If there's one thing Jay Leno's Garage is good for, it's variety. For a recent installment of the web series, the former Tonight Show host traded the high-tech supercars and esoteric steam-powered vehicles for something a little more Teutonic.
The Mercedes-Benz 600 is the grandfather of today's S-Class, and it's acquired a reputation as the car of choice for dictators. Solid build quality and attention to detail still make these big sedans desirable today, if you can afford to maintain them.
If you think today's luxury cars are complicated, imagine if carmakers replaced all of those electronic gadgets with hydraulics. Nearly everything in the 600 is hydraulically actuated, including the windows, which is why the switches that control them cost $11,500 each to replace. Other amenities include reclining rear seats and a refrigerator in the center console—features not unusual on luxury cars today, but quite rare in the 1960s when the 600 was launched.
Jay's car also gets a "Kompressor" badge thanks to a non-factory supercharger, which boosts power from the 6.3-liter V-8 up to 525 horsepower, which helps the 5,000-pound-plus 600 get down the road with a little more haste. That's a modification some of the 600's famous (or infamous) former owners might appreciate.
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In addition to celebrities like John Lennon and Elvis Presley, different versions of the 600—including the Pullman limousine—were a common site in authoritarian states. Jay claims he once spooked an older Iranian gentleman, who thought he was being followed by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's Savak secret police.
Jay is planning a return to television with an hour-long version of Jay Leno's Garage set to debut on CNBC in 2015. That means more great cars like this 600, but on a much larger screen.