Three-Pedal Fintail: 1968 Mercedes-Benz 230S

I’ve never understood why four-doors are usually not as desirable as coupe and convertible cars in the classic car market; more doors means more space for you and your friends, and four-doors still typically have plenty of trunk space. Factor in some 1960s style and flair, these so-called crew cabs have always caught my fancy. This 1968 Mercedes-Benz 230S may need a bit of work, but the combination of four doors and rear tailfins is a desirable sight in my eyes. Find it here on craigslist in Baltimore, Maryland, with an asking price of $1,200.

Introduced in 1959 to replace the Ponton-series sedans introduced in 1953, the W111 “Fintail” series is considered one of the forefather series of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Featuring short rear tailfins (designated Peilstege, German for parking aids, which marked the end of the car for aid in backing), the W111 Fintail was inspired by American car styling which, in Mercedes-Benz’s case, combined modest tailfins with iconic 1960s Mercedes-Benz styling. This 1968 230 S is a final-year model, and though a bit rough, appears to be fairly straight. There appears to be a bit of rot underneath the driver’s-side doors, rear license-plate mount, and front-facing trim, and there is a big dent in the back bumper, but the rest of the car’s stainless trim and chrome appears to be in good condition. I would address the rust, straighten out the dent in the back bumper, repaint the car in gray or silver, and build this car rally-car style similar to this W111 Fintail here.

Unfortunately the engine isn’t pictured, but if original, the power plant for the W111 230S sedan was a 2.3 liter inline six with a single overhead camshaft. Rated at 118 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, this 230S sedan is backed by a four-speed manual transmission. Although the power figures seem a bit low, the 2.3L inline six should still have plenty of pep, and with a few period-correct modifications, performance should improve drastically. Arguably the nicest part of the car, the interior looks better than one might expect at this price, though the structural soundness of the floors are an area of concern. The dash pad doesn’t have any major cracks, holes or blemishes, and wood veneers on the instrument panel look like they could be cleaned up nicely. Instrumentation and switchgear also look decent, though the radio seems like it was changed some time ago. The steering wheel is the original design but has a wrapped rim, and the visible upholstery doesn’t look particularly bad either. Overall, though in need of tender loving, this W111 Fintail would be a cool car to build up in a rally-car fashion and either daily drive and or take to Cars and Coffee events; what are your thoughts on this final-year W111 Fintail project?


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  1. Dave Wright

    Mitchell…….this is an S class as is my 1958 220S sedan. Nice looking car and a good price. We always preferred the SE cars… (large body, fuel injected) but for 1200.00 what do you want? We owned and worked on many of these cars, great vehicles. We had less trouble….like none….with the injected Motors where the carbureted ones like this needed the carbs rebuilt from time to time. The last year for the fin tail cars.

  2. Metoo

    Why 2 doors vs 4 doors? The coolness factor is all I have.

  3. Brian Gould

    I agree on the 4 door vs 2 door thing. I have both. Either car works fine if I’m solo or there are just two of us.
    But when the whole crew is there, only the 4 door guarantees cruising comfort and easy accessibility. And judging from the appreciative sounds coming from the back seat, that seems to be increasingly important as we all get older.

  4. Pete

    the front door in a 4 door is short and that makes for more difficult entry?

    • Metoo

      Yes. I use a wheelchair as I am a paraplegic and have always had two doors. MUCH easier to get myself and my wheelchair in.

      • Dave Wright

        You would love my wife’s R500 Mercedes

  5. Dave Wright

    With this car, if it was a 2 door, it would be a SEC coupe. They were twice as expensive as the assembly line built sedan here. They were the last hand built Mercedes, very high end and expensive even today. So, big differences in 2 and 4 door models with Mercedes in these years. Many parts and the drivetrain are common between the 2 but the coupe is a true luxury car, this is a grocery getter.

  6. Andy

    My folks bought a ’64 that looked a lot like this one in 1969 or ’70. Most of my earliest car memories are of that Benz: Mom and Dad brush-painting it yellow; riding in the tow truck while it got dragged back from its breakdown in the Maine countryside; my dad topping off the battery when it got low; and Dad laying on several pounds of fiberglass cloth and Bondo to keep the headlights attached to the fenders. Moral of the story: if you’re a freshly ordained minister with three kids, and you find a Mercedes you can afford, you can’t really afford it.

    • jcs

      Ah yes, the foibles of buying an expensive car on the cheap. One way or another you’re going to pay for it as your folks found out.

      • Dave Wright

        I think the lesson would have been not to buy a rusted car.

  7. Peter K

    I’d like to know what the deal is on the Land Rover also in the picture…

    • Mitchell Gildea Member

      Yeah I was wondering about that Land Rover too

  8. Alford Pouse Member

    Had a 220 I believe SE too many years between then and now but do recall having to get used to 4 speed on the column. Then a month wait for a plastic bushing. Still was a reliable car.

  9. David Frank David Frank Member

    I have enjoyed my 220S for over 20 years. It’s been a great car and has needed very little work over the years. I would snap this one up for the interior alone if it was closer. I added power steering, AC and installed a 230 head, otherwise, it’s bone stock.

    • Neil

      Pretty car, David.

    • Paul Gray


  10. Pete

    You can tell that this is a real US import due to the Fed-mandated side marker lights. 1968 was the first year for that business. Easy enough to discern between a 67 and 68 mustang that way. Thissun is pretty cool. I always dug their wonky “vertical” speedometers. …No connection, but my Dad had a ’71 Peugeot 504 for about 7 years from new. Weird, comfortable car with great brakes and very nice room. People poo-poo’d those cars, and I can see why but, the longer we had it, the more I dug it. This fin-tail would be really cool all hopped up and rally-fried! :-)

  11. Sam

    Like it…there’a cool/nerdy vib to this. There is a high school kid in our town that drives, nice weather only, an early 80’s China blue 240d.

    He lovingly works on and enjoys it. I’ve talked to him at gas stations a couple times to compliment the car and his work.

  12. David Miraglia

    always liked Benz in any era. The sixties S class is no exception

  13. Bob C.

    Wow, didn’t know they were still making those fin tails in 68.

  14. Jeremy Gunderson

    I went and looked at this car on Friday. It started right up with a jump. It needs a driver side rocker, and spare tire wheel well replaced. Sun baked interior. Original engine and Zenith carbs. Too good of a car to part out, IMO. I would’ve bought it, but I have too many projects right now (1969 BMW 2002, 1966 VW bus). I recently sold my 1968 230, but was interested because of the price and because its a 230s.

    The Land Rover is a 1973 Series III military. Its also for sale on Craigslist for $3300.

    The owner is real nice and just trying to let go of some of his projects.

    • Bobsmyuncle

      Jeremy, do you have any contact info for the seller?

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