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They’ll never be another Mercedes-Benz like the W116 S-Class. In the late 1960s when these were developed, the philosophy was just different. I’m really not trying to be the “They don’t make them like they used to!” guy, but these were just built differently. Bank vault-like doors are replaced by doors where closing as softly as possible is the goal. Don’t get me wrong, I love new cars and would absolutely love a new S-Class, but a properly sorted W116 is just so satisfying. That explains why I still have one in my modest collection.
Today’s car, a 1977 280SE up for sale in California, pre-dates the 300SD turbodiesel and is the little brother to the 450SEL and legendary 6.9. It isn’t a powerful car by any means, but sturdiness and longevity is the name of the game here. Which is probably why we are still checking it out some 46 years later.
Update 11/17/19: This 280SE sold for ask – $3,692.
For as many really cool cars that I take a look at that have price tags north of $50,000 and a lot of times even $100,000, there are still some cars out there for almost no money at all and not because they’ve been sitting at a bottom of lake and/or running on two cylinders. Case in point, today’s car, a 1984 Mercedes-Benz 280SE. This is a German-market car that was never sold in the US and is as bottom of the range as you can get in the W126 hierarchy. Cloth interior, manual climate control, manual rear windows, and a not-so-powerful (but trusty) inline-six gas engine. Still, this is bottom of the barrel price for what looks like a really clean car. How can you say no?
It doesn’t get more quintessential classic Mercedes-Benz sedan than the W108 and W109 chassis. The vertical grille matched with the vertical headlights, that is all grafted onto a body of simple and square contours. None of the proportions are too big or too small, and all the angles are consistent. There is nothing offensive on this car to be found. Thankfully, the quality is as good as the looks. Stay on top of things, and they are built to last generations. Today’s car, a 1970 280SE up for sale in Switzerland, is a perfect example of that. It has never been restored and hasn’t been locked away in a bubble, just used as needed and meticulously looked after. Even better, it has a nice little ownership story of the diplomatic variety.
I love a good ownership story as much as the next person. The majority of the time, they have some kind of celebrity tie simply because the nature of the cars we deal with. We’ve done Lennon, Elvis (twice), actual kings, the Great One, Sweetness, Air Jordan, and both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. For every giant name, there are not so giant names that still have a great story behind them. Today’s car, a 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 4.5 up for sale in Colorado, is one of those stories.
This W108 was purchased new by the seller’s mother in July 1973 to park beside her 450SL where she proudly posed for photos looking very stylish in proper 1970s clothing. It has remained with her ever since and she still takes occasional rides in it at the ripe old age of 102. It isn’t a pristine example or even a very nice one, but I really don’t have much of a problem with that. To keep a car over 45 years and continue driving it over that time is no easy feat, even for something as solid as a W108. Sadly, the time has come for this car to find a new loving home for the next 45 years. I just wish I was closer.
The glorious run of the Mercedes-Benz W108 and W109 wrapped up production in 1972 to make way for the W116 that launched the S-Class name. Except for us lucky North Americans who got another model year of the W108 and W109 in 1973. I think the fine people at Mercedes probably just wanted to dump the last of the remaining stock across the ocean because what are buyers really going to do about it? Get on the internet in 1973 to complain about it? That leads me to today’s car. This 1973 280SE 4.5 up for sale in New Jersey isn’t perfect and has a few flaws, but that is the beauty of this one.