As production of the 300 SL and 190 SL came to a close in the early 1960s, Mercedes-Benz took the opportunity to reinvent the entire concept of the SL line of sports cars with the new W113, introduced in 1963. Like the 190 SL before it, the new 230 SL chassis shared standard components with the contemporary sedan line to costs in check. Paul Bracq and his team designed a beautiful, minimally-adorned body with crisp lines and exquisite detail. From the onset, the car was designed as a roadster with a removable hardtop, which featured a subtle concave top panel earning it the nickname “Pagoda.” On introduction, the new SL was a sports car like no other on the market. It combined the open-air experience of a traditional roadster with the insulated comfort and practicality of a continental GT cruiser. It was built with typical Mercedes quality and delivered impressive performance in a refined and understated package. The “Pagoda” SL evolved through three generations: The 230 SL, 250 SL, and 280 SL which rant through 1971 with the arrival of the new R107 chassis.
The final evolution of the W113 appeared in 1968 with a bored/stroked 2.8-liter version of the robust Bosch-injected inline-six. A manual gearbox was available, yet the vast majority of cars left the factory gates equipped with the four-speed automatic transmission, which best suits the 280SL’s relaxed GT-like demeanor. The press criticized early models for lack of power, but thanks to the abundant torque and 170hp output of the 280 SL, those criticisms were effectively silenced. Handling is surefooted and capable, striking a fine balance between ride comfort and cornering grip via the independent front and swing-axle rear suspension. The W113 is certainly less aggressive than other traditional sports cars, yet it is surprisingly capable when the going gets twisty. Equally at home on a cross-continental journey as it is hustling along sweeping back roads, the 280 SL is a sophisticated, elegant sports car for the enthusiast of more refined tastes.
This highly desirable, late-production 1971 280 SL is a superb, unrestored example and one of the finest of its kind we have had the pleasure to offer. Recently out of long-term ownership, this car spent many years carefully preserved in an extensive collection of significant sports cars. It presents in its original color combination of metallic red (Code 571H) over a black MB-Tex interior (Code 131) with a matching color-keyed hardtop, and a black soft-top (Code 740). An original US-spec car, this Pagoda came well-equipped from new with power steering, automatic gearbox, Becker Europa radio, heated rear glass and the optional side-facing jump seat. It is believed that the metallic red paint is nearly all original, and it presents in outstanding condition with beautifully crisp lines and exceptionally straight panels. There is a small amount of checking in the hardtop paint, while the remainder of the body is excellent. Gaps are consistent, and the doors close with the positive vault-like feel that defines Mercedes-Benz quality of the era. Importantly, the subtle “notches” where the fenders meet the headlight trims are still perfectly visible, as are the factory welds, both critical elements of unmolested body and paintwork on a W113. Exterior brightwork is superb, with straight bumpers, anodized window trims and color-coded full wheel covers on correct steel wheels.
The 280 SL offers room for two in a comfortable and refined cabin. This car features beautifully preserved original upholstery on the seats, door panels, and dash tops. It retains the original Becker Europa, Kangol seat belts, and the optional removable side-facing rear jump seat. The soft trim is taut, clean, and tidy throughout the cockpit. The original wood dash trim is excellent, with an appropriate level of patina to the finish. Switches, controls, and gauges all present in superb condition. The black German canvas soft top is believed to be the original, and it is in very good condition, having spent most of its life tucked in the top well.
Beneath the lightweight aluminum hood sits the original, numbers-matching 2.8-liter inline-six. It benefits from extensive recent maintenance by a Mercedes-Benz specialist who meticulously serviced the car from stem to stern. Recent work includes a comprehensive fuel-system overhaul, full fluid change, valve adjustment, rebuilt heater valves, and other minor service items. It now performs beautifully, with superb road-feel and driving characteristics. Under-hood presentation is honest and tidy, with the engine and inner panels displaying original finishes and appropriate levels of patina for an unrestored car. The trunk shows similar levels of detail, with the correct original rubber mat and spare tire cover.
With the 280 SL, Mercedes-Benz masterfully blended sports-car character with grand-touring practicality, and this outstanding 280 SL is sure to satisfy even the most meticulous Pagoda enthusiast. It is a superb choice for MB-club concours, AACA shows, or for enjoying the outstanding performance and exquisite road manners in any number of driving events worldwide.
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