Rare Fintail Sedan! 1965 Mercedes 300 SE

I struggled with the description of this Mercedes as a “Fintail” (or Heckflosse in German) until I realized that it means exactly what it says, it means a Fin Tail, or a car with tail fins. And that’s exactly how this 1965 300 SE is outfitted, as minor as the tail fins are.  This Benz is considered to be rare so let’s look it over. It is located in West Palm Beach, Florida and is available, here on craigslist for $24,500.

If a ’59 Cadillac’s tail fins are mountains, or maybe Alps, the fins of this Mercedes are moguls at best. They are refined, as most things on German cars were in this era. The setting for the photographs is interesting as they perfectly complement a Black Mercedes with European spec headlights. They obviously were not taken in West Palm Beach; the background looks more like this Mercedes’ native Stuttgart, Germany though the rear license plate is indicative of a U.S. state. Known as a W112, the 300 SE was offered from 1961 through 1965 in four-door form. By 1965 fins were pretty much gone from the domestic automotive scene, if not completely erased, but those on this 300 SE are so inconspicuous they would have been appropriate at any time in the ’60s, and maybe later. The seller references this big Benz as being a rare version, one of only 5,202 produced. Research indicates that the 300 SE was considered too expensive for its size while lacking the cache(t) of the top drawer 600 and thus the reason for the limited production volume.

This 82K example presents beautifully. Topside and bottom side too, there is no sign of fade, rot or crash damage. The deep onyx finish, no word if it’s original, contrasts perfectly with the chrome and stainless trim/bumpers. The seller suggests, “The car is very original overall, and it is an excellent candidate for a partial or full restoration“. OK, maybe so but the images aren’t indicative that restoration is necessary.

Power is provided by a 170 HP, 3.0 liter, in-line six-cylinder engine, combined with an automatic transmission. The seller claims, “The car runs and drives” and mentions that the previous owner had cylinder work performed and the water pump has been recently replaced. He further adds that the suspension needs to be redone but does not elaborate.

Inside is a beautifully complementing red leather environment. The seating upholstery shows age “cracks” but they are typical in nature and minor. The beige carpet and two-tone door panels look great – it makes for a quality and purposeful cabin setting. The only noted demerit goes to the missing steering wheel horn center.

I must admit, I don’t care for flashy cars and that sentiment seems to become more reinforced with age. And for that reason, I really appreciate the Mercedes of this generation. Sure, you know one when you see it, there is no mistaking that very distinctive M-B grille but the car reflects more of a knowing excellence as opposed to planting it right in one’s face. My understanding is that these can be expensive cars to own and maintain, but I don’t know that factually. Does anyone, with ownership experience, care to comment on that matter?


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  1. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    Mercedes Fintails are not that rare. I had a 1966 200d, W110 that was very similar to this car, but much, much slower, lol. The W112 was the “S” class of it’s day, and this car seems to be in fairly nice condition. Unfortunately, a lot of these cars suffered an untimely death due to the tin worm. Hopefully, someone will take this one to the finish line and complete the restoration.


    Like 7
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Maybe not in totality by platform, but the 300SE only put up a total of 9,875 over five years with just 5,202 being a four-door sedan like this model. That’s 1,040 per year; considering Mercedes’s total build volume, doesn’t that seem rare? Of that total, I wonder how many (or few, as a result of your noted tin worm comment) can still remain?


      Like 6
    • Bob K

      Jim does not make clear that most of the cars with the little fins were the smaller engine cars and they were pretty plentiful, at least in the kind of places like Northern California where Mercedes were common

      Like 3
    • DikMik

      Yup. Back in Hong Kong in the 60s, theses were used as licensed taxis, although with Diesel engines marking them the 200D model. You could buy a 220 with petrol engines but few bought them because of their downmarket cousins.

      Like 2
  2. Francisco

    Photos look like they were taken somewhere in the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War – or maybe the Coal Regions of Pennsylvania.

    Like 3
    • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

      Lol, I live near the coal regions of Pa, and you are right! Definitely looks like it could be in Shamokin or Mt. Carmel.

      Like 1
      • Mountainwoodie

        LOL Went to high school with a kid from Shamokin………Iron City Beer was the worst!

        I had a ’67 200..which is the weaker brother of this one. also this has European headlamps……..had them on my originally Euro delived ’67 230SL. I’d pull them out and look for rust out first thing :)

        Also no sunroof. I think the seller is reaching but then I always do :)

        Like 1
  3. Bob K

    HOW, HOW, HOW. Could you write about the fins without mentioning that they were copied straight off the 1958 Rambler, although a bit more integrated into the body? One of the few times Mercedes has been caught doing a flat-out copy as they struggled to enter the modern styling era.
    Also it’s not true that they looked classic and not dated by the middle of the 60s. They were really in their own world as far as styling goes with that big tall grille

    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      HOW, HOW, HOW? The thought of Ramblers rarely crosses my mind.

      Also, it’s not true that they looked classic and not dated by the middle of the 60s. They were really in their own world as far as styling goes with that big tall grille

      You missed my point, I was talking about fins, not the grille. Besides, styling is always subjective.


  4. David Frank David Frank Member

    I restored my “fintail” about 27 years ago. It’s a 220S. In some ways it takes a little less maintenance than this 300SE but in others, less. The issues with this car are due to neglect. Overall, mine has been easy to maintain and much less expensive to maintain than many of the American counterparts. Could this 300SE really be worth $24,500? There’s at least $10,000 worth of neglect to be repaired. Mine is a rare sunroof model and it is in much better condition but worth less than $10,000 because it’s only a 220S.

    Like 4
    • Mountainwoodie

      I’d rather have yours!

      Is it a standard on the hump, column or slushbox?

      Looks very very nice.

  5. chrlsful@aol.com

    “…suspension redo…”
    Ho boy, big $ time I’d bet.
    Geo. Harrison’s 600 was just marketed, the yr those
    systems were 1st installed/developed.

    • Solosolo Member

      It just sold today for $201k on the Collecting Cars online auction. They normally sell for $170k in No 2 condition according to Hagerty, so even without celebrity ownership this buyer has made a very good buy.

  6. chrlsful

    love those euro hdlghts. That big hunka glass has always looked great. Euro, & Oz all ways of interest to me, may B just cuz unfamiliar but, still, a finer edge to their styles (& plenty in engineering too).

    Like 1
  7. Tim961

    It makes me cringe to see it on those salted, slushy streets! You can almost see it dissolving right before your eyes

    Like 2
  8. Francis Cruz

    In the Philippines 🇵🇭 those days only two (2) that I’ve known who had owned MB 300SE:
    1.) Philippines Vice President – Fernando Lopez
    2.) Former Province of Bulacan – Vice Governor Don Manolo C. Cruz (Philippines Leather Tycoon) which happened to be my late Uncle.

    It has Fuel Injection and Hydraulics Suspension

  9. Mountainwoodie

    My bad.

    Dealer says the Heckflosse has a sunroof……….could have fooled me. Im guessing the pix were taken by the earlier owner unless climate change has come to South Florida along with the covid. A sunroof would be a selling point…at least for me. The headroom on these is such that when opened, at 6’1, I was never bothered by the rushing air.

  10. onree Member

    Cachet (pronounced ka-shay’) is the prestigious word you were looking for. Cache rhymes with and means the same as stash.
    Close spelling but very different meanings.
    Kind of like concours and concourse.

    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      No, I specifically meant Cachet – I know what it means and how to spell it. I typed too fast and missed the “T” and the spell checker didn’t flag it because “cache” is a word too.


      Like 1
  11. M

    Looks a little beat. And missing the hood ornament.

    Like 1
  12. Horse Radish

    A.) not a $24.500 car
    B.) little detail: Needs whole air suspension redone
    C.) this is NOT a 1965.
    A ’65 SWB 300SE would carry a premium as it would have the improve 6 line injection and 10 hp more besides Interior and exterior enhancements. The bulk of SWB cars (such as this) were built 1961-63.
    You can see this car is one of those early ones.
    Where in Palm Beach would you find a place with all that snow.

    OR ? does the seller have the Gullwing Motor Car Co. syndrome ?
    (selling and offering cars with years (or decades) old photos from when he b o u g h t the car…)

    Like 1

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