1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 Convertible

There comes a time when a desirable old car just jumps in value. That time may be now for the 3.5SE

The 111-series of Mercedes-Benz automobiles of the 1960s and early 1970s is much appreciated by collectors who also enjoy driving their cars. There is a solidness to the ride and handling that helped Mercedes seize a profitable share of the world market.

When introduced, these cars were powered by the company’s reliable 6-cylinder engine and their performance, with 105-135 horsepower, can be described as stately. That changed dramatically when the 230-horsepower, 3.5-liter V8 was introduced, offering performance to match its appearance.

The 111-series 280SE chassis was up to the power. The body structure was a rigid welded unit. Mercedes had perfected its independent front suspension with coil springs and refined its low-pivot swing-axle independent rear. The result was a solid, rigid, quiet, stiff structure that was ideally suited to form the base of a luxury automobile.

USA marketing of Mercedes’s “S-Class” cars began in earnest with the introduction of the 111-series 220SEb coupes and convertible for the 1962 model year. The 1962 220SEb evolved, almost without visual changes, into the 250SE, and then the 280SE coupes and convertibles. The conservative styling did not include the vestigial tail fins of the period sedans, and endured right up to 1970, when Mercedes lowered the front grille a bit and created the all-aluminum, 3.5-liter, overhead-cam V8.

Mercedes-Benz’s line of distinctive, hand-built, four-place cabriolets began with the 380K before WWII and ended with the 280SE 3.5. A similar body style would not appear for another 20 years.

This rare V8-powered 280SE 3.5 Convertible was imported to France as a rust-free California car in 2004, having been checked over for signs of damage before purchase. No evidence of this was found, so the car was commissioned as a concours rebuild at Classic Restoration Services in Loosdrecht, Holland.

The 280SE has the desirable options of air conditioning, a console-shift automatic, tinted and electric windows, and the original period radio. All accessories were working at the time of inspection and the quality of the restoration is quite stunning and would pass the most stringent examination.

Alex Dearborn

Alex Dearborn - SCM Contributor

Alex is a retired vintage-car dealer and former Mercedes-Benz restorer. His vintage racing mounts include a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, a 190SL and a Lotus. Alex lives in Kittery Point, ME, and continues to exercise various old cars on road trips, often while doing appraisals.

Posted in German