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.  The cars were unfortunately 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.  For some reason they retained the W111 designation 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.   Throughout 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.

For more information, please review this excellent site

About this 1965 Mercedes 250SE Cabriolet

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.  The car 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.   From there, it passed through two other owners, one of which restored the car.   The car has won some awards in both the NSW and ACT Mercedes-Benz club concours events under my owership.

1965 Mercedes 250SE Cabriolet in front of old Parliament house.

1965 Mercedes 250SE Cabriolet in front of old Parliament house.

Option codeMeaning
461Instruments in english
471Special export version for bad road conditions
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.  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.  These cars are 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 1965 Mercedes 250SE Cabriolet will be used regularly and serviced and maintained.     During my ownership I have put the headlights and hubcaps back to stock.  I have also changed out the 80s radio.

Related Posts:

  1. July 2013 - Road trip to Canberra
  2. March 2014 - 250SE Wedding car
  3. April 2014 - 250SE Auto transmission linkages
  4. May 2014 - 250SE Auto transmission linkages part 2
  5. June 2014 - Grand Pacific Drive
  6. September 2015 - Changing the 250SE back to the correct wheel trims
  7. September 2015 - W111 Headlight Upgrade Pt 1
  8. October 2015 - W111 Headlight Restoration
  9. October 2015 - My 250SE was built 50 years ago today
  10. November 2015 - New tyres for the 250SE and the DS
  11. October 2016 - 250SE Freshening up
  12. November 2016 - 250SE Concours runner up
  13. September 2017 - 250SE Minor Improvements
  14. September 2017 - 2017 Sydney German Car Show
  15. January 2018 - W111 battery mounting frame
  16. September 2018 - 250SE Battery disconnect switch
  17. September 2018 - 2018 OzBenz National Meet
  18. February 2019 - W111 Heater lever upgrade
  19. September 2019 - Classic Auto Sound Becker tribute radio part 1
  20. September 2019 - Classic Auto Sound Becker tribute radio part 2
  21. September 2019 - 2019 ACT German Car Show
  22. October 2019 - Classic Auto Sound Becker tribute radio update
  23. November 2020 - M129 rough running
  24. November 2020 - 250SE Alternator replacement
  25. November 2020 - 250SE extended test drive
  26. March 2021 - W111 Battery
  27. April 2021 - Cocomats for the 250SE Cabriolet
  28. April 2021 - Impact with a Kangaroo
  29. May 2021 - W111 Kangaroo damage repairs
  30. June 2021 - 250SE crash repair update - paint
  31. July 2021 - W111 Cabriolet rear seatbelts
  32. August 2021 - My 250SE is now repaired and better than ever
  33. October 2021 - Troubleshooting stuttering and stalling in my 250SE
  34. June 2022 - 250SE refusing to start and the importance of not jumping to conclusions
  35. June 2022 - Rebuilt Mercedes brake calipers
  36. August 2022 - Troubleshooting the Classic Auto Sound Becker tribute radio
  37. March 2023 - W111 alternator upgrade
  38. September 2023 - W111 poor running issues and becker update
  39. September 2023 - W111 123 ignition - part 1
  40. October 2023 - W111 123 ignition – part 2
  41. March 2024 - New tyres for my W111 250SE
  42. March 2024 - M129 Heat Exchanger
  43. March 2024 - W111 Becker Grand Prix Stereo