1976 Mercedes-Benz 280SE – Classified of the Week

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By Chris Pollitt

The ‘70s have a lot to answer for. Avocado bathroom suites. Flares. Prawns being served in wine glasses. Yes, there was a lot wrong with the ‘70s. But we can forgive its transgressions because in amongst all the horror, there were some brilliant things. Alien (yes, it was 1979, sorry), The Good Life and this, the W116 S Class. 

This one could be the very best from the era. Why? Because first of all, it has grabbed the era from whence it came by the wide, pointed collar and embraced the colours of the period. Delicious metallic Milan Brown with contrasting Moss Green interior. It shouldn’t work, but look at it and tell us it doesn’t?

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What else? Well, this W116 280SE is true to the ‘70s in a way other W116s can only dream of. How so? It’s unrestored, that’s how. Yes, the car you’re looking at here, with a mere 39,000 miles on the clock, is original. That paint, that immaculate trim, it’s all factory. It has never seen a welder, it has never been taken apart nor rebuilt. As such, it is about as close to a new W116 as you can get. 

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The vendor states that the ‘75 built, ‘76 registered W116 280SE has spent most of its life in a climate controlled garage, and has been used sparingly for shows. By the looks of things, this isn’t a car that has had to battle through commuter traffic on wet winter mornings. Certainly, the current owner admits to only driving it in dry conditions. This, if you’re looking for a W116, is deeply pleasing, as the W116 is known for rust. Protecting metal wasn’t a Mercedes-Benz specialty in the ‘70s. 

Is it perfect? No, it is a car that is being used to some extent. But in not being perfect, it is honest. The vendor states that there is some very slight surface rust under the bonnet, but nothing you wouldn’t expect on a car of this age. The picture of the engine bay would certainly suggest there is nothing of concern. And while we’re under there, you may be wondering about the engine. No, the 2.8 straight-six isn’t the most athletic power plant, but it is incredibly reliable. Plus, it’s not as expensive to maintain as a V8. For the car, it’s well-suited, especially with the automatic transmission. 

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Cars like this Mercedes-Benz 280SE are so, so rare. True, honest survivors from an era that seldom produces cars without at least some welding or restoration work. The W116 was famed for reliability and build quality, and that still holds up today. But buying one can be a minefield of rust, dodgy repairs and sub-par restoration. Not this one though, this is a W116 as a W116 should be. And if you buy it, you’ll love it.

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