Contrary to what Alan Partridge told his Ukrainian girlfriend Sonja, Bono prefers saloons to hatchbacks. It’s why he bought this 1980 Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL.
Maybe he fancied a hatchback, but couldn’t find what he was looking for. Whatever, the 450 SEL 6.9 was the one.
Like Bono, the Mercedes has led a colourful life. Not quite as colourful as the interior, but more on that in a moment. The story is that the U2 frontman purchased the Merc to celebrate the success of the band’s first album Boy. His was one of 7380 450 SEL 6.9 vehicles built between 1975 and 1980.
Standard equipment included hydropneumatic suspension, air conditioning, heat-insulating glass, heated rear window, central locking, cruise control, electric windows, headlight wipers and velour upholstery. Bono’s Mercedes was anything but standard.
He fitted a £12,000 Alpine sound system consisting of several amps and multiple speakers. There’s a potential gag about adding some Rattle and Hum to the peerless build quality, but there’s no desire to use it. With the sound comes the vision, in the form of an interior swathed in cowhide-patterned leather. Yes, PetrolBlog did use the word ‘swathed’. Other motoring clichés are available.
Bono’s 450 SEL also features a fire extinguisher for use in an unforgettable fire.
U2 went on to scale great heights following the release of Boy, but the Mercedes enjoyed its own lofty status. It was purchased in 2006 by a Dubliner who intended to park it on the roof of his nightclub. Manager Dave Lawlor said: ‘U2 actually played here once years ago so it’s brilliant to get it.’ It’s just as well cars don’t suffer from vertigo.
Earlier, in 2000, Bono donated the Mercedes to a charity auction to raise money for Ethiopia. It was bought by the Pepsi Cola company for €61,000 (£52,000). Former Boyzone singer and Coronation Street actor Keith Duffy took on the Pepsi challenge in 2002, before selling it at another charity auction.
Today, the Mercedes wears the look of someone who has enjoyed a few too many nights out in Dublin. As Car & Classic points out, ‘the car will need a few updates, including a new exhaust, as well as having some corrosion on the underside of the car and small spots on the edges of the bonnet to be attended to’.
There’s also a small fault with the radio, but that’s probably the least of your worries when you’re coming to terms with the fuel bills associated with running a big Mercedes with a 6.9-litre V8 rattling and humming under the bonnet. That’s before you consider the cost of parts and maintenance.
Buying and running a 450 SEL 6.9 makes purchasing a Maserati Quattroporte seem sensible. Bono bought an Italian four-door, saying: ‘The job of art is to chase ugliness away’.
The Mercedes has been listed for sale many times over the years, with asking prices approaching the circa £100,000 it would have cost in 1980. More recently, it was advertised on Car & Classic for £45,000. Like an ageing rocker, it needs some work to restore it to former glory, but at least you can admire the majesty of the whitewall tyres.
What will the Bono Mercedes fetch at auction? That’s a question for another day. Bidding starts on 18 July, but it’s worth noting that the car was affectionately known in Dublin as ‘Bono’s banger’ or ‘bone shaker’. Approach with caution. Or should that be ‘Achtung Baby’?