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The Mercedes-Benz 280 SE series of the late 1960s and early 1970s is best described as hand-built, exclusive, manufactured to the highest standards, and made with the best possible materials. When Mercedes-Benz decided to add a V-8-powered coupe and cabriolet to the lineup of six-cylinder cars, effortless performance joined the list of praiseworthy attributes. Both new models, along with their smaller-engined brethren, boasted clean, restyled bodywork devoid of excessive brightwork.
The most significant offering, however, was the new Type M116 over-square 3.5-liter V-8 breathing through aluminum cylinder heads and a Bosch D-Jetronic fuel-injection system. This compact but powerful single-overhead-cam powerplant – called the “engine of tomorrow” by Mercedes-Benz executives – was designed to meet both European and the very stringent California emissions standards with equal poise, utilizing sodium-cooled exhaust valves, specially hardened valve seats, and a transistorized ignition system for longevity. It produced 230 hp at 6,000 rpm and 211 lbs./ft at 4,000 rpm, sufficient to move its 3,500 lbs. down the highway very swiftly and achieve a maximum of approximately 125 mph, where laws and conditions allowed. This Mercedes- Benz offered a very comfortable ride with all-independent coil-spring suspension, and its large vacuum-assisted four-wheel disc brakes, now mounted behind 14"-diameter wheels, were capable of propelling this 4/5- seat convertible down from any speed with alacrity. The fully lined convertible top offered quiet and comfortable touring in adverse weather conditions.
Considered by many to have become a classic from the day it was introduced, the W111 Series 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet is rare – only 1,232 were built, versus 3,270 coupes – and is much sought-after today. When new, 280 SE 3.5 prices began at $13,430 POE. That was enough at the time, noted reviewer Aaron Severson, to buy a Porsche 911 and a new Mustang. This model marked a change for the German automaker; and new and more efficient assembly lines would produce an ever-growing variety of automobiles, perfectly welded and painted to be sure, but perhaps with less of the bespoke approach that marked their predecessors.
This attractive 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet has been in the family of a longtime Mercedes-Benz enthusiast and collector since late November 2009, when it was acquired from Heritage Classics Motor Company in West Hollywood, California. Its odometer read 71,810 miles at the time of purchase, and the cabriolet has only recorded approximately 2,250 miles since. This Mercedes-Benz is finished in an attractive light blue with matching wheel covers and parchment leather upholstery. Its plush interior features the rarely seen and desirable console-mounted floor shift. In addition to a Becker stereo radio, this 280 SE 3.5 is accompanied by tools and manuals. Not to be missed, the presentation of this Mercedes-Benz is an opportunity to own a handsome, versatile, and well-appointed example of a luxury automobile hailed as a classic from the day it first appeared.