Mercedes-Benz’s fabulous W111 coupe and cabriolet are considered by many enthusiasts to be the finest built and best performing luxury GT cars of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Handsome and luxurious, the glamorous cabriolet and its elegant coupe sibling offered impeccable style and luxury paired with previously unheard-of levels of build quality. These two-door variants shared a basic platform and drivetrain with the four-door “Heckflosse” (fin tail) sedans, but offered with a very different styling treatment that traded fins for more rounded and better resolved detailing at the rear. While the sedans had upright styling along with somewhat awkward tail fins that were clearly pandering to the American market, the coupe and cabrio were more modern, more subdued and much more timeless in appearance. The styling of the 280SE 2-door inspired that of the Heckflosse’s replacement, the W108, and the two-door W111 outlasted its befinned four-door counterpart by several years.
Mechanically, a wide variety of gasoline and diesel engines were offered. However, since the coupe and cabrio were reserved for the higher classes, choices were limited mainly to six cylinder carbureted and fuel injected petrol engines. Late in production, Mercedes shoehorned their all-aluminum 3.5 liter V8 into the W111 chassis, which transformed the car from an elegant cruiser into one of the most capable and advanced GT cars of the era. The 280SE, particularly in cabriolet form, has become one of the most desirable of all post-war Mercedes this side of the 300SL. They represent the end of the hand-built era and are exceptionally fine cars to drive. Collectors have taken notice and values have risen accordingly in the past several years.
This 1969 280SE Cabriolet is a very attractive and well-sorted example that is ideally suited for regular enjoyment or casual show. It is finished in its original and very attractive color combination of DB 903 Blue with a dark blue (744) top and dark blue (245) leather trim. The body is very straight with excellent factory-quality panel fit and lovely glossy paintwork. These cars were exceptionally well engineered and constructed, with Mercedes going so far as to make much of the bright trim in chrome-on-brass. Our car has high quality plating on the grille, window trims, sills and very nice, straight bumpers. The front end features original US-spec headlamps and a pair of factory fog lamps with amber lenses. It rides on correct steel wheels with full, color-keyed wheel covers and correct narrow whitewall tires. Overall it is an absolutely gorgeous yet totally drivable car that has benefitted from plenty of care.
The luxurious cabin is certainly one of the highlights of this 280SE cabriolet. Big, comfortable chairs up front offer exceptional comfort, while a rear bench offers plenty of room for at least two additional adults. The dark blue leather upholstery is in good condition, trimmed using correct grain hides and perforated inserts. Front and rear seats, as well as blue carpets present in excellent order and the door panels appear to be very well preserved originals. Beautiful wood trim graces the fascia, upper dash, and A-pillars, all of which have been fully restored to a very high standard. The blue German canvas convertible top is in overall excellent condition, and features a matching blue canvas boot. This car is well equipped with desirable options including air conditioning, power windows, floor shift automatic transmission, and a Becker Mexico AM/FM stereo. The trunk is fitted with the correct rubber floor mat, while the spare wheel, jack and handle are in correct factory locations. There is even a very rare and very cool period Mercedes-Benz accessory cleaning kit found in the trunk.
Mercedes-Benz’s legendary 2.8 liter fuel-injected inline six presents in clean, tidy condition in the engine bay. It is the original matching number engine and is well detailed, and while not to concours standards, remains extremely well presented. Importantly, this example is an excellent performer, with the Bosch mechanical fuel injection allowing for easy starts, and flexible performance through the rev range. The engine is smooth, quiet and runs strong with excellent shifts from the automatic transmission. Road manners are outstanding, as one should expect from these beautifully over-engineered cars.
These are exceptionally good cars that perform in a way that makes them seem much younger than they are. Strong brakes, excellent steering and a crisp automatic transmission all combine to make the 280SE a surprisingly good all-round touring car that is equally at home tootling around town, top-down cruising on a coastal road, or up on the motorway for a long-distance run. Having the added bonus of a top that goes down, as well as strong collectability in today’s market, this high-quality, matching number 280SE is sure to please its next keeper.
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