The absolutely stunning Mercedes-Benz 230 SL “Pagoda” is offered fresh from its transformation into a street-sleeping supercar by Mechatronik. Founded in 1997, Mechatronik GmbH has established itself over the last 25 years as one of the foremost specialists for classic Mercedes-Benz cars. Based in Pleidelsheim, Germany, north of Stuttgart, the company has been renowned for the superlative quality of its work since the first prototype M-SL left the workshop in 1997. In particular, its expertise is in incorporating modern automotive technology in classic Mercedes-Be

nz cars that outwardly look unchanged.

In order to maintain its high-quality standards, Mechatronik has limited the number of complete assemblies to just five vehicles per year. Given the small numbers produced annually, it is not surprising to learn that the waiting list to acquire one of these special Mercedes is lengthy, with would-be purchasers not deterred by a list price, in the case of this Pagoda, of around €550,000 ($595k).

The heart of Mechatronik’s M-SL conversions is the Mercedes-Benz M113 V8 engine, either as a 4.3-liter (279 hp) or 5.0-liter (320 hp). Engines are carefully selected and checked for their suitability for the conversion; only if they meet Mechatronik’s stringent quality requirements are they approved for a complete overhaul. Only after the two-day testing procedure has been completed will the quality-control department give its final approval for the engine to be installed. The transmission used is the Mercedes-Benz 5-speed automatic (NAG1), which must meet the same quality requirements before installation. The completed cars are badged “M-SL” by Mechatronik.

In the case of this 230SL Pagoda (the donor car), it received a full restoration to the highest concours standards as well as all of Mechatronik’s upgrades to the engine, transmission and running gear. Fitted with the optional and desirable 5.0-liter AMG engine, it is fitted with a modern 5-speed automatic transmission, ABS and ASR, powerful brakes and, of course, unique comfort features like air conditioning, electric power windows, heated seats, sound and navigation system. Moreover, this example comes complete with a desirable hard top. This M-SL is finished in a lovely Midnight Blue Metallic shade over a red leather interior. Very well specified though still extremely analog, the car is presented in “as new” condition, having covered only 140 shakedown kilometers since the restoration’s completion. Needless to say, this veritable “wolf in sheep’s clothing” is immense fun to drive.

SCM Analysis

Detailing

Vehicle:1967 Mercedes-Benz M-SL500 by Mechatronik
Years Produced:1963–67 (230SL)
Number Produced:19,831
Tune Up Cost:$500
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on frame in engine bay, underneath intake manifold
Engine Number Location:Stamped on left rear of block, below spark plugs
Club Info:Mercedes-Benz Club of America
Website:http://www.mbca.org
Alternatives:1962–68 Alfa Romeo 2600 spider, 1963–67 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, 1964–66 Porsche 356 cabriolet

This car, Lot 116, sold for $534,488 (€506,000), including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams Cars’ auction in Knokke-Heist, BEL, on October 8, 2023.

I became a big fan of Mercedes-Benz cars in the mid- to late-1990s. My infatuation with the brand had an interesting start. I had a part-time auto-detailing business that catered to enthusiasts and dealers who specialized in collector cars. It was not uncommon for me to work for long hours hands-on with the most desirable and obscure foreign and domestic sports cars. I developed a strong attention to detail, and it was impossible for me not to recognize the extremely high build-quality standards in Mercedes-Benz cars from the post-war period up to that present day.

Pagoda passion

The W113 “Pagoda” SL (1963–71) was designed by Paul Bracq and his team as the successor to the 190SL and made significant advances in every respect. The interiors were well appointed with a leather or MB-Tex-wrapped dashboard, door cards and seat covers, yet they were never produced with power windows or seats. It’s a design that aged gracefully, and the Pagoda will forever be a highly sought-after collector car.

The W113 was the perfect SL of its day, as it provided a great driving experience in an open car that could be transformed into a coupe with its elegantly designed “pagoda” hard top. Power came from fuel-injected inline-6s that provided enough grunt to satisfy the performance desires of its day. The original car could by no means smoke the tires from a standstill or handle with the precision of a Porsche 911S, but it did everything competently, while providing comfort and reliability.

A purist reconsiders

I would describe the W113 as industrial art. To someone like me, the sympathetic preservation of a vehicle’s original form is always best. But our subject car has me thinking twice about this purist stance.

Today I am a reseller of classic Mercedes-Benz cars, and with that comes the realization that you must give the consumer what they desire. This M-SL500 began life as a 1967 230SL and was re-created by Mechatronik into a car that preserved the styling of the original design while adding the performance of a modern sports car. Great attention to detail is evident in little things, such as the power-window and -seat switches being taken from the more-modern W124/W126 vehicles from the late 1980s through early ’90s. The color combination scores high marks, with the dark Midnight Blue Metallic paint mating up exceptionally well with the red leather upholstery.

Both of this vehicle’s front seats are power adjustable and heated; the latter option was not available until the late-model R107 (1986–89), while power seats were not even a thought until the launch of the R129 SL in 1990. Mechatronik added a tasteful burlwood center console armrest with storage that was inspired by the original design but with the ashtray concealing the seat and window switches. The retro-appearance audio head unit is also quite tasteful, as it has a clean period look that matches the dashboard brightwork but delivers modern surround sound to satisfy an audiophile.

The exterior of the car looks like a factory-fresh Pagoda, but this shade of blue was not an option in-period. Looking at the paint, however, it should have been. What really sets the exterior of this car apart is the addition of 15-inch wheels with period body-color hubcaps. These W113s only came from Mercedes with 14-inch wheels. The additional inch fills out the fenders and quarters beautifully.

The M113 naturally aspirated V8 produces 320 horses, a substantial upgrade from the 170 the final-year 1971 280SL produced (and an even further gap from this 230SL’s original 148-hp 2.3-liter engine). The car is also mated up to a relatively contemporary 5-speed automatic transmission, has better brakes with ABS and ASR, plus modern air conditioning, and all the Bluetooth and navigation features expected by today’s consumers.

Classic looks, modern appeal

This Pagoda’s cosmetics were well thought out and executed, and the mechanical upgrades and use of Mercedes-Benz components should make brand aficionados appreciate the effort. Simply put, the car looks like a new W113 updated with all the power, performance and amenities of a modern sports car.

While I am still a purist, I fully understand the hammer price at $534k. This is a huge result for a W113, but building another one like this would take an incredible amount of time, money and planning. I am not surprised at all by the result, which allowed the new owner to skip the line and even get a discount off MSRP. On this day, the buyer knew what they wanted, and they wanted it now. Fairly bought. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams Cars.)

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