'If you feel obligated to ask about the price you not only will never understand the car, you have branded yourself incapable of ever appreciating its virtues even if someone gave you one.' Car & Driver on the Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5. The fact that the esteemed American motoring magazine felt compelled to remark on the 280SE's price is understandable when one considers that at $13,500 in 1970 it not only cost $3,500 more than the equivalent Mercedes-Benz sedan but also twice as much as a Cadillac Deville Coupé!
The 3.5-litre version of the 280SE typifies the resurgence of larger-engined Mercedes-Benz models that began in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the progressive easing of fiscal constraints, which had dissuaded customers from buying cars with large-capacity engines, encouraged the German manufacturer to offer bigger, more potent power units. Thus the ultra-luxurious 280SE Coupé/Cabriolet and 300SEL saloon were the models chosen by Mercedes-Benz to launch its magnificent new 3.5-litre V8 engine in 1969. An over-square design featuring a cast-iron block and aluminium-alloy cylinder heads, each equipped with a single overhead camshaft, this all-new, state-of-the-art power unit produced 200bhp courtesy of Bosch electronic fuel injection and transistorised ignition. Thus equipped, the Coupé/Cabriolet was good for 125mph with 60mph reachable in 9.5 seconds, a substantial improvement on the six-cylinder version's figures. Although the equivalent SEL saloon used the 'New Generation' bodyshell, the Coupé and Cabriolet kept the elegant coachwork that had debuted back in 1959 on the 220SE and, as befitted top-of-the-range luxury models, came equipped with automatic transmission, air conditioning, power windows and stereo radio as standard. Significantly, the 280SE 3.5 was to be the final model to feature this long-established and much admired body style, and today these last-of-the-line classics are highly sought after by discerning Mercedes-Benz collectors.
This 280SE 3.5 is finished in cream with black leather interior, the latter completely original and nicely patinated. Of the 1,232 examples produced, it is one of only 68 delivered to the UK in right-hand drive configuration. The previous owner bought the car some 23 years ago from well known specialist John Lewis in Heathmans Road, Fulham and used it as a daily driver in the fashionable environs of the King's Road, Chelsea. Never restored, it has always been properly maintained and serviced by marque specialist Steve Redfearn, as evidenced by numerous bills on file. We are advised that the recorded mileage is believed correct and the accompanying paperwork appears to bear this out. The car has recently been subject to an extensive underside restoration, with repairs to a rear wheel arch and both front wings at the same time, and is said to be completely rust free in structurally important areas. Mechanically, 'RBV 793J' has been the subject of a thorough service by (again) Steve Redfearn and has been treated to a new ECU. Taxed, MoT'd and running beautifully, this rare, collectible and supremely elegant modern-era Mercedes-Benz is ready to be driven home and enjoyed. The car is offered with the aforementioned service records and Swansea V5 document.