Vilner’s Unique Pagoda
Bulgaria delivers a contrarian 280SL
Admonishing classic Mercedes owners who approach me wanting to modify their cars has been an oft repeated scenario over the years. Whether it be an odd color change, an offensive color for an interior re-trim or, god forbid, a misguided plan to modify coachwork, my response has always been negative, seriously negative.
In my mind it always boiled down to preservation and value or more precisely the loss of each thereof. Generally speaking, trimming your classic era Mercedes with green velour and installing 20? wheels and tires will put you at risk for some serious ridicule within the classic Mercedes-Benz community. Not to mention a serious chop to your car’s value to reflect the cost for the next owner put the thing right.
But, after buying, preparing, inspecting, selling and hunting for correct MB classics for 22 years I have to say it’s become slightly, well…boring to wander a sea of correct cars. I have to confess to taking a guilty pleasure in some of the less than correct MB classics. The BAPE Gullwing and Jay Leno’s SoCal modified Gullwing come to mind. And now there is another guilty pleasure to savor.
The Gentle Pagoda
No, I’d never heard of Vilner of Bulgaria, a firm who wants to uncover ‘Your Style Inside’ and who has been creating unique interiors and special appearance groups for a wide variety of cars for some years…in Bulgaria. I’m not sure when this very cool 280SL was created but the interior workmanship is spectacular and certainly rivals that of a new Bentley. Come to think of it the interior design looks like it was lifted from a new GTC.
Soft hues for a mid-life crisis
I believe I see a DB181 light beige 280SL which quite likely was originally fitted with dark brown or cognac MB tex or leather, the trim colors of choice to complement 181 beige 90% of the time. I have two identical 280SLs in our warehouse at the moment and a third on the way. Also visible is a correct Frigiking AC system slung under the dash complete with the typically filthy outlet vents – should have cleaned those up.
This car is a serious study of soft earth tones and perhaps the inspiration for the project’s name, the Gentle Pagoda. The theme is continued with brown alloys fitted with beige center caps and the brown rondel revealing the body color number 51. Why the number 51?
Vilners’ cryptic introduction is revealing: “Back in 1963, when the cars were only for the chosen ones. Your life was successful and now as an old man – you belong again to the chosen ones. To be the lucky one, who managed to avert the sign of time and proudly to compete with the youngsters by well-balanced effort in the gym. He only had to remind himself why he placed the number 51 on the visible place? Obviously it was something important … He will ask tomorrow his fitness instructor.”
Is this a snapshot of the owner, a single paragraph mid-live crisis review? Maybe. The Gentle Pagoda is not an offensive effort and the 51 year guy behind it has himself one unique Pagoda. Your thoughts?
roy spencer/editor mercedesheritage