In the world of Mercedes roadsters the pecking order is the w194 the most expensive car in the world and then the 300SL Gullwing and then the 300sl roadster. With the "you must be a gazillionaire" cars out of the way the 190SL becomes the king followed by the w113 chassis Pagodas of which there was the 230SL, 250SL and the 280SL. in the w113 chassis the 280SL with a 5-speed ZF transmission is the best, You then have the four speed manual transmission 280SL followed by the automatic transmission 280SL
What some people don't realize is the 280SL was not retired with the end of the w113 chassis cars. When the r107 chassis cars first appeared in late 1971 most people don't realize 280SL would be seen again shortly.
The 280SL in the r107 chassis comes in a few flavors starting in 1974 and running through 1985. one thing to remember is there has never been a 1986 280SL, if you see one titled as such be careful as there is no such car. In 1986 the 280SL was retired and replaced with the M103 powered 300SL These respective flavor of the R107 280SL are automatic transmission and manual transmission 4 and 5 speed respectively. Yes you could order a manual 280SL with either a 4 or 5 speed transmission.
The inline six-cylinder M110 engine with dual overhead cams is not overwhelmingly powerful but it is nice cruiser especially when coupled with a manual transmission. The ease of maintenance and reliability of what is essentially a truck engine makes your 4 or 5 speed flavor fun to drive and fuel efficient.
The American market SL never officially saw a 280SL although many dealers did offer them as gray market vehicles. If you want to be sure all American market SL's will have a vin plate inside the driver's door jam. Gray market 280SL will generally have some type of badge which is not standard in the door jam showing who imported the car and when.
Now many people often think of gray market cars as hard to find parts for. This is simply not the case with the 280SL. Mercedes did offer the M110 in other American cars making the engine parts readily available. For chassis and driveline nearly 90% of the parts are shared with the American versions.
What kind of power does the 280SL make? Well first off can we take a minute to appreciate how many different varieties of the m110 engine are around. The m110 2.7L inline six cylinder engine is one of the few Mercedes engines to have used carburetors and later on fuel injection. The m110 in the 280SL started with Bosch D-Jet and then was upgraded to K-Jet.
So with this all said what is the market for a good running and driving 280SL with ACTUAL documented millage? The first factory to consider is can you drive the car on the road and live to tell the tale ? If you answer yes then you have a car that is more than boat anchor. The next thing to keep in mind is what type of transmission does the car have? Automatics in our opinion are the least desirable and most common of the 280SL. The 5 speed is the most interesting gearbox and the most popularly ordered manual transmission available. The 4spd manual transmission would be the rarest version of the 280SL. With a total worldwide production of less than 26,000 units less than half came with a many transmission.
The bottom line if you find a nice 280SL you can't go wrong.