Lot 11

2016   |   Pebble Beach Auctions 2016

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet

SOLD $297,000


$275,000 - $350,000




Car Highlights

Purchased New by Frank Sinatra for His Daughter Tina
Three California Owners Since New
Strikingly Well-Kept, Floor-Shift Example
Less Than 45,000 Miles Recorded
Late-Production Cabriolet, One of Just 325 Built in 1971

Technical Specs

3,499 CC SOHC V-8 Engine
Bosch D-Jetronic Fuel Injection
230 BHP at 6,000 RPM
4-Speed Automatic Transmission
4-Wheel Servo-Assisted Disc Brakes
4-Wheel Independent Coil-Spring Suspension
Register to Bid

Purchased New by Frank Sinatra for his Daughter TinaChristina Sinatra, Los Angeles, California (acquired new in 1971)Larry Gordon, Southern California (acquired from the above in March 1985)Current Owner (acquired from the above circa 2002)

A total of 1,232 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolets were built for the worldwide market from 1969 to 1971, with just 325 being constructed within the final year. Expensive and exclusive in their day, their timeless design looks as elegant today as when the 3.5s were new, and they are now regarded as modern classics. Sought by collectors and enthusiasts the world over, they are praised for their impeccable road manners and impressive capabilities in modern traffic.

In June 1971, Frank Sinatra and his daughter Tina walked into a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Beverly Hills searching for a car that would become her 23rd birthday gift. Ms. Sinatra recently recalled that her father, who was always very generous, saw to it that she got exactly what she wanted to replace her first car, a powder-blue Pontiac Firebird. When Mr. Sinatra spotted this 280 SE 3.5 and its floor-shift transmission, he immediately asked about the option. As it was a sought-after, extra-cost feature, and the only such car in stock, the deal was struck, and an elated Tina drove her new Mercedes-Benz off the lot.

Ms. Sinatra always loved her Mercedes, she said, and kept it for nearly 15 years. During her ownership, she had the 3.5 registered on personalized license plates reading “ITI,” in a subtle reference to her Italian heritage. She had it painted black following damage it sustained in Palm Springs in 1981, replacing its original Tobacco Brown.

With only about 5,000 miles on its odometer, in 1985 she sold the Cabriolet to her neighbor, well-known Hollywood producer Larry Gordon.

During his ownership, Mr. Gordon retained respected Southern California Mercedes-Benz expert Scott Melnick to service the car. In about 2002, the Cabriolet was acquired by the consignor, and Mr. Melnick has continued to perform all necessary cosmetic and mechanical maintenance, including paint, a conversion of the air-conditioning system to R134a, and a new German canvas soft top.

Currently showing less than 45,000 miles, the 3.5 presents as a car that has been enjoyed and well-maintained. The interior shows very well and remains largely original, with re-varnished burl wood veneers on the dash and windshield posts, and the Cognac leather upholstery shows a rich, inviting patina.

This striking black 3.5 Cabriolet retains its color-keyed Cognac top boot, Becker Europa radio, and a full set of manuals, with many elements, including the embossed-metal ID card, carrying the Sinatra name. As more and more of the remaining 3.5 Cabriolets are restored, it is refreshing to find a well-kept, Southern California example. The fact that it was sold to a family regarded as entertainment royalty only adds to its desirability.