Mercedes-Benz introduced the W111 in 1959 as a broadly-applied platform that would serve as a replacement for both the bread-and-butter Ponton sedans as well as the complex and expensive Adenauer coupes and sedans. The versatile chassis architecture formed the basis of everything from four-cylinder diesel taxicabs to luxurious, air-suspended six-cylinder limousines. In 1961, the be-finned “Heckflosse” sedans were joined by the elegantly styled two-door coupe and cabriolet. The 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. The revised styling of the two-door cars was so well received that it would inspire the Heckflosse’s replacement, the W108 of 1965. The two-door W111 would outlive its finned four-door counterpart by several years, continuing production through 1971.
Handsome and luxurious, these 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 luxury paired with exceptional build quality; a Teutonic counterpoint to the opulent Rolls-Royce Corniche. A wide variety of engines would feature in the W111 but 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. In recent years, the 280 SE has become one of the most desirable of all post-war Mercedes cars this side of the 300SL. Collectors have taken notice, and these fine cars are cherished for their rarity, quality, style and performance.
Benefitting from a recent high-quality restoration, this 1969 280 SE Cabriolet is an impeccably presented example of Mercedes’ definitive luxury grand touring car. One of just 1,390 open-topped 280 SEs built over a four year run, this car is finished in its original and elegant color combination of Sand Beige (DB 467) over Dark Brown leather (248) with a complementary brown canvas soft top. The bare metal rotisserie restoration, performed between 2009 and 2011, is beautifully finished with outstanding paint quality and crisp, straight panels displaying excellent alignment and gaps. As part of the restoration, the extensive chrome and bright work was removed and fully restored, Fit and finish is exquisite, as one should expect from a properly restored 280 SE. It rides on factory original steel wheels with color-keyed full wheel covers, shod with Michelin narrow-band whitewall tires as is correct for the period.
In addition to the body, the interior has been fully restored with the upholstery, wood trim and brightwork finished to a high standard. An original high-spec US market car, it is equipped with numerous desirable options that include electric windows, Frigiking air conditioning, dual front arm rests and a Becker Grand Prix AM/FM radio with automatic aerial. The dark brown leather trim is beautiful; handsomely complementing the paint color and finished with factory-correct grain and patterns. The seats, carpets and interior panels show virtually no use since the restoration, the leather appearing hardly broken in. The soft top has been fully restored to include the insulated headlining as original, which helps keep wind noise at a minimum when motoring with the top up, and a brown leather top boot to keep things tidy with the roof down. The trunk is correctly finished in satin black, and an original first-aid kit, owner’s manual and a rare factory tool kit are included.
Underhood presentation of the 2.8 liter Bosch fuel-injected inline six is excellent and up to the standard set by the rest of the car. Records indicate the engine was rebuilt at considerable cost as part of the restoration, and was fully detailed prior to its reinstallation. Notable details include the gold-cad plated brackets and fuel pipes, firewall insulation pad, and white-case Mercedes-Benz battery. The impressive appearance of the engine bay is backed by strong performance and exemplary road manners.
These wonderful cars bridge the modern-era Mercedes with the classic, hand-crafted models of the 1950s and 60s. Beyond their historical place in Stuttgart lore, they are simply outstanding automobiles to drive and own, cherished by collectors and marque enthusiasts. This fine example is ready for its next owner to cherish and enjoy covering effortless miles in high style.