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1965 Mercedes-Benz 220SE Cabriolet (W111): 55-year-old Sports Luxury Cabriolet

(Editor’s Note: After picking up a 2020 Mercedes-Benz V220 Avantgarde from the new Mercedes-Benz showroom in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) for my birthday drive this weekend, I had the urge to sift through our old Power Wheels Magazine articles about vintage Mercedes-Benz cars. I found this “Euro Sports” article about a W111 1965 Mercedes 220 SE Cabriolet, which coincidentally, was built on the year I was born. I hope you like this story about a 55-year-old Mercedes-Benz classic written by a 55-year-old Mercedes-Benz enthusiast.)

1953-1959 Mercedes-Benz Ponton 4-door sedan

During the 1950s, Mercedes-Benz gained worldwide market success with their unibody Ponton models. In 1956, Stuttgart began work on the Ponton’s successor, the W111, with the design focused on passenger comfort and safety. The Ponton cabin was widened and squared off while a larger glass area improved visibility. The automaker also patented retractable seat belts along with front and rear crumple zones that would absorb kinetic energy from impact.

1954-1959 220S Ponton 2-door coupe

In 1959, Mercedes-Benz introduced the top-range W111 4-door sedans, nicknamed the Heckflosse or fintail. W111 initially referred to the 2.2-liter 6-cylinder cars while W110 referred to the 4-cylinder entry-level models and W112 referred to the luxury models with 3.0-liter engines. All three versions, in either 2-door or 4-door bodies, were built on identical chasses, which is referred to internally as chassis code W111.

1959-1965 W110 Heckflosse 4-door sedan

In February 1961, the 2-door W111 coupe was premiered in Stuttgart for the 75th anniversary of the opening of Mercedes-Benz Museum while the cabriolet followed at the Frankfurt Auto Show a few months later. The convertible was almost identical to the coupe with its soft-top roof folded into a recess behind the rear seat and covered by a tightly fitting bag.

1965-1972 W111 2-door coupe

The 220SE was the only 2-door W111 model. Powered by a 2195cc M127 6-cylinder engine, options for the 220SE coupe and cabriolet included a sliding sunroof for the coupe, automatic transmission, power steering, and individual rear seats. Interestingly, Mercedes-Benz released the almost identical 2-door 300SE W112 equipped with a chrome strip, air suspension and their top-range 2996cc M189 engine.

In the summer of 1965, Mercedes-Benz launched the W108 and W109 to replace the aging W111 and W112 sedans because the fintail design was quickly eroding by the mid 1960s. Stuttgart did not develop a 2-door version of the W108/W109 and merely continued production of the 2-door W111/W112, which were modernized with bigger engines, disc brakes, larger wheels and rear axles from the W108/W109. The 220SE was replaced by the 250SE in 1965, which was replaced by the 280SE in 1967, while a V8-powered model, the 280SE 3.5 was added in 1969.

Our featured 1965 220SE cabriolet is one of 7,456 convertibles out of 32,804 2-door W111 models produced from 1961 to 1971. After 1971, 4-seat convertibles would disappear from the Mercedes-Benz lineup and would reappear only in 1992 with the A124.