1985 MERCEDES-BENZ 280 SLView vehicle description
The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is a grand tourer sports car and has been manufactured by Mercedes since 1954.
An American importer by the name of Max Hoffman suggested to Mercedes that there might well be a market for a more civilised version of a Grand Prix car. Something tailored to deep-pocketed performance enthusiasts in the cash swamped post-war American market. He turned out to be very right indeed, and the US remains the primary market for the SL to this day.
The Mercedes SL R107 range finally came to an end in 1989 after being in production for an almost unprecedented 18 years. That’s quite a run, especially when you consider that it remained largely unaltered from when it first emerged in 1971.
Always more of a sporting grand tourer than a fully-fledged sports car, the SL was supplied with a standard folding fabric roof, while the optional hardtop gave almost saloon-like levels of civility. With the hardtop option box ticked, the convertible SL was a truly all-purpose, all-season car.
We can reveal that the SL stands for ‘Super-Leicht’ – or ‘Super Light’, a fact ratified only fairly recently by some Mercedes historians locked away in a dusty Bremen basement.
There is, perhaps, some irony here, given that the SL weighs almost two tonnes with a well-lunched couple on board. So, it should come as no real surprise to learn that performance is brisk rather than racy. But these cars handle well for their bulk and are over-engineered to the point where they’re more than capable of despatching inter-continental mileages with rare grace and panache.
The 280 SL you are looking at here is fitted with a 2.8-litre six-cylinder inline engine and 4-speed auto box.
As far as we can tell, the car has retained much of the bullet-proof integrity that Mercedes engineered into their vehicles at a time when they built up to a standard, not down to a price. It feels solid.
But this car has done almost nothing for at least the last 14 years (it’s covered 2000 miles since 2007) and will undoubtedly need some light-touch recommissioning. It also has less history than David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth, so we’d strongly advise seeing the car in person and forming your own opinion.
At the moment the battery won’t hold a charge and, consequently, we’ve not been able to drive it more than a few yards. But we do at least know that the engine starts.
Overall, though, the car presents very nicely and has clearly not spent much of its life driving through salty slush or living on a rainswept parking lot.
Most of the places where these cars traditionally succumb to rust are reassuringly free of it.
Get a little closer and you’ll see that the car isn’t perfect and has the odd scuff and blemish here, some frayed fabric there, and various other perfectly normal indications that it was built 36 years ago.
Overall, though, we’ve seen nothing that’s made us shake our heads, tut loudly or break into a nervous sweat. We’re inclined to think that this is a decent example of a highly desirable car. It just needs a bit of TLC.
On the Outside
Broadly speaking, the red paintwork and finish are in decent condition.
The panels are largely free of any dinks, dents, scuffs, scratches, warps or folds.
The shut lines and door gaps are crisp, even and consistent and the doors slam home with the satisfyingly heavy thunk of old-school Mercedes build quality.
The alloys have been painted silver at some point and while there is some kerbing and scuffing in evidence, they’re not too bad.
The chrome work is good in places and heavily pitted in others. There are patches of faded paintwork on the bonnet and a few scratches in various locations.
There is the first hint of some bubbling inside the leading edge of the o/s/f wheel, more bubbling on the o/s sill, and some apparently superficial rust showing through on the top of the n/s sill at the base of the ‘B’ pillar.
The tyres (matching – which is often indicative of a good level of care in the past) are in decent nick but are pretty long in the tooth and will need replacing.
The n/s headlight lens is cracked and its o/s counterpart has moisture inside the lens.
The folding black hood is in remarkably good condition, fits snugly and is free of any major defects that we can see.
On the Inside
Again, the interior is really quite impressive for a car of this age.
The seats are comfortable and supportive, with the black vinyl and grey check fabric mainly in decent nick although there is some noticeable wear to the fabric on the driver’s seat.
The door cards, carpets and headlining are all more than acceptable, as is the inside of the fabric roof, which would probably thank the next owner for being shown a damp cloth.
The rear seats are also in good condition but the n/s seat might well benefit from some soapy water and a bit of elbow grease.
Lifting up the carpets in the cabin or the boot reveals just the standard bloom of superficial rust dust.
The wood veneer on the centre console around the gear lever has definitely seen better days and is cracked and broken in places.
The instruments and steering wheel are in decent nick.
There is a Nakamichi CD changer inside the glove box.
There is a surface dusting of rust on some of the suspension components and inside the engine bay, but no more than that as far as we can see.
The undersides have a residual coating of wax/bitumen on them.
The inside surface of the bonnet looks a bit messy, but that’s simply residue from the long gone sound deadening material that would once have been in place.
The engine bay, though a little dusty, appears to have everything in its right and proper place.
The car has an MoT certificate which is valid until 3.10.22.
The car only has 104,000 miles on the clock and did most of those decades ago.
We don’t have any bills or invoices for work done but there is a service record (main dealer at first, then independent specialists) that extends in an unbroken run from 24.4.85 to 1.10.04. After that, there’s no history to speak of.
Please visit the documents section of the gallery of this listing where you will find photos of this and other paperwork.
If you’d like to inspect the car prior to placing a bid – something we would encourage – then please use the Contact Seller button to arrange an appointment.
What We Think
We think this is a good, solid example of the 280 SL, even though it’s some way shy of winning any rosettes at Pebble Beach.
From what we can see, the car appears to be in relatively decent shape and there’s nothing to make us doubt its mechanical integrity.
Yes, it will need some basic recommissioning to get it back on the road and ready for everyday use. And, yes, there are one or two cosmetic jobs to do.
At the end of the day, though, we think you and your wallet may have to do only a little work to get yourself a fabulously usable example of a very special car that is more than likely to appreciate in value if cared for properly.
We’re happy to offer this car for auction with an estimate of between £8,000 and £14,000.
Viewing is always encouraged and as stated this car is located at THE MARKET headquarters near Abingdon; we are open Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm and to arrange an appointment please use the ‘Contact Seller’ button at the top of the listing to make an appointment. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.
If needed, Footman James classic car insurance and Classic Concierge offer storage options plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping.
BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at those vehicles which are delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.
Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.
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