Mercedes-AMG S600 | PH Private Area

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By John Howell / Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Japan is a funny old place, and that’s what makes it so fascinating. The unpredictability of it – you never know what you might find. For all its deferential conservatism, being a stickler for tradition and extreme politeness, Japanese society has an undercurrent that is completely bonkers. This is the land, remember, that used to have vending machines on street corners selling used school girls’ panties (now banned, thankfully).

And don’t forget its TV games shows like Endurance. Endurance, for anyone who doesn’t remember Clive James on TV, was a gameshow where contestants were put through the most ridiculous ordeals – proper crazy stuff that was often verging on perilous. The only reason the contestants believed they wouldn’t be killed in the pursuit of entertainment was that the organisers wouldn’t be that crazy, which was crazy. For anyone who’d ever watched the show, the evidence was that the organisers were absolutely that crazy.

Point being, when it comes to Japan, it’s worth expecting the unexpected. What might look boring and predictable on the outside – like this Brilliant Silver, ex-Japanese 1996 Mercedes W140 S600 – might have a surprise or two up its sleeve. In this case, the main surprise is the noise it makes. What you’re expecting is for this to whoosh away in a dignified, disconcertingly quiet manner. It doesn’t do that. Imagine waiting to hear Morgan Freeman speak – to hear his splendid mellifluous tones – and what comes out is the high-pitched scream of Joe Pasquale after he’s just sucked the guts out of a helium balloon. It’s more like that.

It’s an ex-demo car from Brilliant Exhausts – which you may also have heard of as TG Sasaki in Japan. The car was imported to the UK in 2019 and it’s currently owned by Mark Riccioni, who’s usually the snapper for Top Gear, among others. Now, Mark likes his cars, and because of his job and the fact that this one’s so out there, it’s been featured in various publications, including TG magazine. You may be familiar with it, but if you’re not it has a bespoke exhaust system that apparently cost $12,000 to produce. This is a stainless steel tubular system with equal-length manifolds at the front and a valved back box at the other end, which is controlled by a button. And when you press that button the advert states, ‘This is a race-spec exhaust system and with the valve open it is extremely loud.’

I often fret about how best to describe the intangible in words, but in this case it’s very easy. Imagine a 1990s Ferrari V12 F1 car at full chat. That’s it. It just sounds like that. So loud and so high pitched, and so wonderful. So totally stupid, too, so I’m not asking you to reason it. In fact, I implore you not to because you’ll break your brain, or at the very least make it hurt. On top of the exhaust, this S600 also has Brembo brakes and Aragosta adjustable coilovers all round, hence its dramatically lowered stance.

It’s also a S600 AMG, which is one of 112 that were produced for the Japanese market. This means it comes with the M120 6.0-litre V12 engine but with an AMG Power Pack. That bumped up its state of tune from 408hp to 439hp using more aggressive camshafts, different pistons, different connecting rods and a remap of the original ECU. It really isn’t your typical S600, then – not on any level.

As I say, don’t try and fathom out why. In fact, it’s rather like Endurance: rhythm or reason don’t apply. But before you write it off as stupid, here’s the thing: watching Endurance was jaw-dropping but could be compelling viewing for those who sat up late watching Clive James on TV back in the ‘80s. And in the same way, whatever you think about this car, it’s worth searching it out on YouTube and listening to it. You still might not come away with any understanding of what’s going on, but I bet it’ll raise a smile.

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