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1972 MERCEDES-BENZ 280SE 3.5

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1972 MERCEDES-BENZ 280SE 3.5


The Mercedes W108/W109 series was launched in 1965 and remained in production for the next seven years. An update of the much-loved W111 and W112 ‘fintail’ saloons, almost 400,000 rolled off the production lines by the time it expired

The W108 had a standard wheelbase, while the W109 had the longer version. The suspension was different too, with the short-wheelbase cars having conventional steel springs, while the long-wheelbase had self-levelling air suspension.

Offered with a range of engines from the 2.5-litre, 128bhp inline-six with a top speed of 113mph, all the way to the thumping 6.3-litre V8 with 247bhp and a top speed of 137mph, both manual and automatic gearbox options were offered, both of which had four forward ratios.

Initially offered as the 250S, 250SE and 300SEb - plus the LWB 300SEL – the second series arrived in 1967 bringing with it new names: the 250 was now known as the 280 as a result of the 2.5-litre engine gaining another 300cc capacity. And there was a range-topper version with the 3.5 V8 engine – but Mercedes strangely couldn’t bring themselves to call it the 350SE so it became the 280SE 3.5.

The interiors are typical Mercedes of the era, which is to say under-stated, elegant, and crafted from proper materials like solid wood, chrome, and leather.

Now very collectable, most you will see being offered for sale will be left-hand-drive, which makes a genuine RHD UK car very desirable, especially if it is fitted with one of the larger engine options.

Like this one…

The Vehicle

First registered in June 1972, this lovely right-hand-drive Mercedes-Benz 280SE is fitted with the rare and much prized 3.5-litre V8 engine that develops 197bhp and 211lb/ft of torque, giving the old dowager a top speed of 130mph.

The vendor stumbled across it being offered for sale locally in November 2019 and immediately fell in love. Said to have been in storage since 2005, it is believed to have been tucked away as part of an old boy’s pension pot.

Now freshly recommissioned at a cost of almost £4,000 it now runs and drives well but is in need of some mechanical and cosmetic refurbishment.

Only being offered for sale due to a change in his personal circumstances, it is listed with a sensible guide price - and the vendor has sufficient faith in you lot to submit it with no reserve, so it will sell from the very first bid.

On the Outside

The 280SE presents fine from a few feet, with good panel alignment and even gaps. Moving closer, it’s easy to see that while it appears free from serious rot, it’s not completely free of corrosion.

The paintwork is generally OK but it has clearly had some localized repairs in the past. It looks great from ten feet, but as you move closer you can see it starts to struggle. However, the overall effect is a touch misleading because while it would be easy to dismiss it as being a bit too scruffy to consider, really close inspection reveals that it’s not actually as bad as you first think.

There is some work to do on the bodywork. While it is all pretty solid and generally free from serious rot, the nearside front wing is a slightly different shade to the rest of the car, the nearside rear wing is a meandering large ripple, the nearside headlamp trim and door mirror surround are both loose, and there is some filler in the wheelarches.

There are also a some scratches, stonechips and microblistering here and there, plus the odd patch of peeling paint, most obviously inside the door shuts.

Oh, and the front grille isn’t fastened in, and there’s a piece of wood between the aerial and the windscreen.

The chromework is acceptable, with only light rust and pitting but no serious damage. The metal sunroof has been fitted with an aftermarket plastic wind deflector.

The 14-inch alloy wheels are in a good condition, and are shod with matching Falken tyres.

On the Inside

The leather seats have been refurbished; their cracks have been filled and the surface then re-coloured. As you can see from the photos, they’re now presentable although close inspection does reveal the repairs. The rear seats are much better, being cleaner and more original, presumably as a result of having been used less.

The rest of the interior is okay, but there are plenty of bits of trim that have started to peel, curl and come away. There’s nothing there to indicate abuse, merely the ravages of time. It’s a lovely design though, and is well worth saving just to be able to gaze at its Germanic simplicity as you waft along gently to the strains of Frank Sinatra.

The headlining has clearly been painted recently to a reasonable effect. The carpets don’t look to be the originals but have been well-made and are in a good condition. Lifting them shows solid metal, albeit with a smattering of light surface rust that will need catching sooner rather than later.

The boot seems to be solid, and is home to an alloy spare wheel.

If shabby chic is your thing then it would be an easy car to live with while you refurbish it as time and funds allow. Plus, of course, the robust nature of its construction means that refurbishing the original trim would be a realistic option if you’re handy that way.


The one invoice the car comes with shows its recommissioning included eight new spark plugs, a full set of HT leads, a distributor cap and rotor arm, front and rear discs and pads plus a rebuilt caliper, an oil and filter, fresh differential oil, and wheel bearing seals.

The bill you see for £826.01 in parts also incurred a nigh-on £3,000 invoice for the 60 hours labour it took to fit them. Sadly, there’s no paperwork for this but the owner is happy to confirm this should potential bidders want to contact him.

So, with only one invoice to its name the 280SE has to stand or fall on its current condition, and in that respect it does okay.

It starts and ticks over very well, and drives nicely including the automatic gearbox. The only real problems we’ve found on our (brief) test-drive are a blowing exhaust and the fact that it falters under acceleration; it’s fine on a gentle throttle but opening the taps sees it struggle. Given the new ignition parts, we think the fault may lie with the Bosch fuel injection system and a general post-slumber tune-up.

That’s the bad news. The good is that it is a straightforward mechanical system that should be easy to troubleshoot and adjust.

The underside, as you can see in the photos, appears to be strong and clean and well protected by a hefty coat of black underseal.

History Highlights

The 280SE doesn’t have a current MOT certificate, and while it is exempt by virtue of its age, we would strongly encourage the new owner to have the car re-MOT’d at the earliest. The cost of an MOT is a small investment when offset against the purchase and upkeep of any classic car, and it gives an independent, third-party assessment of the car’s condition, which not only provides reassurance to the owner (and any subsequent purchasers) but might also be invaluable in the event of a bump when negotiating with the police and any interested insurance companies…

Sadly, there is no paperwork for the car bar one invoice for parts and the V5 registration document, so potential bidders should set their budget based on its current condition rather than relying on a hefty wad of old paperwork.

If you’d like to inspect the car prior to placing a bid – something we would encourage – then please use the Contact Seller button to arrange an appointment.

NB. We know that many of you will be limiting your social exposure over the coming days and weeks, so if you’d rather not come to see the car in person, please give us a call and we can shoot a personal video of the car honing in on any areas you’d like us to concentrate on.

Or, even better, why not contact us with your mobile number and we can set up a WhatsApp video call? You get to direct us in real-time, giving you a virtual personal viewing experience while maintaining the lockdown. We like to call it ‘The Market’s 2020 Vision’…

What We Think

It would be easy to dismiss this Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 as simply too much trouble; almost, but not quite, a barn-find, the need for bodywork and interior trimming might offset the car’s inherent solidity and strength for many of you.

And yet, while we completely understand that perspective, you might be missing out on something very special because we’re utterly beguiled by it, with the member of the team who test-drove it saying “it really is an endearing old thing. I like it a lot.”

That’s the key to this project.

It might be faded, shabby, and in need of some love, but it’s a lovely old thing and so effortlessly stylish that it is definitely worth saving; in need of tuning, retrimming and a complete respray at some point, it’s something of a blank canvas for the new owner.

Whether you embark on a full restoration that leaves it concours and standard; or stabilize it, leaving it shabby chic and original; or even retro-mod and customize it, the options are limited only by your imagination and the depth of your wallet.

And, with a guide price of between £8,000 and £12,000, there will be plenty left in the kitty to help you realize those plans.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon; to arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

If needed, please remember we have a network of trusted suppliers we work with regularly and can recommend: Classic & Sportscar Finance for purchase-inancing, Footman James for classic car insurance Thames Valley Car Storage for storing your car and AnyVan for transporting it.

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at the vehicles delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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  • Location: Abingdon
  • Odometer Reading: 97610
  • Chassis Number: 10805722010174
  • Engine: 3500
  • Gearbox: Auto
  • Colour: Blue
  • Interior: Cream leather

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