1972 Mercedes 280SE: Cheap V8 Or Money Pit?


I really like old Mercedes with V8 engines, for no apparent reason. I’ve never driven one, so I don’t really have any idea how fun they are to drive or if they’re total moneypits. What I do like is the idea of affordable V8 power in a classic German sedan, qualities that this 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SE possesses in spades. Listed here on eBay with no reserve and bidding under $500, this is a running project located in California that doesn’t appear rusty. Although the paint is rough and the interior bears the battle scars of sun damage, this could be a cheap project for someone if the bidding stays in the ballpark of its current rock-bottom price. The seller is even including a set of the classic Mercedes 14″ aluminum wheels, an added bonus for any interested bidders. Hopefully, this 280SE is as honest as it appears to be.


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  1. David Frank David Member

    They can indeed be money pits, but once you catch up on needed repairs and missed maintenance items, they are really nice. They have lots of smooth power and cruise well way up in the triple digits. This one is sadly probably a parts car.

  2. randy

    These were prized possessions not too many years ago. Very smooth power and an excellent exhaust tone to boot. Too rich for my blood though.

  3. Barzini

    In the early 1980s I had the pleasure of driving one when I worked for the Bob Sharp Datsun dealership. The fit, finish and ride were so far superior to every other car I ever drove on the lot. It really stood out and made an impression.

  4. Dave Wright

    These are my cars……..and this is one of my faveroits. Great year and nearly perfect model. ( I would prefer the L or longer body) this one has factory air, rather plain wood and is covered with some sort of primer. The 280’s normally had conventional Mercedes suspension as opposed to the more expensive cars that usually had full air suspension but the same wonderful drivetrain. Parts are more available for these cars than ever, Mercedes even has good factory support via the Classic Car center in Irvine. I am starting in earnest on my 73 300SEL when we return from Europe in December. It would look wonderful cruzing to Octoberfest with us in a few days or here on the streets of Edenburg. To make them correct they do require serious attention to paint and details. Many had MB Tex interiors that is difficult to distinguish from leather but tough as nails. Heat is the enemy in the interiors. The horsehair seat filler gets brittle and comes apart frequently leaving the actual covers in tact and re serviceable. The seats never feel the same with foam. These cars are on a steady increase in value and are one of the stars in automotive history. The time to find a good one or a project is now while they are still obtainable. Once they are fixed there are few trouble spots and if you don’t mind risking door dings are wonderful daily drivers.

  5. Dolphin Member

    The older I get the more I like these. Never owned one but enjoyed riding in them when I had a chance. My slim experience with them fits in with the other opinions.

    Finally some really good photos, and taken by a camera, not a phone I’ll bet. Would have been good to have some underside pics, but there are trunk and engine bay shots, and it’s a California blue plate car. That and the good pics make it worth looking at if you’re in the market.

  6. Dan h

    If it were a coupe, I would be all over it!!

  7. Howard A Member

    Personally, I have no interest in this car ( and judging by the current bid of $800 dollars, not many others do either) 3 words for a car like this. Small block Chevy.

    • Dave Wright

      Why would you ruin a fine modern car by installing an antiquated piece of iron? This engine has refinements you couldn’t put on a Small block with tens of thousands of dollars invested……overhead cams, sodium cooled valves, forged Pistons, rods, cam and crankshaft, aluminum heads, fuel injection. And more…….this engine was so far ahead of its time that as fine as small blocks are…….the still have not caught up.

  8. John E.

    They are fun to drive and they are money pits. Even the high-end super cars like MB, Porsche and others have their “low-end” model’s which may be picked up for a resonable rate, they will still cost you in the shop. When I bought my first MB, a 75 SEL I went to work for a local mechanic for free just to learn how to work on my car; he ended up paying me because I worked on other cars, but that wasn’t my point, saving money was. So, whom ever buys this better be ready to spend the money it will require if they are looking for this car to be a gem.

  9. randy

    I have found the low end cars cost more to keep on the road, you are going to pay for the priviledge one way or the other, with the sale price, or the upkeep. That said, I have always liked the MB cars, all but a few, 201 chassis comes to mind.

  10. That Guy

    I’ve owned a couple of 300SEL 6.3’s and an early 250S, and I think all these W108/109 cars are fantastic. They are beautifully built, and I always found parts to be easily available and not too expensive from aftermarket sources, with the exception of the mechanical stuff that is specific to the 6.3. The performance of the 6.3 is otherworldly, of course; I don’t know how close a 4.5 comes to it but I’m sure it’s still pretty entertaining.

    This car probably isn’t worth doing a full restoration on, but it looks very solid and the sun-dried interior parts shouldn’t be hard to find replacements for. This car appears to have the MB-tex upholstery, which is a good thing. It is incredibly durable. I’ve seen cars in junkyards which are completely trashed in every other way, but still have pristine seats.

    Get it driving, give it a cheap paint job, and enjoy it.

    • randy

      The 4.5 cannot hold a candle to the 6.3 even the Pullman was a rocket ship!

      • Dave Wright

        That is true……but the 4.5 is no slouch either. The horsepower is not that much less ……….the big difference is in the torque. My 6.3’s could break the tires loose at 50 mph but the 4.5 cruises very close to the same speed and drivetrain parts are much cheaper.

  11. randy

    Don’t get me wrong, the 4.5 may be the one of the best MB engines of all time for reliability etc., but no comparison to the 6.3. The 6.3 is a way more expensive to keep on the road. Just the hydraulic windows would break my bank.

    • Dave Wright

      hydraulic windows are on the 600, the 300sel 6.3’s were the same as all the S class sedans of there time….electric. I have owned 3 300SEL 6.3’s and a late 1973 300SEL 4.5 right now. I have driven them extensively. While I was always concerned about the cost of parts for the 6.3’s……they were remarkably reliable and trouble free. I can’t ever remember having to change any engine components other than normal tune ups every couple of years. I had to get one transmission resealed but it did not require any hard parts. I have never owned a 600 but have lusted for one for several decades. Many I have seen had hacked up hydraulic windows. I think many mechanics think they can do it better but few are up to the challenge. I can’t imagine ever selling my current 300, I may be buried in it!!!!!

  12. randy

    Forgive my confusion, I’ve been out in the sticks for more years than I thought! Am I confusing the 100 chassis with the 111? The 280 SE was a 108/109 correct?

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