1965 Mercedes 250SE Cabriolet

About the Mercedes W111 Cabriolet

The W111 Coupe and Cabriolet range is based on the W111 ‘Fintail’ sedans and was meant to replace the 300S in the mercedes range.    It was designed by Paul Bracq and introduced at the Geneva show in 1961 (although it was largely overshadowed by the Jaguar E-Type).    Along with the W111, initially introduced with the M127 2.2 liter fuel injected engine, there was also the exclusive W112 300SE, with its all alloy 3.0 liter engine and air suspension, introduced in 1962.   The new model was also the first production Mercedes Benz with disk brakes initially on the front wheels and then coinciding with the late 1965 upgrade on all four wheels.

While the Coupe and Cabriolet are based on the sedan floorpan and mechanicals, the Coupe and Cabriolet are not simply sedans with two doors – they were fundamentally different, in keeping with their place at the top of the Mercedes-Benz range.   In addition, even the Coupe and Cabriolet are more different than their first appear, with subtle changes such as the angle of the front grille being different to ensure the correct look for both models.     The Cabriolet models also had significant changes under their skin to ensure rigidity – with over 80kg of major structural changes including a transmission tunnel bridge, a double floor,  inner & outer side members at 2.75mm thick vs 0.9mm, a larger cross member under the rear seat and the folding top pan, which is also designed to provide additional rigidity.  Again, to ensure the balance of the design, the rear guards and bootlid are a different size to accommodate the folding roof.

In late 1965, Mercedes was introducing the new W108 S class range.   At this time, they also updated the Coupe and Cabriolet models in line with the new S-Class, although they retained the W111 models even though they were actually closer to the new W108.   The 220SE gave way to the new 250SE, with the 2.5 liter M129 straight six engine, also with Bosch mechanical fuel injection.    In keeping with the drivetrain being updated along side the S-Class, in late 1967, the 2.5 liter engine was replaced by the M130 2.8 liter (and the 300SE dropped), and in 1969 the M116 3.5 liter v8 was offered alongside the 280SE, with both models having the front end styling changed with a lower and wider grille.   Thoughout the entire production, the Coupe and Cabriolet range always had fuel injected engines.

The interiors of the cars is extremely luxurious, generally upholstered in leather and with elegant wood veneer dashboard and window surrounds.    Unlike the W111 sedan with its ‘thermometer’ speedometer, the Coupe/Cabriolet range provided individual large speedometer and tachometers surrounded in wood until late 1967.

Right hand drive versions of this model are extremely rare, especially of the cabriolet.   The table below highlights the various models and their production numbers, as well as the number of vehicles officially imported by Mercedes Benz Australia.

W111/W112 Coupe and Cabriolet Production Numbers

W111/W112 Coupe and Cabriolet Production Numbers

Unfortunately, due to the rarity of the cabriolet model, over the years many coupe models had their roofs sawn off in a futile attempt to try and create a cheap cabriolet.   Unfortunately all these people have done is destroyed a lovely coupe.    These cars do not have the level of engineering of the factory models with most only having crude underfloor stiffening that does not provide the same ride, nor the level of safety and refinement that you expect from a Mercedes-Benz.

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About this car

This car is a very early RHD 250SE Cabriolet, one of only 26 made.   It was originally ordered by Brian C. Hill, a notable Australian diplomat while on assignment in Europe and subsequently accompanied him on many of his diplomatic postings around the world, including a stint in Egypt.   Given the nature of some of the countries where he represented Australia, he ordered the car with options for rough roads and with undershields.    Mr Hill and later his daughter owned this car until around the year 2000 before it passed through two other owners, one of which restored the car.   The car most recently won a display award at the 2014 Mercedes Benz Club Annual Concours.

250SE in front of old Parliament house.

250SE in front of old Parliament house.

Option codeMeaning
461Instruments in english
471Special export version for bad road conditions
481Undershields
502Outside rearview mirror, on the right
540Seat adapter, between the front seats
572Headrests, Left
587Single seats with folding armrests
619Headlamps and fog lamps or additional high beam amber; and halogen lamp unit with highbeam/low beam/ fog light RH traffic
621Export licence plate
66350 litres of fuel
681Instructional manual in english
720Folding top fabric, black

Why a W111 Cabriolet?

The W111 Cabriolet was the last of the full size, four seater Cabriolets and has the feel of something really special.   It manages to combine stately looks with advanced technology of the time, such as Fuel Injection and Disc brakes.

For a car that is not used every day, there is little that an beat a full sized cabriolet – and the W111 is full of little touches that continue to impress – details such as the the lined soft top or the wood covered instrument cluster that all come together in such a well engineered package.

Driving a W111 Cabriolet

Driving a W111 Cabriolet is a very relaxing experience (unless being tailgated by white-van-man).   It feels so well engineered and solid, and other drivers generally give you a wide berth as the car cuts an impressive figure driving down the road.   It is not a powerful car, but the engine is smooth and responsive and provides adequate power.   Although the automatic transmission was criticized at the time for being jerky, especially in America, it provides positive shifts and you can override it with the column selector.

For such a large car, you do not get the scuttle shake or flexible body that you feel on poorly made cabriolets, it is extremely strong.   The car is in its element driving on the open road with the top down, not in any particular hurry.

What next?

Ultimately this car will be used regularly and serviced and maintained.   I would like to replace the 90s radio with a more period looking unit at some point, and the drivers door latch is a bit worn and could be replaced.

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