Motor City

25 July 2015

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Lot 119

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Coupe

  • Chassis no. 111.026.12.001787

Sold for $121,000


230 bhp, 3,499 cc OHV V-8 engine with Bosch electronic fuel injection, four-speed automatic transmission, independent front suspension with unequal-length control arms and anti-sway bar, independent rear suspension with low-pivot swing axle and trailing arms, and four-wheel power hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 108.3 in.

  • Desirable 3.5 engine and floor-shift transmission
  • Beautiful recent cosmetic restoration; fine condition throughout
  • An ideal, stylish, and modern grand tourer


By 1969, production of the finback sedans was finally ending, having been supplanted by the new W108/109 chassis models several years earlier, but the decision was made to continue producing the hand-built coupes on the W111 chassis, although with a V-8 engine to keep pace with competitors in the U.S. luxury market. A 3.5-liter powerplant, designated M116, was developed using a cast-iron block for rigidity, economy, and better sound damping, and it featured cross-flow wedge cylinder heads with rocker-operated valves, which were driven by a single overhead camshaft per bank. The cams were chain-driven for a long life. Bosch transistorized the ignition, and electronic fuel injection was utilized. AutoCar, the British magazine, called it “a copybook example of how experience plus careful design can create a simple-to-make high-output engine of considerable refinement.” American buyers just called it fast and fun.

In Mercedes’ sometimes confusing model nomenclature, which is usually but not always based on engine capacity, the new model was designated 280 SE 3.5 to distinguish it from its six-cylinder counterpart. Production of the model began in August 1969 and continued through to July 1971. In 24 months, total production was 3,270 coupes, making these not only one of the fastest and most interesting Mercedes of their era but also one of the rarest and most expensive.

The example offered here has been beautifully cosmetically restored in correct and enduringly elegant Graubau Metallic (DB 906) over a full Parchment leather interior. Its paint and interior are described as being in excellent condition, with no expense having been spared in returning the seats, carpets, interior panels, and headliner to gorgeous, factory-new condition. The dashboard wood was refinished by Madera Concepts and is nothing short of stunning. All of the car’s chrome is in excellent condition, as is the rubber and original glass, and panel fits are smooth and tight throughout, with no evidence of prior accidents. In addition, the undercarriage and body are rust free.

Desirable features include a sporty floor-shifted automatic transmission, which adds greatly to the élan of driving the car, as do the power windows, heater, Behr air conditioning, and period-correct Becker radio with power antenna. The owner describes the car as being in excellent condition, starting easily, idling consistently, and pulling strongly and smoothly through each of its gears, making it an absolute joy to drive in town or country.

Whether its next owner will be a weekend driver fan of the marque or a collector looking for a worthy addition to a serious collection, this car deserves the consideration of any vintage Mercedes-Benz enthusiast.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more