There are not many automobiles on the road that are 50 years old and yet are still heralded as classics. To have turned a half century and still appear as fresh and new as when they first rolled off the production line. 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 Coupe is one of them. This German thoroughbred is impeccable in all categories: engine; handling; interior & exterior.
Jay Lenos Garage: Jay takes us on a tour of his 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SE that is the last of the coach built cars.
But even for its time, the model of Mercedes did not come cheap. Almost double the price of comparative automobiles (Cadillac & Rolls Royce), the 280SE 3.5 retailed at US$13-14,000 which in today’s valuation is more then $83,000. But. considering the high level of reliability provided by the German coachmaker, the cost was definitely justified.
These cars have surged in value over the years due to their desirability and their scarcity. since they were only built for two years between 1969 and 1971 Only 4,500 models were made (3270 coupe & 1232 convertible) which makes them all collector’s items now. Even Mercedes Benz recognizes this and some can be found in their ‘All Time Stars’ program. This is where you can purchase, direct from the German manufacturer, classic refurbished automobiles. Recently, they were offering a soft top 280SE at half a million US dollars.
Teutonic Power Under the Hood
This 1972 Mercedes 280SE 4.5 is a stunning example of the golden era of full-size Mercedes sedans. It is a two-owner vehicle with records going back to brand new, and with only 70,000 miles on it, in shockingly good condition. It feels solid as a tank, and is magnificent to drive. Its owner, Werner, is a character on his own, and you won't believe what he paid for such a wonderful classic that he uses as his daily driver in Los Angeles.
The engineers from Stuttgart were able to create their first coupe with an engine bigger than three liters. For this final model of the 280SE they installed a 3.5 liter V8 that had an output of 197 bhp and 211 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration from 0-60 mph was 9.5 seconds for the manual gearbox and 11.5 seconds for the 4-speed automatic transmission (which came as standard in most models). An impressive top speed of 130 mph could be achieved with the manual and the automatic could reach 127 mph.
Driving at high speed and there is very little engine noise inside the cabin while the gauges show that the oil pressure and water temperature remain quite stable. While the Bosch fuel injection system ensured smooth engine running.
Despite the car’s weight reaching two tonnes, it was still very responsive on the road. Steering the big car at speed through corners did not yield any issues of drift and only experiencing minimal under steer. The driving position is at a premium, with a comfortable seat that provides a commanding view of the road and unhindered by well positioned A pillars. Braking was assured and controlled, even when making adjustments mid-turn.
Mercedes Timeless Luxury
The Mercedes interior is impeccably laid out with rich leather upholstery on the bench backseat and the front two seats with armrests. Well padded cushions ensure good support and a comfortable ride over long periods. The dash is awash with immaculately varnished wood that runs across the front of the cabin. As befitting the time, the consul is minimal by today’s standards. A compact dashboard with the speedometer and tachometer and the essential gauges in between them.
A car radio (from the German supplier, Becker) and a clock complete the controls while a sizeable glove compartment, with a door made completely from wood, is located at the other end of the dashboard.
1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 Cabriolet Drive & Review.
For the American market, an entire air conditioning unit was installed, that was mounted below the radio. But only the two vents from the unit control the climate and, as reported at the time, the noise of the air con at high level was more noisy than the V8 engine itself.
The exterior bodywork was exquisitely proportioned as the long hood and trunk were balanced by the size of the cabin. Epitomized by its era, the car was dressed front to back with chrome. From the bumpers and distinctive Mercedes radiator grille down to the piping and accents along the side of the car. The styling was rounded off by the hubcaps that matched the car’s paintwork and inscribed with the iconic logo.
Mercedes Benz 280SE a True Classic Car
From the time this Mercedes motor car drove out of the showroom until the very present, the 280SE 3.5 has proven not only to be one of the best German cars ever produced but one of the most reliable automobiles still to be seen on the roads today.
Truly a German engineering classic.