Living With a 1976 Mercedes 280 SE as a Twentysomething


If you hadn’t noticed already; I love classic cars. I’m convinced that anyone who owns any type of automotive history should be celebrated and offered cake at least once a week. Classic cars are like those true artists who are not simply following the latest pop-trend. Usually under-appreciated, but so damn necessary to the continuing evolution of an art form. Because of this, it warms my heart to see people my age go out and purchase vintage cars. Burak is one of those people.

Although it might seem hypocritical, since I do not currently own a car myself, I still firmly root for the people who look past all the downsides of buying a classic car. The government keeps making it more and more difficult to (potential) owners of classic cars every year, with drastic effects. In a system where most people look out to get the car that will go easiest on their wallet, or suits the current taxes best, trying to find an interesting car gets old pretty quick. Therefore, it makes me appreciate those who pick the cars they actually want, regardless of the situation, so much more. Especially when its young folk.


So what’s the story?

Burak went to the same school as I did, and took a similar approach to it: fail to pass. Don’t bash the man, though! Trying to graduate at the highest level of middle school takes up an enormous amount of brainpower, which sometimes, just becomes a little too much to handle.

Originally, his family came from Turkey. They tend to spend most of their holidays over there, and, since there’s a lot of family there still, it can easily be seen as a second home, if not his real one. Spending weeks on end there can be a bit of a stretch, and with age come more and more spectacular things to get your hands on, which in this case means cars. Burak started out in late 2014 by purchasing a Renault 12. Some time later, back in the Netherlands, his grandfather sadly passed away, and he inherited his Citro├źn Saxo. As he was set to graduate that year, he had his priorities straight long before that. To be clear, the goal had always been to buy either a Mercedes W116, or a W123. Unfortunately, he failed to graduate, so he kept his promise, didn’t give in to temptations and stuck to his goal. After all, it was to be a present for his hard work. A year later, he could finally fulfill his dream. Soon enough he could welcome a W116, 280 SE.

1976 Mercedes 280 SE

Terrific front view of this beauty of a Mercedes 280 SE

As he felt the tension rise, he knew it was time to actively start looking for realistic options. He passed on some, but after a while, stumbled upon a terrific pale white 280 SE. The only downside: it stood on the other side of the country. Although foreigners usually have an immensely difficult time finding our country on a map, meaning the country is small, it still is a 250km drive. After he had some contact with the owner and got to know some necessary info about the car, he decided this was the one. All that needed to happen now, was to get positive news on the exams, and he was set to blow some cash on a classic Mercedes. Once he got the call, he rang the former owner up and planned a meeting for the following day. Next morning, he hopped on the train, rode it to the other side of the country, looked at it, made a deal, and drove it back. People, that’s how you do it.

Alright, what next?

Well, I think it’s safe to assume that, since the car has aged “a little”, there will be more than enough to maintain. After all, it turned 40 as of this year. However, because of this fact, Burak will have more money left to spend on his Silver Arrows. Let me circle back to the tax system I discussed earlier. There are multiple levels to it, but for Burak it means this: once a vehicle surpasses the age of 40, it is exempted from any taxation. The only thing he is obliged to pay is the insurance. Fortunately, this too is conveniently covered. Any vehicle of that age, or older, falls under a specific “oldtimer” category, which allows the owner to pay just a fraction of what regular car owners pay. This amount varies very little, and will cost Burak about 12 euros a month. Of course, this does not take into account what he’ll need to spend along the way to keep the car running, but it’s definitely nice to see the government try to help at least a tiny bit. Also, since the petrol tank was swapped out for a liquefied gas tank, it’ll cost him even less. This slight change saves him almost two-thirds of what he would normally pay.

1976 Mercedes 280 SE

Burak decided to take another good look at his latest, and probably best-ever, purschase.

Speaking of keeping the car running though, Burak has not been waiting patiently for things to break down. The car was within budget, but certainly not all fine and dandy. Some of the bodywork was poorly maintained, which was something he could, fortunately, fix up himself. The interior was pretty much worn out, although he did not seem eager to fix it. When we discussed this, he told me that’s how he liked it. We agreed. In previous articles, I mentioned how I enjoy seeing a car that has been used in its lifetime, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear that we thought of it similarly. Other, major things would have to wait, though. Next year, he’s planning on taking it all the way to Turkey, and try to restore it as much as he’d like. Parts and labour tend to be far cheaper there, so it would only be the logical thing to do.

Also, it’s not like it won’t make it there. The car was incredibly comfortable for a forty-year-old car. Besides that, it eyed fairly reliable, as in, I didn’t notice anything odd. To top it off, it still seemed rather nimble and fairly agile. Trying to drive it around myself was a far more difficult task, though. The steering wheel was absolutely huge, and it felt terrifyingly awkward for the first couple of minutes. After that, however, it was a piece of cake. You can just feel the luxury flow through you, even though the car dates back to a completely different age. Combine that, the wonderful driving, with the utter joy and comfortability that you are presented with, and you would almost be fooled that it was a modern-day car. If it weren’t for its retro looks and the swaying sensation mid-corner, it’d pass a blindfold-test with ease.

Except, you would also need to wear some type of earplugs, because my god. The sound that this 280 SE produces is just magnificent. I can’t even begin to imagine how the 450 SEL, with its 6.9l V8 sounds. I digress. The inline-6 that sits in the 280 SE sounds incredible. The injected engine, that is supposed to produce about 180hp – which I can’t imagine it still does – even goes to 100 km/h in little under 12 seconds. That is the automated version, by the way. Speaking of this automatic transmission, I have to say, I’m quite impressed by what the Germans pulled off back then. The Fiat 500 I drove a while back – mind you, 35 years younger – was a heck of a lot worse. In he 280 SE, you feel as if you’re simply gliding through the 4-speed. This, even today, provides you with just that little extra class and comfort, making you feel all the more special. Lovely.

1976 Mercedes 280 SE

Probably my favorite shot. Its behind looks properly fantastic from this angle.

I am extremely grateful that Burak was willing to share this amazing car with me, even letting me drive him back to his own home! It really emphasised the importance of the preservation and necessary love for these kinds of cars to me. Fortunately, I get the sense that a growing group of people is starting to come down from their dark place, and slowly realizes that these cars are truly wonderful. All it takes is a glimpse of one car for you to get all caught up in nostalgia. And that, to me, is the true beauty of classic cars.

Have a good one,



About Harry

As a small child, he already knew one thing for sure: his life would in some way revolve around cars. Several years later, he pursues his goal of earning a living as a motoring journalist. Also has a deep adoration for sushi and hip-hop music.

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