Mercedes-Benz consolidated the SL sports car concept into a single line as 300SL, and 190SL production wound down in the early 1960s. The 300SL was well-established as a motoring legend but was complex and expensive to produce. The 190SL was high on style but lacked the performance to challenge more sporting competitors. When launched in 1963, the new W113 series aimed to blend style, sophistication, and performance at a more reasonable price point. Like the 190SL before, 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, combining the open-air experience of a traditional roadster with the insulated comfort and practicality of a continental GT cruiser. It boasted a spacious, comfortable cockpit, capacious boot, was built to Mercedes typical vault-like 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. 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. While the 280SL is less aggressive than some 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 most cars left the factory gates equipped with a four-speed automatic, a 4-speed manual was optional, providing a sporty edge to the SL’s relaxed GT-like demeanor.
This 1970 280SL roadster was delivered new to Sherman Oaks, California, and is an expertly-maintained example, benefitting from a well-preserved older restoration and care while in the personal ownership of a marque specialist. It features its original, numbers-matching 2.8-liter inline-six, stamped original owner’s manual with warranty plate, original California registration slips, tool kit, and service/restoration records dating back to the 1980s. It is well equipped with desirable options, including two tops, Frigiking air conditioning, and an automatic gearbox. According to original warranty information, this car was sold new by Mercedes-Benz of Hollywood and delivered to Ms. Lucille S. Johnson of Sherman Oaks. It is unclear how long she owned the SL, though records show that by the 1980s, the car was in Indianapolis, in the hands of Joseph McCauley. In the mid-80s, Mr. McCauley initiated a cosmetic and mechanical restoration, including an engine rebuild and engine-out respray in a period-correct shade of metallic maroon.
As offered today, this SL remains in excellent condition, thanks to years of expert care. The quality of the restoration is apparent in the details – including properly finished black rocker panels and body-color painted wheel wells. The maroon paintwork remains glossy and attractive, with good definition to the crisp body lines and consistent, even panel gaps. It includes the matching hardtop, and the black canvas soft top is in excellent condition. Brightwork and trim are in good order, and the car is correctly equipped with US-market headlamps, and color-keyed wheel covers fitted to proper steel wheels.
The two-seater cabin is trimmed in attractive cream-beige upholstery with complementary oatmeal loop carpets. The seats, rugs, and door panels are in good overall condition for their age, displaying some light signs of use, such as light carpet stains and bolster wear. A modern AM/FM/CD stereo is currently fitted, and non-original speakers have been added to the kick panels and rear parcel area, though a period-correct Becker AM/FM stereo is included separately. The cockpit is otherwise correctly fitted with original switchgear and controls. This car also features desirable Frigiking air conditioning, supplied by the dealer when new and documented with the original paperwork.
The original, numbers-matching 2.8-liter inline-six is confirmed by the accompanying warranty plate issued to the first owner. Records show Mr. McCauley had the engine fully rebuilt in the 1980s, and it remains in excellent running order today. It is tidy, honest, and well-presented in the engine compartment, with authentic details including correct yellow zinc plating on the fuel lines and other fixtures. The cam cover is polished, a once-common touch to dress up the SL’s purposeful engine bay.
This 280SL is a marvelous example of the rapidly appreciating and eminently usable Pagoda, ready for relaxed, open-air motoring enjoyment.
Offers welcome and trades considered