‘Some cars don’t change, they just get better. The Mercedes-Benz 280SL, latest version of a line that began as the 230SL in 1963, is the same as ever, just better,’ concluded Road & Track after testing a 280SL in 1968. ‘For those who value engineering finesse and high quality construction, it’s alone in the field,’ declared the highly respected American motoring magazine.
These attributes help explain the 280SL’s phenomenal success, particularly in the all-important North American market. The fact that it looked like ‘sex on wheels’ helped enormously too, of course. The 280SL’s essential user friendliness broadened its appeal beyond the traditional sports car-enthusiast market; many celebrities and film stars owned 280SL’s. The last of a popular and extremely successful line begun with the 230SL of 1963, the Mercedes-Benz 280SL was introduced in 1967 powered by a new 2.8- litre six-cylinder engine that produced 180bhp, 20 horsepower more than the preceding 250SL’s. The 280SL’s 120mph top speed was no greater but it was significantly quicker off the mark, its 0-60mph time of 10 seconds being a whole second better than its predecessor’s. Christened ‘pagoda top’ after their distinctive cabin shape, these SL models were amongst the best-loved sportstourers of their day and remain highly sought after by collectors.
This left-hand drive, European-specification 280SL is equipped with the rare and desirable, optional five-speed manual gearbox. The previous owner kept the car for 20 years and during his ownership restored the body and interior trim, though there are no invoices for the work. This example also benefits from an expenditure of €22,000 on complete restoration in 2001 (all invoices available). The brakes, exhaust system and tyres have all been renewed while the engine has been rebuilt by recognised Mercedes-Benz specialist Jacques Hilliou at a cost of €9,221. Driven regularly, the car has successfully passed the Contrôle Technique, and RTA tests in Dubai and is finished in the tasteful colour combination of ivory with black interior, hood and hardtop. All in all a very desirable and well-specified ‘Pagoda’.