Amelia Island

8 March 2014

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Lot 151

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet

  • Chassis no.
  • Engine no. 118.980.12.002543

Sold for $335,500

230 bhp, 3,499 cc overhead-valve V-8 engine with Bosch electronic fuel injection, four-speed automatic transmission, independent front suspension with unequal length control arms and anti-sway bar, independent rear suspension with low-pivot swing axle and trailing arms, and four-wheel power hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 108.3 in.

  • An exceptional, original, unrestored car
  • Only 56,000 actual miles
  • Complete books and tools, and an extensive file of receipts and literature
  • Certainly among the best examples available anywhere
  • The ultimate “usable Classic”

In the early 1970s, Mercedes-Benz built what many people believe was the finest automobile in the world, and 1971 was the only year that this model (802 vehicles) was imported into the United States. For the buyers who wanted wind in their hair, there was no finer choice than the 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet, which, combined with the powerful 3.5-liter V-8, was the fastest, most sumptuous, and most expensive convertible that money could buy at a Mercedes-Benz dealership. It was a car that appeals, then and now, to great enthusiasts.

After the present owner acquired the car from noted Mercedes-Benz collector Dr. Frank Spellman in 1997, it was refreshed by renowned MB specialists Gordon Beck, who perfected the mechanicals, detailed the engine compartment, and installed new old stock 300 chrome wheel arch moldings, and Bob Hatch, who fabricated and installed a new Haartz cloth top. Otherwise, the car is completely original and has been driven only 56,000 miles since new. Its condition can only be described as extraordinary. The original Anthracite Grey Metallic paint holds a deep, rich shine and exhibits only minor touch-ups. The interior is also totally original and just as remarkable, which is a testament its impressive preservation. The doors close like bank vaults, and in an RM specialist’s words, “There is just enough patina to the seats, the engine bay, and chassis to be comfortable.”

The car retains its options that are listed on its window sticker, which feature a limited-slip differential, the rare factory console compartment, and a rarely seen canvas bag for its leather top boot. It has all of its books, including the owner’s manual and parts manuals, as well as its original sales brochure and factory press releases with photos. The original tool roll is included, of course, as is the jack and the original wheel chock. Even the original cloth headrest protectors have survived.

Finally, there is a history file that is thick with receipts, correspondence, and a newspaper article that features the car.

This superlative 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet has been regularly maintained and freshly serviced by former Hatch & Sons Service Manager Ed Owen (European Auto Solutions, Waltham, Massachusetts), and even though it is unrestored, it has been faithfully maintained and preserved in the care of its knowledgeable owners. “This particular vehicle is the nicest old car that I have owned,” wrote Frank Spellman to an inquiring enthusiast, and the new caretaker will no doubt have similar feelings.


Please note that, based upon an on site critical inspection it is believed that the car has been repainted at some time, prior to the current owner’s acquisition in 1997.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

Cameron Smyth

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Cameron Smyth joined RM Sotheby’s as a Car Specialist in 2015, working out of our corporate office and providing assistance on c... read more

David Swig

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more