By on July 8, 2009

They don’t build them like they used to. Really. I have yet to come across an car as solid as an old Mercedes, say pre-1998, before the Chrysler-DaimlerBenz AG “merger of equals.” If I had to choose one car to represent the pinnacle of—and benchmark for—Mercedes’ build quality, it would be the W116 S-Class. Hence my decision to restore a barn-found 1975 280S.

The W116 was the first Mercedes luxury sedan to be called the S-Class (the Sonderklasse or “special class”). From a design point-of-view, the 280S is old school, heavily inspired by the R107 450SL roadster and coupe that debuted several years earlier. Unlike the pretentious Rolls-Royce and Bentleys of its day, Mercedes’ three-box had both überholprestige and understated elegance. It’s sleek, refined and tasteful, with a broad shoulder line that gives it a masculine demeanor. At the same time, the big Benz’s wedge shape keeps the gargantuan sedan (17′ long) from looking overwhelmingly large.

Pulling the 280S’s protruding chrome door handle yields a suitably loud metallic clank. Nestling into in the S car’s therapeutic bucket seats, it’s easy to imagine the 280S as intercontinental transportation. Although the project car’s interior is a little warped from a year outdoors—not to mention the fact that it’s 34 years old—the cabin’s held up well. All materials and surfaces are soft to the touch, with brand-appropriate stolidity. Stoic, Teutonic, and dark. Check, check, check.

The 280S’s monstrous dash stretches across the entire width of the car; and there’s not much going on save a strip of wood lining the center. The climate and radio ergonomics are less than spectacular. While the switchgear maintains its tactile and firm feel, the main controls are virtually indistinguishable from one another.

In today’s day and age, the Mercedes Benz 280S seems woefully underpowered. Its carbureted 2.8-Liter DOHC straight six is rated at 160hp and 167 lb·ft of torque, peaking at 5,500 and 4,000 RPM respectively. Channeled through a short-ratio, four-speed automatic, the 280S’s acceleration is nothing more than adequate around town. Steep inclines and highway driving demand lots of wide open throttle and downshifting—just to keep up with traffic. No surprise: the M110 engine has to motivate about 3800 lbs worth of German steel.

The 280S [barely] achieved 12 mpg city/17 mpg highway. Back in the days of the fuel crisis and the newfangled lead-free fuel, these numbers and performance figures were . . . tolerable. The performance, not so much. Zero to sixty clocks in at about 11 seconds. The top speed lives in the vicinity of 120MPH. Again, that’s not bad for 1975. More importantly, the M110 engine’s smoothness rivals many modern straight sixes. Power delivery is wonderfully progressive. And, boy, does the 280S like to rev.

Handling is the 280S’s strong suit. The sedan tapped into technology from the famed C111 development test car. The 280S sports a double wishbone suspension with a torsion bar stabilizer up front, delivering zero offset and camber. The engineers added progressive anti-dive geometry to keep that big body stable under hard braking. They modified the once camber-change susceptible diagonal rear swing axle—the one that made the Chevrolet Corvair such a dangerous car to drive—with control arms that keep the camber change at bay (again, zero offset and camber).

The result: Mercedes’ traditional firm yet compliant ride quality. The Mercedes-Benz 280S will absorb potholes, dips, dives, imperfections without a care. Absolutely nothing can upset this car’s chassis. It has such a surefooted stance that it seems unstoppable.

Take the 280S on a long sweeping road, control the transmission via the shift gate, and it will negotiate a corner with swan-like grace. With its near-50/50 weight distribution, well thought out suspension tuning and a stiff chassis, the 280S is as neutral as Switzerland.

Mercedes designed the 280S’s handling limits to exceed the average driver’s skills, making the sedan easy and safe to drive—with plenty of potential for tire-squealing hoonery. The car’s wide track keeps lateral body motions well controlled. Its recirculating ball steering provides enough feel and feedback to tell you when the front wheels start to lose grip. And while the 280S doesn’t hide its massive size and bulk, it’s as easy to maneuver as a present day Honda Accord. At 2.7 turns lock-to-lock with a large diameter steering wheel, parallel parking the big Benz is a breeze.

Unlike BMWs of its day, the 280S is a perfect example of Mercedes-Benz’ ideology of blending safety, performance and comfort. The 280S is such a docile machine that it’s hard to imagine how far ahead of its time this car was, let alone its more expensive siblings (the 450SEL and the legendary 450SEL 6.9). If today’s Mercedes had continued to construct cars like the W116, rather than reaching downmarket, Mercedes would have maintained their reputation and a legitimate claim on producing the world’s best engineered cars.

[Click here for more of Chris Chin’s at finaldrivepublications.blogspot.com]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

61 Comments on “Review: 1975 Mercedes-Benz 280S...”


  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I had a 350SE for a while that I bought for $250. Paint was perfect. Nice aftermarket radio with Sirius, cruise, manual everything… and no air.

    These models can last as long as you want them to. They are definitely not good for daily transportation due to the gas mileage. However the high quality Mercedes components will last the ages, the lack of electronics is a big plus, and there is a surprisingly strong aftermarket for the W116’s.

    If you get one, try to get it with fuel injection. It will be three times easier to deal with and all the pleasure of having a true classic will remain.

  • avatar
    menno

    The brother of my best friend worked for Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart back in these days, and the head honchos sent word from on high that cars were lasting too long and in order to increase replacement sales, the cars had to last “less long”. So the engineers grumbled but went to work. Within a decade, he grew disgusted and went off to become a professor instead of engineer.

    We know the end of that story, re: Mercedes, too.

    If in doubt, check out any Consumer Reports magazine showing “reliability” and check out the big black blobs all over Mercedes’ “finest work” nowadays.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Though I never owned an “S” reading this does make me miss my 1985 300TD. Sure, it was dreadfully slow. But man, at 70 MPH, that thing was just solid. Classic design, uber-engineered, tight and bank vault solid. Oh, Mercedes…where are thou now?

  • avatar
    werewolf34

    This was my 1st car – a hand-me-down from my father and older brother.

    Fantastic car given how old the technology was and very reliable. Might have been the glory days of MB

  • avatar
    Lee

    My old man had 2 ’69 280s’s when i was a teenager. Teardrop headlamp vintage. One with a manual transmission! We rebuilt the engine in one of them. Pistons? $1000 for 6. Acceleration was similarly, not spectacular, but that’s not what these cars were for. They excelled at eating up hwy miles, and 90-100mph was simply effortless.

    Loved those cars.

  • avatar

    Enough already with blaming Chrysler for any decline in Mercedes quality. Chrysler had nothing to do with it, and there’s enough such BS in the world already (no offense to Bertel).

    If you need to blame anyone besides Mercedes itself, blame Lexus. After the original LS severely undercut the E-Class in price, Mercedes decided to fundamentally change its approach. Starting in the early 1990s, over five years before the merger, it started engineering cars to hit lower cost targets. Before cost had been a secondary consideration, at best. The first car to result from this new approach was the 1996 E-Class.

  • avatar
    rdeiriar

    Ahhh, the classic W116. What a good car!
    I’ve driven them all except for the (us market only) 300 SD Turbodiesel.

    They never failed to impress, what a relaxing way to travel!

    If you are looking for one, watch the bodywork. Rustproofing in the seventies was not as advanced as today, rust prevention chemicals such as Dinitrol can help in keeping the structure in good shape. As already stated, the fuel injected models are the better choice, however, early (73-76) models use a Bosch D-Jetronik system that is not as easy to service as the later K-Jetronik.
    (I don’t know it this also applies to the US-Spec)

    IMHO, the pick of the family would be a late 450 SE or a manual transmission 350 SE if you can find one. Of course, the top of the range 6.9 is in a class of itself, but the M100 engine and the Citroen licenced hydropneumatic suspension makes it very expensive to maintain.

    Thanks for the memories!

  • avatar
    Carzzi

    “Engineered like no other car in the world”… eroded to a platitudinous “Like no other”.
    Mild. overlookable evidence of the cost cutting can be seen even in latter year 190E’s.

  • avatar
    jmo

    menno,

    In Mercedes defense a 1986 300E retailed for $34,700. That’s $67363.79 for the base E-class in today’s money. A new base E-class in 2009 is $48,050.

    The reason they seem less well built is because they sell for far less money.

  • avatar
    twotone

    Nice car!

    Here’s my 1973 280 SEL 4.5:

    http://tinyurl.com/noauoz

    The MB W123 series were also great cars.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    moedaman

    Michael Karesh :
    July 8th, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Enough already with blaming Chrysler for any decline in Mercedes quality. Chrysler had nothing to do with it, and there’s enough such BS in the world already (no offense to Bertel).

    If you need to blame anyone besides Mercedes itself, blame Lexus. After the original LS severely undercut the E-Class in price, Mercedes decided to fundamentally change its approach. Starting in the early 1990s, over five years before the merger, it started engineering cars to hit lower cost targets. Before cost had been a secondary consideration, at best. The first car to result from this new approach was the 1996 E-Class.

    Eh? I read the article and the comments and didn’t see where Daimler’s involvment with Chrysler led to lower quality MB’s was mentioned? As a matter of fact menno mentioned that Daimler’s management was to blame.

  • avatar

    moedaman: You might want to re-read the second sentence of the review. Granted, Chrysler’s responsibility is only implied, but it is implied.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I had the pleasure of driving one of these, as a 280SE, from Florida to North Carolina, and then on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was 1982. What a fabulous car for that trip, and enjoy your project.

    If some dilfarb tells you that you’re “upside down” in your restoration, pay him no mind. Restoring a car or motorcycle is “entertainment.” I know when my wife, kids and I go to the movies, it’s $50 for about 90 minutes of “entertainment.” My neighbors went to a play the other night in NYC, and that was a $500 night. Where’s the ROI? Who cares, they enjoy it and it’s entertainment.

    If one considers that restoring an automobile is a entertaining during the process, and entertaining when complete, then the auto restorer is creating the perpetual entertainment machine.

  • avatar
    MBella

    It’s amazing how with the euro headlights, a 1975 Merc looks pretty modern. I doubt you would have any problems convincing the average shmoe that it is from the early ’90s. In fact, they didn’t look that much different in the early ’90s.

    twotone, you have a beautiful car. Really classy.

  • avatar

    Okay, now that I’m done kvetching about the second sentence, I should chime in that my family had a 1972 SEL back in the mid 1970s. Sadly, I cannot now recall if it had the six of the V8. Hadn’t realized that the six was DOHC. I really miss the distinctive sound Mercedes engines used to make.

  • avatar
    Lee

    # Michael Karesh :
    July 8th, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Okay, now that I’m done kvetching about the second sentence, I should chime in that my family had a 1972 SEL back in the mid 1970s. Sadly, I cannot now recall if it had the six of the V8. Hadn’t realized that the six was DOHC. I really miss the distinctive sound Mercedes engines used to make.

    I loved the exhaust on our old ’69. People used to question us, not believing that it was the original exhaust system on the car.

  • avatar
    mjal

    Karesh is correct about the Lexus LS model and its influence. Around 1989 or so, a book about the car industry, The Machine that Changed the World, by a couple of MIT scientists, came out. The book dispels the notion of Mercedes hand-built quality being superior to Toyota’s robotic assembly line production. The scientists measured the number of defects a typical LS 400 automobile contains, immediately off the assembly line, compared to a similar sized S class. The results were surprising: The typical LS 400 had far fewer defects than the comparative S class. In the end, the Mercedes would be tinkered with by the factory workers (which added production costs) before it ultimately left the factory. What the book exposed was that Lexus, with similar labor rates to Mercedes-Benz, was producing a product equal if not superior to Mercedes at a much lower cost.

  • avatar
    Tummy

    While quality feeling, I would think one of these old cars can not compare to modern cars in terms of safety. Does it even have an airbag, disc brakes, tempered glass? I think the first Mercedes with an airbag came in 1980. No electronic stability control for sure. I appreciate old cars, but would be very afraid to drive one in a collision.

  • avatar
    ohsnapback

    Damn, this brings back memories.

    1988 Mercedes 300D owned by a friend’s mother – most solid vehicle I’ve ever driven in. Nothing even comes close. Built like a tank, from boot to hood ornament. Nothing hollow.

    They DO NOT make cars like that anymore. What a damn shame, too.

  • avatar
    Chris Chin

    @Tummy:

    While it may an old car, the W116 was way ahead of its time in terms of safety, even to the point where it’s safety would match that of modern expectations…just.

    If you’ve seen the oriignal test crash videos of the W116 it crumples and holds up like a modern day car. The front or rear could entirely collapse from a rear or head-on collision yet the passenger cell would remain unharmed and all four doors would be fully operational.

    Tempered glass is standard on the W116 and I believe was used since the early 60s. Disc brakes at all 4 corners too, standard since the late 50s. Airbag wasn’t until 1980 and the W116 was the car used to develop/showcase and premiere ABS.

    As for Stability Control, not all modern cars these days come with it and being that the W116 handles so well and safely, even if it was around it wouldn’t need it.

  • avatar
    AGR

    What made the W116 S Class memorable was the suspension, brakes, overall solidity, build quality.

    What made them less memorable,atrocious catalytic converters, the 6 cyls especially the carburated versions were “slow”, inefficient A/C systems, very slow power windows, erratic cruise controls, small differentials,huge steering wheels.

    They felt solid and very safe, compared to most other cars of the time.

    It was a time when they built cars on a “cost plus basis” and the much smaller customer base would pay the price, and often almost recoup most of the initial price 3-4 years later.

    Just imagine if a Cadillac / Buick / Lincoln with a real A/C system, real cruise control, real power windows, power seats, electric door locks, totally bullet proof automatic transmissions, differentials that could take a beating, positraction. Would have been put together like a Benz, and had brakes, suspension, solidity.

    6.9’s were in a league of their own, a “big block” W116 with a dry sump, hydraulic suspension, Michelin XWX, incredible performance for a sedan. Fuel economy was not a priority.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    Thank you!

  • avatar

    Thanks for the entertaining review.

    So, the w116 is a pinnacle for Mercedes-Benz”ish-ness” and over the subsequent ~20 years they became a separate, inferior species, more pedestrian and less brick-shithouse, right?

    Are there reasonably late models that have most of the qualities of the w116 and add EFI, O2 sensors, airbags and reliability? I like the character but I’m scared of carburetors and pre-’80s cars.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    I would echo Karesh’s sentiment about Mercedes engineering/priorities and say that back then, Mercedes vehicles were engineered to a “standard”. Today they are engineered to a “price”, and we see the unfortunate result.

    I’m not sure how they compare from a reliability standpoint, but I prefer the styling of the sucessor car in the S-Class line, the W126. If you get one of the later ones with body colored bumpers and cladding, it’s still a very modern looking car, but with a few beautiful “coachbuilt” touches and details like the amazing stainless steel trim and borderline ornate door latch mechanisms that are unfortunately hidden 99.999% of the time due to the door being closed.

    Alas, the S-Class lost it’s mojo with the introduction of the heavy-handed W140 models that were just hideously bland and chocked with useless features (at least on the top-end V12 models) such as automatic door closing and those dopey little “feelers” that would rise out of the rear quarter panels to aid in parking the outsized beast.

  • avatar
    werewolf34

    The W126 (80s era S-class) IMHO is the last of the ‘reliable’ S-classes

    You get
    1) ABS
    2) great construction
    3) low gas mileage
    4) mistaken for a senior citizen

  • avatar
    twotone

    Yes, the W140 series. I’d go for a 1997 – 1999 S500. They were $80k+ cars new that are now selling for 10% of MSRP. Keep in mind that they are still $80k cars to fix and maintain. As long as you understand that the purchase price is a “down payment” you’ll be OK. Pay for a pre-purchase inspection. Nice W140s are expensive and bad W140s are even more expensive.

    Twotone

    # reg_pfj :
    July 8th, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Thanks for the entertaining review.

    So, the w116 is a pinnacle for Mercedes-Benz”ish-ness” and over the subsequent ~20 years they became a separate, inferior species, more pedestrian and less brick-shithouse, right?

    Are there reasonably late models that have most of the qualities of the w116 and add EFI, O2 sensors, airbags and reliability? I like the character but I’m scared of carburetors and pre-’80s cars.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    While it may an old car, the W116 was way ahead of its time in terms of safety, even to the point where it’s safety would match that of modern expectations…just.…

    Or would it? On Youtube, there is a video of a modern small Renault in an offset crash with a Volvo 240. The Volvo did not fare well at all. Of course the comments on Youtube are full of conspiracy BS – the Volvo was weakened, etc. I guess these idiots got tired of the “9-11 was an inside job” crap and moved to cars.

    Anybody recall the ’70 ads for the Ford Granada, comparing it to a M-B? The ad stated that the kids called the Granada “Mommy’s Mercedes”…Hard to believe. I recall my dad’s 280 as a kid. He sold it when gas got expensive again and when it started needing repairs. It was quite reliable, but when it needed work, it was pretty big bucks…To bad it was gone by the time I started to drive…won’t even say what I had to learn on…no three pointed star, that’s for sure.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    Are there reasonably late models that have most of the qualities of the w116 and add EFI, O2 sensors, airbags and reliability? I like the character but I’m scared of carburetors and pre-’80s cars.

    I don’t know how folk mistake the old mercedes build quality for reliability, or worse, ownership cost.

    I remember one hilarious Top Gear incident where after boasting about his 600 Pullman, Clarkson was forced to show its last maintenance bill that could’ve bought a new Golf.

  • avatar
    michaelfrankie

    I’m more of a W126 man myself. Love that car. Also owned the W210. That venture turned out worst than my investment in Pets.com.

  • avatar
    Chris Chin

    @reg_pfj:

    Yes. W126s and W124s.

    W124s are critically acclaimed as the best mid-sized executive luxury saloon ever produced. They are absolutely phenomenal cars. I have a W124 E320 Coupe too which I hope RF will republish my review of it here too :)

  • avatar
    cc-rider

    http://newyork.craigslist.org/fct/cto/1250319260.html

    Here’s one for everyone in the metro NYC area!

  • avatar

    I’ve always been impressed at how modern the interiors of the W116 looked compared to other cars of the same era. And it still looks good today.

    Actually, I wouldn’t mind having a W116, or better yet, a W126, preferably a 380SEL or 420SEL. I can settle for a W124 and hope I stumble upon a lightly touched-on 500E. :D

    “The 280S [barely] achieved 12 MPG city/17 MPG highway.”

    Wow. I had no clue that a 6-banger could swill down fuel so judiciously.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    Had a 80 300sd, w116 body, it drove very well,
    missed her after I sold her.
    I was living in Northern BC then, one trip coming down from Quesnel to Hope, it only took 6.5 hrs.
    I was just solo driving her at relaxed speed, 60-65 MPH. By comparing to same trip It was much relaxed than a Honda Civic.
    The next owner later told me that the speedo registered 10 MPH slower.
    So I was cruising at 70-75 MPH. Passing thru the Fraser canyon, it was a dream too. Didnt realise i am going so fast, without having a difficult to keep her on my side of the road.

    The new owner may had owned many more Merc than I had, but not exactly swift, blew out the engine in Northern Alberta on a cold day, reason he had card-boarded up the whole rad.

    That was kind of an abrupt end to this beautiful car.
    The body was not the best, the jack holes were all softened.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Chris, I love your car, but unless you have a genuine European model, the horsepower rating and performance specs you gave are incorrect. The US version had a pathetic 120hp (net), due to the profound influence of emission controls. And the US version would be lucky to break 100mph.

    I drove one of these once, and I was shocked at how strangled the engine was, and how underpowered the car felt. This beautiful car deserved better than this pathetic lump of an engine.

    There was a good reason the 450SE/SEL sold so well in the US; it was the only engine that could properly motivate this sled.

  • avatar
    turbosaab

    Great writeup! Looking forward to your E320 review. I am very curious to hear how the w116 compares to the w124 and w126.

  • avatar
    BostonDuce

    Ah those were the days! You could lease one of the W116/W126 cars and make money at the end-even before the end of the lease, especially with the turbodiesel version.

    MB had not yet determined how to suck the life out of the residual values. They were bringing cars back at 35-40% after 4 years. In 36 months, it was a savings account. I remember getting back a couple of thousand on an early termination trade in. Couldn’t do that now with gold bars stashed in the trunk.

    They were everything that was said about them.

    I rode that trend right up to the shitty W140 model with it’s 120 servo motors that moved everything under power but the sun visors. Until the “brain” decided to have a stroke and render a strange combination of power accessories randomly dead. I lost count on the times I cursed that monologicservotronic BS box tucked up into the right side of the trunk wall.

    The W140 was a $100,000 car when it arrived. Then MB decided it was priced too high and cut $20K off the list overnight, after the first 2 years of production. They got sued and coughed up something like a 4K ‘voucher’ for trades. Thanks a lot. Even with the voucher, if you were an early adoptee wanting to change cars, you got murdered. The days of making money on a MB lease where kaput.
    BD

  • avatar
    Jim K

    Great write up! I have an extremely soft spot in my heart for W116’s.

    In 1979 when I was 13 my dad ordered a 300SD Turbodiesel, and we picked it up European Delivery at the factory in Sindlefingen. We took a tour of the factory and got a free lunch in the cafeteria. I remember seeing all those european models and 600 pullmans at the factory, great stuff. I remember that you could still get a 116 in european trim with Velour interior, manual heat/ac, and manual windows and manual transmission. One thing strange was that you could have power windows in the front and manual in the rear.

    We drove that car all over europe for about 6 weeks visiting relatives in Germany and France. Those were very impressionable times for a 13 year old. It cemented my love of europe, european cars and love of old mercedes. They are also some of my best memories of my dad and I spending time together, just the two of us.

    The car as ordered was a navy metallic blue with a tan leather interior. Options were the metallic paint, leather, and sunroof….I think that was it. I remember specifically that even on an S class back then the passenger side rear view mirror was optional ($55 I think)….my dad didn’t order it. If I remember correctly the european delivery price was around $26,000…..alot of money in 1979 but considerable savings over dealer price.

    We put about 2,000 miles on the car in Europe. My dad was born and raised in France/Germany so he is very comfortable driving on the Autobahn/Autoroutes, as a 13 year old I remember thinking that it was a fast car as we cruised on the Autobahn at 110 mph (only after the first 1,000 mile break in period). Compared to the majority of the american cars at the time, I guess it was.

    That was the last time I saw my grandmother in France as she passed away a few years later. All in all it was a great trip.

    My parents put well over 250,000 miles on that car, and only retired it as their everyday driver in 1998…….almost 20 years. Very reliable until the very end when maintenance costs started to add up.

    That car was big, safe, and very comfortable. Airbags or no, I would feel very confident driving one today from a safety standpoint, and even putting my 4 year old in his car seat in the back. The car defined the term “bank vault” when you shut the doors.

    Great car, great memories. How I would love to have a 116 in good condition today.

    Thanks for the memories.

  • avatar

    I had a 10 years old ’73 280S, an ex-factory car, for 4 years. Except for the fuel, it was one of the cheapest to maintain cars I ever had, and a joy to drive.

    Nothing broke. Prices for regular maintenance were fair (at least in Germany; I don’t know how the prices in the US were/are). The BMW and Alfa owners I knew at this time had to shell out more.

    Well-maintained, such a car could have done 350K kilometers (about 220K miles) without problems. That was the point were fleet cars in the ministries, for example, got sold.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    Great writeup, nice pics, but:

    the big Benz’s wedge shape keeps the gargantuan sedan (17″ long) from looking overwhelmingly large.

    I’m sure one of the high-end model car companies made a 17″-long W116, but the drivable version is probably closer to seventeen feet (17′) long.

    Regarding fuel-injected models: be careful. Critical wear-prone unrebuildable D-Jetronic parts for which no substitution is possible, such as the manifold pressure sensor, are now hideously costly. Moreover, this was Bosch’s first EFI system, and tuning it for reliable proper running is a bit of a black art. Zenith-Stromberg CD2SE carburetors bring their own nuisances, but they are quite a bit less of an expensive damnuisance than D-Jet. Fortunately, the cost and vagaries of D-Jet are confined to the sensors and (analogue) electronic brain. There’s nothing the matter with the fuel pump, pressure regulator, or injectors themselves, so any of several more modern, more tunable sense-and-control systems such as SDS can easily be retrofitted without undertaking anything like a total reëngineering of the car’s fuel system.

  • avatar
    jmo

    All cars have had safety glass — laminated windshield and tempered side and rear glass

    Not to be pendantic but, laminated windshields weren’t mandated in the US until 1966.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    Not quite true as stated. Nothing was Federally mandated in the U.S. before 1968, for that was when the first Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards took effect. Prior to 1968, vehicle safety equipment was a matter of individual-state regulations (coördinated to varying degrees), and more-or-less voluntary industry compliance with non-mandatory safety codes promulgated by the likes of the American Standards Association. But that wasn’t the question. Safety glass was standard equipment all around many decades before 1966, and laminated windshields were factory equipment, again long before 1966, on almost all cars except a few low-volume imports. What is more, laminated side glass was rather common before the mid-1950s; see this 1961 Popular Science article on the subject. Further reading here (1954) and here (1961).

  • avatar
    Tummy

    Daniel J. Stern : I am just making a point that, while safe for it’s time, I don’t feel that olde cars can compare to the safety standards of modern cars. They may feel more solid, but are in fact not as safe. People always reminisce about the good old days, but I don’t think they were actually that good.

    I don’t know the history of safety glass and ABS, so had no idea if this old of a car would have it or not. I actually don’t even like owning cars without some form of electronic stability control as that does decrease single vehicle accidents significantly.

  • avatar
    blautens

    Great article. Love that era of MB sedans. More please.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Cars like this remind of another Mercedes classic.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rv2-DYgzcY

    One of my favorites of all time.

  • avatar
    werewolf34

    Tummy

    Pretty sure ABS started on the w126 s-class

  • avatar
    blowfish

    I don’t know the history of safety glass and ABS, so had no idea if this old of a car would have it or not. I actually don’t even like owning cars without some form of electronic stability control as that does decrease single vehicle accidents significantly.

    Not with standing how many safety features being built into a new car, idiots still managed to be carried away or worse in a bag too.
    So if u didnt learn how to drive properly, God help u.

  • avatar
    Chris Chin

    @werewolf34

    ABS was introduced with the W116.

    http://www.gdtm.net/MBimages/abs1978-1.htm

  • avatar
    Chris Chin

    @Daniel J. Stern

    The carbed M110 always came with a Solex/Solex-designed Pierburg 4 barrel carb. Mine is a Pierburg and is in excellent condition and have no problems with it.

    @Paul Neidermeyer (SP? Lol)

    thanks Paul for correction. I am actually in the process of removing all of the emission control equipment because I have it registered as a historic vehicle in the state of nj which makes it exempt from inspection. My goal is to get as close as possible to the Euro figures. Once the carb calls quits I’m going to convert to k-jet.

  • avatar
    flyfive

    The M110 was durable, but not brilliant. Even though DOHC it was neither as powerful nor as creamy as the OHC BMW M30 engine.

    I remember the M110 sound well, it was distinctive. However, there was always a strained note to it, which you never had in the turbine-like sound of the BMW.

  • avatar
    sanmusa

    One of the best cars I ever owned was a 1977 300D, W123 chassis, I paid $900 for it with 185,000 miles, drove it to 225,000and gave it to my young brother, whomanaged to drive it to 265,000 before totalling it. The old Benz was solidly built, easy to repair at home, a tank on wheels. These Mercedes were probably of the most soldily built cars ever.

  • avatar
    dweezilb

    @Chris Chin

    Ditto the W124. I own a 1993 400E with 103k miles. The build quality is so good that people still ask me if it’s a new car. I occasionally test drive new cars but I haven’t found anything I’d be willing to trade it for.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Chris Chin,

    Keep in mind the European version had much higher compression ratio too (to run on premium), and it’s possible, though I don’t know for sure, that it had a different camshaft too. Ignition timing will certainly be different. It may take some serious doing to win back those lost 40 hp.

    Good luck with your on-going project!

  • avatar
    driver44

    30 years ago – I put a 450SL into a Telephone pole @ 140mph (going downhill..)

    When the police arrived they were searching for my dead body all around the car but I was at the house across the street calling the insurance company

    I had walked away unharmed

    I owe my life to MB

    nuff said end of story…case closed

  • avatar
    Chris Chin

    @Paul.

    I’m wondering. Where are you finding this info? From what I found, the M110 didn’t recieve a lower compression until Jan 1976, 9.0:1 versus 8.7:1.

    http://www.w116.org/library/M110

    wikipedia also shows US spec cars and also says the CR is 9.0:1

    mine being a 1975 I’m sure mine is 9.0:1

  • avatar
    ohsnapback

    Too bad my high hopes for the new E class have been dashed. It’s more of the same, marshmallowy/creampuff, try-to-please all rubbish that sparks such fond memories of the MBs of yore.

    Can’t MB at least give us the apparently rock solid C Class one of the TTAC crew salivated over on a German motorway, even if it was a stripped down model that seems relatively underpowered for the American market?

    More German taxi austerity and utility (and durability), and less pointless features, electronic whiz-bang features only to go bad, and exterior jewelry please.

    This is what I’m talking about; please, Daimler?

    I’ll trade rock solid and MB quality of the late 70s and 80s in an austere package at a sub-30k starting price, as in German C Class form, for the gaudy, frivolous and overpriced crap they’re offering us here in the U.S.

  • avatar
    Nicodemus

    “Unlike the pretentious Rolls-Royce and Bentleys of its day”

    Rolls-Royces and Bentleys are not pretentious.

    They can be ostentatious, gaudy, even grotesque (depending on how they are decked out) – but they’re never pretending to be something they’re not. Their owner might be social asperants, but they are undoubtedly rich folk. A Roller is a show of wealth obvious to everyone.

    The 280s was never competing with them anyway.

    And in any case, the Silver Shadow Is and IIs of the day were actually rather elegant the styling plot was only lost with the Silver Spirit.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    I can’t be sure of it without detail info on US spec cars for this period. Wiki/other data may/may not be correct. The reason is that beginning in 1971, all cars sold in the US had to run on unleaded regular. With almost no exception, that meant lowering CR. Euro/pre ’71 models ran on premium. It’s difficult to imagine a 9.0 CR engine that could run (back then) on 87 octane gas (they can now, because of knock sensors and electronic spark control).

    The reduction of CR was one of the reasons the engines lost so much power during this era. Do you have your owner’s manual? The specs may be in that. Or somewhere else. Anyway, like I said, I’m not 100% sure, and don’t have the time to go sifting through old info, but I think it’s a distinct possibility.

  • avatar
    dolorean23

    “The 280S [barely] achieved 12 MPG city/17 MPG highway.”

    Wow. I had no clue that a 6-banger could swill down fuel so judiciously.

    Actually its not the engine’s fault. Put the Prius engine and battery pack in there and have it push 3800 lbs (over 4K with passengers) up and down the neighborhood and highways. You’re not gonna get much better mileage. The 2.8L was too underpowered and small for the car. Now, if it were a diesel…

  • avatar
    Chris Chin

    Here’s a great historical video of the W116. Hope you guys can understand German.

  • avatar

    Chris, I recently purchased a 1975 280 S… after reading your blog, I am convinced that my $900 75% fully restored gem is worth it. I don;t know much about restoring cars. Can you point me out to the right direction? Catalogs? Blogs? Etc… thanks!

  • avatar

    Cool to see this W116. As a W126 owner (91′ 420 SEL) I couldn’t agree more about quailty. My W126 is a tank…a very luxurious tank too. The quality is first rate. I considered moving up to a W140, but so many things looked cheap on it. So I decided to stay with a good thing. The cost cutting on newer S-class models is sad. Although I think the current S-Class is headed in the right direction. Love to see a review on W126 models if possible.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States