• Mercedes-Benz 280 SL.

    Forever young.

    At the wheel of a 280 SL from the R 107 model series, actor Marc Benjamin discovers a form of motoring which fascinates to this day.

    Text: Heike Kottmann | Photos: Alexandra Kinga Fekete

The car blends into the landscape.

One can hear it coming long before it comes into view. As the Mercedes-Benz SL approaches on the bend, its rich, throaty sound rumbles along the road, while the car itself blends almost perfectly into the landscape: the sky over Lermoos is blue, highlighting every one of the surrounding mountain peaks with razor-sharp clarity. The light blue bodywork catches the sunlight and seems to be a seamless extension of the cloud-speckled skies overhead. The original standard paint finish is called “Labrador blue”, and that name alone captures the whole aura of style and romanticism that this vehicle was suffused with from birth.

Marc Benjamin in the Mercedes-Benz 280 SL.
Mercedes-Benz 280 SL.

Beauty might be enough to catch the eye.

Beauty might be enough to catch the eye, but to become etched in the mind, it is real character that counts. This SL has both in abundance. The photo shoot with actor Marc Benjamin takes place in the Tyrol region, and everything comes together perfectly on this fine day: Benjamin was born in 1986, and the Mercedes built in 1983, making it three years older. But while the car is currently having its second lease of life, the actor is celebrating his international breakthrough. Most recently he appeared in the US hit series “Homeland”.

Feels like coming home.

“Driving is now more than just getting from A to B,” claimed the original SL model series brochure. Taking a seat feels like coming home: everything seems instantly familiar. And because one is aware of sitting at the wheel of a piece of automotive history, one is filled with an uplifting sense of majesty. Perhaps that’s what makes it feel as if the car is floating along, despite the sporty, taut suspension that keeps it firmly on the road. The vehicle’s original motto is also an apt description of how the fans of such classic cars live their lives. They are part of a technology-savvy generation that chooses its means of transport carefully. Given the travel options available these days, motoring has once again become more than getting from A to B. It is a conscious decision to travel in a car that underlines one’s individuality. Now that the functionality cars offer is becoming increasingly uniform, this individuality is more desirable than ever and it rubs off onto the driver.

Mercedes-Benz 280 SL.
Mercedes-Benz 280 SL interior.

Built to last forever.

“Today, so many cars have a cookie-cutter feel to them. There’s not much to distinguish them apart from the brand. But you can recognise an old Mercedes from a long way off,” enthuses Marc Benjamin. This is no doubt one of the reasons why the generation of cars from the early 1980s is currently enjoying such popularity. Hardly any other brand can match the role played by Mercedes-Benz in this regard. The cars are valued not just as design classics: vehicles from that era were already being built to last. The beautiful styling of the body, the view along the seemingly endless engine hood, and the consummate comfort of the car’s interior combine to make the SL model series totally unique.

Second-longest in production.

So it’s no surprise that the R 107-series SL was in production for longer than any other model from Mercedes-Benz apart from the G-Class. And it’s also little wonder that lucky owners would prefer to keep an eye on it at all times: to cater to their needs, the Mohr Life Resort in Lermoos even has a suite with a built-in garage available. “So in the evening, you can admire your classic car through the window while sipping a glass of wine,” grins Marc Benjamin – although the idea doesn’t seem absurd in the least.

Mercedes-Benz 280 SL.

Technological pioneer in its time.

In a classic car, you focus more intently on the task of driving. There are hardly any technical assistants, even though the SL was a technological pioneer back in its day, boasting air conditioning, power windows, automatic transmission, ABS, airbag, and trip computer. So driving an old SL also means getting back to basics. This is particularly appealing to the generation that got to discover the world from the back seat of a car. Those who grew up with Polaroid cameras and audio cassettes.

“I like it best when I can savour the full sensory experience of a car journey.” For Benjamin, this includes treating the vehicle respectfully but without being awestruck. The R 107 is easy to drive, it doesn’t take a great deal of expertise to get it moving. “Of course, the older someone is, the more respect you should show them,” says the actor. He is starring in two films in 2016. “Unsere Zeit ist jetzt” (our time is now) is based on the life of Stuttgart-based rapper Cro.

Marc Benjamin.

High expectations.

The expectations of the car have not diminished, their focus has simply shifted. The technical advantages of the SL-Class still pay off today. The 1971 R 107 was the first Mercedes model to be fitted with exterior mirrors that could be adjusted from the inside. It also came with an inertia reel for the seat belt, and new tail lights which barely picked up dirt thanks to their shape.

As the sun slowly sets in Tyrol, the inviting aroma of herb infusions wafts out of the spa. Now it’s definitely time to park the car in the garage, or rather the hotel room. After all, you should never let the beautiful things in life out of your sight.