Lot 157

Arizona 2023

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet


$313,000 USD | Sold

United States | Phoenix, Arizona



Chassis No.
US Title
  • One of only 347 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolets produced for 1971
  • Well preserved and documented California car, benefitting from single-family ownership
  • Finished in correct Grey Blue Metallic over Blue Leather with a Dark Blue soft-top
  • Extensive history file with original dealer invoice, window sticker, stamped factory service booklet, and invoices dating back to 1971
  • Final year for Mercedes-Benz’s last hand-built production model

The Mercedes-Benz 280 SE debuted in August of 1961 as a derivative of the 220 Sedan introduced in 1959. The basic design and chassis—internally designated W111—endured more than a decade, receiving numerous powertrain and styling updates over the course of production. Available in both coupe and convertible form, the 280 SE is said to be among the last Mercedes-Benz production models built with a high degree of hand finishing. Designer Paul Braq is said to have penned the 280 SE’s sleek lines, eschewing the earlier tailfin design of the 220 Sedan in favor of a more streamlined rear-end treatment that would preview the upcoming 230 SL.

Mercedes-Benz introduced the 280 SE 3.5 in the fall of 1969. It combined the classic styling of earlier models with an all-new V-8 engine internally designated the M 116 and featuring Bosch D-Jetronic electronic fuel injection. Producing 200 horsepower, the engine provided brisk acceleration and was lauded at its launch. A fully independent suspension with disc brakes at each wheel was standard. To accommodate the larger V-8, the car’s front grille was lowered and widened, while the bumpers were modified with the addition of rubber strips, and the rear lenses were updated with a flatter, cleaner design.

A power-operated, insulated, multilayer top with framework fully concealed by an interior headliner shielded the sumptuous interior from the elements. Each convertible top is said to have required more than 16 hours of hand labor. On average, only 13 cars were finished per week, with Mercedes-Benz producing just 1,232 examples of the Cabriolet from 1969 through 1971, less than half of the 280 SE Coupe’s 3,270 total production. These would be the marque’s final, truly hand-built automobiles.

The 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet offered here lived its entire life in California under the ownership of a single family after being sold new on 15 March 1971 at European Motors, Ltd., a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Oakland, California. The original owner paid $15,633.30 after trading in a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, according to the dealer invoice and window sticker that accompany the vehicle. The original factory service booklet and numerous invoices dating from when the car was new indicate that this 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet was fastidiously maintained at factory dealers throughout California and was thoroughly enjoyed, having racked up 99,130 miles by April 1979. Mileage logs from service invoices on file indicate that the five-digit odometer likely clicked back to zero in late 1979 or early 1980. The final stamp in the factory service booklet, dated 1 November 1982, logs “123,927 miles,” which meant that there were 23,927 miles indicated by this time. The bulk of the 78,361 miles now showing on the odometer was accrued by the early 2000s, after which the car was sparingly driven and subsequently stored for a number of years. In August 2022, Patterson Automotive of Sebastopol, California performed light mechanical recommissioning, draining and refilling the fuel, replacing the oil, oil filter, air filter, and battery, and refurbishing the exhaust system.

This 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet came from the factory finished in the beautiful color scheme it still wears today of Grey Blue Metallic over Blue Leather. It was further equipped with a Dark Blue soft-top, a Becker Europa Stereo Radio with automatic antenna, a tray pad, a front, center folding armrest, air conditioning, electric windows, tinted glass, whitewall tires, power steering, and an automatic transmission.

In addition to the original dealer invoice, window sticker, factory service book, and numerous service invoices, the car is also accompanied by factory manuals, other sales and ownership records, and a blue tonneau cover. Benefitting from loving care and enjoyment its entire life, this well-preserved, single-family-owned 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet appeals on many levels, from its beautiful color scheme to its desirable factory options and well-documented California ownership history.