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  • In 1963, the Mercedes-Benz 600 (W 100) was presented. From the mid-1960s he moved as a state sedan into many governments worldwide.
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    Fascination Mercedes-Benz Guard vehicles.

    History of Mercedes-Benz Guard vehicles.

Understanding between nations.

At first glance, they look like normal saloons. Yet they are fortresses on wheels, protected command centres with bullet-proof tyres. No automobile manufacturer has more experience of special protection vehicles than Mercedes-Benz. The Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman and its successor models rank to this day as the state limousine par excellence.


Queen Elizabeth II also drove with a Mercedes-Benz on the road.
Mercedes W 148 armored vehicle.

Special protection vehicles for 90 years.

Monarchs, heads of government, high-ranking politicians and international business leaders – they all let themselves be chauffeured through their daily working lives in specially protected vehicles. For around 90 years, Daimler AG has been saving lives on a daily basis with its special protection vehicles. Over the decades, there have been countless attacks on the protected individuals. Many of them owe their lives to armoured vehicles from Mercedes-Benz.


Best available protection.

The special characteristic of Mercedes-Benz Guard vehicles, as the special protection variants have been known since the late 1990s, is their sophisticated, designed-in ex-factory protection technology, which is integrated into the construction of the bodyshell. Compared with retrospective armouring, this represents an invaluable advantage that allows a significantly higher level of safety while at all times offering the users of Mercedes-Benz Guard vehicles the best available protection in their class.


Interior of the Guard vehicles in the 70s.
The Mercedes-Benz Nürburg, a predecessor of the current Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which was introduced in 1928, was already available as a special protection variant.

Launched back in 1928, the Mercedes-Benz Nürburg, a precursor of today's Mercedes-Benz S-Class, was available in a specially armoured version.


Armoured saloons.

Armoured saloons date back much further than the 1970s, when the Red Army Faction confronted modern-day Germany with its toughest test, or when the Iron Curtain fell, bringing the market economy, free and dangerous at once, to the former Soviet Union. The history of Mercedes-Benz special protection vehicles began back in the 1920s. In those politically challenging times, the Mercedes-Benz Nürburg 460 (W 08), an early precursor of today's S-Class, was available in a specially armoured version.


Hirohito was the first adopter.

In the early 1930s, the Japanese Emperor Hirohito was the first international statesman to let himself be chauffeured around his Asian empire in a heavily armoured Mercedes-Benz 770 . Before the legendary Mercedes 600 (W 100) began to serve many nations as a state limousine or prestige saloon in the mid-1960s, Mercedes-Benz produced special versions of the 'Grand Mercedes' 770 (model series W 07 and W 150) and the 540 K at the request of endangered customers. Common to all these vehicles was the heavy-duty steel armouring of the doors and body parts, while centimetres-thick bullet-proof glass was used for the windows.


Ideal protection: the Grand Mercedes 770 of the Japanese Emperor.

Japanese Emperor Hirohito was one of the first statesmen to be driven in an armour-plated Mercedes-Benz. In the early 1930s, he was ideally protected in his Grand Mercedes 770 (W 07).


The license plates were sometimes changed once. But this Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman with the license plate S - VC 600 from the year 1965 was used for many years as a state sedan.

Elegant look.

To this today, the Pullman version of the Mercedes-Benz 600, which was unveiled in 1963, ranks around the world as the state limousine par excellence. For decades, its filigree forms, elegant looks and large glass surfaces made it a favourite of celebrities, stars, business leaders, emperors, kings, sheikhs and politicians. Into the early 1990s, the legendary Mercedes 600 was Germany's state limousine and the restrained expression of an increasingly self-assured nation.


S-VC 600 in black.

Inseparably associated with it were drivers such as Wolfgang Wöstendieck, who for decades discreetly chauffeured guests of state in his favourite automobile: the Emperor of Japan, Lady Di and John Paul II. From 1971 until 1993, together with three other chauffeurs, he was the official driver of Germany's state limousine. Whenever the visit of a distinguished guest drew close, the German Foreign Office would contact Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart to book the services of the proven duo of Wöstendieck and his black Pullman, registration number S-VC 600, manufactured in 1965. Only 2677 units of the most exclusive German post-war saloon were produced between 1963 and 1981. Many of the 487 Pullman long-wheelbase versions were acquired by governments and high-ranking individuals.


Equally spectacular and yet unobtrusive were the two versions that Mercedes-Benz kept ready for state visits along with Wolfgang Wöstendieck and his colleagues. Boasting especially sophisticated protection systems, these two special variants of the 600 Pullman were designed not only to provide the requisite level of comfort to at-risk guests of state, such as Prince Charles, Erich Honecker, Boris Yeltsin or Leonid Brezhnev, but also to afford the necessary safety on German roads.


Although the registration plates were changed from time to time, this Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman with registration number S – VC 600 from 1965 served for many years as a state limousine.

116 state visits.

„I did a total of 116 state visits between 1971 and 1993,“ recalls Wolfgang Wöstendieck, who hails from Bremen. „I came to Stuttgart having been a driving instructor with the German Army. There, I began as a works driver for Mercedes-Benz before becoming a driver of state limousines a few years later. It was sheer luck really.“


Bonn triangle.

Back in those days, Wöstendieck felt at home between the Bonn triangle of Villa Hammerschmidt, Petersberg and Bad Godesberg. He made countless overnight stays at Petersberg, the former official guest-house of the German government, or in a small boarding house in Bonn. „Anyway, we spent most of our time waiting in or beside the vehicle,“ remembers Wöstendieck, „sometimes for hours on end. At receptions and state visits, of course, we always had to stay in the car. Fortunately, I always had my 'survival box' with me – a small Kodak cold bag with chocolate, cola and crisps. They never gave us anything to eat or drink.“


Chauffeur Wöstendieck has paid 116 state visits.
In addition to their long wheelbase and frequent armour plating, Pullman saloons also boasted all manner of conveniences, such as a bar or TV.

In addition to their long wheelbase and frequent armour plating, Pullman saloons also boasted all manner of conveniences, such as a bar or TV.

Luxurious rear compartment.

Nor can it be maintained that the time he spent waiting was exceptionally comfortable. While the guests of state were able to stretch out in luxury inside the 6.24-metre-long Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman, Wöstendieck and his colleagues were hunched up in relatively cramped conditions on the driver's seat. The partition, likewise of bullet-proof glass, left scarcely any room for those up front. The luxurious rear compartment was out of bounds. Wolfgang Wöstendieck: „Usually, I was accompanied on the front-passenger seat by a security officer from the German Federal Criminal Police Office.“ The safety of the guests was assured not only by a motorcade and security detail, but also by the heavy-duty armour plating of protection class B6/B7, which pushed the Pullman, already weighing 2.7 tonnes, towards the 4.5 tonnes mark.

Classic styling.

Whatever the weight of the armour plating, it did not detract from the car's looks. The classic styling of the Mercedes 600 is temptation and restraint in one. Hence, the Pullman fitted better than any other automobile into Germany's restrained post-war make-up of inconspicuous government buildings, Bonn as federal capital and a seat of government like the prosaic Villa Hammerschmidt on the banks of the Rhine. Even so, by the standards of the time as well as of the present day, the interior of the 600 Pullman was a place of luxury. The 3.90-metre-long wheelbase ensured that honourable guests of state were able to relax and stretch their legs during the usually very short time they spent in the vehicle.

Orange-coloured interior lamps made sure that the occupants were able to be admired in a good light. Agreeable privacy in the rear compartment was guaranteed by such appointments as a retractable partition, curtains in the rear and a pneumatically sliding rear bench. Everything controlled by a highly complex central hydraulic system, which made the Mercedes 600 so unique up until its end of production in 1981. „The central hydraulic system controlled almost everything on the 600,“ recalls Peter Schellhammer, responsible at that time worldwide for the technology in luxury saloons. „It controlled, among other things, the power windows, the sliding sunroof, the seats and even the flap control of the air conditioning system.“

Tyre inspection.

On account of the special tyres and protective equipment on the two state limousines, the otherwise outstanding performance of the early 1960s (184 kW / 250 hp, 510 Nm torque, 207 km/h top speed, 0 to 100 km/h in 10 seconds) came to nought on the specially protected versions, which weighed in at a mighty 4.5 tonnes. „Any longer distances were usually flown anyway. We mostly drove just a few kilometres – after which we again had to wait a long time,“ relates the grey-haired chauffeur. There was never a tricky situation while he was at the wheel, adds Wöstendieck: „But on Brezhnev's visit, I had a flat tyre near Gymnich.“


On a state visit.

„Brezhnev was transferred to the second vehicle, the standards were switched over and, 67 seconds later, we were back on the road.“ When, two days later, he was chauffeuring Prince Philip, the royal guest simply took a look at the tyres and asked Wöstendieck mischievously: „Are the tyres okay?“

Although not quite as prestigious in appearance, the specially protected versions of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class were much loved by numerous politicians and business leaders. Be it the early 116 chrome series, the modern 126 series or the opulent W 140 – there was no state visit, no economic congress at which the specially protected S-Classes did not bring the at-risk individuals to their destination not just safely, but also in exceptional comfort.


The special protection versions of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
The armored 1980s: the Mercedes-Benz Pullman.

The armoured 1980s.

While, in the turbulent 1970s, bodyguards from the German Federal Criminal Police Office or local police usually drove in a protected Mercedes-Benz 350 SE, politicians travelled preferably in the more powerful long-wheelbase 450 SEL.

While political celebrities of the 1980s, such as Helmut Kohl or Richard von Weizsäcker, were commodiously chauffeured in velour-trimmed 500 SELs of the 126 model series, the business elite opted for the armour-plated top-of-the-range model of the Mercedes-Benz 560 SEL, preferably with fully electric single seats in the rear. Until just a few years ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin used to let himself be driven around Moscow in a specially protected Mercedes-Benz S 600 Pullman of the 140 model series, after which he switched immediately to a Pullman of the S-Class 221 model series. Greater understanding between nations is not possible.