1971 Mercedes 280 SL

The classic car featured in this article, the 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL, a vehicle built on the W 113 chassis, was Mercedes' sports car of the 1960's. The 1971 model was the last model year in the series which spanned 1963 to 1971. This series of Mercedes cars replace the 300 SL and 190 SL as the company's sports car offering.

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL

If you were to have purchased the 1971 280 SL you would have had a choice of two different car tops.

You could have chose the "Robbins Auto Top" soft top or the removable hard top. The car without the soft top was picked up the nick name of the "California Model" or "California Coupe" . This name surely refers to California's non rainy season weather where you're not apt to be surprised by a rain shower. In place of where the soft top would have been is a small bench seat. This is between the front seats and the trunk. The 280 SL was built as a two seater but it would be possible to get two small riders on the bench seat if you needed to.

The only obvious issue with the removable hard top, such as on the model shown here, would have been rain. Take the hard top off and drive a bit too far from home and you might get unexpectedly rained on. Time to look for an overpass to park under.

Pagoda Roof Mercedes

Pagoda Roof Mercedes

Mercedes 280 SL Styling

During the 1963 to 1971 time span Mercedes-Benz produced the 230/250/280 SL models. All three of these models were built on the W 113 chassis which meant that body designing would be somewhat similar for each model.The W 113 chassis was noted as being relatively short and wide. It replaced the W 198 chassis and was replaced by the W 107 chassis in 1972. The "W": designation refers to the word "Wagen" which means car.

The W 113 chassis has the claim of being Mercedes first chassis built specifically with safety in mind. This included impact absorbing front and rear section and a strong passenger cell area plus a rounded interior.

The first thing you notice with the 280 SL are it's square cut lines. The car has an angular and sleek look to it.

Another you'll thing you'll notice right off is it's somewhat concave styled hard top. This is the hard top that was referred to as the "Pagoda Hard Top". The roof design was claimed to provide better head room while getting in and out of the vehicle and allowing for larger windows. Engineering wise, the concave roof is said to offer better support in case of a rollover. This was made possible by two thicker pillars. Today, these Mercedes W 113 models and their concave roofs are getting more and more popular with collector's.

Mercedes-Benz wheel covers

Mercedes-Benz wheel covers

1971 Merces-Benz 280 SL Specifications

The 1971 Mercedes_Benz 280 SL came with an Inline six cylinder 2.8 Liter M 130 engine. The engine could deliver 170 horsepower. The 2.8 liter replaced the previous 2.5 liter engine.

Transmission options were a four speed manual or four speed automatic. Zero to 60 MPH was said to take 10.0 seconds with the manual transmission and 11.0 seconds with the automatic. Top speed was said to be 124 MPH.

The Mercedes 280 SL front suspension consisted of independent, double wishbone, coil spring, anti-roll. the rear suspension was a low-pivot swing axle and coil spring.

The car has four disc brakes as opposed to the two disc/ two drum brakes with the Mercedes 250 model.

The 280 SL had a total length of 168.8 inches. Width was 69.2 inches and the height was 51.4 inches. The car's wheelbase was 94.5 inches.

1971 Mercedes 280 SL square line styling

1971 Mercedes 280 SL square line styling

The roadster model (soft top) had a weight of 2,948 lbs. The coupe or hard top model weighed 3,124 lbs with the top on.

Fuel efficiency was stated to be about 19 MPG.

New car price in the U.S. ranged between $7,000 and $8,000.

From 1967 to 1971 when the Mercedes 280 SL's were built, the total number produced were 23,885 units.

An excellent book on the Mercedes-Benz 280 SL as well as all of the W 113 models is The Essential Buyers Guide: Mercedes-Benz Pagoda 230,250 & 280 SL.

The Mercedes-Benz 280 SL remains a good car collector's vehicle. The body style is popular, Mercedes-Benz engineering is considered excellent and parts, although not inexpensive, are relatively easy to find.

Below are links to additional AutoMuseumOnline articles you may enjoy...

1973 Porsche 911T

1974 Porsche 914

1974 Alfa Romeo GTV 2000

1957 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL removable hardtop coupe

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL removable hardtop coupe

Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA

Mercedes has opened the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA in Irvine, California. The Classic Center is a museum housing examples of the company's 400 car collection of vintage Mercedes-Benz vehicle. The museum is similar to the Mercedes facility opened in 1993 just outside Stuttgart Germany. The address for the facility opened in 2006 in the Los Angeles Calfornia area is 9 Whatney, Irvine CA.

As of this writing, prices being asked for the 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL, in fine condition, show figures like $49,000, $45,000. $75,000. Prices look to have steadily rose since the financial troubles of 2008.

A 1971 Mercedes 280 SL in mint museum condition reportedly sold at auction for $99,000.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 AutoMuseumOnline)



1957 Mercedes-Benz SL190


The car shown in this article is the 1957 Mercedes-Benz SL190 which was an is a popular vintage sports car. The 1957 Mercedes was the automaker's first widely sold sports car. The S represented "Sports" and the L meant "Light". The SL190 was sold at the same time buyers could purchase the more costly but faster 300SL.

1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL

1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL

Both cars were very similar in overall design. Some referred to the 190SL as being the "Little Brother" to the 300SL. In fact, the beginning of the Mercedes-Benz SL's go back to the Mercedes Gullwing model with it's two doors that would swing open to the roof line. The car was seen in a James Bond movie and is considered quite rare. Only about 1,400 were ever built.

This car shown, the 1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL, was imported into the United States by Austrian businessman Max Hoffman who directly distributed the automobiles to U.S. dealers. He began with his Hoffman Motor Company in 1947.

During the 1950's Hoffman also distributed Volkswagen, Porsche and BMW's into the U.S. Hoffman was credited with bringing many European sports cars to America. He was the man who helped make these names and more household words in the United States. Hoffman also had an automobile showroom designed for him by well known architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

The 1954 Prototype

1957 Mercedes-Benz

1957 Mercedes-Benz

After first being introduced as a prototype in 1954 at the New York Auto Show, the Mercedes-Benz SL190's were in production from 1955 through 1963.

Several modifications were made between the introduction of the prototype in New York  and the beginning of production. After 1963 the 190SL and the 300SL were replaced by the Mercedes 230SL.  The Mercedes 190 SL could be bought as a Roadster with a soft top convertible or with a removable hardtop roof.

 Mercedes-Benz After the War

The Mercedes-Benz factories were essentially destroyed during World War Two. Some were totally destroyed and others heavily damaged. The company was essentially put out of business. The fact that Mercedes-Benz were a big part of Germany's industrial complex it was a prime target for Allied bombers in World War II.

When the war ended in 1945, Mercedes-Benz had to rebuild under tough circumstances and going into production with just about any type car was essential to bringing in badly needed funds.

Mercedes 190SL

Mercedes 190SL

The 1950's Sports Car Market

Sports cars were quite popular with the general public beginning about the middle of the 1950's. When World War Two ended the market was right for sports cars and the automakers jumped into designing. The economy was growing rapidly and car buyers were in the sports car mood. After going through the Great Depression and then the war, Americans were looking to indulge and owning a new sports car fit the bill. With good employment numbers and rising wages there were many more potential sports car buyers.

During the 1950's Ford Motor Company came out with their Thunderbird models and Chevrolet was having good success with their Corvettes. On the higher end there were Morgan or Aston Martin.

Mercedes-Benz 190SL Little Brother

Mercedes-Benz 190SL Little Brother

1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL Specs

This car was produced with a 1.9L straight four cylinder engine capable of delivering 104 horsepower. The engine block was a smaller duplicate of the 300SL six cylinder engine.

The 1957 190SL came with a four speed manual transmission and a weight of 2,734 lbs.

The Mercedes 190SL was initially priced at around $4,000.

Links to two additional AutoMuseumOnline photo articles you'll enjoy include;

1958 Mercedes Ponton Sedan

The Gullwing Mercedes-Benz

1955 Packard 400 Hardtop

The Mercedes-Benz 190 SL as a Collector's Car

The Mercedes-Benz 190 SL’s make terrific collector automobiles and the cars are relatively inexpensive when compared to some other vintage sports cars. As of this writing, prices for 1957 Mercedes 190SL's in excellent condition are strong and can be in the $100,000 range.

Merdes-Benz enthusiasts will also enjoy the book Mercedes-Benz (First Gear) by author Dennis Adler.

(Photos are from author's collection)

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S Ponton Sedan


A New Start After World War Two

During World War Two the Mercedes-Benz factories were essentially destroyed. Some were destroyed a bit more than others but they were for all intents and purposes put out of business. Because Mercedes-Benz represented a large German industrial complex it was a prime target for Allied bombers in World War II. This was quite different than during the First World War when the factories were untouched physically.

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S

During the post war years the company slowly started to rebuild it's operations. Construction was underway during 1946. The first series of automobiles built after the war were the 170 Sedans. It was by selling these models that the company was able to put their finances together and rebuild.

Facts About Mercedes-Benz

Some interesting facts about Mercedes-Benz includes the fact that it is the world's oldest automobile brand still in existence today. It's history goes all the way back to 1886 when Karl Benz invented the Benz Petrol Motorwagen. The auto was designed with a four-stroke petrol engine.  Mercedes first automobile was sold in 1901. The first automobiles produced under the Mercedes-Benz brand name were introduced in 1926.

A second interesting fact is that Mercedes-Benz introduced several engineering technologies which eventually became common in the industry.

1958 Mercedes-Benz Ponton

1958 Mercedes-Benz Ponton

A third fact is that Mercedes-Benz was the first to introduce diesel trucks. The world's first diesel truck came out in 1924. This was quite an engineering feat for the era. The company even turned out a diesel passenger car model in 1936 with the Model 260D. The 170D came out after World War Two and sold well. This helped the company rebuild itself after the war.

The Model 170's essentially relied on pre-war styling with a four cylinder engine. It took until 1951 for Mercedes to unveil a new line of six cylinder luxury cars. These were the 220 and 300 Series models.

The Mercedes Benz Ponton 220S models came out in 1958 although the first Pontons came out in 1953. The 220S Ponton was manufactured in limited numbers beginning in the mid-1950's and continuing up until October of 1959.

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S Ponton

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S Ponton

The classic car shown in this article is a 1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S Ponton. The word "ponton" is derived from both French and German. The word means "pontoon". Today the word is generally used to describe the Mercedes-Benz models that were produced between 1953 and 1962. The Ponton is a auto styling word for the shape of Mercedes automobiles. The Ponton Models were Mercedes-Benz first entirely new design after World War Two and really represented the new post World War Two Mercedes-Benz.

Two other cars on AutoMuseumOnline you'll find interesting are the Gullwing Mercedes and the 1957 Pontiac Star Chief Convertible.

Mercedes-Benz collector car

Mercedes-Benz collector car

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S Specs

The 1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S sold new from between about $4,500 to $7.300.

The car's total length is 187.0 inches with a width of 68.5 inches. It's wheelbase is 106.3 inches and weight of about 2,970 lbs.

The Mercedes 220S engine is a six cylinder four stroke 133.9 cid. Maximum speed was rated at 99.5 MPH at 3,320 RPM and 106 MPH at 5,200 RPM. Front suspension is independent with coil springs. The rear suspension is a single joint swing axle with coil springs.

The car came with a four speed manual transmission and servo operated drum brakes. A total of 20,181 sedan models were produced for the 1958 model year.

Mercedes-Benz automobiles, especially ones from during the 1950's, are prized collector cars. The 1950's were a key and critical decade for Mercedes as they transformed themselves after the end of World War Two. Depending on the automobile and it's condition including it's degree of restoration, the Mercedes-Benz autos from the late 1950's will see auction prices offered from the $40,000 range into the six figures.

(Photos from authors collection)