Estate Survivor: 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SL

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SL

Old Benzes don’t typically get my blood pumping. I respect them for the high quality cruisers they are, but for the kind of money they usually cost, I can come up with more exciting options. As I get older though, the more I want something comfortable and classy to bomb around in. This particular 280SL really caught my attention because it sounds like a true survivor car. The seller claims that it was purchased from an estate where it was well cared for and used sparingly. They believe that the 53k miles on the odometer is accurate and they know that the estate dropped $8,700 into it following the death of the previous owner. No mention is made of paint or upholstery so I wouldn’t be surprised if that was all spent just to make it road worthy. That would mean that this is a very original car that is ready to be enjoyed. Find it here on eBay out of Santa Barbara, California.

Pagoda top

This car is worth a look even if it is just to appreciate the seller’s high quality photos! I love the two-tone Horizon Blue color too! I would want to take a look at the data card to find out what check boxes were checked when this car was ordered. In traditional Mercedes fashion, the list of available options was actually quite long, so it could be a fun exercise. If the data card is missing, a quick call to the Mercedes Classic Center could probably turn up a replacement. Parts could be ordered too, but from the sounds of it, I doubt you will need anything for a while besides maintenance items. You can still get everything for old Mercedes though so even though the cost may be an issue, parts supply shouldn’t be.

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SL interior

I usually pass on cars equipped with automatic transmissions, but I think the auto box found here is justified. It would be nice for those long drives in the countryside on warm evenings that you know are going to take place. The frantic stops, starts, and turns of time speed distance rallies may be more my thing right now, but it won’t be long before I’ll be seeking something a little more soothing. There will come a time in all our lives when driving a car will be looked at as more of a relaxing event than a thrill ride. Not that the big six found under the hood of this Benz couldn’t provide some thrills, but it was intended for fast touring more than anything. So, what do you think – are you at that point in your life where this old Pagoda is starting to look good?


  1. RayT Member

    So far, this has been bid up to over $60K, a substantial sum if not particularly high for a decent “Pagoda” SL. Given M-B prices, that $8.7K bill for recent work might not have covered much more than some basic mechanical freshening; it certainly wouldn’t have gotten the estate paint and upholstery.

    These are lovely cars. Nicer to look at than the later SLs, comfortable and excellent as cruisers. I seem to recall that even the automatics were rather low-geared, so the engine was winding fairly high at freeway speeds, but since the car came from the land of (a few) unrestricted highways, I always felt it was not a problem.

    If I were buying it — and the price is the only scary thing to me — I would think about ditching the auto-box in favor of the Euro-spec five-speed. No real advantage except that I love rowing the shift lever of a smooth (ZF in this case, I think) manual ‘box.

    Whoever can make the rather substantial nut is going to be happy indeed.

    • The Walrus

      Every interesting German car from this era is going crazy right now. 1st Gen 911’s, BMW 3.0’s and these. Pretty much anything made before 1974 when the Federal Government effectively took over engineering through full regulation. For a long time things from ’68-’74 were looked down on because of the annual compromises with the government. These days they all seem rather quaint.

  2. Tirefriar

    Great car but the autobox is rarely justified in an open top euro sports car. These were hovering around $30-$40k not too long but then again, I was not following the market on these closely. Someone out there really really likes the car as well as the photo quality….

  3. john e.

    What is there to hate about quality? Our most quality made car model in America is what exactly? Mercedes Benz and their line of cars from their least like the 74 450 SEL to the 600 model’s and the Gullwing have our “quality” beat hands down. I am not a big fan of their less expensive diesel model’s of any year, but that’s just me. This is an awesome care. I hope the new oowner’s enjoy it very much.

  4. Dolphin Member

    Nicest photos I’ve ever seen in an Ebay listing, but they’ve been photoshopped, right? No place is as nice as that. Oh….OK, I see, it’s Santa Barbara. I’ve heard that was a nice spot.

    Maybe this auction is just a fishing expedition, but I wonder why this didn’t get put up for sale in Phoenix/Scottsdale, or Monaco.

  5. Carl B

    Dolphin – the 280 SL’s that I’ve watched go though the big auctions – really don’t a lot money there yet. The older 190SL’s are all the rage right now. It would seem that the 280SL’s are still to “inexpensive” and too common to attract the attention of the speculators this go around. These are still being bought/loved by “enthusiasts” that will drive them.. This one looks like it is indeed an exceptionally nice example, low mileage and very well cared for – – but it had been driven at least 50K miles.. So a very nice Condition #3 example perhaps.. If two people absolutely fall in love with it on EBay – we might see $85K.. Much above that and the buyers would be ahead to invest in a 911.

  6. Dolphin Member

    Carl, my thought was that someone who liked old SLs but couldn’t or didn’t want to come up with $200+K for a really good 190 SL might bid more at B-J for this 280 SL than what someone would bid on Ebay for it.

    BTW, I understand that the Pagoda / 2- light cars are a lot more desired and valuable than the later 4-light 280 SLs. Can anyone comment on why that is….other than the pagoda part?

  7. Woodie Man

    As far as reaching a point in my life where a leisurely skedaddle in an early pagoda top goes, I’m afraid i hit that back when I was around thirty. My Euro 230 SL with, yes I admit, a slushbox, in a dark maroon, was the bomb. I think I paid eleven grand back then………mid to late eighties. I reskinned the seats and new carpet and I was in heaven….till I was t-boned near a mall. Theres nothing like the throaty exhaust and the engine revving up , even in a 230 with a slushbox. On my bucket list is a 250SL with a Gettrag 5 speed!

  8. 365Lusso

    As RayT mentions, the 5-speed is nice–but very rare in 280SL form. And top gear ratio wasn’t all that different from the four-speed version. That’s what I have. Bought it back before they started upwards. And the stock 4sp. version, like the automatic, screams its guts out going down the highway. Easy & cheap solution: get a rear end from a 280SEL 4.5 and throw that in there. Plug & play, drops the revs down very nicely. Need to get mine ready for when they do take off–and I believe they will.

    I don’t get the whole 190SL thing–ugly and slower than a slug. Just because it has some sad echo of a 300SL?

  9. Stu Member

    Check the bid history on this one.

  10. john

    I love reading your USA perspective! What you guys come up with and the views you have! Pagoda’s in Europe are being dragged higher and higher into the realms of unreachable prices. Partly as so many rusted out and were scrapped. Rust is a serious Pagoda problem. So are some parts which are eye wateringly expensive. To see such a fine car as this one, with little or no restoration cost makes sound enough financial sense for me to want to jump a plane, buy it and ship it. In UK this car, in this condition might make $80,000 if it was RHD.There is not so much different in US to Europe spec on this age of car. I will dream on……….

  11. taruffi57

    Well, it didn’t sell at $67,100, so they know what it’s worth. These cars will continue to appreciate.

  12. Sid Member

    As a matter of fact I reached the point in my life three months ago that these struck a chord with me. This particular one was for sale at that time and I checked it out along with quite a few others. The photos are absolutely killer and make that BLUE the perfect color against the California shoreline.
    If I recall correctly, I asked for confirmation of the mileage. If you read closely you will find the seller (dealer) did not buy it from the estate but from the person that bought it from the estate. The seller could not confirm that the mileage was 53k rather than 153k. Since he didn’t know this also means there were no service records to prove the mileage.
    The tired exhaust and incorrect hoses and clamps makes me think it is 153k.
    Either way a beautiful car that will give someone a lot of fun.
    If you want been watching the prices of cars that actually sell you would know this is about right.

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