The 280SE 3.5-liter cars were Mercedes-Benz’s first V8-powered sports cars. A combination of elegant styling coupled with effortless performance made them highly desirable and they were every bit as prestigious as their competitors. From the outset, the emphasis was on quality and the cars featured a new interior with more wood and leather upholstery as the standard. The 3.5-liter V8 engine was highly advanced, with electronic fuel injection and transistor ignition. It marked a turning point in Mercedes-Benz engine manufacturing. The high price that these cars retailed at reflected the quality and expense of their production and ensured their relative rarity. Even by Mercedes-Benz’s efficient standards, output was limited, thereby enhancing the car’s rarity and prestige.

This 1971 example was delivered new with silver paintwork and has been repainted once during its present ownership. The owner has kept the car for six or seven years and the indicated mileage of 29,550 appears to be original. The car has automatic transmission with a floor-mounted automatic gear-selection lever, a factory sunroof and air conditioning. The interior and trunk are described as being in “mint” condition and the owner reports that the car handles and drives as new.

Apparently much of its life was spent in Beverly Hills and it still has a Beverly Hills sticker on the windshield. More recently it has been kept in Santa Barbara. The car is offered with factory tools and manuals.

These large and accommodating 3.5-liter Mercedes are ideal for carrying four adults and luggage on long-distance trips in absolute comfort.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5
Years Produced:1969-71
Number Produced:4,502 coupes and convertibles
Original List Price:$13,766
SCM Valuation:$15,000-$21,000
Tune Up Cost:$500-$800
Distributor Caps:$85
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on plate mounted on radiator support
Engine Number Location:Stamped into engine block near head
Club Info:Mercedes-Benz Club of America, 1235 Pierce Street, Lakewood, CO 80214
Alternatives:BMW 3.0 CSi, Jaguar XJS, Facel Vega HK500

This car sold at a no-reserve price of $32,900, including buyer’s premium, at the Christie’s Pebble Beach sale on August 19, 2001.

Despite the muddled last sentence in the first paragraph of the catalog description, we’ll be glad to concede that these cars in both two-door coupe and convertible form are rare and desirable, which is the ideal combination for any collector car to possess.

Mercedes-Benz authorities will gladly tell you that these cars are among the last of the “classic” Mercedes built. They possess superior over-the-road performance combined with supremely comfortable riding qualities, posh, understated interiors bristling with quality materials, impeccable workmanship and road manners belying their relatively large size and weight (3,641 pounds) Plus, they have the advantage of advanced-for-the-

period engineering in the Mercedes manner.

Even when relatively new, these cars brought a premium price simply as used cars and today even a top bid that breaks $30,000, as this one did, merely equals the approximate cost of a new C-Class Mercedes sedan. Despite carrying the three-pointed star, the new C is a car that offers far more plastic and vinyl than polished wood and leather. So, really, which one would you rather have for that kind of money?

When we inspected this car during the Christie’s preview for our SCM report (October, 2001, page 42), we noted that it was very well detailed and maintained, and had superb door and panel fit. The only minus was a very slight amount of honest wear on the front seats. The car is also the right color combination, looking very rich and properly Germanic in silver with the dark blue leather. One can imagine it cruising happily down an Autobahn at 100-plus mph on its way to some luxury resort in the Black Forest while little DKWs, Borgwards and Beetles obligingly pull over to the right lane as the big Merc wafts effortlessly by.

One of the advantages of these models is their dual personality. While possessing dashing but dignified styling and elegant interiors that make them attractive and welcome additions to show and concours fields, they are equally at home in today’s cut-and-thrust traffic thanks to their four-wheel disc brakes, automatic transmissions and superior acceleration from the double overhead-cam V8. Indeed, for the owner who lives in an agreeable climate like Beverly Hills or Santa Barbara, these cars can serve as a practical daily driver as well as a weekend show-mobile.

This car appeared to be as fine a low-mileage, straight, honest example as could be found. Its mileage appeared consistent with its appearance and it looked like it had lived a life of automotive ease in the California sun.

A good buy at $10,000 over the top SCM Price Guide amount? Remember that any guide is just a guide, and that with collector cars, condition is everything. The condition of this car was superb, and especially attractive—and valuable—in that it was original rather than restored.

From another perspective, look at all the very ordinary cookie-cutter new cars that sell in the $30,000 range, and then depreciate like stones sinking in a pond. Compare them to this high-quality automobile that should never go down in value. In my opinion, this particular Mercedes was the shrewdest buy of the Christie’s Pebble Beach auction.—Dave Brownell

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