1985 Mercedes-Benz 280SE Euro

The W126 is one of those rare cars that was better than both its predecessor and successors, crystalizing it in time as a pinnacle of achievement. It debuted in 1979 and was more aerodynamic, efficient, spacious and faster than the outgoing W116.

The brilliant styling was courtesy of genius Bruno Sacco and was the first all-new design to emerge after his ascension to head of styling at Daimler-Benz in 1975. He took everything that was good about the W116 and made it better. This standard wheelbase SE trim means slightly better handling and lower weight than the SEL long wheelbases.

Unfortunately, Sacco's new integrated bumper design had to be extended on US-bound models to comply with the DOT, but this Euro-spec example mercifully has the original pieces that transform the proportions and look of the car. It's a sight to behold for discerning eye, especially auto fans here so used to the other inferior bumpers we got.

Another cool feature of Euro-spec cars are their interiors, like this one with rare cloth seats that weren't an option in the US. I actually prefer leather, but these sure do look comfy. The rest is classic Mercedes-Benz, which means utter perfection: high-quality plastics, easy-to-read and operate controls and gauges, and a delightful oversized steering wheel.

Another thing we never got is what lies under the hood: the M110.989 version of a 2.8-liter inline 6-cylinder engine that produced a competent 185 horsepower. The 6-cylinder is a sweet spot for these, especially in short wheel base form. It's one of the best engines Mercedes ever put out, and will provide power, economy and reliability if routinely maintained.

The seller says it was imported when new, and has a federalized gauge cluster. It now has about 110k miles. They say it's in good shape, including the paint, except for a corner that was resprayed, but it's been garaged during their ownership. It certainly looks sharp, and could easily go for another 100K miles of comfortable, state-of-the-art cruising. It's a lot of car for the price.

Available here on craigslist for $3,800.

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