Guest contributor: Otis Blank on his 1966 Mercedes-Benz W108 250SE

I have always had a love for what I once called “stacked-headlight” Benzes. Every time I’d see one, my heart would jump just a little bit. We even had one in the family— a slightly worse for wear 1962 W111 220SEb owned by my father. I’d always adored the looks of that car, though I never actually considered owning one for myself. I always thought of myself as the kind of person who would drive something a bit smaller, a bit sportier.

The first car I had that I could call my own was a 1988 Saab 900 Turbo: a fantastic car, but nearing the end of its life and simply unreliable by then— it was constantly threatening to catch fire or explode. Next, I received a 1989 BMW 325is as a high school graduation gift, as well as a replacement for the beater Saab. It was a true driver’s dream, taking almost anything I could throw at it. I say almost, because one day I ended up throwing it into a tree. I was physically fine, but losing that car was like losing a member of the family.

From the day I lost the BMW I was on Craigslist every day, searching for anything interesting with my budget of $2000. I had decided I didn’t need to own a sporty car again, though I certainly didn’t rule it out. I would be perfectly satisfied with something like an E28 BMW 5-series, or even a 1970s or 1980s Mercedes sedan of some sort. A couple of months went by, and I didn’t finding anything worth even looking at. Then one night I saw the ad: 1966 Mercedes – $1325. I had seen other Mercedes ads for pre-1980 cars, but they were either rusted out and undrivable, or too expensive. I clicked the link, not expecting much. What I saw was a perfectly good W108.

From the small Craigslist photos, I might have even said it looked mint. I thought to myself, this is too good to be true, there has to be something majorly wrong with it. Based on what I saw in the photos, a price of $13,250 seemed much more likely than the advertised price of $1325. As it was 11 o’clock at night when I saw the ad, I decided it was probably best to wait until the next morning to call the seller. The morning finally rolled around after I spent the entire night dreaming about the car. I called the seller, no response. I called again, no response. At this point I was worried that the car had already sold, even though the posting had only been up since late the night before.

I waited an hour and called one last time. Finally I got an answer. Thirty minutes later, I was looking at the car. It was almost every bit as good as it seemed in the photos. The paint could’ve used a good buffing and there was a little rust near the wheel wells, but nothing to be worried about. The interior was in fantastic shape for a 44-year-old car. The wood was a little dried out and didn’t have its original shine (which would have been unacceptable on a $13,250 car), but for $1325, I wasn’t going to complain. The seats were all in fine condition— no rips, tears, or discoloration. The same went for the headliner.

After inspecting the car inside and out, the seller told me the car was bought new in Germany in 1966 and stayed there until 1994, at which point it was brought to the US to be used as sort of a weekend driver for the elderly owner. The seller was actually selling it for the original owner, technically making it a one-owner car.

The vehicle’s history was perfect. Cosmetically it was perfect. There was only one thing left to check out: how it stood mechanically. I was handed the keys and was out on the road before I knew it. Having driven my father’s W111 before (essentially a W108 coupe), I wasn’t nervous about it. And the car felt fantastic to drive. It had a perfectly vintage feel, but with the modern convenience of power steering and brakes. The only issue was the transmission, which had a fairly significant clunk to it. But I had also read that this was common in these cars (W111s and W108s), and that it wasn’t much to worry about.

At this point the decision had been made. Given the history it had, the condition it was in, and the price at which it was being offered, it was impossible to pass on this deal. Next thing I knew, I was taking it home. I couldn’t believe I had it. I was proud of my E30, but the E30 was nothing like this.

If there’s one word I would use to describe it, it would definitely be classy. It has a presence to it that isn’t threatening or flashy. It makes itself known, yet it’s reserved. No one goes “Hey, look at this asshole” when you show up in a W108. I’ve had the car for over three months now, and not once have I felt anyone disapproving the car. It’s been nothing but smiles, stares, questions, and comments. By far the question I get most often is “What year is that?”, usually followed by a compliment of some kind.

There are two things I hear most often from my friends about the car. They’ll usually tell me such gems as “you could fit plenty of bodies in the trunk!” or “it’s such a Mafia car!” The best reaction, however, was from a little kid whose mother was attempting to strap him into his child seat in their modern conveyance. When he saw the Merc, he sprung up and jumped up and down and pointed with this huge smile on his face. His mother looked up to see what all the commotion was about. She, too, smiled, and I waved back at them. It’s really the little things that making owning a car like this such a pleasure.

Would I recommend a car like this to someone looking for a new car? Maybe. Though it’s been extremely reliable so far, it’s still a classic. The chances that something goes wrong are much higher than they would be with something newer. I use mine as a daily driver and have taken it up some mountain roads before with nearly no issues. With regular maintenance, there is no reason a car like this can’t stay on the road for several more years to come.

Would I recommend it to someone as a second car? A thousand times yes. It’s a very rewarding car to own. The build quality of the car as well as the driving experience makes you love the car more and more with each drive. The W108 was built in the era when Mercedes were still building cars for smart people rather than rich people. It doesn’t have any ridiculous luxury features, just lots of clever engineering that make driving a better experience. Combine that with the great feeling you get from the reactions of others, and you have a car that’s just about as close to perfect as you can get. As perfect as you can get for $1325, anyway.

Words and images: Otis Blank

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~ by motoringconbrio on October 29, 2010.

75 Responses to “Guest contributor: Otis Blank on his 1966 Mercedes-Benz W108 250SE”

  1. Perfect.

  2. Lovely vehicle Otis, and for that price no-one in their right mind would pass it up. The photos look sensational. That second pic, of the car front on, makes it an absolute stunner.

  3. Great car and even better writeup :) Cheers

  4. Excellent. But as for my comment on the DS, a few years ago these were unloved, discarded and cheap classics. Even today in my country of origin South Africa you can get plenty of these, DS’s and Alfa Romeo’s being sold second-hand for nothing. It is not perceived to be special there (yet).

  5. I can’t believe you got that car for such a great price!! It’s a beauty!! I spent 2400 for my first car which was beat up and crapped out 3 months after I purchased it. I would have died to have your car!!

    http://www.runtobefit.wordpress.com

  6. Such a beautiful car, and amazing photos. What have you done to it since owning it? What was your cleaning / detailing regime? It looks to me like you have cut the paint back and mechanically buffed it.

    Puts my e46 to shame. I want her to look this good!

  7. Dear Otis-

    What a car! What a post! Beautiful pictures! I’m so jealous. This hit me where it counts–in the heart. Thanks for sharing! Outstanding and I’m passing it around to all my car buddies! Enjoy it in good health.

    ~Mike

    mikelamonica.wordpress.com

  8. Love it! So retro/vintage…I could write stories about it. I’m always inspired by vintage stuff. :)
    http://www.denwrites.com

  9. Great photos! Some inspiration there — thanx.

  10. Awesome post – I had a 1987 300D a few years back and I loved that car. Lasted 200,000 miles.

  11. Thanks for the comments and compliments everyone!

    @Worksrider: I actually haven’t buffed the paint yet, its something I plan to do soon though. I have waxed the car and done routine washes as well as vacuuming out the interior. The only things I’ve changed on the car since getting it are the tires. You might notice in some photos the car doesn’t have the white stripe tires it does in the other shots. I opted for the white stripes when it was time to get new tires to give it an even more vintage look.

    Thanks again everyone!

  12. I can just imagine a dapper man with a quick stride and a bit of swagger stepping out of that car. Very classy and the perfect amount of sexy.

    Crystal
    http://www.crystalspins.com

  13. Swoon…

  14. Great images!

  15. Excellent job man, love the contrast and the choise of angles on the pictures!

  16. Beautiful car – great write up.

    And yes, the transmission does “clunk” – kind of alarming at first, but you get used to it.

    These Mercs are so much better looking than the new ones.

    • check the switch on the front of the front carburetor, it controls downshifting when engine speed below 1200 rpm.

  17. Regular here and a W108 owner too [280SE 4.5]…which I bought in April sight unseen, off Craigslist in SF Bay area, and I live in Dallas. I know, wow. Best automotive thing that ever happened to me. Now just to replace those pesky valve guides…when I crank it up my whole neighbourhood is enveloped in smoke. No mind, mine always makes me feel like a million bucks, and my wife made me promise to never sell…

  18. Absolutely gorgeous.

    Blessings,

    Ava

  19. That kind of a Benz must be owned by a car lover. Someone who would spend time cleaning and polishing it.

  20. I would love to have one ;-)
    Beautiful photos! Cheers, Susan

  21. what a great car, real pleasure to watch your photos and read the note
    cheers

  22. Great elegant and stylish car, the steering wheel, front lights and back of the care are so wow!! A very exciting car!

  23. Swoooooon!!!!

    And lovely images to boot.

  24. You’re incredibly lucky for finding that buy.

    Beautiful car. Nobody could have passed it up.

  25. Classic! And stylish pics! I would LOVE that car!!

  26. I’ve always loved the look of this automobile. I love the colour. Thank you for sharing!

  27. Wow, killer photography!

  28. Hey Otis!
    Great post! Beautiful post, beautiful car, and well written too! Good luck with the wheels. :)
    Cheers!
    G-LO

  29. Absolutely stunning photos and charming story. You make me want to go out and look for a classy car such as your W108.

  30. [...] I have always had a love for what I once called “stacked-headlight” Benzes. Every time I'd see one, my heart would jump just a little bit. We even had one in the family— a slightly worse for wear 1962 W111 220SEb owned by my father. I’d always adored the looks of that car, though I never actually considered owning one for myself. I always thought of myself as the kind of person who would drive something a bit smaller, a bit sportier. The first … Read More [...]

  31. What a beautiful car, at an absolutely fabulous price. Good buy!
    Very interesting read, thank you!

  32. Now that is a steal! It’s in beautiful shape and yes, it does have that understated appeal to it.

    Wish I could find one in as good condition around here for such a low price.

  33. I’m bowled over by the price! Nice work and excellent car! enjoy it!

  34. That is a beautiful Mercedes.

  35. Sweeeet! I love the Mercedes Benz (my dream is to own an SL55 AMG). You did fantastic in getting this car! What a classic! Do you ever take it to shows? You should! It’s rare to see a car of this caliber in this pristine a condition! I wish you many happy years with it and hopefully trouble free ones!

  36. You. Have. Female. Readers?

  37. ah, wonderful <3 Nothing better than old German cars. Beautiful pictures!

  38. What a GORGEOUS car.

  39. Wow, that is a nice car! The photos look very good, too.

  40. Congrats on your incredible purchase! I love old Mercs; you’ve captured its simple, classic sophistication magnificently. My ’06 BMW 330 is lovely, but it has neither the same panache nor smile-drawing abilities.

    I’m so glad you were featured on Freshly Pressed! I look forward to reading many more of your fantastic car-related posts.

  41. I liked two: at the gas station and from behind the steering wheel. No, three – the side shot against the trees. Very nice.

  42. What a classic!

  43. Now that’s a car post. Really nice shots…

  44. Nice pics and post.

  45. Beautiful car, hopefully my vitesse will look as good as that soon :)

  46. [...] Article Link 30 Oct This entry was written by Otis, posted on October 30, 2010 at 10:39, filed under Uncategorized and tagged wordpress word press freshly pressed. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. View EXIF Data Browse Older: More Shots of the W108Mount Lemmon is amazingly scenic right now. I found an amazing little spot to do a some guerilla style photography. I had to cut a little … [...]

  47. Beautiful car, and great pictures!

  48. I love this car and the photoshoot all together is so lovely with the light and color scheme.

    http://laurenalyse3.wordpress.com/

  49. The photos of the Benz you took are amazing. What kind of camera are you using? For $1325 that’s a super deal. Its funny how Craigslist can sometimes be a great place to find something great.
    The car looks classy, especially compared to todays Benz designs. It will be nice when the car manufacturers bring the classic look back!

  50. That’s such a beautiful car and for so cheap. I thought my ’69 Beetle was a steal for $1200, (it keeps my older Mercedes company) but it’s not as great a find as your 250SE! Enjoy driving the car, she’s looks lovely.

  51. Otis, What a beautiful car and a lovely home its got now. May you have many happy motoring years. Great write-up!

  52. Wow, this Benz is something! Actually, I also love classy or retro-ish type of automobiles. I personally like to own a 1963 Volkswagen Van or a Mini Cooper (Yes, it’s weird to both like extreme sizes of cars).

  53. My tin can of an x6 has got nothing on this beauty;^)
    .. nicely written

  54. “This isn’t some assholes car” very well said. This car does have presence and indeed very smart.

  55. Beautiful car, great words, lovely photography. Perfect!

  56. Beauty of a car, great story…. dansolar.wordpress.com

  57. I’m loving this series.

  58. I’m not too much into cars. Although this post, your car and photos got me hooked. Brilliant!

  59. Wonderful story perfectly punctuated with pictures.
    My much-loved but late cousin Larry who was stolen from us by AIDS at the ripe old age of 44, had a similar car. It was his baby and it was beautiful. Thanks for reminding me of a lovely man and his matching car.

  60. Bravo my friend & hell of a find! Great photos too! Stoked…

  61. Fantastic.. the car you know is the best

  62. Gorgeous W108. I love the E34 at the top of your site. Please viist to see some of my works as well.

  63. I have no words to describe your post. Your car is fantastic!

  64. Nice car. It’s a classic that everybody will love and admire.

  65. W108s are the best Mercs ever built in my opinion. I’ve owned 2 of them. A 280S and a 280SE 3.5.
    In fact, thats it….Im going for a third.
    c

  66. Great car and great photos! My grandfather had a ’69 280 SE. It’s a very nice and reliable car… In one word: BENZ!

    http://autospirit.wordpress.com/

  67. more terrific photos of this car here:

    http://otisblank.com/2011/01/11/took-the-w108-up-mt-lemmon/

    highly worth checking out.

  68. i recently picked up a 250s W108 over in Malaysia and I love the car. Is it easy to source for parts for this vintage where you are? Am really seeking high and low for the headlights like what you have? Any leads and how much would it knock me down?

  69. Long overdue, but I finally got round to thanking you guys for a great site & numerous DRIVR-mentions by offering this article as a ‘WebTip’.

  70. First the photos grabbe me and then your write up. Great Benz and great chassis. I currently have a W114 I’m working on (grey-market) coupe. And my father has an ultra clean W116 in the garage.

  71. Great looking car, I own one as well, a 1967 250SE auto in mint condition. Based in Western Australia. Had it for 3 years and love it, it’s my 3rd 108, previously had a 250S with a Holden engine and a 72 300SEL for 4 years. Had a 450SE 116 for a while and an A Class for 8 years. The W108’s are great looking and so nice to drive.

  72. [...] Starting with my oldest, the W108. Not only is this my oldest car, it’s the car I’ve had the longest. I got it in August of 2010 and it became my daily driver to and from school for almost a year. Since then it’s become my secondary car, I don’t want to put too many miles on it if I don’t have to. Don’t worry though, it still gets driven regularly! If you’re interested in reading more about this car, I’d encourage you to check out the piece I did for Motoring con Brio about it some time ago, link HERE. [...]

  73. What a gem. Love the shots in the Fall colors, seems apropos for the car. Classy.

  74. […] today in favor of such models as the W123 (its popular immediate successor) and the upmarket W108 (with which its production overlapped), the Stroke Eight or Strich Acht has nevertheless attracted […]

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