The 1967–71 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE may have peaked, save for the V-8

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1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet RM Sotheby's

Mercedes-Benz’s 280 SE can be found in sedan, coupe, and convertible body styles. Penned by Friedrich Geiger, who also designed the 300 SL, the elegant designs of the coupe and convertible have aged incredibly well. The two-door 280 SE variants wear the long-lived lines of the W111, which set the standard for Mercedes’ design language for decades to come.

Power for the 280 SE, appropriately enough, is from a 2.8-liter inline-six engine that produced 180 horsepower by way of Bosch fuel injection. If you thought that Mercedes’ naming convention only recently went off the rails, you’d be mistaken, because there was also a 280 SE 3.5 that came with a 230-hp 3.5-liter V-8.

Despite its gorgeous lines and solid powerplants, the garden-variety 280 SE may have reached its value pinnacle. Slowing insurance quoting activity over the past three years has led to the 280 SE dropping in the Hagerty Vehicle Rating, from 44 in early 2019 to its current adjusted HVR of just 13.

The Hagerty Vehicle Rating takes auction and private sales results, insurance quoting activity, and the number of new policies purchased into consideration to sort hundreds of car models and compare them to the collector car market as a whole. Our valuation team then assigns a score from 1–100, with 50 denoting a car that’s perfectly following the overall market trend. Popular cars that are gaining interest and value will score higher, those with flagging interest or sale prices score lower. A vehicle’s position on the list isn’t a sign of future collectIbility, it’s more of a pulse of the current market.

We spoke with Hagerty valuation specialist Andrew Newton, who noted that the value of these cars started going up in early 2014—right about the same time that they began to climb for other Mercedes from the 1950s through the ’70s—and plateaued about two years later.

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet
1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet RM Sotheby's
1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet
1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet RM Sotheby's

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet
1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet RM Sotheby's
1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet
1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet RM Sotheby's

Due to its rarity and powerful engine, the V-8-powered 280 SE 3.5 still commands a premium, but standard 280 SE sedans have dropped 22 percent, based on a #2 (excellent) example. Coupes have also suffered a less-serious drop of 11 percent. Only convertibles have managed to increase in value over that same time period—by a slight two percent. All of this is tempered by the fact that all 280 SEs are higher than they were six years ago.

The market for these cars is strongest among Baby Boomers, who make up a disproportionate percentage (55 percent) of the insurance quotes for 280 SEs. Newton says “13 percent of quotes come from Millennials, which seems high for a car this expensive.”  

Newton notes that the six-cylinder models still provide adequate power. “They’re a great choice for someone who wants a 280 to drive casually but doesn’t want to spend a quarter-million dollars or more on a V-8.” The coupes especially make for a handsomely-styled bargain at one-third the price of their convertible counterparts—and with a gorgeous roofline to boot.

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