According to the advertising world, summer is over. It’s time to start shopping for down coats, winter tires, and vehicles with inclement condition conquering AWD systems. Of course those of you that know better got coats on sale last spring, bought winter tires in July, and are aware that power going to all four wheels doesn’t guarantee you’ll stay out of a ditch. You’re a savvy shopper, you go against the grain in order to get a deal, and that’s precisely why now is the time to buy a convertible. More specifically, now is the time to buy a ’67-’71 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL.
Nicknamed the “Pagoda SL” in reference to its concave removable hardtop, the W113 SL is a style icon, and prices on these cars vary wildly. You can pick up an early model 230 SL for a little less than a 280, but the difference is price isn’t significant enough to give up the extra power you get with the latter of the two. These cars aren’t incredibly heavy, but for the style of driving they tend to encourage, the added power that comes with the 280 will be of great benefit. The 170 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque produced by the venerable M130 inline-six added the edge to the W113 that it had always deserved. The 230 and 250 SLs are wonderful cars, there is no denying that. However, their purpose in the marketplace is to satisfy the urges of people who see the W113 as an accessory or investment. The 280 SL is a drivers car, especially when equipped with the 4, or uber rare 5, speed manual transmission. Sure, the entry price is a bit higher, but if you’re already shelling out a substantial sum for a classic Mercedes, why wouldn’t you go all out? The last thing on your mind when blowing through one of your favorite turns will be “Gee, I dunno if I should have spent that extra $10k“. If it is, then you probably shouldn’t be buying classic cars and should get yourself a financial advisor.
The 280 SL is one of those rare cars that is both a toy and a work of fine art. It is inspiring at any angle, as enjoyable to look at as it is to drive, and obviously that kind of praise doesn’t come cheap. In comparison to its exotic contemporaries, the 280SL is indeed a bargain, but just because there are sub-$100k examples doesn’t mean they’re selling like wildfire. While prices have steadily increased over the past year, they’ve generally remained stable for the last decade. That’s good news for potential buyers who hope to negotiate a reasonable deal with a seller by pointing to the consistency in the market. Values will spike on certain cars, especially iconic ones like this. A good sellers knows that just because a car is having a moment doesn’t mean they can jack the price way up and expect to cash in. It would seem that the seller of this 280 SL is once such example. $85k for a two owner car, with just 22,145 miles on it, and the original interior? That’s not bad, not bad at all.
So why is the 280 SL the perfect vehicle for autumn? Because a convertible is the perfect vehicle for fall, and a 280 SL is a perfect convertible. This Dark Red over Cognac Leather example is so autumnal in its appearance, it might as well come with a bag of McIntosh apples, and a six pack of Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. Driving this car on a crisp fall afternoon anywhere with vibrant foliage would result in sensory overload of the best kind. One hand on the delightfully thin wood steering wheel, one rowing through the 4 gears, both wrapped in Autodromo driving gloves, that’s a dream come true. I have only driven one of these cars around a few city blocks and just from that little encounter I was hooked. These cars are enchanting, they possess magical qualities. Any good car can make you feel good, but a great one will transport you to another place entirely. A 280 SL will do just that, no flux capacitor needed, though hitting 88 mph will likely increase the time travel effect.