De-constructing a Pagoda


How do you make the transformation from this tatty, baked but complete 280SL to the potential national concours winner below? It isn’t easy or particularly inexpensive.

280SL Restoration
Defining ‘Restored’

According to my trusty Webster’s New World Dictionary, “restore” means “to return to a former or normal state” and/or “to bring back to health.” The word “restore” must be one of the most mis-used words in the classic automobile world, one that often has as many different meanings as the number of people who utter the word.

Interpreting the word is the core of endless restoration company disputes and keeps many a lawyer busy figuring out where a classic car restorer’s performance became disconnected with a car owner’s expectations. It’s often ugly.

The adjectives connected to ‘restoration’ are many with some vastly more descriptive than others. There is “nut and bolt”, “body off”, “body on”, “ground up”, “cosmetic”, “mechanical” and… well the variations are endless. Connecting a restoration quality to a specific event can be more definitive and “Pebble Beach” quality carries enormous weight in the collector car world.

Certain marque experts also carry massive weight in their world; Hjeltness, HK Engineering etc. in the 300SL community, Paul Russell in the…well any community. And of course Mercedes Classic restorations in both Germany and Southern California are directly affiliated with the brand and carry massive weight.


After a mere 1,200 hours under the careful attention of perhaps the nation’s most qualified Pagoda expert, this is the result.

Maine’s Pagoda Guru

Let’s look at the fellow who is notoriously specific and just slightly neurotic toward one series of Mercedes oldtimers, the Pagoda. Sitting up in Kennebunkport Maine near a former president whose name we will refrain from mentioning, Gernold Nisius has established himself as THE current Pagoda expert in the United States. His company is SL-Tech and he doesn’t want to discuss any other classic MB; I’ve tried to persuade him to accept other ’60s era MB classics without success. He doesn’t want to hear about them. Period. Only Pagodas.

Be careful if you drop your 230/250/280SL off at his shop and request he “restore” it. He will actually pay attention to your request and truly return it to its “former or normal state” i.e. – new and using all correct Mercedes-Benz components. However, he does acknowledge the potential catastrophic damage to your bank account if you enlist him to perform a “correct” full Pagoda restoration.

Just how does this process unfold? Have a look at our exclusive photo essay below of the transformation of the SL pictured above. Of course, Gernold is happy to take care of any service need and partial restoration on your Pagoda. And he’s the only guy we’ve ever found to sort out deranged Pagoda soft top frames. Enjoy the show. You’ll need to scroll right through all the small thumbnails to view the process from the beginning.

roy spencer/editor mercedesheritage

PH: (207)985-3001


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