When you want something quite badly, it might become yours if you stick with it long enough. That was the lesson Mike Marsh learned when he finally scooped up the car of his dreams: a 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE Cabriolet. A resident of Jackson, Mississippi, Marsh has an affinity for classic cars and is always on the lookout for something truly worthy to acquire.
The 280 SE Cabriolet is a pretty tough car to find. It has a special chassis, the W111, that Mercedes-Benz put into their top range models for only two windows of time: 1959-1968 for four-door sedans and 1961-1971 for two-door coupes and cabriolets. As the final year for the W111 chassis, the 1971 280 SE was also the most modern. That bit of modernity was enough to get it a rare V8 engine upgrade.
It’s been called a car that “reeks of elegance and sophistication.” Although it’s a sports car in the definitional sense, this is really a grand touring car. It’s long, it’s wide, and it plays tricks on your eyes as to which decade it belongs. The fenders and massively wide stance make you think the 1950s, but the size is shrunken down from that, perhaps a nod to the slightly more space- and fuel-conscious 1970s.
At the same time: that grille. The 280 SE Cabriolet’s front grille is calling back toward the 1930s. Some cars have arrangements of headlamps and hood ornaments that make them seem more art piece than transport, and this car is one of them. When you think of “vintage Mercedes-Benz” this is the front grille that pops into your brain. Put on your best tailored suit, and you might look like you belong in one of these.
An art museum is the perfect home for this 1971 model, which is exactly where Marsh found his. He’d tried the usual circles for vintage Mercedes-Benzes in his area but had no luck. On a weekend trip to a nearby automobile museum, Marsh spied a flash of green in a dark corner and knew he’d spotted something special. The seats were outside the car and the dashboard were missing—telltale signs that this wasn’t a car on display but in the process of restoration.
Marsh of course asked who owned the car and if it was for sale but was met with a rebuff: the owner wasn’t selling. Still, Marsh left his name and phone number with the curator of the museum, just in case.
Two years. That’s how long it took for this long shot to pay off. That’s enough time for hope to slowly die, resurface, and then die all over again. Still, when he got the call, Marsh had the car on a flatbed and headed to his home the very same day. After replacing the fuel lines and spark plugs, that glorious V8 was singing along the highways.
It’s a testimony to perseverance and not giving up, as always. Should you find yourself in the mood for something a little more modern, stop by our Mercedes-Benz showroom in Raleigh.