'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 was not only $3,500 more than that of the equivalent Mercedes-Benz sedan, but also more than double that of a Cadillac Deville Coupe!
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 automatic transmission 280SE 3.5 is finished in Navy Blue with Magnolia interior. One of 1,232 examples produced, the car comes with a copy of its factory data card confirming that it was completed in right-hand drive configuration for the UK market. Ordered with blue soft-top and electric windows, it is one of only 68 right-hand drive cabriolets produced by the factory, being first registered in London in June 1970 as 'BGP 11H'.
'Sound but tired' when acquired by marque aficionado Stewart Imber circa 2000, the car was treated to a bare-metal repaint at M&A Coachworks, Highgate, as part of a total restoration using new and genuine M-B parts. The interior was re-trimmed to 'Rolls-Royce' quality using correct-colour leather, and the engine and gearbox despatched to Germany by marque specialists TM Motors of West Molesey, Surrey (Tony Montalbano) for a thorough overhaul prior to refitting. Other noteworthy features include power-assisted steering, Behr air conditioning (sourced in the USA and overhauled in the UK) and fitted luggage from Germany. In October 2001 the Mercedes was bought at auction by one David Andrew Barany, passing in February 2011 to the current vendor, who is now reducing his collection prior to moving house. Only 9,000 miles have been covered since restoration. Described as in generally excellent condition, this rare and supremely elegant modern-era Mercedes-Benz is offered with current road fund licence, MOT to June 2014 and Swansea V5C registration document.