1972 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 4.5 V8

I absolutely adore these old Mercedes-Benz sedans. There is just something so perfect about them. Classy but not stuffy. Cool but timeless. They are strange in that Mercedes designed them in an engineering-first manner, as reliable and efficient as possible, with styling supposedly an afterthought, and yet they are undeniably a fashion statement first and foremost.

The W108 were produced from 1965-1972 and replaced the legendary W111 "Fintail". French designer Paul Bracq (who later helped BMW) was responsible for squaring off the corners, increasing greenhouse size and lowering the stance, and in the process ever so subtly created the modern Mercedes-Benz shape. Braq was brilliant and knew the enormity of the task at hand, and like all Mercedes designers, he passed the torch carefully but steadily.

These were offered in a variety of engines and trim levels. This one, the 280SE 4.5, is the best for the money: it's the short wheelbase with a huge 4.5-liter 8-cylinder engine under the hood. The long-wheelbase W109 are unnecessary for all but collectors as these are large and comfortable enough inside in normal body length.

The name is a bit of a misnomer, and was a problem for Mercedes until they devised the alphabetical class system in 1993. "280" initially referred to a 2.8-liter 6-cylinder, and "SE" is means "Super Einspritzung", or super fuel injection. Yet, the engine is much larger, so they tacked on the 4.5 at the end, negating the whole 280. Oh well. The actual car, in all its aesthetic and mechanical glory, more than makes up for it.

The seller of this delightful example says it has 150k miles on it. I'm fairly sure these had only 5-digit placeholder odometers, so any mileage claims would have to be an estimate. What's more important is what's been done and what hasn't over those miles.The seller says this one has always been garaged, and has new brakes, new tires and a recent service. They say it now runs well.

The only lingering questions are rust and rot, which seem to be a non-issue given it was "always" garaged. I'd see how many owners it has had and any maintenance records proving it was cared for.

If it checks out, you have my sincere envy. These are classics, and the 4.5 gives plenty of power to keep up with modern traffic, and look damn good doing it. Not many classic cars are this comfortable, reliable and useable.

Available here on craigslist in Carlisle, Massachusetts for only $3,900.

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