Launched in 1965, the W108 Series S-Class saloon was the-top-of-the-range Mercedes of the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Hailed by contemporary motoring journalists as the finest luxury car in the world, it was built to a standard that put most other manufacturers to shame. Allied to this bank vault solidity was an air of sober Teutonic opulence that made it an instant hit with tycoons and diplomats the world over.
Most glamorous of all was the two-door W111 coupe version, a fantastically elegant pillarless design by Paul Bracq that was tailor-made for the artistic elite of the Swinging Sixties. The mix of chrome, wood and leather still oozes a cigars and champagne class that makes you feel like a film star every time you slip behind the wheel.
Initially available with a straight-six 2.2-litre engine, this was soon upgraded to a 2.5-litre unit and from 1967 by a 2.8-litre which produced 160bhp and could propel the car to 100 kph in under 11 seconds on its way to a top speed of 185 kph. Costs at launch in 1967 were over twice the price of a Jaguar E-Type, the 280SE Coupe was always an exclusive machine and ownership was restricted to a privileged few.
As copies of the original Mercedes data sheets show, this 280SE Coupe was built in July 1968 and was despatched new to an agent in Jacksonville, Florida, for first owner Wernher von Braun. We are told that this is the same Wernher von Braun - the famous German rocket scientist who developed the V-2 rocket for the Nazis in WW2 before being secretly moved to America in September 1945 where he led the NASA team that finally put man on the moon in 1969.
There is some correspondence on the subject in the history file, along with a photo of von Braun with a similar car, plus some old Department of Defense transfers on the front bumper permitting access to Bolling Air Force Base in Washington DC, but whether the provenance is watertight or not we leave it up to you to decide.
It is not known how long von Braun owned the car (he died in 1977) but by 1980 it was with a Mr J K Nargil of Washington DC, remaining in District of Columbia until it was exported to the UK in 2015. There is one old MOT on file issued in March 2017 but the car has only done one mile since then, the odometer currently showing 84.582 miles.
Although the car still runs and drives, the engine starting promptly, revving easily and sounding healthy, it is in need of restoration. The outer bodywork looks reasonably sound and straight, the brightwork is good but the interior is very scruffy.
One of the most elegant cars of the post-war era, this Teutonic masterpiece is on offer here at a modest guide price which leaves plenty of scope for the remedial works now required.
|Engine||2.778 ccm, 182 PS, I6|
|Steering||Left Hand Drive|
|Layout||Rear Wheel Drive|
|Color - exterior||White|
|Color - interior||Yellow|
|Miles/Kilometers shown||84.582 mls|
|Chassis / VIN||11102412001451|
|Location - Country||Czechia|
|Location - City||Hradec Kralove|
2-door coupe body type; RWD (rear- wheel drive), automatic 4-speed gearbox; gasoline (petrol) engine with displacement: 2778 cm3, advertised power: 134 kW / 180 hp / 182 PS (SAE), torque: 262 Nm; characteristic dimensions: outside length: 4882 mm, width: 1845 mm, wheelbase: 2750 mm; reference weights: base curb weight: 1510 kg; top speed: 185 km/h (115 mph) (declared by factory); accelerations: 0-60 mph 10 s; 0-100 km/h 10.5 s