1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SL


As production of the 300SL and 190SL ended in the early 1960s, Mercedes-Benz revamped the entire SL sports car concept into a single line. The 300SL was a worthy flagship but was complex and expensive to produce. The 190SL was high on style but lacked the performance to challenge more sporting competitors. Launched in 1963, the new W113 series aimed to blend style, sophistication, and performance at a more reasonable price point. Like the 190SL before it, the new 230SL chassis shared standard components with the contemporary sedan line to keep production costs in check. Mercedes-Benz’s design team, led by the brilliant Paul Bracq, created a crisp, minimally-adorned monocoque body with exquisite detailing. From day one, the W113 was designed with a removable hardtop, to which Bracq added a subtle concave top panel, earning it the nickname “Pagoda.”

Upon 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 final evolution of the W113 arrived in 1968 with the 2.8-liter 280SL. While the 280SL is less aggressive than some of its competitors, it is surprisingly capable when the going gets twisty, thanks to a finely tuned independent front/swing-axle rear suspension. The robust Bosch-injected overhead-cam inline-six produced ample torque, and while a manual gearbox was offered, the vast majority of cars left the factory gates equipped with the excellent four-speed automatic, which suited the 280SL’s relaxed GT-like demeanor. Beautifully refined and with build quality that only a Mercedes-Benz can boast, the 280SL is a lively and enjoyable sports car that effortlessly plays the role of a sophisticated grand tourer.

The 1971 280SL presented here is nothing less than the finest example of the breed we have had the pleasure to offer. It is a desirable final-year model, beautifully presented in blue metallic (DB387) over parchment leather trim and a dark blue soft top. This superb SL is the subject of a complete, nut-and-bolt restoration by the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, California. It has covered just a handful of miles since returning to exacting factory-fresh standards and is simply stunning throughout, with exquisite quality paint and meticulous detailing.

The body is finished to concours-quality standards, with laser-straight panels, crisp lines, and millimeter perfect panel fit. Even the simple act of closing the door is a uniquely pleasurable experience, as they shut with the lightest touch with precise, vault-like quality. The exterior brightwork is fully restored or replaced with brand-new Mercedes-supplied parts. This car is fitted with the desirable European headlamps, which maintain Paul Bracq’s original design purity while offering superior lighting performance over American-spec sealed beams. Period-style Vredestein Sprint Classic tires are mounted to factory steel wheels, adorned with polished, color-keyed wheel covers. The factory hardtop is fully restored to the same standards, and a taut-fitting dark blue Sonnendeck canvas soft top stows neatly beneath the body-color hard boot cover.

Beautifully complementing the light blue paintwork is gorgeous parchment leather upholstery, accented with rich, dark blue carpet, a body-color instrument fascia, and exquisitely restored woodwork. As with the body, the cabin is restored to the highest standards and, with limited use, remains in impeccable condition. Every instrument, switch, and control is restored or new, and additions include a period-correct Becker Europa stereo with a discreet auxiliary input, power antenna, and 3-point seatbelts. There’s a correct rubber floor liner, covered spare wheel, restored jack, tool kit, and lug wrench in the boot. Also included are the original owner’s handbooks, original data card, and documentation from the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center.

Lifting the lightweight alloy bonnet reveals the impeccably presented engine compartment and the numbers-matching, Bosch-injected, single-overhead-cam inline-six. The incredible level of detail includes beautifully restored yellow zinc-chromate plated hardware, correct natural cast-finish components, and fastidiously recreated labels, decals, and assembly markings. Beneath the car, every suspension and brake system component is rebuilt and restored to box-fresh condition. The factory Schutz undercoating is correctly applied, with authentic body color overspray. The paintwork inside the wheel arches is as good as the rest of the body, and the chassis components are properly finished down to the authentic assembly markings and impeccable restored zinc-plated hardware. As expected of a Classic Center restoration, all mechanical functions operate as they should, and the car runs and drives as new.

Pagoda SLs have always enjoyed a broad enthusiast base thanks to their unique blend of sophisticated 1960s aesthetics with a surprisingly modern and effortless driving experience. This outstanding example is certainly no exception, representing a high-water mark for W113s. Restored by Mercedes-Benz without regard to cost, it is turn-key and ready for anything from world-class concours events to long-distance touring and anything in between.


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