Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 by Pininfarina

Your eyes may turn to stone if you look too closely, but that's not a good enough reason to dismiss this car at first glance.

Based on the legendary 300 SEL 6.3, this Pininfarina-penned coupe would have been one of the fastest grand tourers of its day. Thanks to stories in Car and Driver by Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash founder and 6.3 superfan Brock Yates, the sedan this coupe was based on enjoyed brisk sales for what was essentially a supercar with two extra doors.

When traveling at 100 mph (160 km/h) wasn't a cardinal sin in the U.S., Yates said of the car, "It is impossible to describe this kind of performance to the uninitiated. Telling a traffic officer or a safety crusader like Ralph Nader that 100 mph can be safe is like reading the Constitution to a Maoist; it is a strange and hostile concept."

A profile of the car on jalopnik.com also laid out the 6.3 sedan's performance figures: "The finished sedan sprinted from zero to sixty (100 km/h) in 6.5 seconds, passed the quarter mile in 14.5 seconds and topped out at 137 mph (220 km/h). The 6-3 had enough straight line grunt to waste a contemporaneous Porsche 911, keep pace with a 427 Chevrolet Corvette and cruise without complaint well into triple digits."

As fast as the car was, it was like seeing a chesterfield with rocket boosters up its bottom—not exactly the most evocative image of a sporting car. Sure, it was fast, but by the late 1960s Mercedes-Benz' conservative styling had morphed into an upright form with baroque details. At least they had some outside help on where not to go next with styling.

Italy's Pininfarina, always at the front of automotive style, worked with a customer who wanted a coupe built on the 6.3 sedan chassis. Earlier in the decade, they'd rebodied the 230 SL, with a simple, glamorous body—why should this one be any different?

And when the styling house presented today's car, it must have looked far out of left field. Gone were the massive amounts of chrome, including the Mercedes-Benz grille and three-pointed-star hood ornament. 

In its place was an authoritative form, with heavy details, slab sides, and—amazingly—a light and airy cabin on top. Its resemblance to the later Rolls-Royce Carmague isn't by accident, with both large barges designed at Pininfarina by Paolo Martin. The two cars even share largely identical tails.

But the Rolls could never hope to compete with the Mercedes-Benz on sheer pace—with a body some 700 kg (1543 lbs.) lighter than its sedan relative.

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