Numbers-matching. Two tops. Low miles. Cold A/C. Great color combination.
- Make: Mercedes-Benz
- Model: 200-Series
- SubModel: 280SL
- Type: Convertible
- Year: 1971
- Mileage: 51,283
- VIN: 11304412022142
- Color: Red
- Number of cylinders: 6
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Transmission: Automatic
- Interior color: Black
- Vehicle Title: Clear Want to buy? Contact seller!
1971 Mercedes-Benz 200-Series 280SL
Few other cars have the global recognition of the Mercedes-Benz SL. From the earliest days of the 300SL to today’s modern supercars with V12 power, SL is the universal language for elegance, performance, durability, and style. They are owned by celebrities and captains of industry, they are still acknowledged as genuine driver’s cars, and thanks to Mercedes-Benz’s sterling reputation for engineering excellence, the have become blue-chip collectables at any level. The W113 SLs, also known as the “Pagodas,” are somewhat of an overnight sensation, with skyrocketing values that were perhaps long overdue. These are truly excellent road cars with tidy proportions and remarkable driver comfort, making them a delight to drive as well as handsome to look at. In short, if you can have just one hobby car, there’s a very convincing argument to be made in favor of the SL.
This particular 1971 280SL is one of those remarkable cars that have led a charmed life. It has had just three owners, including the most recent owner who has been its passionate caretaker since 1976. It shows just 51,283 original miles and it has never seen inclement weather or been a daily driver. It has always been treated as an object of value and desire, and the wonderful condition of many of the original parts bears this out. It has been recently and expensively repainted, a bare-metal respray in its original Medium Red Metallic, a handsome shade that’s not quite burgundy but not brick red, either, and everyone who sees it asks its name. It’s just lovely in person. Obviously as a zero rust car, it didn’t need any major panel work and the gaps and door fit are exactly as they were when it was built in 1971. And yes, enthusiasts, the “notches” are still clearly visible up front. Paul Bracq’s elegant design has aged well, there’s tangible precision in the action of every moving part, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that the owners of these cars prize them highly. They do indeed feel different than almost anything else you’re likely to drive.
At the same time, much of the chrome was removed and restored, whether polished or re-plated, but before it went back on the car, it was in top condition. New weather-stripping was installed as well, so the car seals up as a Mercedes-Benz should; no leaky headers or whistling windows here! The hardtop is original, including the black paint, which is how it came from the factory and its condition alone should tell you all you need to know about how well-preserved this car really is, because it sits on top of the fresh paint and looks completely appropriate.
The black leather interior is original and exceptional, although the carpets have been replaced and are now protected by a set of sisal floor mats in matching red and black. The leather has a few signs of use and age, but there’s absolutely nothing that needs to be changed, as it would only erase character and originality and add exactly zero value or comfort. The wood trim, including atop the dashboard, has all been refinished so it looks fantastic, but otherwise it is factory-issue. The original Becker AM/FM radio works correctly and the little key for the antenna is still on the key ring. Experts will note the rubber sliders for the heater are intact and move easily and the Kuhlmeister A/C system under the dash has been recently serviced and remains fully operational with R134a refrigerant inside for easy maintenance in the future. Behind the seats there’s a third accessory jump seat, a neat feature I’ve not seen before, and while it’s not exactly designed for full-sized people, it’ll hold a child in a pinch and doesn’t affect practicality if you’re driving alone. The gauges are all fully operational, the steering wheel isn’t cracked, and even the clock ticks away with typical Mercedes-Benz precision. Overhead there’s a brand new black German canvas convertible top with a crystal clear rear window, and it folds easily into the well. The trunk is often a trouble spot on these cars, but this one is completely rust-free and still has its original mat, tool roll, and lug wrench. In fact, even the spare tire itself is the original unit from 1971 and has never, ever been used!
In 1968, the SL’s engine was enlarged to 2778cc, or 2.8 liters, and made 170 horsepower. In the lightweight W113, it’s entertaining to drive, with a hearty punch of low-end torque and a wonderful basso-profundo exhaust note that’s reminiscent of the best 6-cylinder sports cars of the past. With only 51,000 miles on the clock, this one is barely broken-in, and it runs superbly. This is the car’s original, numbers-matching engine and it has been fastidiously maintained to spec by one of northeast Ohio’s very best Mercedes-Benz specialists (call us if you would like to talk to him directly about this car) and runs like new today. Turn the key and give the fuel pump (brand new, by the way) a moment to pressurize the injectors, and then key it up. A few seconds later it settles into an even idle that feels athletic but not isolated, inviting you to enjoy everything the car has to offer. The engine bay is tidy but not necessarily detailed for show, but I would argue that a car that drives right is far more valuable than one that’s merely pretty, and if trophies are your thing, this one could be freshened with a modest investment to make it an award-winner. You will note that it has the original firewall insulation and all the spot welds around the perimeter are clearly visible. This is a very late production SL, showing the plastic expansion tank that went into production in November 1970 (W113 production ended in February 1971). You will also note that the underside of the hood is correctly stamped 6698, which is the car’s body number verified by the data cards.
A vast majority if the US-bound SLs received a 4-speed automatic transmission, which is how this one is equipped. The unusual backwards shift quadrant manages the transmission and it shifts with a satisfying firmness that would be out of character today but works rather well with the SL’s sporting nature. The all-independent suspension is athletic but never harsh, and with big disc brakes at all four corners, it has impressive stopping power, even without modern innovations like ABS. The undercarriage is like the engine bay: clean, well-maintained, but not detailed for show but completely without vices—this car isn’t even a leaker! Over the past 40 years, anything it needed, it received, and cost was no object when it came to maintaining this SL in top condition. The exhaust system is new, the brakes are rebuilt, and the original wheels carry contrasting black hubcaps and a set of 195/75/14 Pirelli P300 whitewall radials for a very authentic look.
Documentation is extensive, and we have confirmed all the critical numbers using the original data cards. As mentioned, the engine is the original, numbers-matching 2.8 liter inline-6, the hood and tonneau have correct body number stampings, and the data tag under the hood is original. It includes a full set of manuals, including the original delivery envelope, and even the spare antenna key is in the glove box. Three data cards are included, which verify the car’s specifications, and there’s a factory service manual as well.
The flip-side of SL ownership is that they can be expensive to maintain and there are experts who claim that a cheap SL is the most expensive car you can possibly own. As a result, the very best cars to own are those with known ownership history, proper service records, and an excellent pedigree. They’re always more expensive, but at the same time, you’ll be writing far, far fewer checks down the line because quality SLs are actually quite reasonable to own and maintain to a high standard. This is not a sales pitch but simply common-sense advice that often gets overlooked: paying more for a good one will save you thousands down the road. This is the very best “pagoda” SL we’ve ever represented and I would challenge you to find one that drives better than this. It is not far from being a show contender, but when a car drives this well, it almost seems like a crime to relegate it to climbing on and off trailers so it can sit on the grass somewhere. This is an extraordinary little car with “investment grade” written all over it.