Quite apart from their incredible build quality, there were several things that were significant about the timelessly solid Mercedes-Benz “W114” models, launched in 1968.
The car was styled by Paul Bracq, who had previously designed the iconic ‘Pagoda’ roof Mercedes SLs, and the W114 featured a number of styling cues carried straight over from the iconic sports car, namely the fluted wheel arches and vertically stacked front headlamp lenses, along with its narrow A-pillars and steeply curved windscreen.
It also had an entirely new suspension system, consisting of an advanced multi-link wishbone front end and swing axles at the rear, which gave it a bouncy but pliable ride, along with excellent durability.
It was a strikingly handsome design and one that looked sharp and modern alongside its contemporaries, yet also managed to wear its traditional Mercedes-Benz sturdiness on its sleeve.
The W114 was also the first Mercedes to move towards a naming strategy based on its engine size – from the four-cylinder 200 to the fuel-injected six-cylinder 280E flagship.
Imported from South Africa, the car has lived in a dry climate and is largely original. It’s a very early facelift car following some major enhancements in 1973, which included slimmer bumpers, an improved cabin and lower headlamps, as well as ‘Mexican Hat’ alloy wheels on higher specification cars.
This car has been owned by the same Cape Town family from new and has covered just 102,000km from new, or around 60,000 miles.
It is completely original, with its factory paint and an unusually high specification featuring air conditioning, a sunroof and a factory Bosch AM/FM radio with wood fascia to match the car’s dash.
It was bought by the vendor earlier this year but due to lockdown restrictions and shipping delays it has only just arrived in the UK, so is currently not registered here.
As well as the import paperwork, the Mercedes will be given the benefit of a full UK MoT on the completion of sale. The current owner has also started the process of registering the vehicle in the UK, however there is no guarantees this will be complete by the end of the sale, due to current time-lines with the DVLA.
It also comes with a few bills from its life in South Africa, as well as an original owners’ manual that weren’t present when we visited to photograph the car but are assured will come with it.
The cabin is one of the key areas that will attract people to this 280 as it’s an amazing colour scheme – bronze-beige MB-Tex leatherette upholstery topped off with matching door cards and a wood-effect fascia. Grey carpets and an ivory headlining complete the effect.
The dash is reassuringly old-fashioned but straightforward, with a pod containing a three-dial VDO instrument panel and a large steering wheel, with traditional horn rings at odds with its 1970s impact pad.
There’s very little in the way of sun damage despite the car spending most of its life in a hot climate, with only some cracks to the steering wheel trim detracting from its otherwise immaculate appearance.
Sadly, the wonderful Bosch stereo is missing a knob, which will give the new owner something to track down. The radio does still work though, and is one of the car’s coolest features despite the knob deficiency.
It’s a real testimony to Mercedes-Benz build quality of the era that the 280 still wears its original factory paintwork, which is in superb order. It looks fantastic in white, while the alloy wheels set it off beautifully and are the only real giveaway – aside from the badge – that this is the top model.
There’s the odd small nick or scratch as you’d expect from a car that’s rapidly approaching its 50th birthday, but there’s absolutely no visible corrosion anywhere other than a smattering of surface rust on the rear bumper and a small area inside the boot where there has obviously been a moisture trap in the past – though this is only surface rust and could be cleaned and treated easily. The sills and wheelarches are superb.
The alloy wheels are in exceptional order, while it has new tyres all round.
The fuel-injected six-cylinder engine is sweet running and lively, firing up on the button and settling to a steady idle. It’s coupled to a three-speed automatic transmission that’s both smooth and responsive.
Despite its age, the W114 feel surprisingly agile, thanks in no small part to its relatively complex suspension set-up, which gives it a decent balance between handling and comfort, while the steering and brakes are both in fine order.
There are three key things that stand out about this car. First, it’s a top spec model which makes it the most desirable W114 derivative. Second, it’s a low mileage example with a one-family history. And last but far from least is its incredible originality – it’s never been restored, yet it looks amazing both inside and out. It’s a car that has clearly been loved and cherished throughout its life and is just waiting for a new owner to come along and continue that level of care.
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