'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 delivered new to Sheffield and 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 one Torage Shaltouri of Sheffield and in March 1988 to Michael William Gilbert of Maidenhead, Berkshire. Mr Gilbert bought the Mercedes from Wargrave Motors Ltd, a copy of whose letter describing its condition (excellent) and recording the mileage as 40,123 is on file. He kept the car for 16 years and there are several invoices on file dating from his period of ownership.
In 2008, while in the ownership of Mr Paul Roberts of Canterbury, '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. The restoration cost some £61,000. A (copy) invoice on file shows that in April 2010, 'OKU 994H' was sold by Mercedes-Benz World to a Mr Rausing of Chobham, Surrey. This invoice records the mileage at that time as 750, so presumably the odometer had been zeroed at time of restoration.
In September 2014, the Pagoda was offered for sale at a UK auction and purchased there by DJ and broadcaster, Chris Evans, who used it at his CarFest North and South charity events in 2015, held in aid of the BBC's 'Children in Need'. The car was also used as one of the 'Dirty Dozen' and the 'Magnificent Seven' features for 'Children in Need' and for 'Ten Go Mad In Monaco'. The current vendors purchased the Mercedes at Bonhams' Goodwood Revival sale in September 2015 (lot 317). While in the vendors' care, the Pagoda has benefited from considerable expenditure on mechanical refurbishment, around £5,000 being spent with Mercedes-Benz of Poole in June 2018. Related bills may be found within the well-organised history file together with the current MoT certificate.
Finished in two-tone 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.