Rare Factory Black:

1968 Mercedes-Benz 280SL
Pagoda Roadster

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Exactly half a century ago --on August 21, 1967-- the town of Sindelfingen, Germany, witnessed the presentation of an automobile that should become the final iteration of the traditionally hand-built Mercedes-Benz Roadsters: the legendary 280SL.
More athletic and better-equipped than its predecessors, with 180 horses under the hood, power steering and four-wheel power disc brakes as standard equipment, as well as optional air conditioning, a 280SL is the one 113-series model most collectors crave. It is also the most valuable of all Pagodas, by a wide margin.



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When new, 280SLs were surrounded by an air of exclusivity. Yet, relatively few of the 6,930 SLs produced for '68 have survived in prime condition. Many were relegated to daily driver status during the 1980s, ridden hard and put away wet, often succumbing to the merciless rust cancer. Buying a restored car whose history is shrouded in darkness might not be a good choice.

This particular 280SL, VIN *113-044-001167* was built right around Christmastime, 1967 and sold new in Los Angeles. It has lived a sheltered life in Southern California ever since. Incredibly, it still is registered to its original, 1968-issue black-and-yellow Californa license plate! (German front plate is just displayed for fun.)
Having had just two owners from new, its last caretaker was a world-famous, Olympic silver-medal-winning wrestler.

What makes this SL so rare is its unique specification: it was special-ordered from the factory in black (paint code #040) with A/C and the desirable 4-speed manual transmission.

The Benz also comes with both tops, the weather-tight hardtop for year-round use as a stylish coupe, and the -- brand new -- black German canvas soft top.

Convertible top can be stored out of sight under an aluminum flap. Note excellent original, rust free state of the convertible top compartment.

Yes, we've checked: the deck lid, doors, and convertible top cover carry matching numbers. Additionally, the presence of headlight notches and factory weld spots indicating original front fenders confirm the integrity of this outstanding SL. Black paint looks stunning, without any flaws -- such as chips, scratches, bubbles or dings -- worth mentioning.

Strongest of all W113 cars, the 280SL is powered by the high-revving, fuel-injected, overhead-cam, inline 6-cylinder 2.8-liter engine, backed by Mercedes' own, floor-shifted, 4-speed manual transmission.
The engine runs like a fine Swiss watch. It starts on the button, does not smoke, and displays all the power the 280SL is renowned for. Needless to say, the smooth-shifting 4-speed manual transmission turns this SL into a real sports car.

Engine bay looks toothbrush clean and absolutely dry, just as you'd expect from a low-mileage Mercedes.

Upholstery and dash of the 280SL stay true to the famous 300SL Gullwing/Roadster design, with chrome rimmed gauges, intricately crafted switch gear, sumptuous leather seats, deeply varnished, authentic Zebrano wood accents, and painted metal instead of plastic communicating the opulence of the era. Of unparalleled quality, the various materials chosen for each specific surface seem to be destined to last an eternity.

Every gearhead's dream: to be behind the wheel in Mercedes' classic sports car cockpit, a place as exciting and inviting as it could ever be.
Note the Kuehlmeister air conditioning below the dash: the fan actually blows, but the system has not been used in years and will have to be serviced and upfitted for R134a refrigerant.

Instruments, switchgear, steering wheel, shifter: everything presents in fabulously preserved condition.

Red leather seats deliver the perfect contrast to the black exterior. They look and feel like new.

We just had the correct, red German Haargarn square-weave carpet installed. The Zebrano wood -- note the center storage box in the picture -- has been expertly refinished and remains in show condition throughout.

Removing the carpet-covered, wooden shelves all too often reveals a nasty surprise in the form of rust, due to humidity finding its way into the cabin. On this car, there's nothing but perfectly virginal, rust free sheet metal underneath.

This is an actual photo of our car, not a "glamour shot" from the factory brochure!
Note the unique, original Kangol safety belts.

Hollywood Mercedes-Benz license plate frame. Original, 1968 California black plate. All lights working perfectly.

Spacious trunk, perfect rubber trunk mat, date-coded spare, jacking equipment, original tool roll.

Hidden below the trunk mat: the trunk floor, another critical area to be examined for corrosion issues, often caused by moisture trapped beneath the mat, and signs of accident damage. This W113 shows nothing but straight, rust free sheet metal.


Perhaps the most important photos for the serious buyer to contemplate are those of a 280SL's undercarriage. Here's why: with the venerable Daimler Banz factory not being too keen on performing a stringent regimen of rust-proofing, all 1960s products from Untertuerkheim und Sindelfingen -- including the W113 models -- have a tendency to develop serious rust damage. The only saving grace would be a life lived in a dry climate, without the dangers of road salt, with low humidity and a shady place away from the damaging rays of the full sun. Being a lifelong Southern California resident, our black beauty can proudly display his underbelly -- there is no rust. None. Period.

While good looks and health are certainly important, let's not forget that cars are meant to be driven. Hence, the bottom line: what's it like to drive this sexy 50-year-old in today's traffic?

Monday, August 21, was the 280SL's 50th birthday, and we headed out to our favorite Ventura neighborhood for a test drive and photo session. If everything went well, we would treat ourselves to some delicious Brats and a refreshing stein of Hefeweizen.

Exercising this SL is a very exhilarating experience. Steering and suspension are as tight as a new car's. No play, no shakes or shimmies here! The manual 4-speed transmission's shift points are precise; the power-assisted 4-wheel disc brakes stop the car with authority. Except for the clock, all gauges work as they should.
Needless to say, we had an excellent afternoon. A big "thank you" goes out to Ventura's Bierbrats.

Returning home, we were very happy with the SL's performance. Here's a car that can be used every day, that can hold its own, be it in the city, in 75mph freeway traffic or on twisty mountain roads, without complaints, without any issues at all. We are tempted to hang on to this great SL ourselves, alas, our garages are already filled to the rafters with "keepers."

For your pleasure, here's a truly beautiful example of the breed. It came from the factory in a rare color, black, and equipped with the desirable and sporting 4-speed manual transmission. A rust free California car from new, all it needs is a new, loving caretaker who is proud to own such an exquisite German machine. With fully restored examples bringing upward of $200,000.00, it takes but a mere entry-level contribution to acquire this black beauty.
It's now or never!


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You are most welcome to inspect this fine automobile at our location in Ventura, by appointment, or have someone inspect it for you.
Please, direct all inquiries to bill@californiaclassix.com or call us at 805-653-5551.