Rare Rides: A Stunning 1960 Mercedes-Benz 220 SE

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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2 of 23 comments
  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on May 01, 2020

    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.

  • Rahul Rahul on Feb 25, 2024

    These are way cooler than something like a Biarritz imho

  • NJRide So this is an average age of car to be junked now and of course this is a lower end (and now semi-orphaned) product. But street examples seem to still be worth 2500? So are cars getting junked only coming in because of a traumatic repair? If not it seems a lot of cars being junked that would still possibly worth more than scrap.Also Murilee I remember your Taurus article way back what is the king of the junkyard in 2024?
  • AMcA I applaud Toyota for getting away from the TRD performance name. TuRD. This is another great example of "if they'd just thought to preview the name with a 13 year old boy."
  • Jeff Does this really surprise anyone? How about the shoes and the clothes you wear. Anything you can think of that is either directly made in China or has components made in China likely has some slave labor involved. The very smart phone, tablet, and laptop you are using probably has some component in it that is either mined or made by slave labor. Not endorsing slave labor just trying to be real.
  • Jeff Self-driving is still a far ways from being perfected. I would say at the present time if my car took over if I had a bad day I would have a much worse day. Would be better to get an Uber
  • 2manyvettes Time for me to take my 79 Corvette coupe out of the garage and drive if to foil the forces of evil. As long as I can get the 8 track player working...