WOLF retro DESIGN REVIEW. 19th June 2022
When will the W114 coupe ever be truly appreciated?
A Retro Review looks at products that are at least over ten years old from a present-day WOLF design and craftmanship perspective. While the technology and fashion of an era influence design, and are taken into consideration, great design ideas will transcend their eras to be timeless.
Interesting and factual information may be provided, but our review aims to deliver insight into the eyes and mind of designers.
Looks that rely upon perspective
The 280CE was a coupe variant of Mercedes first generation E-class. Designated by code as the W114, these coupes were produced from 1968 to 1976 with a significant facelift in 1973. The coupe in this review is a 1973 facelifted model, most notably different externally by its wider front grill, single bumpers and corrugated rear lights.
Price and Availability.
Approx. 67,000 coupes were delivered Worldwide which is not a large number, even at that time. As a sports car they were overshadowed by the W113 and W107 SL models, so a lot ended up at wreckers. Fortunately, they were very well built, so the remaining cars that escaped wrecking are now finding good homes. At the time of this review, good W114 coupes start from $40,000 (Aust) and can extend well past $60,000 for near mint examples. Low mileage original examples are particularly sought after as these cars are not only collectable but still very practical and modern to drive.
The W114 sedans are an iconic post war Mercedes model that was well regarded for engineering, literally able to drive endlessly. They were amongst the first Mercedes recognized to drive beyond a Million miles. From our research they began Mercedes tradition of a midlife facelift.
First impression/ Delight
We reviewed a 1970 250CE in Feb 2021, and while many of our opinions on this 280CE will be similar, there are many notable differences between this car its smaller engine pre-facelift relative. The W114 cars have always been relatively “Boxy”, especially the sedan variants. The coupes however were much more graceful due to a longer boot lid and lower roof line. Without the double bumpers this coupe looks a little more modern and the wider front gill feels sportier. Yet this car is definitely not sporty, aggressive or sexy. The words that come to mind are “Understated and simple”.
Exterior Design Review
Coupes always live in the shadows of convertible counterparts but the W114 had no convertible variants. After the W111 and W113 models the 114 coupe was the only affordable sports Mercedes. The W114 coupe was unique in that it had no “B” pillar. With all its windows lowered it was a pillarless coupe, and a rather elegant sight to behold.
As with most Mercedes cars each detail is well considered and appear together as one language- the Mercedes language of practical engineering and beautiful design. All sides remain quite flat and vertical so from that perspective feels like it belongs more in the 50s. Yet this was a car for the 70s so in a time when we celebrated rockets and going to the moon, the W114 and W115 cars were rather boxy.
From the front the W114 has the obvious large Mercedes grill with star on top. With large vertical head lights (not quite oval, not quite square), the car looks a little dated in our opinion for 1973. Even today it can struggle to look classic because it lacks the articulation and presence of both the Mercedes W108 and even the W116 sedans of the same era. It’s an old car that somehow refuses to look classic.
Interior Design Review
Internally this facelifted model is less “pretty” than the pre-facelifted models as result of greater crash safety measures. The car is significantly devoid of chrome trimming in favour of softer materials in conjunctions with many padded curved forms and rounded edges. The new steering wheel is particularly confronting and with the new rubber gear shift the interior does not feel classy or classic. It’s all about being practical, safe and simple.
Another big change was with the pattern of the MB-Tex vinyl. The new designs have more detail yet somehow feel more orderly and less interesting.
These cars are very durable because Mercedes cars at that time were designed to work and last, rather than be replaced or discarded. The exterior is well assembled, but the anodized trimmings around the windows are soft and damage easily. Despite thicker than average steel the flat slabbed exteriors are also vulnerable to dints.
The upgrades MB-Tex on this car seems to be more durable than those on pre-facelifted cars so it’s quite rare to find seats and door panels that have been completely wrecked or replaced. Blue MB-Tex seems to be the least tolerant to UV light, and we’ve never seen a blue dashboard without a crack in it.
Function – Experience.
This was and still is a very practical, functional and reliable car. They are simple to use and easy to service or repair. Built in a pre-electronic era most things can be repaired or replaced from an abundance of spare parts available through wreckers or Mercedes directly.
With automatic transmission and power steering these cars can drive around all day in comfort and style. The rear is spacious and with some extra cushions it’s almost a small lounge room on wheels. All that glass makes for excellent visibility, rare in today’s modern cars that have become so reliant on cameras.
The car in this review has a sunroof which many would say is a must have in coupes. The facelifted models no longer have operable front quarter windows, and the external A-Pillars have a rather bold drain built in to divert rainwater and improve visibility through the glass.
The quarter window is no longer operable.
Desirability – Collectability or Value for money
The 280CE coupe is the top dog of all W114 models with the largest engine. We expect this car to remain the most sought after for many years to come. As a classic Mercedes they were underrated for many years and have only recently gained recognition as a respected classic. Good examples are getting harder to find but appreciating values are also starting to justify restorations.
Although it’s a coupe it’s not a sports car so the thrill will come from how it makes you feel rather than through grunt or speed. It does not look, sound, or feel sporty, but that won’t stop heads from turning. These cars look less boxy in metallic paint and the interior should contrast with the exterior. Go for the larger engine if you can but these cars are all about feeling so a really nice original car with beautiful colour combo should take priority over engine size. The more options the better and a sunroof is a very big tick for many collectors.
WORD OF THE WOLF
In our opinion the W114 dated quite quickly after its launch in 1968 and the facelift in 1973 didn’t do much to bring it forward. A boxy room on wheels was not so exciting and only suited to a practical a family person who prioritized getting from A to B with safety and efficiency. For a long time, the W114 looked like just an old car rather than a cool classic. Most Mercedes cars look stunning in silver but interestingly this is one model that does not stand in silver. We’ve found several other metallic colours like anthracite, green, gold or even red to be more interesting.
After half a century since after its debut the W114 is most certainly a classic Mercedes but it still needs some convincing. The new safety measures with reduced chrome work does favour the pre-facelifted models in regards to classy or classic look and feel.
While the coupes seem more collectible, don’t underestimate the sedans that have been a real sleeper for many years. An original low mile example in either coupe or sedan is a good investment and excellent entry car into classic Mercedes collecting.
There were several brochure variants for the 250C/CE, this one with the blue car is the most common one.
rare white car brochure
Silver cover brochures
This is one of the more rare brochure variants
Original blanking plates are hard to find, but very nice to have the correct one for your car.
WOLF DESIGN EXCELLENCE SCORE = 6.7
Surprisingly this 280CE scored significantly less than its pre-facelifted cousin we reviewed in 2021. A lot of that had to do with the lack of chrome and design detailing required to make the car safer. Somehow that car had a lot more charm and the colour comb of metallic green over a parchment interior trumped over this cars conservative silver on blue combo.
The information in this review is intended for informational or educational purposes to provide readers an understanding of how something may be seen from a certain design perspective. In this case it is from the view point of WOLF DESIGNS. As design is subjective this review should only be considered as an independent opinion. Information further to being of an opinion is provided to the best of our knowledge based on our own research at the time of doing the review. We cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies or inconsistencies and reserve the right to change or update any content as appropriate.
The final responsibility of the design resides with the original manufacturer.