1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SL Pagoda LHD


• Matching numbers
• Early service history
• Many original features
• Excellent body and hardtop
• Late-model spec
• UK registered 

The Background

The W113 Mercedes SL Pagoda offered a package that was way ahead of its time, combining granite-like build quality with spritely performance and genuine comfort. A car that has maintained its glamorous yet practical image throughout its lifetime, it simply offers everything you need in a classic car. The most sought after ‘Pagoda’ is the late model 280 SL, with softer suspension, better seats and a stronger engine, not only did it neatly bring the classic design into the ‘70s but it also strengthened its credentials as a usable stylish cruiser.

This recently imported LHD car has spent much of its life in the warmer climes of the States, and it has retained a high level of originality. Unusually for an import, it even has early service history. Beautifully presented externally with an excellent cabin featuring power-assisted steering and an automatic gearbox, this solid example of the most desirable version of the pagoda is ready to hit the A-roads.

The History

Its last recorded American owner was a pilot in South Dakota, but it’s known that the car was originally purchased in California and was regularly serviced at the main Mercedes dealer, with stamps covering the ’70s. The car is believed to have been family owned for much of its life, and recently placed for sale via Mecum auctions. The current owner won the final bid on the car and imported it into the UK.

This car is the second Pagoda owned by him, having developed a taste for the Pagoda’s sheer drivability and style. Also attracted by its originality, the car features some neat details that help elevate the car above many other LHD imports. In the short time he’s owned it, it has been used and enjoyed but a lack of storage and the ever ongoing issues of time means that the car is being reluctantly sold on. 

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The Paperwork

All of the importation paperwork, which covers custom duties tax has been cleared and the car will come with a new V5 as part of the sale and is registered for UK roads. It comes with plenty of clues of authenticity, with the owner stating that they have not seen such an original car with so many of its factory specifications intact. 

Not only does this cover the car data card, service book and owner booklet but also items like the snowflake decal for antifreeze and some very interesting observations which are covered in the sections below. As part of the cars fascinating originality, it retains its matching numbers, with not only the engine, body and hardtop tallying up to the factory spec but also the soft top corresponding with the data card.

The Interior

The interior is beautifully finished with a high level of originality that will thrill those who seek that detail in their classics. The leather seats are decent with intact covers, appearing to be somewhat baggy but are still presentable and comfy. The car is fitted with the model year correct mangold magnetic seat belts. 

The cabins rubber mats are decent, with the loop weave carpet in good condition with no significant signs of wear. The rubber grommet around the gear shifter suggests that the transmission tunnel carpet is the factory original and would be very hard to find today. 

The soft door pockets are period correct for the model and form part of the door cards, which are in good shape. The hardtop headline is good and retains its original factory colour, with a few age related marks but free of damage. The hardtop is also fitted with a rear heated glass.

Typically, the SL’s dashboard is elegantly presented, with several features of note including the untested air conditioning unit, specifically created for the Pagoda as a dealer option. The car is also fitted with an undamaged and complete under dash panel and a Becker radio. The combination of leather and wood, with body colour metal, conveys a sense of elegance and decorum. 

The correct satin wood trim finish shows a pleasing patina, with the leather facia free of any significant blemishes. The dials and instrument chrome work are in good condition, with no real signs of damage noted. The glovebox is fitted with the original aluminium grommet hinge surrounds - perhaps a small point but one worth noting. All of the key controls are said to work, including the clock and the heating, in which the fan levers operate freely with no resistance. 

The steering wheel has a little patina but is still very usable and is fitted with the model year correct satin horn ring. There are no issues of note behind the front seats, the fabrics and finish holding up well, with the parcel shelf and rear satin wood finish intact. 

The boot’s twin rubber mats are original spec items and are in good condition, going complete with a full complement of jack, wheel chocks and a tool kit made from the left over seat-materials leather. The spare wheel is also housed in its original jacket. 

The Exterior 

The car presents well, with the external condition looking cohesive and solid. The owner has not detailed the car, and it literally in the same condition as it left the container. The structure is in good shape, with the underside of the chassis rails, inner wings, wheel wells, jacking points, boot well, suspension mounts and floor pan appearing solid. 

The whole of the underside has been treated with a coating of rust inhibitor which is starting to reveal portions of light corrosion in places. The engine bay would also benefit from some cleaning. The original waffle pattern firewall pad is generally intact, covering what appears to be a solid bulkhead. The exterior panels are in excellent condition, with no dent damage of note. 

The panels are well placed on the car with no issues regarding uneven gaps, with all of the doors opening and closing with no obstructions. Both the bonnet and boot, as well as the hardtop and soft top cover are confirmed to display matching numbers to the chassis and body. The boot also sports its factory coated underside black paint. 

All of the door rubbers are in a healthy state. There are no significant signs of corrosion on the exterior panels, although a closer inspection of the lower sections of the inner lips on the arches reveal a few spots of light corrosion coming through on the offside of the car. The section where the rear nearside panel meets the rear lower valance looks like there might be some level of imperfections developing under the paint too.  

It’s also worth mentioning that keeping in line with the originality of the car, the spot welds in the engine bay and boot wells are evenly distanced suggesting that they are the original factory fitted items. The paint is in excellent condition throughout, with an even coverage and decent shine, with no distracting paint issues. 

The hardtop condition is in line with the body and does not pose any issues. However,  there’s no nice way to describe the soft-top roof condition. It has presumably been subject to extreme heat conditions over the years, so we’ll just say that it would benefit a good clean at the very least. On the plus side the soft top also has its instruction sticker intact and the rubber weather seals are in good condition with no evidence of chaffing. 

The Kinonglas-Kristall windscreen may well be the original item, with the snowflake anti-freeze decal being a positive assumption of this. The glass rubbers are in good condition throughout with no signs of damage. The chrome work has been well looked after, with no damage noted on the trim, bumpers or headlamps. The front bumper mounts retains their ivory coloured underside coating of paint. 

The correct 1971 model year OEM headlamps retain their indentations on each side of the bezel chrome trim. The rear lamps chrome trim is good, with some evidence of age in places. The rest of the trim, such as the grill, windscreen embellishments and roof pieces are in very good shape, the latter is prone to damage, so it’s pleasing to see these items intact. It also retains its original locking fuel cap and Hirschmann antenna, as well as a set of US-spec rubber-tipped overriders. It is fitted with the correct fittings for a 1971 US-spec model, which includes the rear lamps with amber indicators. 

The car also features the US-spec circular front headlamps with sidelight lenses and side reflectors. All are in good condition and fully operational. It’s fitted with its correct wheels to match the hardtop and comes with late-model full hub caps, the correct sized tyres have lots of tread left on them but are likely to be older than 10 years old. 

The Mechanics 

Mechanically the car is in very good shape, with the owner suggesting that nothing really needs doing to the car and has been confident enough to jump in and enjoy the car's charms over the last days of summer. It starts up immediately with the warning lights going off as the exhaust condensation clears up.  Once settled down, the 2.8-litre engine idles sweetly, with no notable negative noises from the engine or excess exhaust smoke.

On the move, the car is well dampered and rides well, with no ill effects noted on the power-assisted steering or the braking. The automatic gearbox is said to shift well with no slippage. While there is no record of servicing or maintenance beyond the '70s, the running condition of the engine suggests that the previous owners would have continued to maintain the car.

A deeper dive into the engine reveals several original details which attracted the car to the current owner, which includes the gold-coloured throttle levers. The engine is confirmed as the original, with its matching numbers to confirm this. Its presentation is honest and has not been detailed, with some observation of age-related wear evident but core items like the radiator, rocker cover and its seams, electrical system and exhaust look and function well. 

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The Appeal

Pagoda's are generally kept in good shape due to the nature of the owners who have long-term connections with them. The car's ability to weather the rigours of time better than most open-top classics, so it's hardly a surprise that they have become highly sought after, particularly in late model 280 SL form.

This very original example with some delightful details also comes with excellent global club support and the famous Mercedes’ parts back up. All of which makes it a serious contender as one of the best choices for classic motoring.

Notice to bidders

Although every care is taken to ensure this listing is as factual and transparent as possible, all details within the listing are subject to the information provided to us by the seller. Car & Classic does not take responsibility for any information missing from the listing. Please ensure you are satisfied with the vehicle description and all information provided before placing a bid.

As is normal for most auctions, this vehicle is sold as seen, and therefore the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. All bids are legally binding once placed. Any winning bidder who withdraws from a sale, is subject to our bidders fee charge. Please see our FAQs and T&C's for further information. Viewings of vehicles are encouraged, but entirely at the seller's discretion.

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Vehicle specification
  • Year 1971
  • Make Mercedes
  • Model 280SL PAGODA
  • Colour White
  • Odometer 21,140 Miles
  • Engine size 2800
  • Town Gerrards Cross
  • Location Buckinghamshire
  • Country United Kingdom
Bidding history
16 bids
  • da•••• £69,000 18/01/22
  • wo•••• £68,000 18/01/22
  • da•••• £67,500 18/01/22
  • wo•••• £66,500 18/01/22
  • sh•••• £66,000 18/01/22
  • ki•••• £65,000 17/01/22
  • sh•••• £58,000 17/01/22
  • ki•••• £55,000 17/01/22
  • wo•••• £50,000 16/01/22
  • Lo•••• £48,050 16/01/22

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