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Mercedes-Benz 280SL

The Mercedes-Benz SL class of sports roadsters from the 1960s were known for their supremely elegant styling. Also referred to as W113 within the company, they were manufactured from 1963 to 1971. The “pagoda roof” 230SL of 1963 offered good performance and exceptional handling, together with comfort and sophistication. It was followed by the larger-engined 250SL in 1967, and the 280SL in 1968. Both offered more power but retained the SL’s signature styling.

THE MERCEDES-BENZ SL was defined by the graceful styling of its optional hardtop. The 230SL, 250SL, and 280SL models had roofs with raised outer edges. Some commentators likened this shape to the roofs of Chinese buildings, and the “pagoda roof” nickname was born. Styled by Mercedes’ master designer Paul Bracq, the car’s compactness and elegance was emphasized by its low build and wide track. The SL carried over its basic structural layout from the 1959 Heckflosse or Fintail sedan. It had a steel body welded to a strong load-bearing floorpan, and a protective cage around the cabin with “crumple zones” at the front and rear that absorbed impact. The first sports car in the world with this new safety technology, the SL was the safest roadster of its era.

The original 2,306 cc, 150 bhp, six-cylinder engine of the SL underwent two revisions. In 1967 it was replaced by a longer-stroke, 2,496 cc engine offering more torque. The fuel tank was enlarged and disc rear brakes were added. The 1968 version, shown here, was fitted with a bigger-bore, 2,778 cc M130 engine, which powered the SL until 1971.



ModelMercedes-Benz 280SL W113 (1968-71)
AssemblyStuttgart, Germany
ConstructionUnitary steel chassis
Engine2,778 cc, sohc straight-six
Power output170 bhp at 5,750 rpm
TransmissionFour-speed automatic
SuspensionCoil spring
BrakesDiscs front and rear
Maximum speed124 mph (200 km/h)

Sports-car sophistication

With its low, wide stance, Lichtenheit (“light unit”) with bold vertical lights, and an oversized three-pointed star, this 280SL stood out as a sophisticated, luxurious, highly personal car that was all about quality and taste. With smooth six-cylinder power and excellent road manners, it had the performance to match its looks.

German alliance

Daimler and Benz were automotive pioneers of the 19th century. The merger of Daimler (the manufacturer of Mercedes cars) and Benz came in 1926. The Mercedes-Benz logo combines the three-pointed star of Daimler with the Benz laurel wreath.


The 280SL’s styling was a combination of elegance, fine proportion, and just enough ostentation to show what the owner’s money had purchased. It was very different from the cars it replaced: the fast but expensive 300SL roadster, and the affordable but slower 190SL with a removable hardtop.

Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star logos are prominent

280SL was the last variant of the W113

Vertical lights similar to those on Mercedes sedans

Safety door handle

Filler cap on the tail

Opposed windshield wipers

Chrome plating on doors

Chrome-rimmed taillight

Twin exhaust on all models

Steel wheels with body-color hubcaps


Diehard sports-car enthusiasts were not impressed by the 280SL—it seemed too civilized. The doors opened wide to a well-trimmed interior, with full carpeting and a choice of vinyl or leather seats. An catchall tray between the seats with an ashtray at the front was a novelty. Chrome trim appeared everywhere, from the steering wheel to the dashboard and even to the seat-adjustment controls. The dashboard, painted to match the exterior, was yet more evidence of Mercedes-Benz’s meticulous design approach.

Interiors trimmed in leather or vinyl

Inner metal ring on the steering wheel acts as horn push

Wooden windshield air vent

Spacious glove compartment

Dashboard air vent

Seat controls

Automatic transmission selector

Sideways facing “jump seat” was optional


The engine of the original 230SL was derived from the 230 sedan. It was a 2.3-liter, overhead-camshaft, straight-six with an alloy block and alloy cylinder head, and four-bearing crankshaft. In 1967 this was replaced by a 2.5-liter, which was more than just a long-stroke version of the same engine. It had seven main bearings for greater smoothness and reliability, though this also made it less eager to rev. For the 280SL, Mercedes moved the cylinders further apart to accommodate larger 3.3-in (8.63-cm) bores, giving 2,778 cc and 170 bhp.

The 280SL had the largest engine in the W113 series, a 2.8-liter in-line six; like its predecessors—the 230SL and 250SL—it was fuel-injected


It is a quote. The Definitive Visual History Of The Automobile 2011

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