1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5 Saloon
Result: PASSED IN
Replacing the Fintail saloons at the top of Mercedes-Benz’s model range, the W108/109 was launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1965. This was effectively the birth of the legendary S-Class, a line that continues as the pinnacle of luxury motoring to this day. With crisp, modern styling by Paul Bracq, the car was available in two wheelbase lengths, while the other significant difference between the W108 and W109 models was the complex self-levelling air suspension found exclusively on the latter. Two engines were initially available, a 2.5-litre six-cylinder (either with carburettors or fuel injection) and an alloy 3-litre six, followed by the limited production 300 SEL 6.3 in 1967. In 1968 the 250 was replaced with the 280 and offered in carburettor (S) or fuel-injected (SE) versions, while the final – and for many pundits best – W108/109 variant was the flagship 3.5, which arrived in late 1969. Featuring Daimler-Benz’s ‘small block’ M116 bent eight, the 280 SE 3.5 was equipped with the latest Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection and a four-speed automatic transmission (using a fluid coupling) as standard equipment, although a manual gearbox was available to special order. The conventionally suspended W108 model employed coil springs with double wishbones and a stabiliser bar up front and a swing axle system (with radius arms) at the rear, along with powerful disc brakes all round. On the longer wheelbase 280 SEL, power steering was standard and an electric sunroof was part of the extensive list of optional equipment. Beautifully engineered, the original S-class was years ahead of the competition and well-kept examples are can still be found being used as daily drivers.