These days the money chases the later V8-powered 280SE 3.5 versions, these now serious six-figure classics while the true aficionados regard the rarer, air-sprung 300SE as the true pinnacle of the range. On paper the original 220SEb with its mere 118bhp 2.2-litre engine sounds a bit underwhelming. That it’s anything but goes to prove how little the stats tell you about a car’s true character.
That fuel-injected straight-six may have its work cut but it’s such a sweet engine you don’t mind. I’ve driven them in open-top and coupe form and with the spindly, ball-topped four-speed manual they’re just a delight. The engine is beautifully smooth, cultured and perfectly adequate for making the kind of stately progress a car of this nature encourages. And I love the interior too, the broad expanse of wood and chrome lovely to look at while the springy, leather-clad armchairs up front and sofa in the back are suitably plush. As a sociable way for four people to soak up the sunshine on the way to a nice country pub, I can think of little better. Independent suspension and disc brakes up front mean they go and stop far better than the old-fashioned styling would suggest too.
And I’ve found one coming up for auction. It’s a 1963 UK-supplied car kept by the same family for over 50 years, the flat green and colour-coded hubcaps with chromed stars in the centre the embodiment of period cool in my book. A car like this would obviously require expert inspection before committing the £60,000 (plus fees) of the upper estimate. And a realistic approach to ongoing costs and potential restoration. But when you consider what 280SE 3.5s go for it seems like a relative bargain. Going once, going twice…
Images courtesy of Silverstone Auctions