• Exterior: Thistle Green
  • Interior: Parchment Leather
  • Engine: 2.8 liter fuel-injected inline-6
  • Trans: 4-speed automatic
  • Mileage: 89,000km
  • Price: SOLD TO MAINE

1975 Mercedes-Benz 280SE European Model

This car is a terrific find. It was purchased from its original owner in Switzerland in 2005 and has covered fewer than 90,000km (55,800 miles) from new. It was subsequently imported to the United States and is in truly time-warp condition; quite literally nicer than most 3 year old cars. It is superbly documented with records and manual pack.

Full European specification including:

  • European bumpers
  • European headlamps with functioning city lights
  • High compression engine with no emission equipment (nearly 50hp more than US specification cars)
  • Manual windows

This car is currently in Palo Alto, CA.

The Model

When it was first introduced, the W116 chassis S-class Mercedes was hailed as one, if not the finest cars being built. Magazines raved about its sophisticated chassis, transmission, safety features, and of course the legendary build quality, which was reported to be better than ever before. The car represented significant advances over the earlier W108 models, including the elimination of the tricky swing axle rear suspension, and the introduction of a 4-speed automatic transmission on the six-cylinder dual overhead camshaft 280SE. Road testers were surprised to find that the 280SE was just as fast if not faster than the 3-speed eight-cylinder 350SE, thanks to the 280’s four carefully calibrated transmission ratios. Autocar magazine also noted that the car handled superbly, noting “when a sporty driver takes over (or the owner feels a sporty urge) the 280SE suddenly shows a new side to its character which many may never discover.” and “the 280SE handles in a way that puts many so-called sports cars to shame. Adhesion at all times was excellent and the way the back end squats down and hugs the road on a tight turn is tremendously reassuring and almost uncanny.” The only complaint about the car was the extremely high price, but taking into account the engineering and quality of the car, testers found the price justified. Read the full article here


This particular example was sold new in Thun, Switzerland to a doctor and his wife for 48,340 Swiss francs. It is of course a European model with European bumpers, European headlights, metric instruments, and the higher compression variant of the fuel-injected M110 six-cylinder engine, which makes 185hp against the approximately 140hp of the US cars and the 158hp of the carbureted 280S. They drove the car sparingly until the car was acquired from his widow in the summer of 2005 with 86,350km. The current owner, like many car enthusiasts, had a storage problem, so the importation of the car to the United States was delayed until January-February of 2007. Upon the car’s arrival, it was comprehensively serviced at a Mercedes specialty shop to rectify the issues of “sit-itis” at a cost exceeding $3000. The work included changing the fluids and other service items (filters, spark plugs etc.), new turn signal stalk, fitting a new starter, new Mercedes battery, and replacing the center resonator. The radiator was also rebuilt. Since then, it has been sparingly used and has covered approximately 89,200km (55,304 miles) from new. The car is impressively original throughout, with no modifications or incorrect components.

Original invoice showing color and options. Silvergreen metallic paintwork at 1310 Swiss francs, leather upholstery at 1830 Swiss francs, electric sunroof at 1140 Swiss francs, Becker Mexico radio at 1850 Swiss francs, and sunroof wind deflector at 150 Swiss francs, for a total sale price of 48,380 Swiss francs.


Cosmetically, the car is in shockingly nice time-warp condition. It is quite literally on par with a car that is just a few years old and has been incredibly preserved. The paintwork is superb, with no signs of aging, and no scratches, scrapes, or chips of significance. The body is extremely straight, with just a few small parking lot dings in which the paint was unharmed. The car is completely free of rust. The chrome is in outstanding like new condition with no haze, pitting, or scratches. The rubber is also like new, as are the glass and lenses. Even the body hardware is impressively crisp and original.

Vehicle Photos

The interior is equally impressive, particularly the dashboard. The instruments, wood, switches, and the dash top are truly like new. The leather upholstery is also excellent, and the rear seats are free from the wrinkling that sometimes affects W116’s. The carpets are also excellent, as is the headliner. There is slight staining on the rear parcel shelf, but the first aid kit is present and in excellent shape. The trim is also excellent.

The engine compartment is also impressively clean and correct. The firewall and inner fenders are as clean as the engine itself, and the various small bits and hardware are still in place, including the coil cover. A correct Mercedes battery has been sourced and installed.

The trunk is similarly nice, with original trunk mat, spare, jack, and tool roll with tools. There is also a warning triangle and fire extinguisher.

The car comes with fire extinguisher, warning triangle, and tools.

German language manual and service network locator.

Old Swiss registration.

Shipping to US.

The car drives superbly. It feels surprisingly modern, and the ride quality is superb. The car handles very well, and the brakes are effective. The engine is pleasingly gutsy, while the transmission is surprisingly sophisticated and represented marked improvements from older automatic transmissions.

This car represents an extremely unusual opportunity to acquire a wonderfully preserved example of this European model W116. It is superbly documented, with records and paperwork from new, as well as tools, books, and a 1991 road atlas of Switzerland, useful as that will doubtless be for the new owner.