‘Some cars don’t change, they just get better. The Mercedes-Benz 280 SL, latest version of a line that began as the 230 SL in 1963, is the same as ever, just better,’ concluded Road & Track after testing a 280 SL in 1968. ‘For those who value engineering finesse and high quality construction, it’s alone in the field,’ enthused the highly respected American motoring magazine, while its manufacturer considered the 280 SL, ‘a Grand Tourer in the traditional sense’ and ‘a unique combination of sports car performance and saloon car comfort (a Mercedes-Benz saloon naturally).’
These attributes help explain the 280 SL’s phenomenal success, particularly in the all-important North American market where the optional automatic transmission was considered an essential feature by the majority of customers. The fact that it looked like ‘sex on wheels’ helped enormously too, of course. The 280 SL’s essential user friendliness broadened its appeal beyond the traditional sports car-enthusiast market; many celebrities and film stars owned 280SL’s.
The last of a popular and extremely successful line begun with the 230 SL of 1963, the Mercedes-Benz 280 SL was introduced in 1967 powered by a new 2.8-litre six-cylinder engine that produced 180bhp, 20 horsepower more than the preceding 250 SL’s. The 280 SL’s 120mph top speed was no greater but it was significantly quicker off the mark, its 0-60mph time of 10 seconds being a whole second better than its predecessor’s. Christened ‘Pagoda’ after their distinctive cabin shape with its generous glass area, these SL models were amongst the best-loved sports-tourers of their day and remain highly sought after by collectors.
This wonderful 280 SL has been the subject of an earlier restoration and presents well in the classic colour combination of red with tan interior. These cars continue to be hugely popular owing to their ease to run and live with while oozing class and sophistication.