This is a 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 that was delivered new to England, but has been living in France since the 1980s. It was recently discovered after spending 15 years sitting in a garage in the winemaking region of Burgundy, and it’s now being offered for sale.

The 280SE 3.5 was the top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz luxury coupe in the late 60s and early 70s, it was powered by the then-new M116 3,499cc V8, and its closest competitor was the similarly two-doored and V8-powered Rolls-Royce Corniche.

Fast Facts – The Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5

  • This 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5, originally delivered to England, has been residing in France since the 1980s. It was recently discovered in a garage in Burgundy, where it had been sitting for 15 years. The car is now up for auction.
  • The 280SE 3.5 was a top-of-the-line luxury coupe from Mercedes-Benz, debuting in 1969 with a new M116 3.5-liter V8 engine. It was designed to compete with the V8-powered Rolls-Royce Corniche, and is remembered as one of Mercedes’ greatest luxury coupes.
  • The W111 platform underpinned the 280SE 3.5, featuring steel unibody construction, independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and options for manual or automatic transmissions. The interior was luxurious by the standards of the time, with leather seats, wood trim, and modern conveniences like air conditioning and a radio.
  • The car for sale here is a rare right-hand drive model sold in Britain before being moved to France. It has not run for 15 years due to a broken headlight, not mechanical failure. It will be auctioned by Aguttes on June 23, with an estimated price of €15,000 – €30,000 (approximately $16,050 to $32,100 USD).

The Mercedes-Benz W111 Coupes

The Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 made its debut in 1969 and there was no small amount of confusion surrounding the name. You see, the 280SE was a pre-existing model powered by a 2.8 liter inline-six cylinder engine, but the newer 280SE 3.5 was powered by the brand new Mercedes M116 V8 with a 3.5 liter displacement, leaving many to wonder why it wasn’t simply called the 350SE.

Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 Vintage Advertisement

Image DescriptionThe new Mercedes M116 3,499cc V8 gave the cars in the W111 series the power they needed, and the fitment of this engine made them among the most desirable luxury coupes in the world at the time. Image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz.

The unusual naming conventions of Mercedes-Benz aside, the 280SE 3.5 is now remembered as one of the greatest luxury coupes ever made by the German marque, and the convertible version would be produced in lower numbers than what is arguably the most famous Mercedes two-door of all time – the 300SL Gullwing.

The 280SE 3.5 was based directly on the Mercedes-Benz W111 platform, which had debuted in four-door sedan form in 1959, then in coupe form in 1961. The coupe was more subtle than the sedan, without the noticeable tail fins and with less in the way of external chrome trim. The styling was done by Paul Bracq, and it would prove highly influential on the Mercedes designs that would follow.

The first coupe on the W111 platform would be the Mercedes 220SE, which was followed a few months later by the convertible model which was identical in almost everyday, save of course, for the folding roof which fit in behind the rear seats when not in use.

Power was provided by the 2,195 cc M127 engine which offered a modest 118 bhp. This was soon followed by the M189-powered 300SE with an inline-six offering a more reasonable 170 bhp. This was joined by the 2.5 liter 250SE which replaced the 220SE in 1965, now offering 150 bhp. Finally in 1967 the 280SE debuted with a displacement of 2.8 liters and 160 bhp.

The Arrival Of The 280SE 3.5

Given the 3,623 lb curb weight of the car (1,643 kgs), some felt that the W111 coupes needed more power. Mercedes did have larger engines in production, however given the tax penalties for engines over 3.0 liters in many European nations at the time, it was deemed imprudent put any of them into a luxury coupe.

That is, until 1969, when the new M116 3.5 liter V8 would find its way into the engine bay of the W111 coupe, creating the 280SE 3.5.

Mercedes-Benz 280SE Brochure

Image DescriptionWith such low production numbers, the surviving examples of the Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5, in both coupe and convertible form, are now highly sought after. Image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz.

The car featured the same underpinnings as the other models in the series, with steel unibody construction, independent front and rear suspension, four wheel disc brakes, and your choice of either manual or automatic transmissions.

The interior of the 280SE 3.5 was opulent by any measure, with elegant leather upholstered seats front and back, thick carpeting, wood trim, air conditioning, a radio, more than adequate trunk space for the family to take a cross-continent holiday.

A period review of the car from 1970 in Car & Driver magazine noted that Rudolf Uhlenhaut had been involved in its engineering. Uhlenhaut was one of the most famous and revered engineers at Mercedes through much of the 1950s, 1960s, and into the 1970s, and he had been there in the United States on hand to explain the car in some detail to the waiting American motoring journalists.

This 3.5 liter V8 was good for a claimed 230 bhp and 231 lb ft of torque according to this review, far more respectable figures for such a solidly built luxury coupe, and the journalist in question got their car up to over 120 mph on public highways with little effort (Nevada had no speed limit on open roads at the time).

By the time production ceased in 1971, Mercedes had sold 3,270 examples of the coupe and 1,232 examples of the convertible. Today they’re highly prized by both collectors and enthusiasts, and Mercedes offer them for sale through their All Time Stars program, in restored condition.

The 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 Shown Here

The car you see here is a recent find, still covered in plenty of dust to prove it, that was discovered in a stone and cinder block two-car garage in the Burgundy region of France. Unusually, this car is right hand drive, very few were delivered from the factory like this, and this particular example was sold new in Britain in 1971.

Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 Barn Find 3

Image DescriptionThe driver’s seat of the Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 was said to be one of the most commanding of its kind at the time, and the car could handily outperform the Rolls-Royce Corniche.

It was shipped to France in the 1980s, for reasons unknown as it’s a left hand drive country. The same owner still possesses the car and they have now decided to offer it for sale. The listing notes that the reason they parked the car 15 years ago was not for a mechanical breakdown, but because of accidental breakage to the headlight.

The car is now due to roll across the auction block with Aguttes on the 23rd of June with a price guide of €15,000 – €30,000, or approximately $16,050 to $32,100 USD. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.

*We missed the auction date due to a scheduling error, this car sold for €33,844 when the hammer fell.

Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 Barn Find 1 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 Barn Find 2

Images courtesy of Aguttes

Published by Ben Branch -