Live Auctions

Euro Spec Bishop’s Car: 1979 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE

What a great story this 1979 Mercedes-Benz 280SE has – so great, in fact, it’s surprising that it was left for dead in the seller’s barn. It’s not like it was involved in a bank heist or smuggled a pop star across state lines, but it did begin its journey with the seller in 1986 when it was purchased during an Air Force tour. It actually belonged to a German bishop and has curtains in the back window per his preferences; the seller used the car in Europe before shipping it home and using it up until 1996. The Mercedes is a true European-spec model and is listed here on BF Classifieds for just $1,900.

The 280SE is a six-cylinder model, but more importantly, it has those gorgeous chrome bumpers and European headlights. Refreshingly, the seller notes that when they brought it stateside, they did “minimal conversion” to meet U.S. roadway requirements. It’s always nice to encounter a seller who knows that for a German car fan, finding one with all of the overseas markets goodies still attached is a must-have. Now, I don’t quite understand why a bishop needed curtains in the rear window, but I’m guessing it’s because they were considered borderline royalty back in the day and demanded the same level of privacy as an elected official.

Like a true European market car, the Mercedes has cloth seats as opposed to the MBTex that came standard in most U.S.-delivery models. The steering wheel is covered in mold, a common plight for long-standing cars, but the cloth buckets appear to be in good condition. A matching blue dash cover has hopefully protected the dash from developing any cracks and the windshield looks surprisingly clear. Perhaps there’s still a three-pointed star in the corner, signifying that it’s original to the car. Like the MBTex material, the cloth upholstery is usually fairly robust as well.

The seller’s description includes references to both automatic and manual gearboxes. The six-cylinder engine would have been a natural fit for having three pedals, especially in Europe where manuals are far more prevalent. The passenger-side fender has clearly taken a hit and while the seller doesn’t explicitly state that it has rust, Pennsylvania can be a cruel climate for vintage tin (ask me how I know – my junkyard rescue Mercedes 190E Cosworth came from Pennsylvania!) The seller says that they will help you load it up and take it away, which seems like a strange way to say goodbye to a car that they’ve held onto for years. Regardless, it looks like a deserving project with a great story to tell.


  1. alphasud Member

    Good opportunity for someone to own a classic W116 S class. Rare 4-speed so that will make the best work of the twin cam 6. This car lived in the part of the county where rust can be a concern so a thorough inspection is needed. Any major rust and this car becomes a parts donor for its euro spec. bumpers and headlights. This was your basic spec. W116 as many were fitted with a V8 and the 3-speed auto.
    I have at times considered a W116 but they are a little more cantankerous than the W126 that replaced it. I have driven my long wheelbase V126 for over 2 years and it’s time to part ways. I’m conflicted because it’s one of the best cars I have had the pleasure to drive. I just need to thin my herd. You will see it pop up on BarnFinds in the near future.

    Like 6
    • PaulG

      alphasud, after reading your reply I can’t help but comment. I literally just sold (Saturday) my 88 300 SE W-126 and was thinking about how conflicted I was and how it’s a difficult automobile to replace.
      I agree that this particular car will likely be used to convert a US spec.

      Like 6
  2. Mitchell

    Mercedes stated in a presentation video in 1980 that
    the 126 have 26% better aerodynamics and that is
    consumes 23% less fuel then the 116. Using more
    aluminium and other light weight parts.

    Like 1
  3. Mitchell


    here the presentation vid of the 126, from 1979
    Use the crappy foogle-translation to enjoy. Both the 116
    and 126 have their own charisma but the later is in my
    view the worthy successor to the classic, genuine 600

    Like 1
    • alphasud Member

      W116 6.9. What a car!

  4. MKG

    Molded steering wheel!? The whole car is”infested” and will need a thorough disassembly of the interior and disinfected. Chances are the next cool, damp, dark days that come will make it rebloom. Ill pass. I’ve been sick as Hell from being in a previously mold infested car before!

    Like 2
  5. gaspumpchas

    There is nothing more expensive than a cheap Benz.

    Like 2
    • MKG

      A cheap Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow beats it hands down, lol.

      Like 3

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