In 2020, Jim was fortunate to meet and become good friends with Hiram Bond and Paul Marcelino, who have a spectacular car collection. Paul and Hiram, who are themselves long-time friends in Los Angeles, share Jim’s commitment to buying and/or restoring classics to their original factory specs. At the time Jim first met them, they had three show quality Mercedes Benz’s from the early 1970s, including a very rare 300sel 4.5 and a 300sel 6.3. Hiram, in particular, had been driving 280sel’s for almost 40 years and the car you see here was in remarkable condition with only 69,000 original miles and one repaint in its factory correct Tobacco Brown color. They graciously agreed to let Jim purchase and enjoy this car. Enjoy is the word, because this car is essentially a Condition #1 driver, that is meant to be driven and not static displayed in a museum somewhere.
The body style of these cars originated in 1961 when MB hired the French designer Paul Bracq to come up with a new design for their coupes and cabriolets, which internally were given the code name W111. The cars were an immediate sensation and together with the 300SLs restored MB to its pre-war status as a world-class automobile company. In 1965, under Bracq’s design team, MB added a sedan and the famous “Pagoda” two-door roadster. These body styles collectively are viewed by classic car connoisseurs as the gold standard in post-war automobile design. With the passage of fifty years, they are even more coveted now than when they were originally sold.
While the body styles remained mostly unchanged from 1961 to 1972, the focus shifted to engine design. The original cars were powered by MB’s venerable in-line six cylinder, but by the mid-1960s, the American market, in particular, wanted more powerful engines, especially as US smog control equipment became mandatory and further reduced the horsepower of the six.
As a result, in 1969, Mercedes introduced the M116 3.5 V8 engine across the entire line (except for the lighter Pagoda roadsters) where it became the base V8 engine from 1969-1972. This engine would ultimately go on to serve as the power plant for all sedans for decades, with minor variations, initially producing 200bhps and came with a Bosch electronic fuel injection system and electronic ignition system that have proven to be bulletproof over almost 45 years of continuous use.
The sedan you see here is a 1972 with a 4.5 V8. That engine was an outgrowth of the 3.5 and made the 4.5 a unique and relatively rare car as it was only mated with the sedan for 16 months (from March 1971 to November 1972), at which point MB transitioned to a new body style (code named W116).
As a side note, Paul and Hiram have owned several early 1970s 280se 3.5 cabriolets and sold one at auction in 2015 that achieved the highest price recorded to that date for a fully restored Condition #1 car: $475,000. It is a true testament to their skill in preserving these cars.
Hiram, Paul and I share another belief, and that is that we are merely stewards of these cars and that one of our primary purposes (other than enjoying them while we have them), is to preserve the cars for the enjoyment of future generations.