Icon’s LS9-Powered Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6. 3 Is a God-Tier Restomod – Yahoo Life
One of the greatest Mercedes ever made, now nearly perfected.
Name your favorite classic car, and there’s probably a specialist out there that’s built a business on stuffing that car with modern components and all the Alcantara you can shake a stick at. I mean, the fact that SEMA exists is evidence associated with the appeal of this kind of restomod.
There are those kinds of shops, and then there’s Icon , out in California’s sunny San Fernando Valley. Icon does things differently, not because it’s financially smart or easier, but because founder Jonathan Ward is the particular kind of obsessive nerd who absolutely has to do things the hard way.
Take, for example, Icon’s restoration of this iconic 1971 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL six. 3 sedan , which has taken more than three years and hundreds of thousands of dollars. The transformation will be almost unreal. Yet, somehow, after all that work, it’s still recognizably related to what rolled out of Mercedes’ factory in Stuttgart over 50 years ago.
I’ll clarify. See, the 6. 3 was constructed by Mercedes from 1968 to 1972. It was based on the W109 chassis, which was the particular longer-wheelbase, air-suspension-equipped version of the W108 four door (one of which I own). It was powered the massive (by European standards) 6. 3-liter fuel-injected M100 V8 , lifted from Mercedes’ cost-no-object, for-despots-and-rockstars-only 600 limousine . It produced 247 hp and 434 lb-ft associated with torque, routed through a four-speed automatic transmission. When it has been introduced, it was one of the fastest cars in the world.
Of course , 247 horsepower isn’t anything to write home about these days, so as he’s done with several other Icon builds, Ward turned to General Motors — specifically, the venerable supercharged LS9 V8 through the C6 Corvette ZR1 . The modern motor has a ton associated with advantages over the ancient (and elephantine) Mercedes mill. First, it’s way more powerful. In this application, it is running in a fairly detuned state, sending around 470 hp to the wheels. (In the particular ZR1, this engine put out 638 hewlett packard to the crank. ) It’s also significantly smaller, lighter plus more reliable than that will 50-year-old German SOHC V8, which is usually a shock, I’m sure. The engine is paired with the 4L85E four-speed auto, furthermore from GM.
The gently detuned GM-sourced LS9 shoved way back in the particular engine bay.
This Mercedes belongs in order to Icon’s “Derelict” line , where modern mechanicals are paired along with honest and painstakingly preserved patina. Most of the cars that have received the Derelict treatment have been body-on-frame vehicles from the particular 1950s, which usually gives Keep the chance to replace an ancient chassis with an one-off unit from Art Morrison. This, in turn, means it’s easier to slap in a new drivetrain plus suspension without being beholden in order to stock geometry. Unfortunately for Icon, the W109 is an unibody design, which presented Ward with a big decision: leave the unibody and figure out how to strengthen it, or even find a way to shoehorn the ladder frame underneath a car that has been never meant to have one.
They went the latter route, and came up with a plan involving quite a bit of body surgery, raising the floor of the particular Mercedes slightly to get the boxed steel chassis underneath. Even cooler is definitely that, from the outside; you’d never know it had been there. The particular move to a ladder framework allowed Symbol to toss the W109’s sketchy-at-the-limit swing-axle rear suspension and move to the Dana 60 independent rear axle.
The mods are so subtle that if a person didn’t already own one of these, you’d never know.
Speaking of suspension, the Derelict 300SEL uses adjustable coilovers through Strange Engineering at almost all four corners, allowing for precise ride-height adjustment and significantly more dependable operation versus the notoriously finicky original air suspension. The particular steering system has also been upgraded from recirculating ball to a modern, power-assisted rack-and-pinion program.
What’s the result of all of this? A vehicle that still feels like the legendary vintage Benz. Image decided to keep Mercedes’ gigantic, super-thin-rimmed steering wheel, and dialed down the assistance in the power steering. The guiding feels direct and accurate, but only somewhat contemporary, which is a good thing.
The big Benz’s ride is excellent. Like the particular original, it maintains a balance, comfortable with regard to cruising plus controlled enough to drive swiftly without feeling like you’re piloting a Boston Whaler. Sure, you could dial up the coilovers, yet why would you? Like the steering, this particular setup makes the car feel better but not unrecognizable while a classic.
Beautifully reupholstered seats that will even kept the original horsehair padding, so the car’s interior might smell correct.
You might think that the LS9 would dominate the driving experience here, but you’d be wrong. The exhaust burble can be ever-present, but the power — and the particular linear way it’s created, thanks to that will massive supercharger — makes the vehicle feels sane most of the time. Naturally , when you put the loud flap to the burlap, that changes, along with go-to-jail speeds coming up fast, however the car doesn’t feel violent or nervous. It’s as effortlessly swift and composed as Mercedes imagined it should be back in the particular 1960s, though I suspect it’ll do some super gnarly, un-Benz-like burnouts whenever provoked.
One area that Mercedes nailed with the W108 plus W109 cars is braking. The power four-wheel disc setup is certainly easily ranked among the best classic-car brakes I’ve ever used, with better feel and modulation compared to some modern cars. That said, with significantly more power comes the need for even better stoppers, so Star slapped a set of its Brembo-sourced Sport Brakes on this Benz, along with larger billet aluminum wheels to clear the calipers. As along with other Derelict builds, the particular wheels look remarkably stock, and if a person didn’t know something was up, you would probably in no way notice the extra size associated with the 18-inch wheels.
One of the few cues that will something may be a little different with this particular old, grubby Benz.
All the mechanical stuff inside a Derelict build is extremely cool. But it’s the aesthetic department where things tend in order to get spectacular. This vehicle might be Ward’s best work yet on this front, because he hewed close to Mercedes’s original gorgeous interior design while supplementing and tweaking it inside subtle ways. It feels (and smells) nearly perfect. It shows the ton associated with restraint upon his part, which differs from other, wilder Derelict builds.
For example , 1 of the particular hallmarks of the 6. 3 is its dash. The wide expanse associated with beautifully polished wood, with a small binnacle for 3 gauges, looks gorgeous, plus leaves the view out there over that long hood unobstructed. That’s still true here, but Ward wisely decided to ditch the particular clunky factory climate controls in favor of a single unbroken piece of wood, with climate duties shifted down in order to a stock-appearing air conditioning unit on the underside of the dash. This cleans upward the whole aesthetic, and should work a lot better too.
The particular Derelict gets a gorgeous, restored initial Becker Europa radio, yet it’s right now paired with Focal two-way speakers behind milled aluminium grilles that will have been finished to look like the original plastic units. To keep that stereo sounding good, Icon has covered much of the sheet metal under the carpets and upholstery along with sound deadener. The result is considerably less road noise and no weird, unpleasant old car sounds. Compared to a stock old Benz like mine , the particular difference will be dramatic.
The Benz’s authentic gauges were restored with new, electronic innards and the tiny tach was given a more appropriate redline.
The particular gauge cluster looks mostly original, but the VDO instruments happen to be extensively yet subtly modified by Redline Gauges. Gone are the particular weird analog guts, along with coolant plus oil lines going into the dash. Almost all the readouts are in their manufacturing plant locations, plus small, unobtrusive LCD information panels under where the needles mount. The tiny, six. 3-specific tachometer is here, too, and retains its function. For those of you playing at home, upon non-6. 3s, that tach was replaced having a Kienzle clock.
The seats have been reupholstered in thick, period-correct leather-based, and they’re both visually gorgeous and extremely comfortable, if not really exactly supportive during cornering. The seatbelts are odd, magnetic units originally made by Kangol – the same people that make Samuel L. Jackson’s favorite hats – although they’ve already been re-webbed. The custom center console looks appropriate while adding contemporary functionality like storage regarding your phone, wallet plus beverage. This was created via 3D printing, and, such as the wheels, if you didn’t already know better, you’d completely overlook it because factory equipment. The delicate floor-mounted gearshift looks share, too, yet has been modified intended for use with the modern transmission.
The particular 6. 3 might have been a mighty vehicle, but it got the world’s daintiest gearshift. Bonus points if you can spot the seat heater controls.
Things aren’t just about all perfect inside, though. Remember how Icon had to modify the ground pan to fit the particular Art Morrison chassis underneath? It was carried out at the cost of legroom. That means that, whilst I fit quite comfortably in my car, I struggled to find room for my legs below the massive steering wheel in the Symbol. I’m the giant at 6’4″, so I suspect most people wouldn’t have an issue.
The vehicle still offers a few things that will need to be tweaked. The throttle and brake pedal both feel a lot more or less like they are made of wooden, for example. Yet having driven other Image vehicles in the past, I believe this will be sorted before the car goes in order to SEMA.
Finally, you can’t talk about an Icon Derelict without talking about the car’s patina. The W108 and W109 framework cars had been well-known to get rusting along with enthusiasm, so finding a solid vehicle using the suitable level of funk should have already been a massive hassle. In actuality, this wasn’t. Keep found the donor car in Riverside, California, about an hour and a half drive from Icon’s shop, where it had lived its entire life.
On an Icon Derelict, patina is usually king.
The result was a rust-free shell with some fairly hashed paint on the top surfaces, which usually only shows up in photos a little. Part of that comes down to this particular 6. a few wearing unique silver paint, rather than a more vibrant color, so you don’t get like much colour change within the areas with sun damage. Being the subtle vehicle overall, the particular subdued color works well.
There’s a reason why people aren’t building one-off cars the way Jonathan Ward does with these Derelicts. It is hard to try and make money on a no-expense-spared build, even considering the deep six-figure price tag the customer pays. Most shops find a formula that works pertaining to them, and offer a set amount of personalization via small aesthetic tweaks.
This California Blue Lizard means that the vehicle the riding on is incredibly special, and I know I’ll never forget this one.
That is how places like Singer do something, plus while those cars are usually profoundly special, they do not come close to the utterly unique work that will Icon has done on this Mercedes. There will likely never become another six. 3 restored or altered to this particular level. That’s a shame because, seeing that a platform, it really works.
The experience of driving one particular of Icon’s one-offs isn’t something that fades quickly, as well as the memory of driving this Derelict 6. three or more, a vehicle I have been following for years, will stick with me forever.
More from Jalopnik
Sign up for Jalopnik’s Newsletter. For the latest news, Facebook , Twitter and Instagram .