Motor Project: 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SE

Here on eBay is a well-bred sedan: a 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SE, bid to $7600 with the reserve met. This car is located in Dallas, Texas. Not only is this Benz a worthy example, but the seller has also posted an excellent ad. This is the W108 platform, produced from 1965 to the early 1970s. These cars were four-door sedans, not to be mistaken for the W111 two-door fintail coupe. The seller bought the car in 2016 and believes he is the fourth owner. The sale includes the original invoice from Van Winkle Motor Company in Texas, receipts from 2014 on, and stories of previous owners – a bit of what those fancy auction houses call “provenance”. The car has seen various body repairs and one repaint in the original Light Beige; while a few of the repairs did address spots of rust, the seller is careful to note he is not declaring the car rust-free. The trunk lid sits a hair high; other gaps are good.

This 280SE is fitted with a three-speed automatic and a 2.8 liter in-line six-cylinder fuel-injected motor pumping out 160 bhp. Or it would if it ran right. And that’s the reason for the sale: the motor has developed a metallic pinging sound, which can be heard in this video. The seller’s mechanic has declined to help troubleshoot the car. Prior to this unfortunate issue, the car ran great. Plenty of work is on this car’s resumé, including a new electronic ignition distributor, transmission seals, new suspension components, and a brake rebuild.

The interior was completely refurbished in Cognac leather and original carpet material. The dash is in respectable condition. The car’s power window mechanisms were cleaned and lubed a few years ago; it has new and repaired switches, a rebuilt Becker radio, and a renovated air conditioner. The seller reports that the radio is still a bit static-y, the clock does not work, the foot-operated windshield washer pump does not work, and the heater needs a new blower – but the part comes with the car.

Underneath, a pinhole can be seen in the muffler, which the seller says needs replacing. The car rides on tires installed within the last few years. This car has received the care it needs to resist becoming a cast-off. Meanwhile, prices for its fancier brethren have shot up lately. The 3.5-liter cars are selling in the low six figures, and the cabriolet will cost you over $300,000. The coupe – ok, not on the same chassis – is selling at $50k to $100k. The eye-popping prices for these Teutonic land yachts have pulled up values for their pedestrian cousin. Here is a similar 280SE offered at $15,795. Motor work could be expensive, yes, but do you find value in this one at today’s bid?


  1. JCA Member

    That’s one nasty sounding knock

    Like 1
  2. alphasud Member

    That engine noise sounds like it is in the valve train and given the vibration a lobe and or follower has left the chat. These cars are what I would call majestic. Some serious coin has been spent on the interior and if the bidding doesn’t go much higher this could be a good deal. I thought the 6cyl. cars got the 4-speed auto and the V8 models got the 3-speed. I may be wrong.

    Like 5
  3. Big C

    The seller’s mechanic has “declined” to diagnose the sound of the rods about to knock a hole through the block? Either the seller owes him money, or the mechanic is the reason for the knock.
    Ah, on second thought, just slap an LS in her, and call it a day.

    Like 5
    • Terrry

      Pretty sure that’s not a rod but a very collapsed lifter. It might be easily fixable, or at worst do a head recondition and all new lifters.

      Like 1
      • Bob Washburne

        After you, Terry!

        If it’s a lifter issue, it’ll show up on a compression or vacuum test.

        That sounds like a bad big end on a connecting rod. Damn.

    • Dave

      Or a Duramax . . .

  4. Terrry

    If the price doesn’t go too much higher this could be a nice fixable project for the DIY-er.

    Like 3
  5. Guy Caldwell Member

    With either an engine rebuild or swap and some paint bubbles on rusty areas, would be hard to get your money out of this one. The interior work looks great and that is a very well written ad. I don’t understand the low prices on the four door sedans, as they are marvels of engineering and design.

    Like 1
  6. matthew grant

    having owned three 108s, a 70 280SE, a 73 4.5 and a 67 300SE (non air bladder), I am a huge fan of the character and driving aspects of the marque. but I also am painfully aware of costs back in the 70s when I owned them (as barely a 20 yr old), and that knock in the engine is enough to deter the knowledgable enthusiast from considering the car, especially at the stupid prices these cars are garnering. just a matter of time before this bubble bursts.

  7. Cobra Steve

    Sounds to me like a failing muffler bearing. Part number is I shall retire to my room before being told to go there.

    Like 2
    • alphasud Member

      I always liked the loose nut behind the wheel theory as well or maybe it just needs some blinker fluid.

      Like 1
  8. Enfield

    Sounds like a bad cam and cam followers. This car does not have lifters…the valves on these should be adjusted every 10,000 miles. Bad camshaft and followers are pretty common on these. to replace the cam is a pretty simple job, finding a cam is the problem.

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