Early examples of the W140-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class aren’t easy to find with minimal mileage—and rarely are they armored examples used by royalty. As the W140 marks its 30th anniversary this year, the S-Class of the 1990s is now a collector’s item, especially when it comes to rare examples from Europe’s coachbuilders.
In a few days one such S600 armored and modified by Carat Duchatelet will roll across the auction block in the UK, showing 13,500 kilometers or about 8,388 miles on the odometer. It’s a car that had belonged to the late Emir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Hamad Al-Thani, and apparently hadn’t been used very much.
The W140 itself debuted in 1991, replacing the long-lived W126-generation of the S-Class. The new Mercedes flagship was a brutalist road yacht that its successors never quite managed to match for its imposing road presence or sinister looks. While base versions of the W140 used six-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines paired with manual transmissions, the top of the range was fully stocked with a choice of V8 and V12 engines, including the range-topping S600 with a 6.0-liter V12 underhood.
The W140 instantly became a status symbol for diplomats, heads of state, and captains of industry, among others, and as such the world’s armoring companies quickly turned their attention to the new S-Class. Before Mercedes-Benz released its own factory-armored Guard version of the W140, companies like Trasco-Bremen, Carat Duchatelet, and others fielded their own versions of the S-Class, in addition to offering stretched versions of the car. Mercedes-Benz later also the three-row Pullman limousine, which became a favorite of dignitaries.
The auction house indicates that this particular S600 was originally ordered by the late Emir from the factory and then given to Belgian armorer and coachbuilder Carat Duchatelet to upgrade to a B6/B7 level of ballistic protection, which was the top level of protection available for passengers cars and SUVs of the time. Carat also added a few luxury items to the interior, including fold-out tables and a rear center console.
“The interior was equipped to the Emir’s specific requirement with added features such as telephones fitted to front and rear, centrally mounted television in the rear, picnic tables situated on the back of the driver’s and passenger’s seats in walnut, two seats in the rear, and curtains to the rear and side windows,” the auction house notes.
Historics Auctioneers estimates this S600 to bring between £30,000 and £40,000 on auction day, which translates to $41,500 and $55,300.
The auction house doesn’t say just how much this car cost back in the day, but a range between $350,000 and $450,000 in 1995 dollars is a fair estimate, not counting the smaller handmade items for the interior. Mercedes’ own S600 Guard retailed for about $450,000 in the mid-1990s, so with some quick math you can work out just how much in depreciation each kilometer cost this car.
Armored examples of the W140 are still in demand, as the armoring package is the most valuable part here. So engines and transmissions as well as interiors can be swapped out of these as needed, once the car reaches a certain kilometer mark, and it can be put back into service because the armoring work is still valuable. With not much more than break-in mileage on this car, this S600 still has a decade or more in service life ahead of it, because these armored S-Classes are still very much in demand all over the world.
The only item that might temper bidders’ appetites is the possibility that it might not be easy to retrofit the glass, which delaminates over time and may need replacement at some point.
If this S600 sells for anything in the estimate range, this can be said to be a bargain, especially for a customer or organization that values a modest appearance on the road.
Visit the auction website to view the full list of lots from the upcoming Ascot Racecourse sale and a detailed auction schedule.
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