1971 Mercedes-Benz W111
280SE 3.5 Coupe

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One of the most esoteric post-war Mercedes automobiles is the 280SE 3.5 W111 model.



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Built for a period of less than two years, from August 1969 to July 1971, fewer than 500 of these low grille V-8 Coupes were sold in this country. Carrying a whopping MSRP of $14,509.00 half a century ago, this should come as no surprise. Squarely placed in Rolls Royce Corniche territory, those who could afford the best were fortunate if they could even obtain a 3.5 from their local Mercedes Benz dealer, such was the exclusivity of this amazing motorcar.

The 'Illustrated Mercedes Benz Buyer's Guide' by Lee Gohlike states on page 95:

The 280SE 3.5, with its combination of superb performance and elegant styling is one of the most desirable Mercedes-Benzes.

Lee has been proven correct in his prediction. A very nice 3.5 Coupe now demands close to $200,000, totally out of reach for those of us who have to work for a living.

But do not dispair. This 'un, a solid, rust free driver, can be adopted for only $59,500. It has a few needs, but nothing that can't be done step by step during the winter months, with a substantial potential increase in value waiting on the other side.

Manufactured in April of 1970, VIN *11.026-12-001140* is the 1,140th car built. It is titled as a 1971 model.

It's an all matching numbers car, Silvermetallic (code # 180) over a dark blue full leather interior.

In 1969, the 3.5-liter power plant introduced the "engine of tomorrow" for Mercedes. Highly advanced, Mercedes' first V-8 featured overhead camshafts, electronic fuel injection, and transistorized ignition. Output was rated at 200 DIN horsepower, good for a top speed of 127 mph and 0-60 times of 8.9 seconds.

This 'un is clean like a whistle and rests inside an equally clean engine compartment.

Since the engine had a "miss" when we received it, we performed a compression test, using our German MotoMeter compression writer to document the readings.
Compression is an equal 11 Kg/cm2 on all 8 cyclinders. (We slipped on the last one and redid it with a conventional screw-in tester.)

We then did a major tune-up, changed oil and filters, replaced all spark plugs, distributor cap, the rotor, and the condensor. Furthermore we changed both front brake calipers, the brake pads, and the front brake hoses. We also replaced the cracked exhaust rubber donuts.

The motor runs like a champ now, not surprising given its low mileage.

The body is rust free and straight. Body lines and door gaps are decent but not perfect. Mercedes "Bundt" alloys in 6x14 were available as an option. We personally would switch those out for steelies with hubcaps.

Paint quality is very good throughout, except for the trunk lid.

Straight body, no waves, superb brightwork.

Same on the left side.

Left rear window isn't working. Our German mechanic Helmut traced it to a defective window switch.

Solid doors, tight, not hanging, no rust, with all generously applied chrome fittings in great condition.

Both door panels carry their original, VAT-dyed Roser leather.

Original, white needle-point headliner is in undamaged and in great condition throughout.

However, there's some staining around the front vanity light.

Dashboard is in great condition, with a single rip in the vinyl above the tach.

All the wood fittings are nicely preserved, except for the wood that frames the windshield. Those pieces need to be refurbished. Leading expert Madera Concepts in Goleta will do this to concours standard for about $1,500.

Black ocean-liner steering wheel, padded horn button and chromed horn ring are all suberbly preserved.

California title states that the mileage of now 49,495 is the "original mileage." However, since we do not have documentation supporting this, your guess is as good as ours on whether that's accurate.

Front seats have received new Roser leather covers in the not too distant past.

They are as perfect as they come.

Seat backs are also cladded in leather.

Floor pans are original, with zero corrosion evident.

Leather on rear seat is original . . .

. . . and exceptionally well preserved.

Speakers on the package shelf are original; they came with the Becker AM/FM Europa stereo that's still installed. It works flawlessly.

Deck lid has been repainted, and it's not a good match to the rest of the car.

Cavernous, rust free trunk. Rubber trunk mat is M.I.A.

Factory jack and tools.

Windshield surrounds.


Undercarriage is as rust free as the rest of the car.

Floor pans still show some of the original Cosmoline wax.

Undercarriage details . . .

On August 28, we took the mighty W111 Coupe out on a quick photo shoot. Afterward, we drove it home to Ojai and used it all weekend.

The car starts instantly and falls into a mellow idle. It runs and drives great, but gear changes are not as optimal as they should be, indicating that a trans service with new filters is in order.

Once on the move, the car humms along happily. At freeways speed it's gliding along like a swan on the lake.

If you are looking for a top-notch 3.5 Coupe, this car won't fit the bill. But if you'd like a driver quality car that you can improve slowly as time and budget allows, you've found it. We will continue working on this car, and consequently will have to adjust the price upward.

Opportunity knocks; are you ready to answer?


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You are most welcome to inspect this fine automobile at our location in Ventura, by appointment, or have someone inspect it for you.
Please, direct all inquiries to info@californiaclassix.com or call us at 805-792-9797.