Rare Rides: A Stunning 1960 Mercedes-Benz 220 SE
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.
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- Dave M. Although the effective takeover by Daimler is pooped upon, this is one they got right. I wasn't a fan of the LHs, mostly due to reported mechanical, NVH and build quality issues, but I though Chrysler hit it out of the park with the LXs. The other hyped release that year was the Ford Five Hundred, which, while a well-built car with superior interior space, couldn't hold a candle to the 300.
- Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.
- Cardave5150 I've had 2 different 300's - an '08 300SRT and an '18 300C. Loved them both a LOT, although, by the time I had the second one, I wasn't altogether thrilled with the image of 300's out on the street, as projected by the 3rd or 4th buyers of the cars.I always thought that the car looked a little stubby behind the rear wheels - something that an extra 3-4" in the trunk area would have greatly helped.When the 300 was first launched, there were invitation-only meet-and-greets at the dealerships, reminding me of the old days when new model-year launches were HUGE. At my local dealer, they were all in formalwear (tuxes and elegant dresses) with a nice spread of food. They gave out crystal medallions of the 300 in a sweet little velvet box (I've got mine around the house somewhere). I talked to a sales guy for about 5 minutes before I asked if we could take one of the cars out (a 300C with the 5.7 Hemi). He acted like he'd been waiting all evening for someone to ask that - we jumped in the car and went out - that thing, for the time, seemed to fly.Corey - when it comes time for it, don't forget to mention the slightly-stretched wheelbase 300 (I think it was the 300L??). I've never found one for sale (not that I've looked THAT hard), as they only built them for a couple of years.
- Jkross22 "I’m doing more for the planet by continuing to drive my vehicle than buying a new one for strictly frivolous reasons."It's not possible to repeat this too much.
- Jeff S Got to give credit to Chrysler for putting the 300 as a rear wheel drive back on the market. This will be a future classic.