1966 Mercedes Benz 300SE Coupe – The 1966 Detroit Motor Show “Salon Car”

Pictures by Steve Natale & Horatio Fitz-Simon


Completed in September 1965, this 300SE Coupe was built specially as the ‘exhibition car’  for the Detroit Motor Show of January 1966. The data card carries the Mercedes Benz code “997” denoting “Stand Wagen” (In English: Exhibition Car).  Whilst the 300SE models were considered hand-built, the exhibition cars received extensive, meticulous attention to detail; after all, these were the flagship cars for the company.  The engine compartments were highly detailed with many chromed and polished parts, the valve cover, normally left in its clear aluminum, was finished in semi-gloss black to highlight the brightwork details.


The 300SE models, produced over a period of seven years, were the top of the line cars from the Unterturkheim Automaker, sporting the fuel-injected M189 power plant from the legendary Gullwing paired with the Air Suspension of the 500 and 600 Limousine (the chosen steed of many emperors and dictators).

The 300SE had pedigree, heritage and style, and accordingly was priced at nearly twice the cost of its closest W111 sibling. It was the car reserved for the elite of its day; the darling of celebrities, directors and the nobility.  With some 3,100 models built in both Coupe and Cabriolet form, it’s also one of the rarest cars from the Benz stable and, as such, prices are certain to rise.


It is rumored that this car enjoyed celebrity status and may have been owned by none other than the late, great John Wayne. Whilst we have been unable to substantiate this, the rumor has surrounded the car for years. Researching the history, a previous owner describes our 300 as having being bought from a John Wayne sale in the early 1980’s. Seemingly substantiating this are many stickers and VIP passes to membership of the prestigious Balboa Bay Club of Newport Beach, California, which for many years was the hang out of such stars as Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, James Cagney – and of course the Duke himself,  not only was he a member, but an acting governor in his time; a true VIP.

Our car comes with all of its factory documentation: the steel data card, or “Credents plate”, is still attached to its card folder-unused, the toolkit and even the hangtags for the factory optioned Koolmeister AC system are present and beautifully preserved. Factory options include a passenger head rest and tinted glass, which make for a lovely specification. A look under the hood sees Mercedes typical “show car” attention to detail: the motor having a semi-gloss-black painted valve cover, polished inlet manifold, and chromed fuel lines, bolts and fittings throughout.


This unique car has led a very pampered life, remaining largely original. Paired with all of its factory supplied documentation: from manuals, paper instructions, maps and hang tags. What is very special and rare is that, as the illustrious show car, the first owner’s name is cryptically missing from any of the MB supplied paperwork. It is said that Mercedes Benz gave preference to celebrity buyers with these special cars, so whether or not this ’66 Detroit Motor Show car was the mount of America’s favourite Western hero remains to be seen…

Engine Compartment Post Restoration


Interior Post Restoration including new leather, headliner and carpets

1966 Mercedes-Benz 300SE Coupe Steve Natale Photography 230_preview

Exterior Post Restoration


Unused Tool Kit


1966 Mercedes-Benz 300SE Coupe Steve Natale Photography 011_preview1966 Mercedes-Benz 300SE Coupe Steve Natale Photography 186_preview

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