Another week, another Mercedes with a bunch of strange things that I try to make sense of. This handsome 1978 350SE located in Tennessee caught my attention with its slim euro bumpers and other little details that makes this car stand out from the rest of the pack. So let’s take a look at what makes this W116 so special and a little bit odd.
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.
With our resident Mercedes-Benz expert Paul out of the country, we’re going through a bit of a classic Mercedes-Benz drought here at GCFSB. I’ve tried to fill in a few gaps, but the reality is that Paul has a knack for finding the best examples of the stars from Germany. So until he comes back, you’ll have to make due with our admittedly second-tier examples, two of which we’ll feature today and both of which at W116s. Right now I have a one of the lesser examples – a 1979 350SE. It doesn’t have the big 6.9 motor and it’s not the long wheel base, but it’s a slick Euro model which appears clean – so certainly worth a look:
Prices of the venerable Merc 116s are continually creeping up. 30+ years later and these sedans still can hold their own. Some may say they fall in no man’s land right now. Comfortable daily driver? Classic vintage saloon? Outside of the 6.9 they aren’t that expensive to fix and are easy to maintain.
The car featured here is a rare bird in the states. The Euro only 3.5 liter V8 is lighter on its feet and had a higher compression ratio than the U.S. 4.5 liter V8. Couple that with the shorter wheel base SE model and you have your self a nice little package. The peppy, compact 3.5 liter unit, most believe is one of the better to have tucked under the wood of a W116. If the car had the manual instead of the auto transmission that package would truly be complete.
This being a grey market car it features the body hugging bumpers. Unfortunately, sometime during the federalization process the car got U.S. headlamps and the owner didn’t switch back in the Euro units.
This 350SE has the velour interior, which was common on Euro cars, even the top of the line 6.9. The sunroof is an interesting option, apparently put in instead of air conditioning, note the single dial climate system. The Becker Monza right below the climate controls wasn’t the best looking W116 radio option, the Mexico I think looks better.
Finding one of these in this nice shape, in Euro trim, in the states, with a measly 57,000 miles on the clock does not happen every day. You’d actually have to do some decent searching to turn up a similar one of these. A no reserve auction with low opening, currently the price is just over $1,500, is a fantastic deal. The seller seems to describe the car as being in great shape, but that price is so cheap it makes me want to check it out in person.
A very nice find that might find a new home for just a song.
The W116 is perhaps one of the most forgotten Mercedes-Benz S class generations, but even this staid sedan had a few interesting versions. We are all familiar with the beast that is the 6.9, but here is an interesting version with what looks to be a 4.5 V8 and a 4 speed manual. Also included are a few tasteful modifications.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul who found this beauty and wrote the post, like the seller and the original importer has been duped. This car is not as the seller states a 450SE, but likely a much more significant Euro market 350SE. It could be the importer called this a 450SE to help ease the importation. A 450SE with a manual was almost unheard of. This car shows its Euro heritage with the Euro bumpers and headlights and also has only had the speedometer converted, the other gauges in the instrument cluster and the climate controls remain the original Euro, German language ones. The VIN number indicates a 350SE. Without seeing the actual engine data plate it is easy to confuse the two models, particularly this one which seems to have an air cleaner like the 4.5, earlier 3.5 engines had a smaller, circular, air cleaner with the intake on the passenger side. The 3.5 liter V8 was marked as a M116 engine in the W116 chassis. The 4.5 liter V8 was marked as the M117 engine in the W116 chassis. Many consider the smaller 3.5 V8 to be the better engine. It was a marvelous piece, very high revving and nimble. Couple that engine with a manual transmission and the short bodied 116 chassis car and this must be quite a fun ride. I would get rid of that particular set of aftermarket rims. Replacing the stock 14″ items with 16″ or bigger is a good idea, but there are much nicer looking rims for classic Mercs. A set of expensive AMG Ronal 5 spokes would complete the authentic AMG look. This is a great find and likely to only be appreciated by those in the know so look for a possible bargain here if it doesn’t attract too much attention. Though the price already is that of what a similar mileage 450SEL can be had for.
Back to Paul’s comments:
The seller states:
Hey everyone up for sale we have a mint condition 1978 450SE Euro model with 81k original miles and a manual 4 speed transmission. Not sure if it is a 3.5 or a 4.5 (Bureau of Automotive Repair says 4.5) I am the second owner of this beautiful car, The first owner was an elderly man that drove it seldomly and kept it garaged under a car cover most of its life. It runs great, engine runs very smooth and powerful, absolutely no leaks whatsoever, Shifts perfect, clutch feels like new, temperature is always steady at 80C. The two front windows are electrically powered while the two rear windows are manual (set up available for euro models only). It has Michelin Pilot tires with 85% tread left and an almost perfect interior as you can tell by the photos. The only minor defects are: a slight vibration at 55-60mph and the AC needs to be recharged. I have a clean California title thats ready to be handed over to the winning bidder.
Values of W116 S classes have been notoriously low for Mercedes-Benzes in recent history, except for that of the 6.9. There are 14 bids on this already as I write this with two days left in the auction, so we’ll see if the reserve is met and where the value goes.