In the rear-view mirror: The pagoda enters the stage

The Mercedes-Benz 230 SL, which was first seen on March 14, 1963 at the Geneva Motor Show, had to replace two models. The W 113 replaced both the 300 SL Roadster (W 198) and the 190 SL (W 121). The sports car built until 1971 was better known under the name “Pagoda”, which refers to the inwardly curved roof shape of the hardtop or coupe, which is reminiscent of Asian temples.

The 230 SL made an impression 60 years ago as a comfortable, two-seater touring car with high performance. Its design was created under the direction of Friedrich Geiger. It combines clear lines with the classic SL face including the large central star in the radiator grille. Paul Bracq designed the removable hardtop with the characteristic shape.

The safety level of the W 113 was groundbreaking for sports cars of the time. The floor frame system of the 230 SL came from the sedans of the W 111 series. It was shortened and reinforced. In 1959, the “Fintail” was the world’s first passenger car with a safety body, developed by safety pioneer Béla Barényi. The “Pagoda” also benefited from this with a stable passenger cell and crumple zones at the front and rear. The suspension was firm, but almost uncharacteristically comfortable for a 1960s sports car. A four-speed automatic transmission was available as an option for the first time in an SL. The 230 SL had disc brakes on the front wheels, the 250 SL built from 1967 also on the rear axle.

During its eight-year construction period, Mercedes-Benz offered the SL with three different engines. The sporty six-cylinder M 127 of the 230 SL was based on the M 180 of the 220 SE, whose displacement was increased to 2306 cc. The engine produced 150 hp (110 kW) and the top speed was 200 km/h. The sports car accelerated from standstill to 100 km/h in 11.1 seconds.

Mercedes-Benz also used the 230 SL successfully in motorsport. The victory of Eugen Böhringer and Klaus Kaiser in the more than 5000 km long Spa-Sofia-Liège marathon rally at the end of August 1963 was outstanding. The following year, the duo also achieved third place with the 230 SL.

At the end of 1966, the 250 SL replaced the 230. Its M 129 six-cylinder in-line engine had a displacement of 2496 cc. Performance and top speed remained the same as the previous model, but the acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h was 1.1 seconds faster. In addition, the 250 SL received a brake force regulator, larger front brake discs and the aforementioned rear disc brakes. Another difference: the 250 SL was optionally available with a coupé roof and rear bench seat. This “California” version supplemented the body variant known from the 230 SL as a roadster with a fabric top and a removable coupé roof. Mercedes-Benz first showed the version with a rear bench seat in March 1967, also in Geneva. The “California” had neither a roadster top nor a top box to create space for the rear bench seat.

The 280 SL with the 2778 cc inline six-cylinder M 130 appeared in 1968 – and was the most successful version of the series. The power increased to 170 hp (125 kW). Acceleration to 100 km/h was possible in nine seconds. However, it remained at a top speed of 200 km/h.

Production of the W 113 ended in March 1971 after a total of 48,912 vehicles had been built. Of these, 19,831 were 230 SLs, 5,196 were 250 SLs and 23,885 were 280 SLs. (awm)

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