Live Auctions

Manual Trans + Gray Market: 1981 Mercedes 280SL

Gray market Mercedes are really the only ones I’d be interested in taking on as a project, as they tend to be a bit more special than their U.S. equivalents: more powerful / less restrictive motors, classy European-style lighting, gorgeous slim bumpers and more. This 1981 380SL here on eBay even has the super elusive manual transmission, but the seller casually mentions the bent fender was the result of a recent hurricane. 

What does that mean? Did a tree simply fall on it, or was it pushed down a side street against its own will in a raging torrent of water? If it was the latter, I suspect we would see more cosmetic damage, but simply saying the bent nose resulted from something as large as a hurricane seems unnecessarily vague. Check out the Euro-specific lighting underneath the bumper and that sweet BBS air dam. I’d lose the chrome wheel arches, though, and swap out the Bundt wheels for something from the AMG catalog.

The interior doesn’t appear to be covered in algae and silt, as you would expect a flood-damaged car to have. It’s refreshing to see a manual transmission in the SL, a car that seemed like a natural fit for three pedals but was saddled with an automatic-only in US form. Carpets look quite nice, also, but it’s difficult to tell if the distortion on the dash pad is simply due to age or heavy moisture exposure. The seller would do well to clarify the hurricane comments, especially considering his Miami location.

The seller goes to great lengths in his listing to describe the value of individual parts if he were to strip the car down. He’s not wrong – there’s a treasure trove here, but his pricing to justify the list price is all top of the market. As someone who sells a lot of parts,  you rarely get top dollar and it would take considerable time to sell the car in piecemeal fashion. As someone who loves oddball Euro cars, I hope this one is saved and isn’t a basketcase Irma victim hiding untold electrical gremlins.


  1. rough diamond Member

    The vague details on this MB would make me leery regardless of the desirable equipment.

  2. Hoos Member

    Damaged in the hurricane, and already has parts? Seems a little fishy. Other than that, I like it.

  3. Mike

    Busted front, busted rear, hacked up wood inside, crazy price. You’d be better off just eurofying a nicer US model and swapping in a manual trans if you can source the flywheel. No thanks.

  4. olddavid

    Sorry. The seller quotes prices of brand new parts from MB. That bothers me almost as much as the as*$#les who put “just testing the waters” on a Craigslist ad, usually for twice retail. Why bother?

  5. DonC

    Stay away for sure! I agree with the other comments plus it’s a grey market car which can be problematic unless the seller has proper paperwork. We have a 1985 MB just like this one, in far better shape. And we’re in Tampa and Hurricane Irma didn’t hit Miami, it came up the west coast so just what exactly hit this car?

    Like 1

Leave a Reply to DonC Cancel reply

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.


WANTED Caterpillar Any Wanted Caterpillar , in any condition running or non running for restoration project parts machine Contact

WANTED 1969-1971 Manic GT In any condition Contact

WANTED 1987 Mercury Merkur Ideally rust free, nicely optioned, solid running car w/ man. trans. Also consider 85&86. Contact

Submit Your Want Ad