Jay Leno Cruises his 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE

By -

Classic German V8 coupe transports Jay back to his younger days and the cars he longed for.

Jay Leno has always been a car guy, like a lot of us, and one of his first jobs back in the 1960s was working for a Mercedes dealer. That allowed him, just a poor young man, to hang around awesome cars. He wasn’t even a salesman , or tech; he just was the general run-around guy doing basic tasks. However, he did drive the cars, and they left an indelible impression on him. When his daily driver was (famously) a 1955 Buick Roadmaster, he thought owning a car like the 600 Kompressor limo, 300 SEL 6.3, or this 280SE 3.5 was an impossible dream.

Jay Leno 1971 Mercedes 280 SE

When you think that at a time when a Lincoln or Cadillac was considered a top luxury car at $6,000 or $7,000 and a Mercedes sedan could easily cost $10,000 (and the coupe $12,000), you can understand his feelings. The price was justified by the still hand-built W111 and the 3.5 liter V8 under the hood that. As Jay says, the car could cruise at 130 mph all day long on the Autobahn. With 84,000 miles on it, the motor has never been out of the car. The top end was just freshened up while the body and interior were redone.

Jay Leno 1971 Mercedes 280 SE

Inside you got perforated leather, thick chrome plated brass trim, and solid wood on the dash. None of that is a veneer. The structural part of the dash was all carved and bent from real wood. Jay’s car was a one-owner example, originally from Las Vegas, delivered with the Becker Europa stereo and factory air conditioning. The desert heat and the sun left the wood and leather in sad shape. Of course, Jay knows a guy for that and now it feels better than new.

Jay Leno 1971 Mercedes 280 SE

Comments ()