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Civilian G-Class: 1981 Mercedes 280GE


Sometimes, the photos of a car for sale just make you scratch your head and wonder how it ended up there. That’s the case for me and this 1981 Mercedes 280GE here on eBay, which appears to have been left to sit in a carport in Virginia. A bit rusty and in need of recommissioning, the seller has listed the Buy-It-Now at a hefty $12,500.  


The reason I say “hefty” is because despite their rarity, these old workhorses really only command serious money if they’re in running, driving condition with no major cosmetic flaws. This G-Class has visible rust in the driver’s door and sill, and the seller mentions the cosmetic issues spill over into the interior where upholstery repairs are needed to the doors and seats.


The late-model G-Wagens get a bit pricier, but they’re also loaded with luxury features and big power. These early-generation models were not exactly powerful, and unless you’re spending all of your time off-roading, you should be committed to riding in what amounts to a military grade vehicle with perhaps less knobby tires.


Whatever this 280GE’s story is, it’s clear it has been sitting for a while. The interior does look pretty rough in photos, as even the shifter surround appears to need replacing. While you’ll certainly be the only one at cruise night with one of these, the seller’s asking price is a bit ambitious for the amount of work needed to bring this off-roader back to road-going condition.


  1. Avatar photo Doyler

    No way, no how. Not at this price. With the 25 year rule, these are getting WAY easier to lay your hands on.

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  2. Avatar photo Martin

    Totally agree with Doyler. There’s way better available for the same money, or less. This thing is teetering on the “parts car” cliff.

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  3. Avatar photo AMC STEVE


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  4. Avatar photo Dave Wright

    These are on there way up in price. I started looking for a good Diesel version almost a year ago. While in Europe, I found a decent one for about 9,000 but didn’t care for the dealer……so didn’t buy it. Figured it would be 13k by the time it got to a US port. I get daily emails from the German market on them……..they have about doubled since I first started looking. This is one of my least favorite engines along with the 380’s but for someone it would be alright. It is probably a little higher priced than every day retail. The rust fix is easy on them and parts are available. There are some active importers working out of Florida. They would be asking more for this but would have already fixed the rust.

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    • Avatar photo ydnar

      The 2.8 engine is a very good engine, I’d compare it to the Mopar slant 6, but better. I do agree with everyone else here, price is too high currently.

      I do not recall seeing too many of these in a 2 door when the company I worked for was importing them.

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      • Avatar photo Dave Wright

        The 2.8 DOHC engines were soft compared with other Mercedes engines. They had chain tensioner trouble and the head gaskets were not robust. In the 123 chassis, they were always the first engines to fail and hit the junkyards. They did drive nicely while running.

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      • Avatar photo brakeservo

        Was that those guys in Santa Fe, NM?? I think they started out just ‘curbing’ used Mercedes but eventually built quite a business. I think it’s name was Europa or something like that. I lived in Santa Fe then and watched them build their business. I also watched the Sikhs drive by in their old Rolls-Royces too.

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  5. Avatar photo Chris in Nashville

    I was interested until I saw the price… Not a flippy flopping chance in hell!

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  6. Avatar photo maserati

    Thanks Jeff,I needed a good laugh today !

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  7. Avatar photo JW

    When I first viewed the picture I thought it was a 66 to 77 Bronco, it sure looks the part., just out of my price range.

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  8. Avatar photo Rick

    Certain models of new G-wagons have sticker prices well north of $150K, so a ten grand asking price may not be so ridiculous, especially when these jut aren’t around

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  9. Avatar photo Dan h

    Meh, wouldn’t pay that much for a gasser. Now if it had the wonderfull OM617 in it, that would be a different story!!

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  10. Avatar photo Wayne Thomas

    This ad has one too many zeros. $1250 is more reasonable.

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  11. Avatar photo Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    When I worked in the UK in the 80’s, there were some companies that used these for fleet vehicles.
    Pretty simple insides, not oozing quality, more like channeling an old school bus, and not a particularly plush ride.
    Always felt someone at Mercedes stubbed their toe on the old tooling and thought “Hey, we could sell these as SUV’s to the masses, just tart them up with leather and wool carpets and some veneers”.
    Only difference is the price went waaaaay up! Still the same old underpinnings, but now with new generation elastomers.
    Thought the old ones were more honest in what the portended to be.

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  12. Avatar photo doug6423

    These are horrible rust buckets too. Lots of box sections that rot out.

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