So there I am picking up my 11-year old son from an overnight stay at a friend's home. The father, in his late 40's, comments on my Cabriolet and mentions that his father had one back in the mid-90s. Then he motions me towards his garage to show me what's inside.
Before that door opened, I had already guessed he was a Porsche guy. Probably a new 911, or perhaps a pristine Speedster.
I was only partially right. Inside that tidy detached 3-car garage was a new Porsche, but also something a lot closer to home for me—a restored triple-black W111 280SE 3.5 Cabriolet. His father's car from 1971-1981, this Cabriolet surfaced on ebay over three decades after the family sold it. It was recognized by a friend who noticed a description that sounded familiar. It was a needle in a haystack find. (But, in all fairness, it's a pretty small haystack considering there were only 1,232 units made of the 3.5 Cabriolet.)
He promptly bought the car, which was now tired and in need of a complete restoration. He then launched into a 3-year, full-body restoration, including new top, interior, and paintwork, along with restored wood and chrome. (I'm guessing the engine was rebuilt as well, but I never asked.)
Today, this 3.5 Cabriolet has an impeccable undercarriage, engine bay, interior, and, of course, exterior. It's driven, but just enough to exercise it. With these cars trading in the range of what was once Gullwing territory only a decade ago, that's understandable.
It was a treat to see the spiritual ancestor of the E320 Cabriolet—the last 4-passenger Cabriolet made by Mercedes until the A124 Cabriolet a good two decades later.
|Restored engine bay just shy of show-quality|
|Acres of leather and restored Macassar Ebony|
It must also be said that it's a delight to see someone who is emotionally attached to a collector car for the right reasons. Yes, it's a valuable machine, but I suspect it would be just as important to the new-old owner if it weren't the icon it is today. He values it for reasons beyond its financial value and would never part with it. It's his dad's old car and a touchstone to a special time in his life.
Dare I ask if the mid-90s E320 Cabriolet will ever attain this kind of status in hearts and minds?
Only time will tell.