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The 280 SE of 1971 marked the end of an era for Mercedes-Benz. The sedans, coupes, and elegant convertibles were largely crafted by hand, and the quality of these cars remains legendary. The year 1972 brought major changes to production methods and completely redesigned cars, but the V-8 engine that was designed to increase US sales in the future was ready to create a few special gems for the outgoing line.
The beautiful 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet presented here is a true standout among its peers, having been ordered with the now-coveted floor-shift option and, as an American-bound car, factory-fitted air-conditioning, leather interior, and power windows were standard equipment. According to extensive records, during the 20-year ownership by a Pennsylvania collector, this well-kept 3.5 underwent a thorough restoration by Ultracar in Denver, Pennsylvania, that commenced at the beginning of December 1987. Receipts spanning over three years and totaling over $75,000, record each aspect of the restoration and indicate that the engine was thoroughly tested before the car was disassembled and the body was stripped and repaired as necessary. The interior wood was refinished to a high standard, and the carpet and upholstery were re-trimmed with correct materials, changing the interior color to Parchment. Enhancing the beauty of the design, the exterior was finished in non-metallic baked enamel close to its original red-metallic hue (DB 571).
Having seen extremely limited use since the completion of the restoration over 20 years ago, the result of the multiyear effort is truly spectacular and the 280 SE remains in competitive show condition today. The inner fenders, suspension components, engine compartment, and the entire underside are worthy of close inspection as they appear virtually spotless, displaying a high level of detail and factory-style finishes. The 3.5 is said to exhibit the robust power and excellent road manners that are hallmarks of these handcrafted luxury machines.
Since 2012, this striking 3.5 Cabriolet has resided in a prominent Southern California collection. During its tenure, it has received expert care and maintenance as necessary to keep it looking fresh and performing smoothly, including replacement of the fuel pump and minor mechanical adjustments. The car has been shown just twice in the past several years, garnering a Best in Class Award at the Dallas Autorama and runner-up Best in Show behind a 300 SL Gullwing at a Dallas Mercedes-Benz meet in 2011.
This remarkable and rare 1971 280 SE 3.5 Convertible presents as one of the finest surviving examples of the last Mercedes-Benz four-passenger cabriolet built until 1993. Comfortable in today’s traffic as well as stylish and sporty, it is truly deserving of the term “modern classic.”