Mercedes-Benz was undergoing a dramatic transformation in the late 1950s. With their post-war recovery efforts essentially complete, they began to streamline their product line through platform sharing; taking advantage of the economies of scale they enjoyed as one of the world’s largest automakers. The passenger car line was led by the ageing 300 “Adenauer” series; large, body-on-frame limousines, coupes and cabriolets that were expensive and time consuming to manufacture. With the 600 “Grosser” still a few years away, a new and modern flagship was needed. Utilizing the existing W111 platform, Mercedes stuffed the Adenauer’s (also shared with the 300 S and SC) M189 3.0 liter, all-alloy inline-six under the bonnet, added luxurious trimmings and updated the chassis with a sophisticated air-ride suspension system. The changes were enough to necessitate a new internal designation: W112. The W112 300 SE debuted in 1961, available only as the four-door “Heckflosse” (fin-tail) saloon. In 1962, it was joined by the restyled 2-door coupe and cabriolet. The 2-door cars were very modern and elegant, eschewing the sharp fins of the saloon for a more subtly rounded treatment on the rear quarters. The revised styling was the work of the great master Paul Bracq, who had become head of Sindelfingen, Mercedes’ spiritual design center, in 1959. Bracq’s freshened design was so well-received that it inspired both the W111 saloon’s replacement (W108), and carried over when the W112 was replaced by the conventionally sprung W111 2-door.
Despite its shared-platform roots, the W112 was still a very prestigious and expensive car. When the 2-door coupe was first shown on the 1961 auto show circuit, the list price was twice that of another new grand touring car that debuted the same year: Jaguar’s E-Type. 300 SE Coupes and Cabriolets were intended for the most discerning of buyer; those who valued luxury, understated style and exceptional quality. Due to their high cost and hand-assembled construction, very few found buyers, with just 3,127 combined coupes and cabriolets sold through the end of 1967.
This handsome 1967 300 SE Cabriolet is a very desirable example from the final year of W112 production. Presented in the very attractive color combination of Weissgrau (White-Gray, code 158) over a fresh dark green leather interior and a dark green top, it is one of just 708 W112 Cabriolets produced from 1962-1967. The subtle light gray paintwork suits the elegant Paul Bracq-designed body and it is correctly adorned with chrome wheel arch and body side moldings that distinguish the 300 SE from its lower-spec brethren. The body is straight, with factory-precise fitment of the doors and deck lids. A recent bare-metal respray in the correct original color (per the trim tag) presents in excellent condition, with deep gloss and straight reflections. Doors shut with the satisfying solidity of a 60’s era Mercedes-Benz, and the fitment of the trim is very good. Bumpers are straight, with nice quality plating, while the remaining bright trim is tidy and smart, with some restoration work being done as needed at the time of the respray. The original steel wheels have been repainted in body color, adorned with color-keyed two-piece wheel covers as correct. This is a handsome and understated automobile; a refined, sophisticated interpretation of Mid-Century Modern design.
A highlight of this car has to be the wonderful, freshly-restored green leather interior which stands out brilliantly against the light gray paintwork. Taut, fresh upholstery on the front and rear seats is done in the period correct pattern and colors. Interior panels have also been carefully restored and the floors are correctly lined in green-gray square weave carpeting, bound in matching green leather. It is a wonderful yet seldom seen combination that suits the car brilliantly. In addition to the new upholstery, the typically fragile woodwork has been fully restored by the experts at Madera Concepts with stunning results. Fitted with original instrumentation, the original VDO clock, a period correct Becker Europa stereo and a factory Kuhlmeister air conditioning unit; the dash presents beautifully, particularly with its renewed woodwork. Literally topping off the fabulous new interior is a lovely, fully lined convertible top in dark green German canvas which has been expertly fitted and remains taut and free of creases. A top boot in matching green leather is included to keep a sleek look when the roof is folded. The trunk is correctly detailed with a factory original gray rubber mat, and a set of original tools is included in the factory-supplied tool roll.
Mechanically, this 300 SE is in excellent order. Showing approximately 60,000 miles, it sits proud on the original air suspension, with a tidy, well-presented undercarriage and engine bay. As a later production W112, this car’s fuel injected, 3.0 liter, M189 inline six-cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower (ten more than the earlier cars) and sends its power through a column-shifted Mercedes-Benz four-speed automatic transmission. The engine is very well detailed and tidy, showing recent service. It runs well, delivering strong performance and exquisite ride quality thanks to that sophisticated pneumatic ride control.
A true flagship Mercedes-Benz, the W112 300 SE was a beautifully engineered and meticulously hand-built luxury grand touring car that was designed to appeal to only the most discriminating buyers. The rarity and exceptional quality of this fine car makes it highly sought after by today’s collectors, while the advanced engineering and exquisite build quality makes it an exceptional driver’s car, ideally suited for tours and rallies the world over. Much has been spent on this highly desirable 300 SE to ensure it is a beautiful and thoroughly usable example that can keep up to the demands of its next owner.