'Some cars don't change, they just get better. The Mercedes-Benz 280 SL, latest version of a line that began as the 230 SL in 1963, is the same as ever, just better,' concluded Road & Track after testing a 280 SL in 1968. 'For those who value engineering finesse and high quality construction, it's alone in the field,' enthused the highly respected American motoring magazine, while its manufacturer considered the 280 SL, 'a Grand Tourer in the traditional sense' and 'a unique combination of sports car performance and saloon car comfort (a Mercedes-Benz saloon naturally).'
These attributes help explain the 280 SL's phenomenal success, particularly in the all-important North American market where the optional automatic transmission was considered an essential feature by the majority of customers. The fact that it looked like 'sex on wheels' helped enormously too, of course. The 280 SL's essential user friendliness broadened its appeal beyond the traditional sports car-enthusiast market; many celebrities and film stars owned 280SLs and only a few years ago Bonhams sold that belonging to Oscar-nominated actress Leslie Ann Warren.
The last of a popular and extremely successful line begun with the 230 SL of 1963, the Mercedes-Benz 280 SL was introduced in 1967 powered by a new 2.8-litre six-cylinder engine that produced 180bhp, 20 horsepower more than the preceding 250 SL's. The 280 SL's 120mph top speed was no greater but it was significantly quicker off the mark, its 0-60mph time of 10 seconds being a whole second better than its predecessor's. Christened 'Pagoda' after their distinctive cabin shape with its generous glass area, these SL models were amongst the best-loved sports-tourers of their day and remain highly sought after by collectors.
An automatic transmission model, this particular 280 SL was first registered on 16th March 1970 but its early ownership history is not known. In 1979 the Mercedes was registered to Hugh Russell Ltd of Sheffield. It stayed in the North of England and was acquired by H Turner & Sons Ltd in 1985, passing in 1987 to Michael William Gilbert of Maidenhead, Berkshire. Mr Gilbert kept the car for 17 years and there are several invoices on file dating from his period of ownership.
In 2008, 'OKU 994H' was completely restored by Silchester Garage in Surrey, as evidenced by the photographic record on file showing the car completely disassembled and stripped back to bare metal. Subsequently bought by Mr Hans Rausing of the Tetra Pak family dynasty, it was then offered for sale at auction in September 2014 and purchased there by Chris Evans. earlier this year it was used at Chris' CarFest North charity event, held in aid of the BBC's 'Children in Need'.
Offered with a hard-top and bespoke stand, the car is finished in silver with a navy blue soft-top, this beautiful 280 SL is presented in quite outstanding condition. Noteworthy upgrades include a modern Becker Mexico radio, remote central locking and an alarm.