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…

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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)