The magnificent Mercedes-Benz W111 coupe and cabriolet are considered by many enthusiasts to be among the finest-built and best-driving luxury cars of the late 1960s and early 1970s. These handsome and luxurious automobiles were the last truly hand-built Mercedes-Benz cars, assembled with great care by the expert staff at Mercedes’ storied Sindelfingen works. The glamorous cabriolet and its elegant coupe sibling offered style and luxury paired with previously unheard-of levels of build quality. These two-door variants shared a basic platform and drivetrain with the earlier four-door “Heckflosse” (fin tail) sedans which date back to the early 1960s. These sedan’s upright styling with somewhat awkward tail fins was a blatant appeal to the American market, while the coupe and cabriolet featured more modern, more subdued style that was considerably more timeless in appearance. Besides the obvious deletion of the two rear doors, the most significant change to the styling was that the fins were traded for a more rounded and arguably better resolved treatment to the rear quarter panels. The styling of the 280SE 2-door actually inspired that of the Heckflosse’s replacement, the W108, and the two-door W111 would continue production through 1971, outliving its finned four-door counterpart by several years.
A wide variety of gasoline and diesel engines would be offered across the range, however, the flagship coupe and cabriolet were limited mainly to the refined and powerful inline six-cylinder petrol engines, with an all-aluminum 3.5 liter V8 joining the range late in production. When equipped with the 2.8 liter Bosch-injected inline six, the 280SE is a massively capable car; luxurious and comfortable with continent-crushing high-speed ability. Thanks to the hand-built quality and outstanding road manners of the 280SE, particularly in cabriolet form, it has become one of the most desirable of all post-war Mercedes this side of the 300SL. Over the past few years, collectors have taken notice and values have risen accordingly as these cars are cherished for their historic significance as much as their on-road ability.
We are very pleased to feature this spectacular 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SE; a striking example of the highly desirable “Low Grille” Cabriolet. This beautiful SE has been completely restored and is now presented in the handsome and elegant colors of tobacco brown over palomino hides with a brown top. It is a gorgeous car that appears to have been only lightly used since restoration, remaining in fine condition from top to bottom. The presentation is outstanding, with straight, crisp bodywork and excellent tobacco brown paint that exhibits clean reflections and deep gloss. The extensive chrome trim is in similarly fine order with straight bumpers, window trims and body décor. Rolling stock consists of original steel wheels with full, color keyed wheel covers and proper narrow-band whitewall tires. The combination is simple, elegant and factory correct for this car.
Once you open the vault-like door and get behind the wheel, it is easy to see why the 280SE is held in such high regard by drivers and collectors alike. The luxurious leather trimmed chairs are comfortable and supportive, while this example’s dash is graced with fabulously restored burl wood trim and a period correct Becker Europa radio. Instruments and switchgear are in fine order, and the car features desirable options such as electric windows and air conditioning. All controls fall easily to the driver’s hand, and it comfortably seats four adults. The palomino leather is in excellent condition both front and rear, showing only minimal creasing from use that imparts an inviting character to the interior. The wood dash trim, including the windshield surrounds, is in outstanding condition on this car, having been fully restored at great cost. A brown Haartz canvas top has been fitted to complement the paint color. Fit of the top is exemplary, and when folded, it is covered by a leather boot to match the interior. With the roof up or down, the 280 SE is equally capable as a cross-country grand touring car as it is an open air boulevard cruiser. The trunk is correctly presented with semi-gloss black paint, an original fluted rubber mat, original jack and lug wrench and even the original Continental spare tire.
Mercedes-Benz’s smooth and torquey 2.8 liter, fuel-injected inline-six is impeccably presented and highly detailed with correct finishes, correct fittings, clamps and hardware as well as proper gold cad plating as original. The engine bay remains very clean, with a new firewall insulation pad, and beautiful quality paintwork on the engine accessories and ancillaries. Similarly, the underbody and chassis have been cleaned and detailed to a high standard. The six starts easily and runs strong, as one should expect from the proven and robust M130 engine. Likewise, the transmission shifts well and the car feels tight, planted and well-sorted out on the road. It is a distinct pleasure to drive; an automobile that melds classic styling with a driving experience that feels years ahead of its time.
This 280SE Cabriolet is an outstanding and highly desirable example that is ready for regular enjoyment either on the road or in concours events. With its immaculate presentation in handsome colors, it is sure to satisfy the next owner however they chose to appreciate its exemplary qualities.
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