1965 Mercedes 300SE Cabriolet Conversion?

Oof – you hate to be the guy that paid full retail for what he thought was a genuine Mercedes 300SE convertible, only to find out the title claims it was originally a coupe. The seller is pulling the plug on this project, which he purchased thinking it was the genuine article. It may still be – he’s had a few experts check it out, and they claim it looks correct for a factory convertible – but the title still says otherwise. Is it worth restoring? Some bidders seem to think so, as it’s currently at $21,300 here on eBay with the reserve unmet.

I don’t know enough about the genuine article to say one way or another whether this 300SE left the factory with a folding roof, but I do know they are among the more desirable Mercedes of this generation. The seller claims it was a running example before the water pump froze, and that it’s “…not a rust bucket.” The hydraulic suspension does work, but as you can see by the photos, it loses pressure after a few days and collapses onto its belly. That’s pretty typical for Mercedes of this era that haven’t been previously restored.

Even if it is a conversion, the car itself appears to be in nice shape, with a clean interior featuring seating surfaces in good order, wood trim in presentable shape, and a steering wheel with no cracks. Of course, in addition to the questionable status as a coupe or convertible, the owner claims he was fooled in another major way: there are no identifying numbers on the right-side frame rail, which he further speculates may have been replaced at some point. The disclosed issues aren’t deal breakers on an older car, but if the seller paid for what he believed was a genuine convertible without significant repairs – not good.

The engine is said to come with the parts needed to get it running again, including a rebuilt radiator. The water pump is still frozen, so that’s on the next owner to sort out. The difficulty here is determining what a reasonable price is, because every owner henceforth is going to have the same problem of owning a convertible with questionable provenance. However, I have to believe a call to the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in California would clear up any doubts as to this car’s history, and would allow the next potential owner to properly assess what a fair bid or offer would be. Would you take a chance on it?

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  1. Fred W

    Better chance that it’s a title error, which could have happened during any title transfer. To check the car, I’d find out if MB strengthened the frame for converts as would normally be done and go from there.

    Like 9

    Worth a basic get-it-running resto…just for the gorgeous dash.
    Just don’t go nuts.

    Like 4
  3. Audifan

    MBZ has different VINs for Coupes and Convertibles.
    112023-1(0=stick) or (2=Auto)-xxxxxx would be the correct VIN for this car.

    The purchase of a waterpump for an M189 will be an expensive undertaking.

    Like 2
    • Chas H

      There is no distinction between coup or convertible in the W112 VIN.
      That’s the reason for the confusion over the car being originally a coup or ‘vert.

    • Bob

      Before I dumped my 300D, I got the impression that all Mercedes parts are $1000 each. :)

      Like 1
  4. Audifan

    The air suspension should stay up for several months in a W112 or W109.
    If not, it’s usually a problem with the three leveling valves.

    Like 3
  5. ken tilly UK

    If the price is right, I would buy it because anyway you look at it, it’s still a rag top, and if it’s a convert that you are looking for then this would do the job, and as a bonus you might discover that it actually is an original convertible. Wouldn’t that be a Duesy of a buy?

    Like 4
  6. Chris Webster

    I’m no expert here, but that grill looks too high- almost like it’s from an older M-B.
    The pics I see on line show a grill that is 5 ‘panels’ high, this one is 6 high.

    Like 2
    • ken tilly UK

      There is a convertible advertised by autoestorationice that also has 6 bars, however, I checked out a lot of them on the web and the ones that have 6 bars are nearly all Cabriolets, but not ALL of them. Maybe they were built by Mercedes as per the customers requirements?

      Like 2
      • CJinSD

        The hood is ajar in the photo, and the grill is part of the hood. I suspect with it closed fully some of the grill would be obscured by the bumper. The later and much more valuable 280 SE 3.5 has a shorter grill.

        Like 3
  7. John

    I am not knowledgeable about MB other than knowing they have excellent parts support and have a restoration division. It seems a call to them could straighten out the identity problem. I also know their parts prices are very expensive but why not put a water pump on this car? Just a little fishy I think..

    Like 2
  8. Maestro1 Member

    There is an Austrian firm who was and maybe still is converting 300 coupes to convertibles and doing a stunning job. If I had the room, the provenance one way or the other would not be an issue. And yes, the car has sunk which means the balancing mechanism or some of the pads (wrong word) have to be replaced. Don’t get into this on your own unless you know what you are doing. Simply reach into the depths of your wallet and send the car
    to Mercedes Benz Classische in Wittier California. They will deliver you a new car. And you won’t regret one penny of the expense.

    Like 2
  9. Supereight

    There should be no confusion about how this car was originally built. Mercedes has excellent records and will provide documentation (for a small fee) in the form of a “birth certificate”. I highly doubt the seller has any question about what he has. It’s roughly a 4x difference between cabriolet and coupe prices. Converted cabrios are worth less than either, imo.

    • Arby

      Provided you can believe a car with a ground off VIN on the frame rail and a freshly riveted VIN plate on the radiator support???

      Like 3
  10. Beyfon

    Several reasons why I would feel rather uncomfortable with this offering.

    Of course it is not a problem to get its VIN number verified but I’d think things can be worse than that it’s just a conversion. Would it not be a possibility that someone steals a Convertible and happens to get a useful VIN from a cheap ratty Coupe? The missing frame rail VIN doesn’t do much to instill confidence here.

    Secondly, these are notoriously risky buys as they can look great on the outside but still be seriously rusty. This one looks rather suspect also where you can see, which would really justify an in-depth PPI from an expert to assess how far gone it is. Of course for the right person it may not matter, everything can be sorted with skill, time and money so with a few hundreds of thousands to sink into a restoration I’m sure any issues except for it’s ambiguous identity could be resolved…

    Like 2
  11. Dan

    Earlier cars have high grilles, later cars all 3.5s have shorter grille. 300SE coupes were made w both. Some people prefer taller grille as more of a statement or at least stately whole most prefer more sporty

  12. chrlsful

    wishin it wuz the W113…
    W123 wagon, etc

  13. bog

    Lots of “maybes” on this MB. Or wishful thinking. The seller comes right out and says that it was presented to them as something other than what it was/is.

    I agree that MB could identify it’s origins in short order if one was really interested. I appreciate the car and brand, but certainly not this example.

    As “Gramps” would say…good luck !

    • Richard bichlmaier

      Hello all,first this is my friends car and to clarify,the vin on the frame rail is not ground of,it is nonexistent .the front clip and the right frame rail have been replaced at some point I belive probly due to major damage to the front end.trust me he talked to me classic in ca and in Germany about getting it resolved and or restored,

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