Abandoned Shop Find: 1972 Mercedes 280SE

It doesn’t really matter what kind of car it is – finding a dusty, vintage automobile that’s been locked away in a shop for years will always be exiciting. The seller of this 1972 Mercedes-Benz 280SE claims the owner of the shop it was stored in passed away and his next-of-kin never made much of a point of seeing what was inside. Well, now that the doors have been opened, this once-classy German sedan is here on craigslist, listed for $5,000. 

Stories like these remind me that not everyone shares our passion for automobiles. The children of the deceased owner knew the car was in the shop, but never paid it a visit or attempted to get it out of lock-up. Now, you can argue they may not have had the money, but I often find its the other way around – the thought of restoring an old car is so unappealing to them that it simply rots until the county takes it away or it becomes clear the land it’s parked on would be valuable for development. Based on the thick dust, this 280SE hasn’t moved in years.

Which is really too bad, as the interior seems to indicate it was cared for up to the point of the owner’s death. The dash appears uncracked and the steering wheel still looks lustrous; in addition, the brown leather seating and carpets also appear largely undamaged, though a good cleaning is a must. The seller claims he/she is not a mechanic and no attempts will be made to start the car, but they will help coordinate with shipping. If we believe the description in the ad, they apparently have been flooded with offers, but I’d wager at least half of those are pure spam.

That’s a curious bumper attachment in the front – what is that, a push bar? Evidently, Mike loved his 280 enough that he had a custom European vanity plate made up. The car is located in Mississippi, where the weather is far better than what we’re experiencing up north at the moment. It’s hard to tell just how weather-tight the shop building was, but if the space has stayed dry, there could be a well-preserved project underneath all that dust. What do you think of the seller’s asking price – is it a bit optimistic?


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  1. James Tassler

    That’s not a push bar but a euro badge bar.instead of placing grill badges on grill they are placed on the front of these badge bars usually they have a saint christopher from wherever they are from placed usually in the middle with other country’s that the car/owner have lived or award’s from car show’s placed up front.Almost like a badge of honor.I have them on 3 of my classic benz’s

    • Jeff Staff

      James, thanks for the clarification. I have seen those, but it was not the first conclusion I came to.

  2. J Paul Member

    A friend of mind had one of these in high school back in the early 90s (yes, her parents were a bit avant garde). Compared to the rattling imports and well-used ponycars the rest of us were driving at the time, her pristine Benz seemed to operate at a different level, one of exquisite craftsmanship, detail, and taste. I still remember the sound the doors made, that classic early Mercedes *thunk*.

    These are great cars and I hope that this find is saved.

    • Bill

      Ah yes, the sound of those doors

    • Keith

      I have a 70 280S and you are 1000% right, I love closing the doors and listening to that MB “thunk”

  3. Dave Wright

    6 cylinder 280SE…….your efforts would be better rewarded with a V8 car. Any of the V8’s in these cars are a huge improvement in drive ability. Clean, polished and running well it is no more than a 7500.00 car. There is not enough room in the price to justify the risk of having a bad transmission or any other problems that might pop up. I love these cars but the higher end models are much more impressive in most ways. My late production 1973 300SEL 4.5 has breathtaking burl wood and leather and will run with most any modern sedan. This old girl has straight grain wood and MB text interior.

    • Ross W. Lovell

      Greetings All,

      Dave Wright, noticed the same thing with wood on Mercedes. Some are amazingly figured and others are not. Never seen an upgrade option. Did MB just wait until enough options were ordered or was it somehow random?

      I tend towards the 300SE sixes, and the airbag suspension.

  4. Rick II

    If this were a 4.5 the price would be in the ballpark. I have owned a 1972 V8 4.5 for the last 4 years and it has been a blast. These are just solid well built cars that are fast enough to handle today’s driving demands. Best of all,my wife also loves it!!

  5. Patrick McC

    That bar up front looks like a badge bar for club or award badges.

  6. J Teague

    I inherited a late 80s 560 with around 60,000 miles that was that had been sitting for around 4 yrs and was covered in leaves. My ignorance as a mechanic allowed this project to evolve into a money pit w electrical issues causing me to finally give in and admit defeat, but when I did get it to run, it was an amazing machine. You just never knew when the dash would light up like a Xmas tree leaving you stranded on some back road.

  7. Mike

    Not sure how long it’s been sitting. Mississippi only issues an antique plate if the car is twenty five years old, which would mean 1997 at the earliest.

  8. Luki

    Ever hear the expression “pig in a poke”?
    This is a Benz in a Pig Sty.
    It’s a $300 car in that state.

    I know because I bought one just like it last year for $300
    from a car guy who knew what he was doing.

    Who in the world has a storage space that looks like this?
    Did a flood roll through there?

  9. Luki

    Great news.

    The owner have been “gracious” enough to let it sit there for a while before you pick it up.

    Considering it will take a few years to clean up this EPA super fund site that’s really gracious.

    • Horse Radish

      No, no, no.
      My guess is that the owner is of the generation, that digs a deep enough hole out back and makes it all ‘disappear’, except the car of course. But tires oil barrels and such i’m sure………

  10. audifan

    If the interior was indeed leather, as stated in the ad, the rodents would have had a feast. Since it’s MB Tex, it obviously did not happen. I bought a similar car a year ago with the 4.5, stored in Central California for 20 years, for half the money.
    MBZs don’t like sitting around for many years undriven. To make a decent driver out of this one it will take 5-10k if the motor is not seized.
    5.000 is insane. 500 MIGHT make sense.

    • Horse Radish

      mind you he says : “leather brown interior.”.
      Tricky, no ?
      It therefore is not necessarily brown leather interior.

  11. Andrew

    $5,000 is actually reasonable depending on how it cleans up AND if it runs.

    I don’t understand those singing the praises of the 3.5 and the 4.5. While the straight six lacks the pep of those beasts, it is bulletproof and cheaper to work on. It is a matter of opinion, though.

    • Dave Wright

      There are many more differences in the models than just the engine size……this is next to a base version, the only cheaper S body would be the carbureted engine. There is a nice runner like this on eBay right now for 2,000. With the old design A/C you would feel it every time it came on.

  12. Eric 10Cars

    My 1970 MB250 had the straight six and 2 Zenith 4bbl carbs and had plenty of pop. It was basically the same body style without some of the frills. The current vehicle in question has a ridiculous price tag. $1K-$2K max if there really is no rust and the engine is not seized. I paid $1500 for my running car and I was totally ripped off (that’s on entirely on me, dumb ass that I was).

    • Dave Wright

      You did not have an S body…….this is a big heavy car.

  13. Horse Radish

    If you had a 1970, then it could not have been a w108 , which this is and a ‘250’.
    If it was a ‘250’ , not a ‘250S’ or SE , then it was not this body.
    W108 250ies were made ’til 1968.
    Now you say it had plenty of pop , and you were ripped off @ $1500 ?
    Usually a tired engine comes at those price tags, or as I am guessing the ‘cheaper’ body style W114/5 is what you had.

    • Eric 10Cars

      You obviously know more than I do about the MBs, but other than the front fenders with dual headlights, my car looked exactly like this body and was definitely a plain 250. As it turned out, the engine was very strong and after I rebuilt the Zeniths and had Max Scroggs (a local MB expert) tune the carbs, it went like spit. The problems with the car were not with the engine. The tranny was bad; it had way more rust than I thought; the A/C didn’t work and I had to replace the heater fan (up under the middle of the dash); and I needed to rebuild the brakes. I bought the car in the late 80s so $1500 was a lot more money then to me. Hence, it was a bad buy. I wound up selling it for what I paid for it, so I lost a good bit with all of the work I had to do on it. All that aside, it was a very comfortable car to drive and carry my wife and 3 kids in. It had the tightest turning radius of any car I’ve ever owned and handled great for such a large car.

  14. David Miraglia

    too much money for her. I love Benz’s, don’t know if it works. And I do agree that the price should be no more than 1,500 for a car in that shape.

  15. glennmat1

    if it was in mississippi i bet there was alot of flood waters in that car over the years and lots of bugs. it look slike its in good condition and they were built like tanks

  16. John C Cargill

    Great cars, in my experience, but this is overpriced.


    I owned a 1972 4.5 SEL the one with the longer rear doors, it was the smoothest running car ever. Loved it.

  18. John

    This reminds me of the one that was given to me back in 2001. Mine was a one owner, Jimmy Carter’s sister. I sold it a year later for good money.

  19. S. Brodie

    I think Norma Bates drove a 280SE in the Television Series Bates Motel. That would explain the condition of the storage building.

  20. Keith

    Interesting comments on this car. As the owner of a 1970 280S (in better condition than this one) it’s interesting to see people’s opinions on the price. I paid $1300 for mine last summer and spent about $800 having the carbs rebuilt. So this one definitely seems over priced though I do see the ad has been deleted by the author which usually means it’s been sold.

  21. will

    Actually the Se was just a lovely hand made Mb back in the late 60’s early 70’s,I would drive my Grandparent’s Black and Red leather 280 from Pittsburgh to our house in Palm Beach each year and it was a joy to drive.If I remember these were some of the last hand built MB’s.

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