It’s Not Just a Mercedes, It’s Family

Greg Hughes’ 1985 280 SL


Donald Hughes, a West Michigan banker and eventual financial consultant, was always fascinated by Mercedes-Benz, despite the fact that he drove Oldsmobiles.  Donald became acquainted with John Brooks, who had started a business of importing German cars.  This provided Donald the opportunity to obtain the SL of his dreams—either a 280 or 380 SL.  He insisted that the car had to be red (568U, Signal Red), it had to have his choice of interior (275A), and wheels (14” Bundts).  Once Brooks was given his marching orders, he flew to Germany and combed the country for that SL.  Once found, Donald wired the necessary funds and obtained his vehicle in August 1985.  By the time the 280 SL arrived in the Port of New Jersey, the car had already traveled thousands of miles by ship.

This R107, one of 2838 made in 1985, was manufactured at the Sindelfingen plant in Germany.* [Please see note at end of article]  Brooks purchased the car and it was shipped to the US.  Once the SL passed customs in New Jersey, it then had to be federalized (i.e., modified to US automobile standards at the time.  The whole transaction, from the wiring of the required funds ($27,000) to delivery was approximately 90 days.  After Uncle Sam gave the 280 SL the thumbs up, Donald traveled to New Jersey and drove his baby home to Fruitport, a town roughly midway between Grand Haven and Muskegon Heights.

At about the same time Donald purchased a retirement home in Scottsdale, Arizona.  After spending the first six months in Fruitport, he drove the car to Scottsdale, where it remained until Donald’s son, Greg, obtained the car five years ago upon his father’s passing.

Greg says that both Mom and Dad loved traveling in the SL, and they took it to San Diego, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon.  Maintenance was performed in the early years by the Mercedes dealer in Scottsdale, later an independent mechanic in Tempe serviced it.  The car has never been driven in snow and consequently the body and undercarriage are rust free.  Greg mentions that the hardtop was removed only once in all the years that his parents owned the car; the soft top is in near-perfect condition with no tears, sagging, and heavy creases.  Some cloudiness in the plastic windows is now removed each spring.

The car is in amazing condition, thanks in no small part to Arizona’s arid desert climate.  While there it was kept in a garage and it shows, the dash is crack-free, and the window seals and all the car’s rubber parts are very clean.  The paint is, Greg swears, original, with no fading, bleaching, or cracking.  When he has taken the car to shows, visitors are incredulous that the car has never been re-sprayed or touched up.   

For a 35-year-old SL with 46,000 original miles on the odometer, the car was kept largely original.  The exceptions are a switch from the factory 14” bundt-style wheels to the current 15” Fuchs that Greg obtained from the Classic Center (five wheels, so that the spare matches the other four); new OEM floor mats, and (possibly) the Alpine stereo with cassette deck.

There is some sorting needed for a Mercedes of this vintage, namely the AC system and a hot-start issue possibly due to the warm-up regulator.  Otherwise, the car runs as beautifully as it looks.  The electrics are fully functioning.  Even the trunk’s First Aid Kit is still shrink-wrapped from the factory.

In the five years that Greg has owned it, he has only put on about 1000 miles.  He intends to drive the car more, but is still working as a sales manager for Coca-Cola.  He only recently moved back to West Michigan after 25 years of living in Brighton. 

Occasionally he participated in events with the International Stars Section.  He hopes to attend his very first DeutscheMarques (regional) event at the Gilmore Museum on July 11. Greg plans to keep the car forever and eventually pass it on to his daughter, who’s now 28.  He feels both sentiment and nostalgia for his dad’s 280 SL.  After all, it’s family.

*[End note]  A previous version of this Member Profile was mis-titled, referring to Greg’s car as a 250 SL, rather than a 280 SL.  That same version also stated that the car was produced in Argentina.  As mentioned above on page 2, Greg’s car came from the Sindelfingen plant.  Argentina did not make the R107; South Africa did, for a time, assemble R107s from “kits” that were produced and shipped from Sindelfingen.  Thanks to MBCA (Florida) member and Mercedes Classic Specialist Pierre Hedary for pointing out the errors.  And thanks also for our own West MI Section member Wolfgang Bors for his assistance.

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