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Dusty Drop Top: 1970 Mercedes 280SL

1970 Mercedes 280SL

One of the major appeals, or at least the dream, of a barn find is getting an amazing deal. I know the first time I ever heard about the concept of a barn find, I was still a child and all I remember is a story about someone finding a rare Mustang in a barn and buying it from a little old lady for only a few hundred dollars. The story went as most of them do, they fixed a few things  and sold it for tens of thousands. While stories like this are still somewhat common, the internet has changed things. With a few clicks of the mouse, anyone can look up the value of a classic. Personally, I think it’s a good thing that people can educate themselves. The problem is that lots of people value their barn find off of what a fully restored example recently went for at some high dollar auction. Reader Andrew M recently tipped me off to this 1970 Mercedes 280SL found here on craigslist and I’m trying to decide if the seller’s $30k asking price is on target or if it is a bit high.

1970 Mercedes 280SL Convertible

Determining the value on a car like this one is tough. A quick look at any valuation guide will reveal that concourse level cars easily trade for $150,000+, but the average driver trades hands for less than half that amount. Things only get more complicated when you start looking at examples that are currently for sale and see prices that range from $35k to $160k. The biggest factor that impacts the value of these cars isn’t so much options or year, but condition. And that’s where I take issue with some seller’s evaluation of their barn find.

1970 Mercedes 280SL Pagoda

Restoring a car like this could easily cost what a small house does, which is the issue I see with a lot of barn finds. Sure Mustangs and Camaros can be restored relatively cheaply, but Porsches, Ferraris, and Mercedes are going to cost considerably more to restore. That fact needs to be considered when you value one of these limited production cars. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think their owners should just give them away, but they need to take into account factors like what it’s going to cost to restore and what one’s in similar condition are actually going for. A quick glance at this one and I know it’s going to require work, but the lack of interior, underside, and engine bay photos leaves me wondering just how much work it’s going to need. Of course if you are really considering buying one of these, you are going to have it inspected. There are just too many unknowns to even make an honest and fair offer without inspecting it closely.

1970 Mercedes 280SL Project

Even after inspecting this Mercedes, you will still be facing a lot of unknowns (unless you’ve restored one of these previously). It’s rather hard to say for sure whether it is a great buy or overpriced without more details. The thing that worries me the most though isn’t the condition or the price, it’s this single statement from the seller: “I SEE THEM ON THE INTERNET FOR VERY BIG BUCKS.” It makes me a bit nervous as to whether the seller knows just how much it is going to cost to get it to the level of those cars that are going for “VERY BIG BUCKS” and if they have the car’s best interests at heart or if they are just seeing dollar signs. To be fair though, it actually doesn’t look like a bad deal, but there are still so many questions. Of course this brings me to the single most important question, what do you think this 280SL is worth? Is the seller’s valuation on target or are they dreaming?


  1. Dave

    I kind of get the feeling that with some of the sellers statements and the lack of pictures that the seller picked this car up for a song, did a quick internet search to find what these coupes are going for in A+ shape and is hoping to make some quick cash. I think you could be into 6 figures for a complete restore easy !!

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  2. John H

    This car is incredibly overpriced. An #2 car might be $60K. To get this to #2 would take as much as a concourse resto. Look at the background. It’s a shop. Dave is spot on. Someone picked this up cheap and is trying a flip. This is maybe a $15K car to a knowledgeable MB guy with access to parts Turnaround and run.

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  3. Sid Member

    Your comment about the cost to restore a Mustang versus a Porsche or MB is right on the money.
    My 1969 MB 280SL needs a new fuel pump:
    Mercedes Benz genuine part $1,250
    Bosch $900
    Brand X $600
    Rebuilt $500
    Mustang fuel pump on eBay $35.00
    The price on this MB needs to start out near the negative column as far as a restoration project if you going to do it for less than a nice original or restored (by someone else) MB would cost.

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  4. brian

    Agree with Dave. Having owned 2 (1 was a 4-speed), I can attest to the cost of a quality restoration and his estimate is in range. No photos of the engine, interior, under-carriage are troubling. The cars trading for $150K, unlike this, are all original, unmolested examples that have been properly cared for. That said, like the current 911 feeding-frenzy, the value curve on these cars in the last several year has been vertical, so there may be an unsuspecting, unaware buyer for this car.

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  5. Dolphin Member

    The high prices for these say they are the more desirable cars compared to the later 4-headlight cars. Why? I’m curious to hear what the owners & experts think.

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  6. pursang

    My boss owns several cars in this class and actually has two of these four speed 280s and he says it will take $70,000 to make this onto an $80,000 car. Best of
    luck seller, I’m on ebay at way below that.

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  7. geomechs geomechs Member

    I’ve always liked this bodystyle (and the 450). Obviously there are others that like it too as the asking price reflects that. It’s just a little too much beyond my means…

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  8. Andrew Franks Member

    I would pass un less as it has been mentioned, you inspect closely, don’t fall in love, and look at its bones. The Seller is dreaming.

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  9. jim s

    i too think this is going to take to much time/money. needs a lot more photos/text just to get someone interested enough to do a PI. nice find

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  10. Bernie H

    ALL THE ABOVE COMMENTS really lay-out the consideration of this 280SL. Seller, are you reading these?? , yea, I know you’re hoping to find a guy with more $$ than brains and their out there. The comments are painfully accurate, I’m speaking from career experience in resurrecting vehicles that should have been scrapped. Seller, be prepared to have lots of additional photos, I wish you luck anyway.

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  11. Horse Radish

    Their out they’re.
    There, out there ?,
    There, out their ?
    Their(s’), out there ?
    There, they’re out (of) their(s) (mind) ? ,……….


    Every single time !!!

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  12. pursang

    Seller has dropped the price to $27,000, wait till he gets around $10,000.

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