Since 1926 Mercedes-Benz has been a staple in the world of luxury
vehicles, and the 280 SE represents the marque's dedication to
uncompromising excellence and the last models to be truly built by
hand by skilled craftsmen. Between 1969 and 1971, Mercedes-Benz
produced just 1,232 examples of the 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet at a rate
of approximately 13 examples each week, and each carried a price
tag of approximately $14,000.
Building off Friedrich Geiger's timeless styling of the 220 SE
models which debuted in 1961, Mercedes Benz sought to add modern
power and a visual update to their two-door coupe and cabriolet.
The 280 models received a series of five single-overhead-cam
straight-six engines of various sizes up to 2,996 cubic
centimeters, each offering an increase in horsepower. In 1969, the
280 SE entered the battle of manufacturers for the title of the
ultimate four-seater convertible car and employed a 3.5-liter V8
with Bosch D-Jetronic electronic fuel injection capable of
producing 230 brake horsepower. It was now the first Post-War
Mercedes to utilize an engine larger than 3 liters, and the new V-8
engine only weighed 55 pounds more than the 6-cylinder engines
which preceded it.
At the time of its design, Mercedes-Benz's theory was to design the
vehicle from the inside out, focusing on the passenger compartment
first and the occupant's comfort and safety is the primary focus.
This in turn resulted in their exquisite and spacious interiors,
lined throughout with fine leather, metal, and wood and meticulous
detailing throughout, as well as safety considerations that were
not found in the vast majority of other automobiles of the period.
Standard equipment included leather interior, rosewood fascia, air
conditioning, radio, and an automatic transmission. The face-lifted
exterior received several changes to modernize the aging design,
including a lower and wider front grille, updated front and rear
bumpers modified with rubber strips, and the rear tail light lenses
were now a flatter and cleaner design. The convertible top required
nearly 16 hours of hand labor to be constructed and was fully
lined, measuring nearly 1.5" thick and providing superior
insulation and soundproofing when closed.
This example is from the last year of production and underwent a
very high-level nut and bolt restoration in 2003 by marque
specialist Jurgen Klockemann of San Jose, California. It was
repainted in the previous color of Dark Olive (DB291) some 11 years
after its initial restoration and still presents in flawless
condition. Mechanically, the 280 SE is in excellent condition- the
electric convertible top folds and raises smoothly and without
hesitation, the factory air conditioning blows cold, and the M116
V8 engine has ample torque and power across the entire RPM
The W111 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet was an extremely
desirable model when it was released over 50 years ago, and is
still coveted by enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike.