1965-71 Mercedes-Benz 220SE 250 SE 280 SE

The updated and larger W108/W109 model lines were introduced in 1965.
The squarish W108 line included the straight-six M129 engine powered:

In 1968 the 300 SEL 6.3 borrowed the 6-litre V8 from the W100 600 Pullman to offer a truly high-performance luxury sedan.

Since the advent of the W108 series, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has always included two wheelbase lengths, although not all wheelbases are sold in every country.
The more powerful 300SE and 300SEL models were classified as the W109 chassis
They had:
Front and rear air suspension
Available burl walnut interior trim
Automatic transmission
Power windows

The W108 and W109

The Mercedes-Benz W108 and W109 are luxury cars produced by Mercedes-Benz from 1965 through to 1972 and 1973 in North America only.
The line was an update of the predecessor W111 and W112 fintail sedans.
The cars were successful in West Germany and in export markets including:
North America
Southeast Asia
During the seven-year run, a total of 383,361 units were manufactured.


However, the design fashion of the early 1960s changed.
The tail fins died out within a few years as a fashion accessory.
By the time the 2-door coupe and cabriolet W111s were launched, the fins lost their chrome trim and sharp appearance
The arrival of the W113 Pagoda in 1963 saw them further buried into the trunk’s contour, and finally disappeared on the W100 600 in 1964.

Upgrade the W11

It began under the leadership of designer Paul Bracq in 1961 and ended in 1963.
The W108 compared to the W111 had:
Lower body waist line that increased the window area,
A lower ride
Wider doors
The result was a visibly new car with a more sleek appearance and an open and spacious interior.
The car also had:
Larger wheels
Disc brakes on front and rear


The W109 featured an:
Extended wheelbase
Self-levelling air suspension
This was seen as a successor to the W112 300SEL.
However, its success as “premium flagship” convinced Daimler to add an LWB car to the model range.
All future S-Class models would feature a LWB line.
Production of the W111 continued, however the 230S was now downgraded to the mid-range series, the Mercedes-Benz W110, and marketed as a flagship of that family until their production ceased in 1968.
The W108 is popular with collectors and the most desirable models to collect are the early floor shift models with the classic round gear knob and the 300 SEL’s.

W109 300SEL

The car premièred at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1965 and the initial model lineup consisted of three W108s:
Plus a sole W109, the 300SEL.
Engines for the new car were carried over from the previous generation, but enlarged and refined.


The 250S had:
A straight-six M108 engine
Two dual downdraft carburettors
The car could do 100 km/h in 13 seconds with a top speed of 182 km/h.

250 SE

The 250SE featured:
An identical straight-six but with a six-plunger fuel injection M129 engine
Performance improved but it decreased 0-100 acceleration by one second and increased top speed by 11 km/h (7 mph) for both manual and automatic versions.
300 SE and 300 SEL
Both the 300SE and 300SEL had the following features;
M189 2996 cm³ engine with a modern six-plunger pump that adjusted automatically to:
accelerator pedal pressure
engine speed
atmospheric pressure
cooling water temperature
to deliver the proper mixture depending on driving conditions
The cars would accelerate to 200 km/h and reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in 12 seconds.
From 1965 to 1967, fewer than 3,000 W109s were produced.
130,000 of the less powerful 250 S/SE models were built during the first two years of the W108/109’s existence.


The W108 now included 280S and 280SE, with production starting in November 1967. These replaced the 250S, 250SE and 300SE, however production of export-designated 250S would continue until March 1969.
For the W109, the 300SEL finally retired the M189 engine, and received the 280Se’s 2.8 M130

280 SEL

In January 1968, the 280SEL was released
It had:
A longer wheelbase of the W109
Lacked the pneumatic suspension and other features of the 300SEL.
On the 280S the two downdraft carburettors pushed the car to 185 km/h and 0-100 was achieved in 12.5 seconds.
Performance of the 280SE, 280SEL and 300SEL was all but identical
This meant a top speed of 190 km/h and a 0-100 acceleration in 10.5 seconds for the W108s and 12 seconds


In 1966 company engineer Erich Waxenberger transplanted the big V8 into a standard W109, creating the first Mercedes-Benz Q-car.
The W109 claimed 0-62 mph in 6.3 seconds.
Full-scale production began in December 1967.
It was the fastest production sedan (top speed of 229 km/h), the 300SEL 6.3 and it held this title for many years.

300 SEL

The 300SEL 6.3 was a special model and production of the fuel-thirsty M100 engines was limited.
The American car production by the late 1960s has largely switched to V8 powered cars, and Mercedes-Benz had to produce its own eight-cylinder engine to stay competitive.


The new engines arrived in late 1969.
The first was the M116 3499 cc V8
It included the Bosch D-Jetronic electronic fuel injection
It was fitted to the W109 and was known as the 300SEL 3.5.
Its performance included a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph) and could do 0–100 km/h in 10 seconds.


During summer of 1970, the M116 was added to the W108 lineup on both regular and LWB, the 280SE 3.5 and the 280SEL 3.5 respectively.
The 2-door W111s and the W113 Pagoda roadsters were soon phased out of production.
This left the W108 and W109 as the sole survivors of the ageing family.
The arrival of the big-block 4520 cc 225 hp M117 engine allowed for a final set of vehicles to be launched in the spring of 1971
These were the:
W108 280SE 4.5
280SEL 4.5
W109 300SEL 4.5.
This, was destined solely for the US market.
Performance improved with a top speed of 205 km/h with 0-100 in under 10 seconds.
However, as the mainstream V8 models were being introduced, production was already drawing to a close.
The straight-six 300SEL was finished in January 1970, and in April 1971 the 280SEL followed.
The 280SE 3.5 and 280SEL W108s were retired in summer of 1972.
In September the last 300SEL 3.5 and the 6.3 rolled off the conveyors.
A month later, the final 300SEL 4.5 ended the W109’s output, and in November saw the final models of the W108 280SE and 280SEL 4.5s end a seven-year history.


The W108/W109, had a simple yet iconic design
It became a timeless classic.
The vehicle was an amazing success.
It had simple and square contours and was well known for its reliability and durability proof of excellent German engineering.
Mercedes-Benz went from a ruined post-WWII marque to one of European and World leaders in automotive industry.
It was succeeded by the W116, a car which brought a new household name for any car, the S-class.

300 SE and 300 SEL

The 300SE and 300SEL’s features included:
Burled walnut dashboards
Automatic transmission
Power windows.

The 300SEL 4.5 featured a:
4.5L V8 petrol engine
It was used for the W116 S-class and R107 SL roadster, as was the smaller 3.5L unit.
European Transmission
The standard transmission for Europe was:
Four-speed manual gearbox
A four-speed automatic option was also available
Mercedes developed and built their own automatic transmission system.
For the six-cylinder models only, a five-speed manual gearbox was also offered, from 1969, though few customers opted for it.


When the V8-engined cars were introduced in 1970, the default transmission was the four-speed automatic, driven via a fluid coupling rather than the more usual torque converter.
Buyers could still opt for a four-speed manual box, however, and benefitted from a price reduction if they did so.
The 4.5 litre version (offered from 1971 but only in the United States), was fitted with:
A three-speed automatic box with a torque converter
This engine/transmission combination became more widely available when incorporated in the successor model.

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