It’s not about the money – classic choice #Mercedes-Benz #280SE
3.5 Coupe W111. Values of Mercedes’ W111 coupe and cabriolet models may be rising, but that was not the main reason one collector craved the keys to his own two-door fixed head. Words Mattzollo. Images Felix Steck.
For the majority of car collectors, the overriding incentive behind every purchase they make is that they just really want the car.
Even in today’s classic car loving world, it takes a brave person indeed to make a purchase based solely on a car’s potential to increase in value. If the market for something supposedly as safe as houses - that is, houses - can wobble, then what chance the market for a product that is pure indulgence and, so it often seems, more demanding to look after than a house itself?
Which is why, if you are going to buy a classic car, you need to be doing it for at least one other very good reason besides the financial one. And the most obvious reason we can think of is an absolute adoration for your new capital investment. There might be some very rich people out there doing it just for the money, and the prestige, but for the majority of car collectors and investors, the overriding incentive behind each and every purchase they make is that they just really want the car.
This sums up the relationship between this stunning #W111
and its owner, Marcus Diamand. Regular readers may recall that Marcus owns a selection of Mercedes, all absolutely first rate examples of their breed. And while there is one eye being kept on what their values are doing, first and foremost these cars have each found a place in his collection because they are loved very dearly. Marcus wouldn’t be upset if they never made him a penny, and that goes for this W111, too.
THE ONE TO OWN
Marcus makes no secret of the fact that the model’s significance as a financial investment had not passed him by. But to say the purchase was a cold, calculated act based purely on investment value and financial gain would be nonsense. He bought this car because owning a two-door W111 had been a dream of his for a number of years. So with that said, we hope we can tell the rest of this story without giving the impression that it is just about market movements and investment yields.
But, by golly, hasn’t the W111 proven to be of great financial reward for a lucky few. Values have risen dramatically, and nowhere more so than in the model’s home country, Germany. “Of all classics on the market, values of W111 s are rising the quickest,” reckons Marcus. “Here, a year ago, if a convertible was over €200,000 (£160,000) it would have been overly expensive, and the maximum for coupes was €100,000 (£80,000). But recently a convertible sold for €400,000 (£315,000) and another for €340,000 (£265,000), and coupes can go for €180,000 (£140,000).”
Despite increasing values, Marcus spent five years trying to find the right one. He tells us why it took so long. “I really was actively looking at and test driving W111s for that many years. At first I was thinking a 3.5 convertible, but prices got so out of hand I started looking at the smaller engined ones.
The trouble is, the 3.5 model is the only one that has a bit of shove; the others are really only for very relaxed Sunday drives, whereas the 3.5 is ready for any situation.”
With the V8 a must, sights were set on a coupe, and eventually he came across one for sale at one of Munich’s most prominent classic dealers, Auto Toy Store, which usually boasts a big selection of W111 s for sale. This coupe example was used by the proprietor (before a convertible turned up, ironically) and came with the desirable quality of being fully restored to a very high standard.
Even so, knowing of the problems that can come with buying a W111, Marcus still went to the dealer with three master technicians with various backgrounds. “I basically walked in with an army!” he exclaims. All three said the car had been perfectly restored, as expected, but there was a catch, and it didn’t need an army of experts to spot it...
It had not been a totally straight-laced, purist approved restoration. In this case, that meant an interior with very modern touches: diamond quilted seats, double stitching on the dashboard and everywhere else, Alcantara headlining and a custom centre console complete with a TV monitor and garish V8 badging. Oh, and the range topping coupe also had a two-tone paint job, with the standard silver bodywork complemented by a brown roof.
Apart from that, however, it really was an excellent example, mechanically and structurally in perfect order. All it needed was someone who recognised its potential. That man was Marcus, and the previous owner’s €30,000 (£24,000) worth of interior alterations were ripped out in one morning, not long after the cabriolet was taken away, ready for transformation back to data card specified silver roof and Brazil Brown leather originality.
With roof repainted and interior re-trimmed by Marcus’ favoured classic #Mercedes
specialist, Fritz Wallner of Mercedes Oldtimer-Technik, it was on to the finishing touches. A head unit had to be found, Marcus insisting on an original Becker Europa, and he also insisted on adding air conditioning to the centre console as, in his opinion, the interior just doesn’t cut it without them. Having seen these in place, we would be very much inclined to agree.
There were two versions of air con available for the W111, an American made Cool Master unit and a German made Behr version. For Marcus, the only option was the latter, and after much time and effort (and presumably considerable expense), a Behr unit had been sourced and fitted. The set up works beautifully - silent yet very effective. “I hate noises,” laughs Marcus. “I only want to hear the engine! The unit has been rebuilt and refined to be as efficient as possible, and also you notice that you don’t feel it sap power from the engine, like you usually do in old cars.” With another €30,000 sunk into the cabin, Marcus finally had the car he wanted.
INVESTING IN THE PAST
A sum spent very wisely, you would have to say. I do not think I have ever sat in a cabin as pleasant as this one. It has the chic elegance that you would expect in a 1960s luxury car, yet is cosseting in a way more typical of modern car cabins. It is beautifully trimmed and tastefully tailored, while being impeccably well built and having an air of high quality and integrity.
It is thus ever so easy to simply sit back and enjoy a sedate drive, taking in your immediate surroundings and barely thinking about the act of driving - further than looking out for road hazards, we hasten to add. And because of the kind of car it is, that kind of driving certainly comes naturally. However, this is not to say you cannot get thoroughly involved in the act of driving. Because while you can merely sit back and sail along, to pilot this car as smoothly and seamlessly as it deserves actually requires a certain amount of effort and attention. That, of course, is similar to any classic, calling for patience and skill that a modern car, whose electrical systems seamlessly tidy away driver flaws, does not.
The gearbox likes to hold a lower gear than sometimes seems desirable, engineered as it is to provide some sporting intent, so you have to master the art of gently but purposefully stroking the accelerator pedal to coax it into a higher gear. And because the suspension is soft and squidgy by modern car standards at least, to keep the car tracking smoothly and serenely requires very delicate handling of the steering wheel, and brake and accelerator pedals.
Normally in a classic car, you will still have the odd shudder or thunk through the suspension, or lurch and thud through the drivetrain, but there is none of that here, the Mechatronik supplied suspension kit providing faultless chassis manners and the drivetrain a silky smooth transfer of power. Drive it correctly and it delivers in spades. The #M116
delivers on the refinement front, with none of the tappety jingles produced by most contemporary units, the W111’s smaller straight-six included. Inside, a subdued thrum can be heard, while a deep burble teases on the outside. And it’s brisk, as Marcus alluded to. A 39bhp/34lb ft advantage over the 2.8 straight-six provides a noticeable leap in performance, despite the V8’s 60kg extra weight.
As a sign of how highly Marcus regards this car, and indeed the inherent rightness of the #W111
from the factory, other than adding the air conditioning unit, he has not seen fit to tinker with the car at all. And this from a man who has had all his cars updated and tweaked ever so slightly, to look better or work more sweetly. Admittedly that might just possibly have something to do with such changes affecting the value of the car, but mainly it is simply because he loves it just the way it is.
JUST TECH FACTS
ENGINE M116 3.499CC V8
MAX POWER 197bhp @ 5.800rpm
TORQUE 211lb ft @ 4.000rpm
TRANSMISSION 4-speed auto. RWD
TOP SPEED 127mph
FUEL CONSUMPTION 21.7mpg
YEARS PROOUCED 1969-1971
With glamorous looks and a V8 engine bursting with classic performance, the 3.5-litre W111 is highly collectible.
Figures for a #1970
car as pictured: fuel consumption determined at 3/4 of top speed (not more than 110km/h, 68mph) plus 10 per cent.
It really was an excellent example, but needed someone who recognised its potential.
Only the grunt of the 3.5 would do for this Benz collector.
Three and a half litres of understated Mercedes brawn.
Recirculating ball power steering for this flagship coupe.
The 3.5 M116 was used in the #R107
SL among others.
This W111 coupe uses 205/70 tyres on stock 14-inch rims.