There are few things in life as beautiful as a classic Mercedes-Benz. The lines of a of an old Merc are always captivating, and with it, timeless. These cars are effortless classics that can be appreciated not only by people who like cars, but also by those who simply appreciate good design. And that’s what brings us to the car we’re looking at here, the W112 300SE cabriolet.
Just look at that. What an utterly magnificent machine. If it looks familiar, that’s because it shared its Paul Bracq designed bodywork with the smaller-engined W111. For the W112 version, introduced in 1962, a bigger M189 3.0 fuel-injected engine with 159bhp was fitted, so as to give the handsome Merc the pace it truly needed.
It wasn’t all style though. The W112 was a deeply intelligent and innovative car. For starters, it was a proper four-seater convertible, not a 2+2. The body was over engineered to within an inch of its life, so as to maintain as much torsional rigidity as possible (for 1962). Power steering was fitted as standard, as was air suspension, which offered an incredibly comfortable ride. This car may well have been lacking a roof, but it was in no way lacking any luxury. Higher grade wood, leather trim and a fit and finish that can only come from being hand-built, the W112 300SE cabriolet had it all.
Why then, you may be wondering, are we talking about this car? Well, it’s because one has popped up on Car & Classic, but this isn’t going to be a piece about a random classic for sale. No, the car in question is incredibly special, more special than a ‘normal’ 300SE. How so? Because this W112 is verified and certificated – by Mercedes-Benz itself – as being body number one. Uno. Eins. The first one to ever be built. W112 convertible genesis if you will, but with more wind your hair and less Phil Collins.
Actually, there won’t be any wind-blown hair just yet, as the car in question is in need of some serious recommissioning. However, this isn’t a pile of rust trading on nothing more than an interesting body number. While it does indeed need some love, there is no ignoring the fact that this car, which has lived its life under the dry California sun, is incredibly solid if a little sun-bleached.
The U.S-based vendor doesn’t state why this particular W112 is in the condition it’s in. The correspondence between the previous owner and Mercedes-Benz serves to demonstrate that the car’s significance was known for a long time, so quite why it’s fallen into a state of such disrepair is beyond us. Perhaps it was going to be restored and something bigger from life’s arsenal of problems got in the way? We just don’t know. What we do know is that this car being a project is no bad thing. You would want to restore it to as new condition, given its significance. Anything less would be doing the car a huge disservice.
What needs doing then? Well, by the looks of it, pretty much everything. The paint, body and trim are simple enough. However, the suspension will prove to be more of a challenge. The air suspension on this model was notorious for failing, and that’s when it was new. Perhaps more modern lines would cure this? The M189 engine, which if the chassis plate is anything to go off, is the fifth one to be fitted to a 300SE would need a full overhaul and service, though happily parts are readily available.
This car would need to be gone over, top to bottom, front to back, and no nuts or bolts should be left un-turned in the process. It’s too important, too unique for anything less. But do that work, and do it well, and you’ll be left with a car that is the talk of the classic car world. Collectors lose their minds over early chassis and body number cars, so this one would no doubt send them into a frenzy. Spend the money, do it right, then rock up to Pebble Beach for a concours event and watch people pass out from disbelief!
Located in Los Angeles, this incredible Mercedes-Benz can be yours for the oddly specific price of £180,553. And yes, that is a lot of money for a car that needs full restoration, but at the same time, you have to remember that when it comes to this W112 with body number one, you’re quite literally never going to find another.