Motor City

The Inn at St. John's
25 July 2015
Lot 119

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Coupe

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$121,000 USD | Sold

United States | Plymouth, Michigan

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Chassis No.
111.026.12.001787
  • Desirable 3.5 engine and floor-shift transmission
  • Beautiful recent cosmetic restoration; fine condition throughout
  • An ideal, stylish, and modern grand tourer
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230 bhp, 3,499 cc OHV V-8 engine with Bosch electronic fuel injection, four-speed automatic transmission, independent front suspension with unequal-length control arms and anti-sway bar, independent rear suspension with low-pivot swing axle and trailing arms, and four-wheel power hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 108.3 in.

By 1969, production of the finback sedans was finally ending, having been supplanted by the new W108/109 chassis models several years earlier, but the decision was made to continue producing the hand-built coupes on the W111 chassis, although with a V-8 engine to keep pace with competitors in the U.S. luxury market. A 3.5-liter powerplant, designated M116, was developed using a cast-iron block for rigidity, economy, and better sound damping, and it featured cross-flow wedge cylinder heads with rocker-operated valves, which were driven by a single overhead camshaft per bank. The cams were chain-driven for a long life. Bosch transistorized the ignition, and electronic fuel injection was utilized. AutoCar, the British magazine, called it “a copybook example of how experience plus careful design can create a simple-to-make high-output engine of considerable refinement.” American buyers just called it fast and fun.

In Mercedes’ sometimes confusing model nomenclature, which is usually but not always based on engine capacity, the new model was designated 280 SE 3.5 to distinguish it from its six-cylinder counterpart. Production of the model began in August 1969 and continued through to July 1971. In 24 months, total production was 3,270 coupes, making these not only one of the fastest and most interesting Mercedes of their era but also one of the rarest and most expensive.

The example offered here has been beautifully cosmetically restored in correct and enduringly elegant Graubau Metallic (DB 906) over a full Parchment leather interior. Its paint and interior are described as being in excellent condition, with no expense having been spared in returning the seats, carpets, interior panels, and headliner to gorgeous, factory-new condition. The dashboard wood was refinished by Madera Concepts and is nothing short of stunning. All of the car’s chrome is in excellent condition, as is the rubber and original glass, and panel fits are smooth and tight throughout, with no evidence of prior accidents. In addition, the undercarriage and body are rust free.

Desirable features include a sporty floor-shifted automatic transmission, which adds greatly to the élan of driving the car, as do the power windows, heater, Behr air conditioning, and period-correct Becker radio with power antenna. The owner describes the car as being in excellent condition, starting easily, idling consistently, and pulling strongly and smoothly through each of its gears, making it an absolute joy to drive in town or country.

Whether its next owner will be a weekend driver fan of the marque or a collector looking for a worthy addition to a serious collection, this car deserves the consideration of any vintage Mercedes-Benz enthusiast.