Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet (W 111)

In August 1961, Daimler-Benz AG unveiled the new cabriolet from the W 111 model series. Technically, it was identical to the coupé from the same model series, although, due to the absence of a steel roof, the body of the cabriolet was provided with numerous stiffeners. In September 1969, the 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet made its debut as the most powerful version with an all-new 3.5-litre V8 engine. The top-of-the-range model is easy to identify: the radiator grille is lower and wider. That also explains why these vehicles were nicknamed „flat radiators“. The eight-cylinder cabriolet, of which just 1232 units were built, is today one of the most sought-after classic cars of its era. The main market for this exclusive model – the price tag in July 1970 being a costly 35,631 excluding optional extras – was the USA. So it was Daimler-Benz of USA that placed the order for this cabriolet in September 1970, the vehicle being first registered in March 1971. Of particular note is the extensive package of optional extras, especially the rear axle with limited-slip differential, which hardly any W 111 cabriolet had.

By early 2015, the vehicle was back in Europe. When Mercedes-Benz Classic acquired the car, it still had typical US features, such as a speedometer in miles and vehicle lights. In 2015/16, Mercedes-Benz Classic completely restored the vehicle to its original as-delivered condition. In the course of the work, the cabriolet was converted to European specifications.

The full restoration included all vehicle parts and components. The first phase of work involved removing the powertrain with engine and transmission, all chassis/suspension components and all detachable parts. The second phase focused on an assessment of the completeness, condition and authenticity of all the components. In the third and most complex phase, all parts of the vehicle body and powertrain were cleaned, refurbished and/or renewed and reassembled.

The vehicle body and its add-on parts were dismantled, stripped of paint and inspected for possible damage. This cabriolet showed no serious damage. Accordingly, the work was limited to removing the usual traces of use and to perfecting the gap dimensions and fit accuracy of the chassis. The final paint finish was in the original colour of dark russet (DB 460). This complete restoration involved the powertrain with engine and transmission being disassembled down to the smallest individual part, tested and reconditioned. The main focus of the work was to preserve the existing fabric of the vehicle. In the interests of maximum possible authenticity, mechanical components were replaced only where absolutely necessary. In such cases, genuine Mercedes-Benz parts were used wherever possible.

All the work is documented, from disassembly, assessment of condition and rebuilding through to archive searches and authenticity checks by Mercedes-Benz Classic. With restoration completed, the buyer receives a vehicle in as-new condition. The purchase price includes 19% VAT.

No liability for printing and writing errors.
Subject to error and prior sale.

Vehicle details

280 SE 3,5 Cabrio
S Klasse
600 Kilometer
Mercedes Benz Museum
Concours Edition
on request
on request
on request
750.490 Euro

Technical details

200 PS
3.499 ccm
disc brakes
disc brakes
94 s
205 km/h
13,5 l

Individual configuration

Auburn (DB 460)
Leather red (DB 1079)
11.1969 - 07.1971


256 = Rear axle with slip differential
420 = Automatic transmission floor shift
452 = Zwo Sound fanfare horn
461 = Instrument in Englisch
491 = Export Version USA
503 = Outside rear view mirror, left
513 = Radio Becker
524 = Paintcoat preservation
531 = Antenna automatic
570 = Folding armrest front
586 = air condition (580) with electric windows lifters (584)
595 = Green heat-insulating glass, all-around, heated rear window pane
601 = Oil for rear axle with limited-slip differential, in canisters
641 = White wall tires
740 = Folding top fabric black (872)

Vehicle history

Vehicle history: Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet (W 111)

In August 1961, a convertible version of the 220 SEb was presented, which was an exact replica of the coupé-variant except for the absent roof and required body stiffening. This elegant and representative model became the successor of the 128 series convertible, which after October 1960 had been produced no longer. From a technical and stylistic point of view, the new model was derived from the 220 SEb saloon, which was presented in August 1959, and was also assigned to model series 111. In contrast to their predecessors, the coupé and convertible variants were planned as a fully-fledged four-seated models.

They were based on the chassis of the saloon the wheelbase of which remained unchanged accordingly. Although the tailfins, which had made such a sensation at the presentation of the 220 b – 220 SEb models, were now apparent in rudimentary form only, convertible and saloon still had many stylistic features in common. This makes the fact that not a single construction element of the four-door model could be used for the convertible even more surprising. Half a year later, the 300 SE Coupé and 300 SE Convertible, which had been constructed from pre-existing building blocks, had their debut at the Geneva Motor Show. The bodies of the corresponding 220 SEb versions had been touched up with additional decorative elements and were combined with the technology of the Type 300 SE. Thus, these new exclusive models, which were, like the underlying saloon model assigned to model series 112, featured a whole set of technical details. Basic equipment consisted of a 3.0-liter light-alloy engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, powerbrake unit, air suspension and dual circuit brakes with disk brakes at the front and rear wheels. There was additional chrome decoration in the shape of a chrome trim extending from headlights to taillights along the longitudinal bead as well as conspicuous decorative trims at the front and rear wheel arches. From March 1963, the 300 SE coupé and convertible were, like the saloon, available with optional 4-speed manual gearbox; in this case the list price was reduced by DM 1,400. In January 1964 engine power was increased to 170 hp so that driving performance was improved.

This was made possible by converting the injection pump into a six-plunger unit. When the “fintail”-saloons of models 220 Sb, 220 SEb and 300 SE were replaced by a completely reconstructed generation of models, the coupé and convertible versions remained in the sales programme. As these exclusive models, which had been produced for some years then, were by no means outdated beside the saloons of the new generation, expensive stylistic revision or the development of new small-scale serial production of model versions were unnecessary. The two 2.2-liter models received the 150 hp 2.5-liter engine of the 250 SE and also its model designation. Furthermore, like the 3.0-liter models, they were fitted with the 14-inch wheels and bigger disk brakes of 108 series saloons. New, too, was the hydropneumatic compensating spring at the rear axle, which had been incorporated into the 2.5-liter models instead of the coil spring that had hitherto been used, guaranteeing that the level of the body remained constant irrespective of loads. January 1968 witnessed the debut of the 280 SE model, which had a newly developed 2.8-liter engine with 160 hp and became the successor of the 250 SE. This change of generation did not only affect the saloon, but also the two-door versions. Apart from the new engine, only some details had been changed in the coupé and the convertible; like the saloon, both received flatter one-piece decorative wheel covers with integrated boss cap. At the same time as the 2.5-liter models, production of the Type 300 SE coupé and convertible was stopped. There was no immidiate successor, but this was not really necessary either, as engine power was only 10 hp lower than in the 2.8-liter versions and the same driving performance was achieved because of their lower weight.

In September 1969 the more powerful 280 SE 3.5 coupé and convertible models were presented. The completely new 3.5-liter V8-engine with 200 hp was very quiet and smooth and made sports car performance possible. These new models, and also the 280 versions with the 2.8-liter 6-cylinder engine had minor external modifications. The radiator grill was lower and wider and the bonnet was accordingly lower at the front. The bumpers were also modified, now being fitted with rubber strips like on the saloons. There were no external differences between the 8-cylinder versions and the new 6-cylinder versions. In May 1971 the production of the 2.8-liter coupés and convertibles ended and two months later the production of the 8-cylinder versions also ceased, thus bringing the ten-year era of the 111 and 112 series coupés and convertibles to an end. A total of 2,918 coupés and 7,013 convertibles of this range were built in Sindelfingen. The most exclusive version was the 300 SE convertible with 708 units produced, followed by the 250 SE convertible (954 units), the 280 SE 3.5 convertible (1,232 units) and the 280 SE convertible (1,390 units). The 220 SEb coupé achieved the highest production volume with 14,173 units. No replacement was planned for the convertibles; fresh air Mercedes drivers had to be content with the two-seater SL.

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