising wasn’t easy in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and perhaps that’s why it’s even more impressive on the grippy leather chairs with the big wooden rudder in your hands. The windshield is flat and hardly provides any significant wind protection for tall occupants.
If you want to, you can push the four-seater, which weighs around 1.6 tons, with a folding fabric roof up to 180 km/h. The relatively small speedometer even goes up to 200 km/h. But anyone who gallops at 120/130 km/h feels like a wild racing driver from a time long past. The two-tone sports tourer is anything but an off-the-shelf vehicle. Only 146 models with different bodies were produced by the predecessor of the much better known Mercedes SS / SSK racing cars. The engine itself is based on the engine created by Paul Daimler, which was bored out by Ferdinand Porsche from 6.3 to 6.8 liters and finally grew to a displacement of more than seven liters in the SS and SSK models.
At that time, a Mercedes 680 S was not only the benchmark in the star portfolio and the purchase price of 30,000 Reichsmarks is as much a sign of exclusive extravagance as engine power and maximum speed. A Roman privateer who drove the luxury model in everyday life as one of several vehicles when it came to speed, status and travel comfort could afford this. There was space for four people and, as was usual at the time, the luggage could be stored in the massive leather suitcase in the rear. “When the car came back to us in 1961, it was painted black and red,” remembers Michael Plag, a long-time Mercedes Classic expert, “but during the restoration we found paint residue from the old paint and so it now shines again its original splendor.”
What is unique, however, is not only the engine itself and the exclusive design as an open tourer, but also the chassis, which, as was common at the time, consists of a wooden frame. At that time, the Swabian car manufacturer had its own forests in the Black Forest where the beech wood for the frames was felled. “The wood processing division was one of the largest in the entire company back then,” smiles Michael Plag, “hard to imagine today.” A number of the Mercedes 680-S models were not delivered to customers, but only as chassis to body manufacturers who Luxury models were then completed with two- or four-seater bodies according to the buyers’ wishes. The value of a Mercedes 680 S is difficult to determine. A completely restored vehicle in top condition like the open bicolor model of the 680 S is not available on the already thin classic car market. However, the value is likely to be in the low double-digit million range.