1971 Mercedes 280SE 3.5 Coupe: This rust free numbers matching two owner car runs and drives excellent and is in great condition. One of the last hand-built production automobiles to come from Mercedes-Benz. Many astute collectors feel that 280SE 3.5 coupes are among the most collectible cars of the era.
Two Owner Car History: In 1971 I was four years old and our family bought Saga Hedlund’s 1967 250SE coupe as she was moving to Finland. Importing a used car into Finland was more expensive at the time than bringing in a new car so she bought this 1971 3.5 coupe new from European Motors LTD on 1740 Van Ness Ave San Francisco California and immediately had it shipped over to Finland. Saga kept extensive documents including the original sales person’s card and first trip permit, and show the car’s use in Finland with registrations and maintenance records (see photos). The owner’s manual is the nicest one I have ever seen I don’t think it was ever touched till I pulled it out last week. Our family drove Saga’s 1967 250SE coupe for 17 years and it was one of the cars I learned to drive on. Fast forward 25years to 1996 and the 1971 3.5 coupe had returned to Oregon after Saga past away and was in her son’s possession. By lucky chance I got in contact with him and went to look at the car in Grants Pass Oregon. I bought it on the spot. I have owned the car since 1996. Saga had the car painted in Finland from the original tobacco brown (423 H 1968-1971) to a lighter cream color, although it was a high quality paint job it was not my favorite color. After driving it for a few years I had the car painted to show quality standards in (571H) red. I am a stickler for originality but since the car had already had a color change I felt ok picking a color I liked. These cars were only made for less than two years from August 1969 to July 1971. Only 3,270 coupes were ever built, this car's built date is November 1970. Never been hit, never any rust, total history from new and is in amazing condition, a real pleasure to own and drive.
Engine & Transmission: The mechanics on this car are very well sorted. The automatic transmission shifts smoothly and the alloy M116 V-8 engine starts immediately and runs strong. The car has been maintained very well over the years. While I have owned the car it has been serviced by Burback Motors in Portland Oregon. All gauges work, turn signals, fog lamps, and lights work as they should. The car is responsive and nimble and enjoys long-distance cruising. The Bosch electronic fuel injection works excellent. This is a great example that is ready to drive and enjoy.
Body: This rust free car has an extremely solid. The body is straight with no dents or waviness and has excellent gaps. The car has never been hit. All glass is in exceptional shape no chips or cracks. The driver side rear window has a scratch in it that must be from the power window mechanism as I have seen the exact same thing on several coupes in exactly the same place. The larger yellow fog lamps were mandatory in Finland for seeing Reindeer at night so they were installed when the car was new. I had the car painted (571H Red). I have a high standard for paint and am use to looking at Pebble Beach quality cars. The finish is superb, deep and lustrous and free of imperfections. I would grade the paint a 9 on a scale from 1-10. All the chrome is exceptional no pitting. The rubber is fresh (front and rear window gaskets replaced when I had it painted) and all lenses are great. The trunk area is very nice and solid as well as the spare tire compartment and the bottom of the rear fenders have never had any rust. The trunk mat is original and in great shape. Saga’s son had chrome fender arches installed and put chrome bundt style wheels on the car. It came with the original vented steel rims and hubcaps which I put back on the car and removed the chrome wheel arches. This car has been stored in a temperature controlled garage all its life on both sides of the globe. It comes with the original 280SE-specific jack, tools, and correct vented steel rim spare tire. The underside is solid and untampered (see photos). I have taken great care owning this car over the years.
Interior: The beautiful original leather interior is clean and in very nice condition. The original hand-assembled level of quality is still very apparent. The wood is in very good condition with some slight fading on the dash parts. The door skins are very nice as well as the armrests. The chrome bits in the interior are like new. All the gauges work as they should with exception of the clock. The radio is the correct original small chassis Becker that was fitted specifically for these coupes/cabs with a speaker in the front and one in the back. The car has a 90’s Sony CD changer in the trunk and an FM transmitter in the front that taps into the original system. The lovely black steering wheel is mint. The base of the driver seat was replaced, I have sourced an original 1971 3.5 coupe seat base (comes with sale) with the idea of replacing it but have not done so since the seat is comfortable and fine. Turn signals work as they should. The original carpet is great. Equipped with Behr air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, electric windows. The headliner on this car is very nice. This car is easy to use in modern traffic and I never get tired of looking at the dash, it is a treat every time I look at it.
Interesting Note: In the documentation that came with the car there is an article on Saga and her husband Nils in the local Terjärv Finland paper with a photo of them both standing next to the car on the front page. The article states that Steve McQueen drove Saga’s 3.5 coupe. I have always enjoyed knowing that he sat behind the wheel, it’s already a fun car to drive and this makes even more enjoyable.
Summary: This is a solid example of a classic Mercedes-Benz. These extremely comfortable tourers are considered highly usable classics continuing a tradition of handcrafted quality and superior engineering. This example is perfect for cruising during the week and taking to car shows on the weekend, an exceptional numbers matching example with full documented history.