Open Roads, Fall | Lot 2072
1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet
$270,000 - $300,000 USD
| Los Angeles, California
11 - 20 November 2020
- Considered to be Mercedes-Benz’s last truly hand-built automobile
- One of only 1,232 280SE 3.5 Cabriolets produced from 1969 through 1971
- Tobacco brown over a beige interior; dark brown top
- Equipped with Becker Europa radio, Behr air conditioning, and column shift
- Accompanied by owner’s manuals, tools and spare, and convertible top boot
In many respects, the Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet represents the best of all possible worlds for enthusiasts of the marque’s postwar offerings. Its styling, which initially debuted in 1961, was instantly timeless; the addition of a 3.5-liter V-8 for the 1969 model year added modern power to the equation. Making use of the Bosch D-Jetronic electronic fuel injection system, this new engine produced 197 horsepower. A low, wide grille (dubbed the flachkühler, German for “flat cooler”) helped keep the V-8 cool while bringing the car up to date visually; it meshes seamlessly with the car’s classic lines.
Moreover, all 280 SE 3.5 Coupes and Cabriolets were hand-built by skilled craftsmen—the last Mercedes-Benz models to be assembled in this time-tested manner. The attention paid to the Cabriolet’s convertible top reveals the attention to detail found throughout the chassis. Fully lined 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 reportedly required more than sixteen hours of hand labor.
Due to these uncompromising, labor-intensive production methods, it is said that Mercedes-Benz built just 13 of these cars per week between 1969 and 1971; in total, a mere 1,232 examples of the 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet were produced.
Dating from the final year of production, this 1971 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet is one such car. According to the consignor, it has spent the past several decades, if not longer, in California. Thanks to both this dry and hospitable climate and the diligence of its prior owners, the car boasts a clean and well-preserved undercarriage and a similarly tidy engine compartment; bodywork is straight, with consistent panel gaps throughout. A coat of rich Tobacco exterior finish, said to have been applied within the past four years, still presents very nicely overall, and it is wonderfully complimented by a dark brown convertible top that is likewise in excellent condition.
Top up or down, this car’s beige-trimmed interior is a lovely place to be. Seating surfaces and door panels are in good overall condition, another indication of the care the car received over the decades. The intricate, nicely patinated dashboard features a suite of jewel-like VDO gauges, with Becker Europa radio front and center for entertainment. Further, this example was desirably delivered with factory Behr air conditioning—a feature sure to be appreciated by potential owners in warmer climates. For added convenience, the car is also equipped with power steering and a column-mounted shifter for its automatic transmission.
Desirable when new and no less coveted today, Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolets such as this are equally suitable for dedicated connoisseurs of the marque, as well as those who simply appreciate the best of classic, hand-crafted luxury. The car is accompanied by owner’s manuals, tools and spare tire, and a top boot for use during open-air driving.