Produced between 1972 and 1980, the W116 was the first car from Mercedes to officially bear the name “S-class.” Representing the pinnacle of luxury, safety and German engineering in the period, American customers could choose from several gasoline-powered V8s: a 3.5 liter unit in the 350SE/L, a 4.5 liter unit in the 450 SE/L and a gargantuan 6.9 liter unit in the infamous, high performance 6.9 SEL. But in Europe, the car was also available in base spec as the 280S, powered by a carbureted (rather than fuel injected) version of the M110 2.8 liter straight six.
Believe it or not, at the beginning of W126 Mercedes-Benz S-class production, you could still spec one of these luxury sedans with a carbureted engine. Built from the beginning of production up to the 1985 facelift, a little over 42,000 280S models with the M110 inline-6 were manufactured, none of which were sold new in the US market. This 280S for sale in Aachen, Germany has yet to break the 30,000 mile mark and comes equipped with features not commonly seen in US spec W126s, such as cloth interior, rear crank windows and a 4-speed manual gearbox. With prices trending upward on all W126 variants, an extremely well-preserved example is a tempting proposition, no matter how base level the spec might be.
Even though it’s old enough to be considered a classic, the W116 Mercedes-Benz S –class seems to lack the following that its predecessor, the W108 or its successor, the W126, have garnered. Today, we’ll take a look at two W116s which appear similar on the surface, due to their golden huge, but are, in fact, rather different. First up is this 280S for sale in Germany equipped with a 4-speed manual gearbox, a combination we never saw here in the US market.
It’s pretty amazing when generations of cars come together in value; right now, there are 4 generations of Mercedes-Benz S-class models that all seem to hit market for around the same amount. From the beginnings of the “Sonder” Class Mercedes with the W116 through the W220 cars that are only just over a generation old, there’s a tremendous amount of luxury available in these super sedans and coupes. So what would be your choice? We’ll go by age this time, starting with the W116:
Base model luxury sedan. A contradiction in terms, no? But, as the old saying goes, the world needs ditch diggers, too. And so it goes with the Mercedes-Benz S class. One model is going to have to be labeled as the “entry-level” model, so to speak. In the 1970s, that would be the 280S, a W116 with a dual carb version of the M110 inline-6. While not sold on these shores, naturally a few found their way over here via private importers. This one for sale in Florida is an eye popping shade of Signal Red with matching hubcaps and sans sunroof that comes with an interesting history.
If you had to sum up the Mercedes-Benz W123 in one word, it would probably be “honest.” This is a car that just goes about its business without a lot of fuss. Sure, it carries the cache of having the Three Pointed Star sitting on its bonnet, but glitz and glam isn’t what this car is about. This is perhaps one of the most durable vehicles the planet has ever seen, especially the diesel variants, which are known for covering hundreds of thousands of miles with ease. No surprise, then, that you still see these cars pressed into service all over the world. While I wouldn’t mind the diesel, this 5-speed manual 230E for sale in the Netherlands is grabbing my attention, as many of the manual transmission W123s were 4-speeds.
Engine: 2.3 liter inline four
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 43,096 km (26,778 miles)
Price: €14,800 (~ $19,142 USD)
A 230E from first owner of southern France, with the rarely ordered 5 speed gearbox. Car is in a perfectly maintained condition. Complete first paint with minimal wear, perfect and untouched interior. Options are tinted glass, radio / cassette, central armrest, right mirror and central locking system. Well documented history with numerous maintenance bills, invoice and order as well as many technical inspection reports.
This particular seller has some really nice cars in their inventory, which, unsurprisingly, aren’t priced cheap. Ultra low mileage or restored diesel W123s have been commanding strong prices, especially the estate models. At almost $20,000, this is serious money, but this is a rather uncommon W123 with very low mileage. Any buyers in the US would have to really want a W123 in this specification to outlay the cash for importation costs. It’s nice to sit here, though, and know that some of these late model W123s are still out there in exceptional condition. This is certainly a car I could see driving all the way to my grave.
This car is from down under in more ways then one. It hails from Australia, but there also is quite a lot of under world connections with this beast.
From the description it looks like this started life off as a proper hearse, but a new owner has gone all out with custom work to turn it into a head turner. Fancy mural work all over, neon lighting, big subwoofer, full size casket with skeleton, this thing has some fun possibilities.
With the under hood work being a fairly standard Mercedes 2.8 liter 6 cylinder maintenance to keep it running shouldn’t be too “scary,” despite having covered 128,000 miles.
The ask price is just under $13,000 U.S.
Spooky awesome. Just in time for Halloween!!