You've got to feel sorry for ultra-rich buyers in search of a mega-saloon. Younger millionaires have an abundance of toys to choose between, with numerous supercars and hypercars competing with the speedboats, helicopters and other shiny distractions to turn their heads and fractionally lighten their wallets. But for the sensible, grown-up plutocrat in search of a limousine to demonstrate both their wealth and self-worth, choice has long been limited to a coin-toss: buy a Rolls-Royce, or buy a Bentley.
There have been several attempts to break the duopoly, with Mercedes trying hardest to muscle its way into this exclusive gentleman's club. Back in the 'sixties the monstrous Mercedes S600 'Grosser' became the thinking dictator's barge of choice, often looking tougher than the convoys of BTR-60 APCs and T55 tanks that followed it in grand parades. More recently there was Daimler's creation of Maybach, a hugely expensive attempt to reclaim a place at the top table.
While it didn't really work out, and Maybach has subsequently been demoted to a Mercedes sub-brand in the Daimler hierarchy, it did lead to cars like this week's Brave Pill. It's a Maybach 62 which takes the record - against tough competition - for the most savage depreciation of any car to be featured here. Back in 2003 it cost £330,000 before options, nearly three times as much as a Bentley Flying Spur and £70,000 more than a Rolls-Royce Phantom. Now it's being offered by a London dealer for £39,950. With 37,000 on the odometer that means it has cost at least £8 a mile in depreciation alone.
Maybach's origin story is as old as its parent company. Wilhelm Maybach worked to develop engines with Gottlieb Daimler, his company going on to produce a small number of ultra-lux saloons prior to the Second World War. Which brings us in a manner that would please Basil Fawlty neatly to what Maybach was more famous for: powering military equipment. Maybach was a hugely successful engine maker, propelling both the Zeppelin airships that pioneered aerial bombing over Britain in WW1, and also created the monstrous 23-litre petrol V12 that was fitted to the brawniest Nazi-era tanks, including the much-feared Tiger. Strangely, Daimler's PR department didn't seem to make much play of these connections for the new car.
There was also a large amount of corporate wurst-waving behind the decision to revive such a long-dead automotive brand. BMW had acquired Rolls-Royce in 1998 and Volkswagen had taken control of Bentley, with both immediately starting work on new projects. Daimler wanted to make sure its rivals suffered some tough competition.
In that, it pretty much entirely failed. There's long been a view in automotive journalism that the most over-the-top launches are reserved for the weakest cars, and in that regard warning bells were pretty much ringing off the wall for the Maybach's official unveiling. This involved a 62 being transported to New York on board the QE2, accompanied by executives and senior hacks in first-class comfort. After watching the Maybach get a sheet twitched off it in a fancy hotel the journos were flown home - on Concorde.
While BMW had carefully hidden the close relationship between the 2003 Phantom VII and the contemporary 7-Series, Daimler did much less to disguise the fact the Maybach was based heavily on the W220 S-Class. It was powered by a version of the same twin-turbo V12 engine and the connection was more obvious inside the cabin, with much of the dashboard and instrument pack being common. As the typical Maybach owner would employ a chauffeur this didn't really matter too much, but even the most myopic multi-millionaire would struggle to fall in love the Maybach's slabby shape and creature from the deep styling. As one of the crueller reviews said when the Maybach launched, "if this car has a good angle we haven't found it yet." Many of the same themes were executed far more successfully in the W221 S-Class that was launched three years later.
There were some positives, of course. The rear of the cabin was properly special, with the long-wheelbase 62 having more seating adjustment than a private jet and some beautifully finished trim. It was remarkably wafty as well; close your eyes in the back of a Maybach at 70mph on a smooth road and it is genuinely hard to perceive that the car is actually moving. It even had a rear speedometer mounted in the roof to ensure Jeeves wasn't getting too frisky.
Within the limitations of what was a near three-tonne kerbweight it drove pretty well, too - and certainly more accurately than a contemporary Bentley Arnage at speed. Evo founder Harry Metcalfe somehow persuaded Maybach to let him drive one around the Nurburgring Nordschliefe, an unlikely challenge it handled remarkably well.
But sales were minimal. Between both 57 and 62 variants the Maybach's best year in the UK was 2004, with 22 registrations. By the time sales ended in 2012 only just over 100 had been flogged in Britain. When it pulled the plug Daimler admitted that it had sold only 3,000 cars across all territories, and admitted that it had managed to lose €330,000 on each one. Against which, the depreciation suffered by whoever had their name first on our Pill's V5 counts as getting off lightly.
And if you're going to buy a Maybach, this is definitely the one to have. The 57 was supposedly aimed at owners who would drive themselves at least some of the time, a pretty much non-existent demographic as it turned out. But our Pill is the altogether more special extended 62, complete with the power-operated partition between front and rear seats which allows the driver to be sealed off (like that scene in Spinal Tap.) Our Pill also has the rear entertainment package and fully reclinable seats with leg rests and deployable tables; sadly there's no mention in the advert of the built-in fridge or cigar humidor which were also options.
The trader selling the car boasts of a well-stamped service book, although it has been a while since our Pill last saw a dealer's ramp. According to the blurb the last service was carried out just 6,000 miles ago, but in 2014. Although the plates are obscured we've sneaked a peak at the MOT history which reports nothing scary, but also suggests a few gaps in usage. Our guess is that the 62 was somebody's UK car and only came out of hibernation when they visited.
While the Merc-based mechanical components are known quantities, there's still going to be a serious amount of bravery required for anyone taking the plunge, including the risk of waiting for rare components if they fail and also paying handsomely for them. On the plus side, Mercedes still offers parts support and the car can be serviced at Maybach-specialist dealerships.
But let's turn this around to put the rewards ahead of the risks. However you cut it, this is a huge amount of car for the cash, and also £20,000 less than even a leggy Phantom wearing three times the mileage. Also consider this, I once worked for a hugely eccentric multi-millionaire who owned both a Maybach and a Phantom VII at the same time before deciding to rationalize his fleet. He kept the Maybach.