1963 Mercedes-Benz 230SL “Pagoda”

Cymon Taylor ©2015, courtesy of RM Auctions

The Mercedes-Benz 230SL, immediately recognizable for its Pagoda top, was an extremely popular car within the circles of the rich and powerful. In 2013, the 230SL celebrated its 50th birthday, and it is still an iconic car today, with fans around the world.

The 230SL, built to fill the gap between the 190SL and the flagship 300SL, was a ground-up project that began with a whole new platform. Initially, the engine was to be a 2.2-liter inline 6-cylinder, but technical difficulties pushed the development of the platform back several years. Eventually, Technical Director Fritz Nallinger ordered the marriage of two projects to create platform W113. This would contain the larger 2.3-liter M127 inline six but feature a shorter chassis. Paul Bracq and Béla Barényi designed the distinctive “Pagoda” top, so named for the unique concave roof as seen on a Japanese pagoda. At the Geneva Motor Show in 1963, the Mercedes-Benz 230SL was introduced.

Although the technical features of the 230SL weren’t incredibly new, the improvements to them and the increased safety made this Mercedes-Benz special. For the first time, they offered power steering and automatic transmission in a sports car. Barényi had worked extensively on the safety of this car, and as a result, the exterior was built with a rigid passenger cell and crumple zone, and the interior was free of sharp corners.

The 230SL offered here is one of the rarer U.S. models, from the first year of production. It was imported to Europe in the spring of 2013 and was restored inside and out by a Mercedes-Benz concessionaire in Italy. The full workup included a complete overhaul of the original 2,308-cc SOHC inline 6-cylinder engine with Bosch multi-port fuel injection producing 148 horsepower, a replacement 4-speed manual transmission, and the original upper and lower A-arm front suspension with coil springs, and swing-axle, coil-spring rear suspension. The completed car was finished in a classic gray, with a matching brand-new leather interior.

Included with the car is the contemporary owner’s manual, as well as an automatic gearbox appendix, 1963 230SL parts catalog, a Becker radio manual in the original Becker red plastic envelope, a directory of the authorized Mercedes-Benz dealers that operated in the United States as of July 1964, a Haynes repair manual for the 230, 250, and 280SL, an Italian Certificato di Rilevanza Storica, an Omologazione ASI, and a FIVA Passport.

The Mercedes-Benz 230SL is a classic even amongst classics, and this example, which is in magnificent condition, is sure to impress wherever it goes.

Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson - SCM Contributor

Gary is also Editor in Chief of The Star, the magazine for the Mercedes-Benz Club of America. He has been active for many years in the Austin-Healey Club USA and is co-author of MBI’s best-selling Austin-Healey Restoration Guide, as well as editor of the Austin-Healey Magazine. An avid vintage race driver, he ran his 1960 MGA in three Monterey Historics, four Wine Country Classics, and the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. He is the author of Motoring: Getting the Maximum from Your New Mini, a comprehensive guide to the new MINI Cooper, available through Amazon.com.

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