Doug Dees

Doug Dees likes to wind up the unwary with a tongue-in-cheek claim that Sophia Loren slept in the sexy Mercedes he restored as a graduation present for his son.

She didn’t really, and after a seven-year restoration, Dees will finally deliver the car to his son this summer.

But the silver 1969 280SL – an example of Mercedes-Benz’s “Pagoda” sports cars – does have an Italian connection.

The classy 280SL was a favorite of movie stars back in the day, and this one did spend its early years in Turin before making its way to California and then turning up in Toronto. Dees found it stored outdoors in the Beaches, under a tarp with a door and fender panel punched in. But “it looked brand new underneath,” and he decided a bit of work would make it “fine” again.

After four years of effort, and $50,000, the 280SL was an order of magnitude better than just “fine.” It was also now two years overdue as son Oliver’s graduation gift.

A job in Calgary forestalled a planned father/son shakedown cruise along Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. Dees drove the 10,000 kilometers with his brother-in-law instead, as part of a Mercedes-Benz Car Club of America tour. And then there was a delay while Oliver, who has driven it just twice so far, acquired a home with a double garage. But this summer, Dees is determined to make the long-overdue delivery.

The 230SL, 250SL and 280SL were cars that, from 1963-71, ably carried on the traditions founded by the super cars of their day, Gullwing-doored 300SLs and the elegantly contoured and classy 190SL boulevardiers.

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BOB ENGLISH, Published Friday, Apr. 26, 2013 06:00AM EDT