1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SL ($115,000)
Photography by Cooper Naitove
Written by Andrew Golseth
- Location: New York, New York
- Chassis: 11304412016227
- Engine: 2.8-Liter M130 SOHC Inline-Six
- Transmission: Four-Speed Automatic
- Mileage: 51,472 Miles
- Color: Black | Tan Leather
Pagoda Perfection: A Mercedes-Benz Classic Open Top Driver
The Mercedes “Pagoda” is one of the marque’s most timeless automobiles. Built on a W111 “Fintail” chassis, shortened by 11.8 inches, and packing their latest M127 fuel-injected 2.3-liter straight-six, the 230SL made its debut at the 1963 Geneva Auto Show. The car was a triumph for Mercedes with production lasting from 1963 to 1971 and sales of nearly 50,000 units—half of which made their way to the United States.
By 1966, the 230SL became the 250SL, followed by an overlap year in 1967 with the new 280SL model featuring by the M130 unit inline-six. With power up to 170 horsepower and 180 pound feet of torque, the 280SL was more Grand Tourer than knife-edge sportscar—a comfortable cruiser of great quality and superb touring capability.
The double wishbone independent front suspension and independent low-pivot swing rear axle, 4-wheel disc brakes, proved to be an effective performer. Ample comfort and luxuries such as optional air-conditioning and power steering completed the package—an optimal blend of splendor, style, and speed.
At the Geneva unveiling, lead designer Fritz Nallinger famously stated, “It was our aim to create a very safe and fast sports car with high performance, which despite its sports characteristics, provides a very high degree of traveling comfort.” The famous “Pagoda” removable hardtop received its nickname from the subtle concave shape of the roof.
Still considered by many as one of the most attractive Mercedes-Benz ever made, the W113 was as forward thinking in safety as it was in form. The W113 was the first production sportscar ever to be built with a “safety body,” based on the extensive safety research of Hungarian engineer Bela Barényi’s—who is referred to as the father of passive automobile safety.
The “safety body” featured a robust passenger compartment cell with front and rear crumple zones to absorb an impact. Additionally, the interior was designed entirely with rounded edges to avoid impalement from sharp objects within the cabin.
While the rest of the world received Bosch Lichteinheit headlights with optional halogen main beams in 1970, the North American market received standard sealed beam units and gained amber turn signal lenses at both the front and rear, in addition to rubber-lined overriders.
The crisp lines of the W113 have stood the test of time, aging far more gracefully than many other vehicles of the era. With an understated design language, the simple but effective nature of the W113 proves that less really is more.
This 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SL is an original North American market model that’s been regularly used since new and routinely maintained. With around 51,000 miles on the clock, this black on tan W113 presents in excellent driver condition, free of accidents and rust with no outstanding needs.
The car recently received a full service including new belts, spark plugs, cap, wires, rotor, points, alternator, battery, and fresh fluids to ensure everything is in tip-top running order.
Body – The body is accident-free with no rust to note. The original panels are in excellent condition with even gaps throughout.
Paint – The car left the factory in Tobacco Brown, but has since been repainted in a period-correct factory shade of nonmetallic jet black. The respray is in very good condition with no swirl marks, scratches, or major imperfections.
Chrome & Glass – The greenhouse is free of etching, stone chips, or cracks. All brightwork, including the bumpers, grille, light fixture bezels, and trim are original to the car and are free of corrosion or hazing.
Wheels – The factory wheels are equipped with the appropriate color-matched center caps and are wrapped with the factory correct white wall radial tires.
Hard Top – The iconic, removable Pagoda top is in like-new condition with excellent seals.
Steering Wheel – The original steering wheel was replaced with an era-appropriate wood-rim Nardi unit that suits the tan leather upholstery nicely.
Dashboard & Instrumentation – The original dashboard is equipped with fully functional factory instrumentation and a modern Panasonic CQ-C300U radio.
Seats, Trim & Carpet – The seats have been reupholstered in high quality, tan English hide with brown piping, while the trim, carpet, and mats are in excellent shape.
Engine – The original M130 engine was replaced with a factory correct fuel-injected SOHC 2.8-liter straight-six cylinder engine prior to Cooper Classics’ ownership.
- Original Motor: No, but a factory-correct M130.
- Engine Number: Factory replacement
- The Drive: The car starts promptly every time and provides very strong, smooth acceleration.
Transmission – The original four-speed automatic transmission was serviced in December 2014 by Brumos Motor Cars—a Jacksonville, Florida-based Mercedes dealer. The transmission shifts like a Pagoda should: smooth and deliberate.
- Original Transmission: Yes.
- Gearbox Number: 005868
- The Drive: The car drives wonderfully with smooth shifts, great acceleration, and steady brakes, complimented by Mercedes’ signature ride comfort.
Handling – Recirculating ball steering.
- The Drive: The steering is sharp with no play at center, quick turn-in, and a solid, weighty feel.
Although the car is no longer in its original Tobacco Brown hue, the black respray suits the Pagoda’s lines nicely. The body, trim, wheels, and the majority of the drivetrain, powertrain, and interior components are original to the car while the engine was replaced with a correct 2.8-liter M130 straight-six.
Various maintenance receipts accompany the sale, including documentation of its most recent service. The owner’s manual and toolkit are also included.
- 1971 Mercedes 280SL – Gooding Monterey 2016 – $209,000 – Blue/Blue time capsule preservation, 18k miles
- 1970 Mercedes 280SL – RM Monaco 2016 – $167,000 – Brown/Tan European spec nuts and bolts restoration
- 1970 Mercedes 280SL – Gooding Amelia Island 2016 – $115,000 – Red/Tan concours restoration
You can get a sense of it’s like to drive and own an 280SL below.
Beautiful Car, Beautiful Drive: The extremely handsome Pagodas are a pure joy and surprisingly easy to drive. The automatic transmission makes for a great cruiser.
Rise in Collectability: Pagodas have long been appreciated by niche devotees but have only recently caught the attention of the broader enthusiast spectrum. A car this good looking and pleasurable to drive is certainly going to appreciate meaning you can enjoy it without fret of depreciation.
MEET THE SELLER
This car is for sale by Elliot Cuker of Cooper Classics in New York City. You can get to know him better here.