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A 1963 SL in front of a bavarian hotel.

Production of the Mercedes-Benz SL “Pagoda” (W 113) ran from 1963 to 1967. (Photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Classic archive).


The Mercedes-Benz 230 SL, also known as the W113, debuted at the Geneva auto show on March 14, 1963.

With its aerodynamic design and a removable hardtop roof, the two-seat Mercedes -Benz 230 SL two-seater replaced the 190 SL and the 300 SL models. Of the 48,912 W113 SLs produced between 1963 and 1967, 19,440 were sold in the U.S, according to the W113 page in Wikipedia.

All 230 SL models were rear-wheel drive and equipped with an inline-six cylinder engine and a standard four-speed manual transmission or automatic four-speed, mainly for the U.S. market. The hood, trunk lid, door skins, and tonneau cover were made of aluminum to reduce weight.

A black and white pr photo Mercedes Benz display at the Geneva Motor Show, March 14-24, 1963. Standing beside the car are safety developer Béla Barényi (right) and designer Paul Bracq.

The 230 SL at its premiere at the Geneva Motor Show, March 14-24, 1963. Standing beside the car are safety developer Béla Barényi (right) and designer Paul Bracq.

The front styling of the SL showcases the upright Bosch “fishbowl” headlights. The large three-pointed star centered the simple chrome grille, which paid homage to the 300 SL roadster.

W113 SLs were typically configured as a coupe-roadster with a soft top and an optional removable hardtop. A 2+2 was introduced with the 250 SL “California Coupe,” which had a fold-down rear bench seat instead of a soft top.

A studio image of the 230 SL interior.

A studio image of the 230 SL interior.

SL Heritage From 1955

The redesigned 230 SL traces its heritage to the first 190 SL model in 1955.

“By 1955, Mercedes-Benz Technical Director Prof. Fritz Nallinger and his team held no illusions regarding the 190 SL’s lack of performance,” according to the Wikipedia report.

The high price of the legendary 300 SL supercar kept it elusive for all but the most affluent buyers. To reach more buyers, Mercedes-Benz started evolving the 190 SL on a new platform, model code W127. It would have a fuel-injected 2.2 liter M127 inline-six engine, internally denoted as 220 SL. Encouraged by positive test results, Nallinger proposed that the 220 SL go into production in July 1957.

The 148-hp 2.3-liter straight six in the 1963 230 SL.

The 148-hp 2.3-liter straight six in the Mercedes-Benz 230 SL.

230 SL Production Delayed

Technical difficulties kept postponing the production start of the W127. The emerging new S-Class W 112 platform introduced novel body manufacturing technology. So in 1960, Nallinger proposed to develop an entirely new 220 SL design based on the “fintail” W 111 sedan platform, its wheelbase shortened by nearly a foot (11.8 inches).

The revised W 113 platform debuted an improved and fuel-injected 2.3 liter M127 inline-six engine, rated 148 horsepower with 149 foot-pounds of torque. The newly designated 230 SL also debuted the distinctive “pagoda” hardtop roof.

“It was our aim to create a very safe and fast sports car with high performance, which despite its sports characteristics, provides a very high degree of traveling comfort,” Nallinger said at the Geneva debut.

A black and white auto show display of 230 SLs.

The1963 Frankfurt International Motor Show display for the Mercedes-Benz 230 SL.

230 SL Performance

Mercedes-Benz Chief Engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut demonstrated the capabilities of the 230 SL on the tight three-quarter mile Annemasse Vétraz-Monthoux race track in 1963. (The track was active from active 1962-1972).

Uhlenhaut clocked a best lap time of 47.5 seconds versus 47.3 seconds by Grand Prix driver Mike Parkes in his 3-liter V12 Ferrari 250 GT.

SL, or Sehr Leicht, translates as “very light.”

The original list price for a 1963 230 SL was $7,506. Today, a 1963-1967 Mercedes-Benz SL 230 in “Good” condition has a selling price of around $50,000, according to

Production of the 230 SL commenced in June 1963 and ended on Jan. 5, 1967.

The rally team in 1964.

The “Pagoda” SL was a successful rally car. This photo of the rally team is from the 34th Spa-Sofia-Liège Rally Aug. 25-29, 1964. From left to right: Martin Braungart, Dieter Glemser, Alfred Kling, Ewy Rosqvist, Manfred Schiek, Eugen Böhringer, Rolf Kreder and Klaus Kaiser.