Aristobarge: 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SE W108

Think about what you can buy for $20k these days: a base-model sedan like a Dodge Dart or Ford Focus, a decently nice high-content econobox like the Honda Fit, or the chunk of pure Stuttgart Bracq bossitude that is the W108 sedan. Granted, most W108s trade for far less than $20k, so for that price you should hold out for a real gem. Like this one. Find this 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SE for sale in Irvine, CA for $21,500 via craigslist.

The W108 will perennially be on DT’s list of great depreciated classics to drive and enjoy, at least until values start creeping up towards the $30k mark. It’s the immediate predecessor of the first S-Class and was second only to the Dictator-spec 600 Großer Mercedes when introduced (and those things are worth more than your life and mine, combined).

What you get with the W108 is the top of what most normal rich folks could afford in the ’60s and early ’70s, with a wide variety of options including the DT-favorite 4.5L V8 and the top performing 6.3L “M100” V8, borrowed from the 600. Today’s particular car is actually near the bottom of the spec sheet – the 2.8 liter inline six was the base engine, and the short wheel base (non-L) model wasn’t the preferred configuration of the chauffeured class, what with its lack of reclining space between the front and rear seats.

But would you look at that dash. You know what I say when I see something like that? “Would you look at that.” Just look at it. But seriously, the combination of slim horizontal design elements, wood veneer, a 3-gauge pod for the driver, and that big thin rimmed steering wheel is timeless. This one looks to have air conditioning and a custom bespoke plaque declaring the name of the original owner (in case he forgot his identity while driving?).

The leather looks fantastic – I want to take a nap in that driver’s seat, parked under a tree with the windows down. If this is truly an original survivor car, then it has aged very gracefully indeed, and seems to have been under lifelong care from people who knew how to keep a car maintained and looking fresh for 45 years – awesome.

The seller doesn’t provide any detailed mechanical / maintenance / service info except to say that it “runs and drives beautifully, shifting nicely with plenty of power and no smoke.” For the price however, I’d recommend a thorough PPO at a local specialist’s shop. The engine is the 160hp fuel injected variant of the M130 inline six, which (if you don’t mind fettling with Bosch D-Jet) should provide smooth and reliable cruising power.

Lastly, the seller uses one of DT’s favorite claims, that the car is “99.9% rust free” – the 280SE weighed 3,440 lb dry – does that mean that 0.1% of the car’s mass is rust? That would be 3.44 lb of iron oxide, which is not an insubstantial amount…or are we talking 99.9% by area? Ugh, nevermind.

See a cheaper W108 in comparable nick? email us here: