By on April 28, 2020

Today’s Rare Ride wears styling so classic it needs little introduction. Its finned, upright grille, chromed bumpers, and collection of front lighting could only mean one thing: Mercedes-Benz.

Let’s learn more about a spectacular 220 SE hailing from 1960.

Part of the W128 lineup, the 220 SE was one of the founding fathers of what eventually became the S-Class. What started in 1951 with the W187 and W186 six-cylinder cars became the W180 in 1955, then the W128 in 1958. The key difference between the W180 and W128 cars was a bit of einspritz: 220 S became the 220 SE as it gained fuel injection.

The W128 entered production in 1958, marking the end of the Ponton styling that began in 1953. The platform utilized an 111-inch wheelbase for the sedan and a 106-inch one for coupe and cabriolet body styles. Just one engine was on offer, a 2.2-liter inline-six. Paired with the modern Bosch injection was an overhead cam and aluminum head. That meant 155 horses powered the rear wheels via a four-speed manual with an optional automatic clutch.

Offered for a very limited time, the W128 was scarce when new. The sedan was produced first, from October ’58 through August ’59, while coupe and cabriolet versions entered production later, built from July ’58 to November ’60. In total, 3,916 examples of the 220 SE were made. That figure is comprised of 1,974 sedans, 830 coupes, and 1,112 cabriolets. The utmost care was taken in its production; the finest quality materials covered all surfaces. Being so rare and luxurious, the 220 SE was priced like a Cadillac — an Eldorado Biarritz, to be more specific.

In 1959 it asked $8,091, or $72,014 adjusted for inflation. Doesn’t sound that crazy today, but the Benz lacked luxuries Americans expected in a top-shelf ride. It was not available with air conditioning, an automatic transmission, power windows, or power steering. It was also not quite as flashy as the Eldorado. Additionally, the 220 SE was not the most modern looking product Mercedes offered at the time. By 1959 the W111 entered production, setting the stage for Benz of the future with its boxy styling, air conditioning, and power steering.

Given the W128 was a limited-production and end-of-the-line moment at Mercedes-Benz, our very rare 220 SE coupe is a collector’s item. Today’s black and red beauty sold recently in Tennessee after asking $98,500.

[Images: seller]

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22 Comments on “Rare Rides: A Stunning 1960 Mercedes-Benz 220 SE...”

  • avatar

    Back in the day Mercs were always expensive, but they were bullet proof, I’m not sure that’s the case today. I know in 1973 my dad looked at a 240D that was the same price as a Sedan DeVille, about $7500. He bought the Cadillac

    Nice find, Corey

    • 0 avatar

      it’s not the case today. They’ve been coasting on the reputation of the W123 and W124 for decades.

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t speak too much for the current crop. They were only a few years old when I left the Mercedes world at the end of 2015. The older cars of the 2000s were actually pretty good. It’s just that when something does fail, it will be expensive especially from the dealer. The E500 mentioned below is pretty solid, as long as you maintain the transmission. The air suspension is air suspension. Doesn’t matter the brand, you’ll have to deal with it more often than coil springs. I’m not aware of a make that’s not true on. The sensotronic brake control is now warrantied to 25 years unlimited miles so nothing to worry about there. If you don’t fix them yourself, the hardest thing is finding a technician that understands them. Too many hacks out there, even at dealers.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with the air suspension comment – no matter how reliable, they will always be more failure prone than a bunch of springs and bushings. Not so sure I’d agree with Mercedes nadir period though. From all the M-B folks I’ve known (my father’s last Benz harks back to the early 70s), Mercedes quality and reliability cratered in the early 2000s when they decided to chase market share and abandoned the “Engineered Like No Other Car in the World” tagline. I’ve been in some Mercedes that had door panels that looked like over-glorified recycled milk containers. They have clawed back on materials that’s for sure; not so sure about long-term reliability though. As you said, most repairs come with huge bills. Not for me, thank you.

        • 0 avatar

          I have no stake in Diamler and they’re definitely not for everyone. Having spent most of my career as a technician working on them, I disagree on the engineering. When you see how well systems work compared to the competition, you start to get it. For example, I would take a RWD 211 chassis E-Class with SBC in a race against just about any competitors AWD vehicle with the same tires in a race in slippery conditions. (And I work for a competitor)

        • 0 avatar

          @ golden2husky – I don’t have a dog in the M-B fight and am would defer to anyone with firsthand experience. One degree removed, I agree with your nadir period. To wit:
          – A mentor/former boss is not really a car person but is a committed Mercedes person. Her one bad ‘un was a W203.
          – A friend and I had a W2013 rental in Germany in 2002. My friend was the renter/driver, and I didn’t pop the hood, but it was a small motor/stick trim that you couldn’t get in the States. The shift knob came off in my friend’s hand at one point.

          I think they were chasing market share but also suffering from the incursion of Lexus into the US market (which, yes, had started a decade-plus before). That really hurt their “build it to a standard, not to a price” model. I’m inclined to believe the M-B complaint that Lexus had sold the original LS at a loss, and I also think Lexus hurt them with the ES’s of that era by *really* successfully employing Cadillac’s 1930s-1960s model: save money by using the bones of the parent company’s less expensive cars but do a genuinely good job of fleshing out the vehicle into something of quality.

          • 0 avatar

            Whee ! how can I possibly get some wheel time in this beauty ? .

            “I knew that, but didn’t want to upset any Merc guys here ;-)”

            As a a Mercedes nutter / enthusiast I can tell you you’re right and true nutters know the newer M-B’s are not as good as the older ones .

            I don’t care, it’s cheaper to maintain and repair my 30 + year old near half million mile Mercedes’,I know this is foolish if not stupid but every time I get behind the wheel I feel vindicated .

            Some feel the same way about Kias and why not ? .


  • avatar

    Back in 1967, my aunt owned a ’58 220S sedan with the 4SPD shifter on the column. I used to perform light chauffeur duties for her some summer afternoons. I was surprised just how quiet the engine and even the whole was for a nine-year old. The SOHC six cylinder sounded as quiet as a sewing machine. Once she got her license, she was given a ’70 280SE sedan by my uncle, which she kept for 20 years.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    $98500 of someone else’s money doesn’t seem so bad for such a nice find. That would be a treat to ride in, let alone drive.

  • avatar

    This is a Ponton. The end of the Ponton styling came the following year, when it was replaced by the Fintail.

    These are pretty, but my heart belongs to the late Fintail coupes (made at the same time as, and with some styling touches from, the W108 sedans) and to the much later W116 sedans. I’ve long thought that if I could have just one old car it would be either a 280SE 3.5 coupe or a 6.9 sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, it’s a Ponton car. Maybe by “… marking the end of the Ponton styling” he means this is the last of the Ponton cars? It’s definitely not a Fintail (“Heckflosse”) car, but then I like the styling of both.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    A prime example during West Germany’s Wirtschaftswunder period.
    (Economic Miracle)

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    It appears a radio was optional.

  • avatar

    I believe the automatic clutch was called “Hydrak,” which sounds great if you say it a comically cruel German accent.

  • avatar

    I can respect the durability of these things, but I totally would have bought the Biarritz.

  • avatar

    Gorgeous car. Coolest wood dash I’ve ever seen.

  • avatar

    The car dealership looks like one of those places that was formerly a new car dealer, before closing, or moving to a high-visibility location on the freeway.

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