Why is this Mercedes 280 SL Pagoda worth £300,000?
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There have been moments in automotive history when new-car buyers had it better than ever before, and better than they ever would again. Imagine hearing that you could send a telegram to a small factory in Italy to order something called a Dino. Or that a team in a shed in Woking would take your money for something called a McLaren F1.
If you could go back in time and spec a brand-new car that’s now a classic, what would it be?
You’d have to consider the effortlessly gorgeous Mercedes W113 280 SL – or, as it’s better known, the Pagoda. These days it’s a rarefied classic, sitting in the same strata as the likes of the aforementioned Dino and Mercedes’ own 300 SL Gullwing. The Pagoda brought style and safety to the convertible market when it was sold from 1963 to 1971.
Look at modern-day celebrity owners of Pagodas and you’ll realise it’s the choice of people with taste. Mostly. Stirling Moss, Sophia Loren and even Kate Moss own Pagodas, and you can find one on permanent display at Graceland – Elvis’ gift to wife Priscilla Presley.
The Pagoda’s timeless character hasn’t been lost on the folks at Hemmels – a UK-based restorer and creator who will let you time-warp back to 1967 to create your very own example.
Good as new
Hemmels will let you spec your own Pagoda as if you were buying it brand new. One better, they’ll let you go off-piste in terms of colour, and at the end of a year-long build you’ll be presented with your own 280 SL Pagoda, built to your very own specification.
Let’s get one thing out of the way – ordering a Hemmels Pagoda isn’t cheap. Getting your hands on the slinky old-school keys will leave a dent in your wallet to the tune of £300,000 – but it’s actually a bit of a bargain when you realise what goes into the car.
Hemmels approaches their builds with the sort of German precision and fanaticism you’d expect. Every car goes through a 52-week series of milestones as part of the firm’s Neugeboren (that’s German for newborn) programme, which takes the donor car back to its bare metal ahead of a ground-up rebuild using official Mercedes parts – all to ensure that the finished product is a good as can be.
The same goes for the engine. Your Pagoda’s silky smooth 2.8-litre straight six will be completely disassembled ahead of a nut-and-bolt rebuild using – you guessed it – only official Mercedes parts. The earlier versions of the Pagoda, the 230 SL and 250 SL were famously short on power and torque, so it’s the 168hp 280 that you really want for your investment. There’s no word on whether Hemmels will recreate Mercedes’ famously nose-heavy one-off 247hp, 6.3-litre V8 swapped Pagoda, but there’s no harm in asking. Finding a period-correct AMG badge might be a bit tricky…
From there on the body is painted in an extensive process that massively improves on the finish you’d have witnessed on Pagodas back in the 60s. They’re notorious for rusting, but Hemmels’ modern mix of primers means the body should easily outlast you. Sorry, but you could always stick it in your will.
You’re allowed some modern touches
Once it’s rolled out of the paint shop and been reassembled, Hemmels’ team of craftsmen set about re-trimming and replacing the interior. And this is where you might want to, shall we say, gloss over strict attention-to-detail and equip your Pagoda for a life on the road.
Yes, you can opt to fit heated seats. An absolute must in a convertible, they’re just one of the modern tweaks you can make to improve your time behind the wheel of your Pagoda, along with air conditioning, and a retro-look infotainment system that gives you modern sounds without sullying the Pagoda’s straightforward dashboard.
You’re also left in charge of picking the colours for the seats, leather trims and carpets – Hemmels essentially gives you the chance to play with the Pagoda configurator that would’ve existed had the internet been a thing in the 1960s.
At the end of it all you’re left with a fully customised and faithful restoration of one of the world’s most gorgeous automotive creations, and one that will stand the test of time. Hemmels will even sell you a service plan to help you keep on top of scheduled maintenance – hopefully encouraging buyers to use these cars as intended.
So pop the roof down, head to the South of France and, with some bottles of local wine clinking together in the footwell, you’ll have experienced what it felt to be a new-car buyer when cars were still cool.
Head over to www.hemmels.com for more info.