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It’s hard to define class but we like ours with an S and a Mercedes badge – even better if you throw in some stack headlights. An ‘S Class Merc’ is part of the motoring lexicon nowadays, and the W108 (Mercedes’ in-house designation) was the car that kicked off the illustrious lineage.

The Mercedes W108/W109 series was launched in 1965 and remained in production for the next seven years. An update of the much-loved W111 and W112 Fintail saloons, almost 400,000 rolled off the production lines by the time it expired

The W108 had a standard wheelbase, while the W109 had the longer version. The suspension was different too, with the short-wheelbase cars having conventional steel springs, while the long-wheelbase had self-levelling air suspension.

Offered with a range of engines from the 2.5-litre, 128bhp inline-six with a top speed of 113mph, all the way to the thumping 6.3-litre V8 with 247bhp and a top speed of 137mph, both manual and automatic gearbox options were offered, both of which had four forward ratios.

Initially brought to market as the 250S, 250SE and 300SEb – plus the LWB 300SEL – the second series arrived in 1967 bringing with it new names: the 250 was now known as the 280 as a result of the 2.5-litre engine gaining another 300cc capacity. And there was a range-topper version with the 3.5 V8 engine – but Mercedes strangely couldn’t bring themselves to call it the 350SE, so it became the awkwardly titled 280SE 3.5.

The interiors are typical Mercedes of the era, which is to say under-stated, elegant, and crafted from proper materials like solid wood, chrome, and leather.

Now very collectable, most you will see being offered for sale will be left-hand-drive, which makes a right-hooker like this one more desirable.

Its design was created by the then Mercedes-Benz stylist Paul Bracq, a talent for sure, who also came up with the iconic Pagoda SL. In terms of comfort and spaciousness, a W108 still sets standards.

Offered with a range of engines from the 2.5-litre, 128bhp inline-six with a top speed of 113mph, all the way to the thumping 6.3-litre V8 with 247bhp and a top speed of 137mph, both manual and automatic gearbox options were offered, both of which had four forward ratios.

The interiors are typical Mercedes of the era, which is to say under-stated, elegant, and crafted from proper materials like solid wood, chrome, and leather

The Vehicle

This car hasn’t been restored. So how does a right-hand drive 1970 Mercedes survive in this kind of condition? Easy, it moves to Johannesburg as a baby – in fact it may well have been born there as taxation laws at the time meant it made economic sense for knock down kits to be assembled in South Africa, thereby avoiding import duties.

It doesn’t rain very much at all in Johannesburg, and South Africans use salt on their chicken, not their roads, so the word ‘rust’ doesn’t get a lot of use. In fact cars from this part of the world are far more likely to suffer damage from the severe heat – paint, rubber parts and interiors can suffer.

But if a car is garaged and looked after, you can come across a gem like this 280 S. And it is a gem, too. A low mileage, unrestored, original 1970 S Class Merc that, as far as we can see, has very likely never seen a welding torch.

On the Outside

You don’t often see a black W108 so this one really stands out. The paintwork is in good condition too – there’s the odd mark here and there but nothing that really detracts from the overall impression.

We did spot a small area of surface corrosion underneath the bright trim on the rear of a roof gutter, but if the trim was sitting properly it probably wouldn’t be visible. It looks as though the trim has moved and scratched the paint off the gutter in the process.

All the brightwork is in great shape too, with shiny chrome, aluminium and stainless parts all looking great. And, despite what we said about South African cars and sun damage, there’s no evidence of it on this car. All the rubber seals are in good order, again suggesting a cosseted life and careful ownership.

The 14 inch steel wheels all have their correct stainless steel wheel trims and the tyres have plenty of tread left on them. The chrome wheelarch trims could well have been added by the dealer in South Africa. Often used to hide rust on European cars, in this case, having looked at the underside of this car, we’re confident that’s not the case.

On the Inside

A lot of European spec S Class Mercs of this period came with MB-Tex, which is Mercedes speak for vinyl, albeit very well made and hardwearing vinyl. However, lots of South African Cars we’ve seen had plush leather interiors, and this one has stunning burgundy hide inside it.

It’s all in beautiful condition too. Compared with the thin leather often found in modern cars, this is thick, plush leather and despite being more than 50 years old it’s virtually unmarked. Sink into that armchair like seat, grab the column mounted autobox selector, engage D, and waft away.

Another feature that South African spec Mercs often had that their European brethren did without is aircon, and it takes up space on the transmission tunnel, hence the column shifter. We love it – you don’t get stuff like this on modern cars. That said, we couldn’t see an aircon condenser at the front of the radiator, where they usually live, so it may have been removed.

The woodwork is very well preserved and shines with a lustre that belies its vintage. There’s some marks on the driver’s door trim, but nothing major. The dash is graced with a lovely looking period radio – there’s no maker’s name but it’s very reminiscent of a Becker (we don’t know whether it works).


The 2.8-litre straight six engine fitted to these cars is one of the toughest units Merc have ever made, and it’s capable of interstellar mileages, despite revving quite hard. Obviously we can’t verify the mileage shown but the overall condition of the car suggests it’s correct and if that’s the case, this engine is unlikely to need anything other than regular servicing to keep it running sweetly for many years to come.

Unlike British cars of this period, which made do with three speed automatic gearboxes, this Merc has a four-speed auto. That said, it will pull away in second unless you floor the throttle, when it will lift up its skirts and engage first for a quick get away.

The underside of the car is remarkable because we can’t see any evidence of welded repairs, you wouldn’t find this on an car that lived in the UK.

UPDATE: The front right brake line has split and caused a leak. The vendor has kindly ordered a full set of brake lines, which he will pay to have fitted for the new owner.

History Highlights

The owner says:

‘I purchased the car at the beginning of lockdown from South Africa, and I did intend to keep it, but am selling it to fund the restoration of a Lancia Flaminia.

I bought the Mercedes from a deceased estate, it was a treasured car and had been owned by the same owner for many years.

‘It was from just outside Johannesburg. Apparently it was the owner’s pride and joy and I think he obviously kept on top of things.

‘Since I’ve owned it, it has seen little use and was only registered in the UK a few months ago. I have driven it about 400 miles in the last couple of months and it drives very nicely. Cosmetically and mechanically it is in very nice condition and has just had new rear springs fitted to renew the ride height.

‘The interior is very nice with a little sign of age on the driver’s door wood trim. New seatbelts have been fitted but the new owner may wish to change them to more period belts.

‘Other than the belts it is totally standard and is fitted with its original engine.

Items that could need attention are the hazard lights and also the gear selection indicator, although neither of these are essential.

‘I think is its overall condition makes it a special car – it’s rust free and ready to drive.’

What We Think

If you’re looking for a rust free right hand drive unrestored W108 S Class Merc we can’t imagine you’ll find a better one. This is a beauty and is ready to enjoy straight way. Just get it rustproofed – please. With that done you can enjoy it and watch its value soar.

We estimate this Mercedes 280S to fetch in the region of £10,000 - £15,000.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon; we are open weekdays 9am-5pm, to arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

If needed, Footman James classic car insurance and Classic Concierge offer storage options plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping.  

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at those vehicles which are delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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  • Location: The Market HQ, Abingdon, United Kingdom
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: 78000
  • Chassis Number: 10801662040309
  • Engine: 2800
  • Gearbox: auto
  • Steering position: RHD
  • Colour: BLACK
  • Interior: RED LEATHER
  • Estimated Price: £10,000 - £15,000

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