It was the early 90’s and the housing market was in the gutter. Home values dropped considerably more than anyone expected. Team Principal Jeff Francis was hoping to unload a home that he no longer had a use for. After many months of buyers who fell short of raising the appropriate funds, one man made an interesting suggestion: surrendering his 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SL alongside an appropriate sum of cash.
Unbeknownst to the buyer, Francis had always had a soft spot for the Pagoda roof SL, and was completely over the moon to not only unload the house, but pick up one of his favorite cars in the process. To make the deal sweeter, the seller had the removable hard top in addition to the retractable soft top.
It didn’t take long for the SL to be in Francis’ possession before he began a full body-on restoration. The Merc was treated to new paint, chrome, weatherstripping, and interior leather. Even the factory wood in the interior was restored to new condition.
“The restoration was 99% accurate,” stated Francis. “I just couldn’t help myself to install the Euro headlamps.”
During the restoration, Francis was pleasantly surprised to find the commitment Mercedes-Benz had to their decades past, old cars. Nearly every part required for the restoration was available through Mercedes Benz parts distribution. Through Mercedes’ production records, a Certificate of Authenticity was awarded to Francis’ silver arrow descendant; confirming its provenance as an original Silver over Black car.
Upon completion, the quality of Francis’ restoration was no less than stunning. The doors shut with a vault-like presence in a manner only which a Merc can; it’s immediately evident why they are considered to be the best automobile manufacturer in the world. Considering that the SL was meant to be a dual-purpose sport and luxury car, there was no compromises when it came to road manners and outright performance.
Francis drove the car for years, enjoying the fruits of his hard labor. Eventually, it became time to thin the collection, and a classified ad was placed in Hemming’s. The advertisement led to an interesting call from the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, who had requested that a factory-trained technician from Germany be sent to inspect the car. After a half day of disassembly and reassembly of various components, the technician was astounded by the workmanship exhibited in the restoration. He declared the car to be an “excellent, rust-free, unmolested” example. Most importantly, Mercedes wanted it for their own collection.
The SL was immediately loaded on a covered transporter and sent directly to Monterey for use at the manufacturer’s display at that year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Afterward, it was to be shuffled between the Mercedes Classic Center in Irvine and their North American Headquarters in Montvale, New Jersey.
Who in their wildest dreams would believe that they would be selling a car BACK to its manufacturer, let alone to Mercedes Benz, some 40 years later?