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The W111 Mercedes-Benz coupes and cabriolets were launched in 1961 as sophisticated variations of the then-current fintail sedans. Largely crafted by hand, their two-door styling remains timeless. The cabriolet design looked as good with the top down as raised – not always the case with lined canvas tops. The top folded neatly into a recess behind the rear seat, with a boot covering the fabric.
Initially powered by the 2,195 cc six-cylinder engine as the 220 SE, and the 2,996 cc six-cylinder in the 300 SE, the W111 was transformed by the new 3.5-liter overhead-cam V-8 in 1969, which was developed for the next generation of Mercedes-Benz cars. The new V-8 produced more than 1 hp per cubic inch and was capable of exceeding 125 mph in comfort. All of the 3.5-engined cars featured the updated low-grille design.
The Cabriolet offered is believed to have been sold new in California, as it carries the nontransferable blue 1971-series license plate “052 DNS.” The consignor has owned the car for six years, purchasing it from Heritage Classics in West Hollywood, California. Past owners include Southern California television producer Bradley Bell.
This handsomely appointed Cabriolet is one of 1,026 280 SE convertibles and coupes sold in the US in 1971, and one of comparatively few with the highly desirable floor-shift option. As a US delivery model, the Cabriolet is fitted with Behr factory air-conditioning, power steering, power disc brakes, power windows, and the correct Becker Europa radio.
The Cabriolet shows an excellent refinish in its original Tobacco Brown (DB 423) with a well-presented Cognac leather interior, and the original wood interior trim has been beautifully restored. The exterior appears especially sharp, with superb panel fit, chrome, and trim. Both the Haartz cloth convertible top and boot are new, and the trunk is superbly presented.
This Cabriolet is a matching-numbers example per the factory build record, and indicates 59,000 miles. The engine was rebuilt in 2009 by the esteemed marque authority Scott Melnick of Calabasas, California, and has covered only about 5,000 miles since the work was performed. More recently, further maintenance was conducted, including attention to the undercarriage; a rebuilt differential; a radiator and air-conditioning service; and an engine compartment refresh. The 280 SE has been kept in use by the consignor as a recreational driver, maintained as necessary, and is accompanied by the original tool roll, jack, and owner’s manual.
Comfortable in modern traffic, the 280 SE 3.5 Coupes and Cabriolets are the last of their breed and are widely regarded as true modern classics. The new owner of this outstanding longtime California-based Cabriolet will have much to enjoy.