1981 Mercedes-Benz 280SL

I go back and forth on whether or not I like the R107. I just think they stuck around way too long and those that want to sell them have grand illusions of what they are actually worth. I think sellers have some kind of mental formula in their head that goes “Mercedes + old + convertible = valuable” when we all know that none of those factors matter unless someone actually pays for it. But every once in a while a R107 comes along that I actually think represent good value for the money you would pay. This 1981 280SL, which looks to be a grey-market import, really represents what I think is the R107 to buy — if you really want one in the first place.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1981 Mercedes-Benz 280SL on Mercedes Heritage

Year: 1981
Model: 280SL
Engine: 2.8 liter inline-6
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Mileage: 186,000 miles
Price: $12,500

Very well cared-for German-engineered classic. I am the second owner and have owned the car for 31 years. It was 5 years old when I purchased it with 36,000 miles, current odometer is 186,000. It was always garaged but certainly driven and enjoyed over the years although with careful consideration to weather and other road conditions. I have all maintenance records and do the oil and filter changes myself every 3,000 miles. In short, this one’s been “babied” and if you have ever wanted one, this is the one! Too many attributes to list, so just enjoy the pictures and if seriously interested, let me know. As you can see, I have the original rims as well as the OEM pictured in some of the images. The soft top will need replacement soon although I had it done 8 years ago…..beginning to see some dry-rot.

The quick rundown on this R107 shows 186,000 miles which is high for one of these, but it has been with the same owner for the past 31 years. That is an insane amount of time in the car world as people who usually buy luxury cars are itching for something new around the four-year mark. If anything, it tells me that this car was taken care of as it actually was a long-term investment (I don’t like using that word) for the owner and they didn’t skimp on upkeep. The seller mentions that he has all the maintenance records but it might need a new top in the not too distant future.

Here is why I really like this car: it is a 280SL. That means proper European bumpers and headlights with the M110 straight-six under the hood. Yeah, those foglights next to the government mandated maker lights really ruin the front end of this car but it is nothing that can’t be fixed in an afternoon. This 280SL weighs almost 300 pounds lighter than a later 560SL — the R107 most will tell you is the one to buy. But my argument is that you might as well go for the smaller 2.8 liter because it isn’t like you are buying a R107 to go fast in the first place. These cars are top down pleasure cruisers, not 0-60 runners. No one cares about how much power you are making with these. A new Honda Accord makes more power than a 560SL, who cares if you have the inline-six? For my money, I’d rather have the most aesthetically pleasing car that gets slightly better fuel mileage than the range topping V8 that costs way more.

How much more? This 280SL is listed for $12,500, which isn’t that crazy. I say that meaning that I think all R107s are overpriced, but I am only one man and don’t control the market. If this was a 560SL, I’d wager you’d be asked to pay many thousands more for what is basically the same car. Yeah, you get 50 more horsepower and 100 more lb·ft of torque but you gain those 300 pounds and ugly bumpers and headlights. So while the 560SL still might be king, don’t look down on the 280SL if you can find one. There is no reason to.

5 thoughts on “1981 Mercedes-Benz 280SL

  1. Nice one! This one ticks nearly all boxes for me. Also completely agree that a well-maintained example is far preferable to a lower-mile one with no/little history, as repair prices can be very high, if you don’t DIY (and even then parts can be pricey).

    The ideal r107s to me are the euro 500SL which has more power than the US/JDM 560SL and has the euro look – although the look can be replicated for around $3-4K on a US car. Or the euro 300SL which gives you all the suspension, brake, rustproofing etc upgrades of the last series with the lighter 6-cylinder and more low-end torque and less maintenance – and you can find it with a stick.

    And being euro cars they could be ordered with what I think is the most important extra: seat heaters that allow you to extend the convertible season for a few weeks on either end!

  2. Not my cup of tea but looks nice. Headlights sure look to be ROW but I do see a MPH? speedo? If ROW, I’d be curious as to any power boost over US model. For $12K what are you gonna buy instead? I bet the seller has 2x-3x the asking price in maintenance receipts. I’d take the miles and make a deal here if you’re in the market.

  3. @FSTNTQ. Since this car looks like it was legally federalized, it needed to have a MPH speedo. So it checks out.

  4. I couldn’t agree more! I go back and forth. One minute I hate the oversized chassis of the 107 when compared to all of its predecessors. Then I see an example with manual gearbox, European bumpers and headlights, and start to sway the other way. At the end of the day, you can’t argue with how much car you get for your R107 money. They’re worthless, but a bargain if you want to drive a Mercedes, and regardless of taste, these are still hand built Mercedes with everything that comes with that.

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