• Year of manufacture 
  • Car type 
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  • Condition 
  • Location
  • Exterior colour 


  • One of 1,232 cabriolets produced
  • Purchased new by noted politician, John C. Pritzlaff Jr.
  • 45 years of original family ownership through 2016
  • Desirable console-shift, Behr air conditioning, and Becker radio
  • Refurbished in the early 2000s by Passarelli Restorations at Rancho Merced
  • Please note that this lot will need to be collected from Burbank, CA

The S-Class Mercedes-Benz of the 1960s began with the distinctive fin-tail sedan that was introduced in 1959 on the new W111 chassis. By 1961, the chassis underpinned the elegant SE coupe and cabriolet, which eschewed the fin design for a more elegant rear-end treatment more closely related to the upcoming 230 SL. The penultimate W111 limited-production coupes and cabriolets were added in August 1969, fitted with the brand-new 3,499-cubic centimeter V-8 engine.

Called the 280 SE 3.5, it was developed to keep pace with competitors in the US luxury market. This unit, designated M116, produced 200 hp, enabling a top speed of 130 mph. It utilized a cast-iron block for rigidity, economy, and better sound damping, and featured crossflow wedge cylinder heads with rocker-operated valves, which were driven by a single overhead camshaft per bank. Bosch transistorized the ignition, and electronic fuel injection was utilized. To accommodate the larger V-8, the car’s front grille was lowered and widened, while the front and rear bumpers were modified with the addition of rubber strips, and the rear lenses were updated with a flatter, cleaner design, endowing the model with a more refined appearance.

The 3.5 coupes and cabriolets are considered the last production Mercedes-Benzes built with a high degree of hand finishing and were marketed through the 1971 model year. Over the 24-month period, 3,270 coupes and 1,232 cabriolets were made, with the majority of the convertible examples sold in the US, establishing this landmark car as among the fastest and most interesting Mercedes-Benzes of their era, but also one of the rarest and most expensive.

This 280 SE 3.5 cabriolet was completed in April 1971. It left the factory finished in Light Ivory (670) with a blue interior. A US-specification version, it was delivered with an outside mirror on the left side, floor-shift automatic transmission, Becker radio with an automatic antenna, Behr air conditioning, as well as a tinted glass and windshield. The Mercedes-Benz was purchased new by John C. Pritzlaff Jr. Mr. Pritzlaff was born into the John Pritzlaff Hardware Company family, which at one point was the largest hardware store in the Midwest. After serving in the United States Army Intelligence Corps during World War II, he returned to home and completed his degree at Princeton University. Upon graduation he went to work for his family’s four-generation owned hardware business, serving as Vice President of Priorities and General Manager. Sadly, in 1958 the long-standing family business closed, and Mr. Pritzlaff and his wife moved to Arizona where he began a successful career in politics.

He served four terms in the Arizona House of Representatives from 1963 to 1969, at which time he was appointed by President Richard Nixon as the ambassador to Malta, a position he held until June 1972. In 1975, after a short break from politics, Mr. Pritzlaff was given the Arizona state senate seat vacated by Sandra Day O’Connor when she was appointed to the Arizona State Appellate Court. He held the seat for eight years, serving as Minority Whip, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Chairman of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. Pritzlaff retired from his senate seat in 1982.

In the early 2000s, Mr. Pritzlaff reportedly commissioned the marque experts at Mark Passarelli’s Rancho Merced in Colorado to address a number of concerns on his 280 SE. The work included repainting it in the correct, Light Ivory; reupholstering the interior from the original shade of blue to the rich shade of burgundy seen today; as well as refurbishing the engine. Ultimately, Mr. Pritzlaff would enjoy this Mercedes-Benz for 34 years until his passing in 2005. It remained a cherished part of the Pritzlaff family until it was sold in 2016.

Today the 280 SE 3.5 cabriolet presents very nicely and is accompanied by owner’s manual, first aid kit, and tool roll. With 3.5 cabriolet production limited to just 1,232 units, this nicely equipped example is a stellar representation of what many call the last, great, hand-built Mercedes-Benz.To view this car and others currently consigned to this auction, please visit the RM website at rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/0120.

RM Sotheby's
5 Heron Square
United Kingdom
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