Lot 222

SHIFT/Monterey 2020

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet


$302,500 USD | Sold

United States | Santa Paula, California



Chassis No.
Engine No.
  • Equipped with the desirable options of Behr factory air conditioning and a floor-mounted gear shift lever
  • Retains its original engine
  • Mercedes-Benz’s last truly hand-built automobile
  • One of just 1,232 V-8 cabriolets produced from 1969-1971
  • Mercedes-Benz factory build sheet included

The timeless styling of the 280 SE was first introduced in August of 1961, a derivative of the 220 Sedan introduced in 1959. The basic design endured through five single-overhead cam engines, four six-cylinder engines, and a V-8 offering more horsepower with each iteration. Mercedes-Benz introduced the 280 SE 3.5 in the fall of 1969. It combined the classic styling of earlier Mercedes-Benz’s with an all-new 230 bhp V-8 engine with Bosch D-Jetronic electronic fuel injection. A fully independent suspension with disc brakes at each wheel was standard.

Sumptuous accommodations for four included a fully-lined top in the traditional stacked German cabriolet manner. The top folded electrically into six layers of cloth insulation and padding. When closed, the top was nearly 1 ½ inches thick giving the car superior insulation and soundproofing. The framework of the convertible top was concealed from view by a full interior headliner; each top requiring more than sixteen hours of hand labor. Only thirteen cars per week were built with M-B building just 1,232 examples between 1969 and 1971. This was Mercedes’ final hand-built automobile.

Finished in Light Beige (DB181) as originally built, this luxurious U.S. market cabriolet retains its original dark brown leather interior. It is equipped with a matching brown fabric cabriolet roof, Becker radio, two-note horn, front armrest, and the two most desirable options to collectors of the marque – Behr factory air conditioning, and the floor-mounted gear selector for the automatic transmission. The car is documented with its original factory build sheet from Mercedes-Benz, which further confirms that the car retains its original engine.

It was first acquired by the owner of a New Jersey-based Mercedes-Benz dealership; later coming into the hands of a meticulous Pennsylvania collector, Harry Scaggs. Scaggs began to restore the car, but due to his health, was unable to complete the project, selling the car to Karl Bekemeier. While the engine and mechanical components were rebuilt, the remainder of the car was partially disassembled. Bekemeier had the car refinished in its original color. The interior, including the fragrant Roser leather and carpets, remained in excellent condition, and was left alone, clearly having been well looked after throughout its life as Roser leather is normally prone to degrading over time. So too, was the wood and chrome, having only a slight patina. It took Bekemeier nearly 20 years to complete the car at which time the odometer showed 39,000 miles – which were believed to be original.

Bekemeier showed the car, but used it sparingly, putting just 350 miles on it following the restoration. Panel fit is described as “perfect” by the consignor who purchased the car in 2015. He continues to pamper the car and has driven it less than 2,000 miles since purchase. It has been recently serviced, the air conditioning charged, and five new Michelin tires fitted. It is ready for its new owner to enjoy.