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1963 Mercedes-Benz 230 SL ‘Pagoda’ Debut

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.

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1946-1948 Chrysler Town & Country

Chrysler rolled out its new, wooden-bodied Town & Country models in 1946 with promises of a full line of “woodies,” including a convertible, a sedan, and a roadster. But only the convertible and sedan saw production

A black and white photo of the new for 1946 Chrysler Town & Country convertible

The retail price on average for the 1946 Chrysler Town & Country in the U.S. was $2,609 ($40,027 in 2023.) Production totals were documented at 2,169. (Photos courtesy of Stellantis media archives)


There’s a certain charm to the white-socks stance as shown in these PR images of the 1946 Chrysler Town & Country Convertible Coupe. It was a new beginning for U.S. carmakers. World War II ended in 1945 and automakers again ramped up car production after transitioning from building war machines.
When GIs returned home from war, they were ready to let the good times roll and Chrysler was ready with its restart of the 1946 Town & Country nameplate.

The Chrysler Town & Country had been in production from 1940 to 1942, primarily as a luxury station wagon, according to the car’s page on Wikipedia. During this time, the Town & Country was also available in wooden-bodied — “woodie” — body styles of a four-door sedan, two-door hardtop, and convertible.

“Following the war, the Town & Country nameplate returned, though the eight-passenger station wagon did not. Only the 1946 Town & Country four-door sedan and the 1946 Town & Country two-door convertible were offered.

Curiously, the 1946 Town & Country sales brochure also described and illustrated a roadster, a two-door sedan called the Brougham, and a two-door hardtop called the Custom Club Coupe. None of those three additional body styles progressed beyond the prototype stage. Only one Brougham and seven Custom Club Coupes were built,” per Wikipedia.

Luxurious and Elite

I found these notes from an auction report by RM Sotheby’s: “While the sedan was a warm, clubby sanctuary for the trip to one’s hunting lodge, the convertible was elite, a favorite of such celebrities as actress Marie “The Body” MacDonald and popular Western actor Leo Carrillo. Some 8,368 convertibles were sold in three years.”
The Town & Country’s wooden body framing was made from white ash and the panels were mahogany veneer but were now bonded to steel body panels. The convertible’s retail price on average in the U.S. was $2,609 ($36,254 in 2021 dollars; production totals were documented at 2,169, per Wikipedia.

An original 1946-48 Chrysler Town & Country sedan, with accessory roof-rack rails.

The 1946 Chrysler Town & Country sedan has been described as a warm, clubby sanctuary for the trip to one’s hunting lodge.

Town & Country for 1947

During the 1947 model year, the Chrysler Town & Country sedan and the convertible each carried over with just a few improvements over the previous model year (1946).


By 1948, the Town & Country sedan was in its last model year of production, after only a three-model-year production run (since the 1946 model year). The 1948 Town & Country convertible carried over with just a few improvements over the previous model year (1947). This was also the year the genuine Honduran mahogany wood panels were replaced by DI-NOC vinyl panels.


The 1949 Town & Country convertible was now in its last model year of production, which was the only Chrysler Town & Country offering during the 1949 model year.

After a four-model-year production run, Chrysler would produce its last true woodie offering, the Town & Country Newport two-door hardtop.

The cars for 1949 were Chrysler’s first new postwar designs, with a longer wheelbase (131.5 inches), and based upon the New Yorker model.

During its one-model-year production run, the 1950 T&C panels were now simulated wood. The year also marked a new optional feature, windshield washers.


Chrysler’s Town & Country wagon was reintroduced with all-steel construction in 1951. Windsor and New Yorker variants would continue through the end of Windsor model production for the 1960 model year; Newport and New Yorker models continued through 1965.

A black and white pr phot of the 1946 Chrysler Town & Country sedan

The 1946-1948 Chrysler Town & Country sedan.


In 1966, The T&C wagon became a stand-alone model, with trim and features which bridged the gap between the two sedan lines. It was distinguished by luxury features including a carpeted rear cargo area with split-folding second-row bench seats trimmed with chromed strips of steel.

From 1968 forward simulated woodgrain paneling was used on the body sides and tailgate. The treatment was also applied to other competing station wagons, such as the AMC Ambassador, Buick Estate, Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, Ford Country Squire, and the Mercury Colony Park. In 1976, AMC introduced the Jeep Grand Wagoneer with a simulated woodgrain appearance built on a dedicated chassis.

The Town and Country, however, was in a luxury class by itself until the last of the full-sized versions of 1977. From 1978, it was downsized and absorbed into the LeBaron series. A lower-content version lacking the more luxurious features and woodgrain bodyside decals was available for a few years in the early 1980s.

Last of the T&C Wagons

The 1988 model year was the last for the station wagon until 1990. It was that year when Chrysler reintroduced the Town & Country nameplate as the rebadged variant Chrysler Town & Country minivan.

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4-seat Ford Thunderbird debuts Feb. 13, 1958

A soft green 1958 Ford Thunderbird posed with a Ford Model T on a low hillside above

The second generation Ford Thunderbird (also called Squarebird]) was produced by Ford for the 1958 to 1960 model years as a successor to the popular 1955–1957 two-seater. (Photos courtesy of Ford Motor archives)

Two major changes were made to attract buyers: two rear seats were added and the level of luxury and features of a full-sized car were incorporated into a mid-size platform


The Ford Thunderbird first hit the market in October 1954 as a two-seater to compete with the two-year-old Chevrolet Corvette, according to

“Unlike the Corvette, Ford marketed the “Baby Bird,” as the first generation of T-Birds has come to be known, as a personal luxury vehicle, not a sports car.

“Focusing on its comfort and convenience proved to be the right route for Ford, as the car found wild success, outselling Corvette nearly 23 to 1 in its first year of production. Between 1955 and 1957, some 50,000 Thunderbirds ended up in driveways around the country.

“The big wigs upstairs at Ford, particularly whiz kid Robert McNamara, thought it could do better. This led to a complete redesign for 1958, resulting in the four-seat Ford Thunderbird, which debuted on this day in 1958.”

Thunderbird Convertible Models

The second-to-fourth-generation Thunderbird convertibles were similar in design to the Lincoln convertible of the time, according to Wikipedia 

The so-called “Squarebirds” used a design from earlier Ford Skyliner hardtop and convertible models.

“While these Thunderbird models had a true convertible soft top, the top was lowered to stow in the trunk area, according to the Wikipedia page. This design reduced available trunk space when the top was down.

Thunderbird Names

Two 1958 Ford Thunderbirds with one car facing forward and another facing rearward

Along with the 1958 Lincolns, the 1958 Thunderbird was the first Ford Motor Company vehicle designed with unibody construction.

The Thunderbird name was not among the thousands proposed, according to Wikipedia. Other nameplates that were rejected include “Apache” (the original name of the P-51 Mustang), “Falcon” (owned by Chrysler at the time), and “Eagle,” “Tropicale,” “Hawaiian,” and “Thunderbolt.”

A Ford stylist who had lived in the Southwest submitted the Thunderbird name. The word “thunderbird” refers to a legendary creature for North American indigenous people. It is considered a supernatural bird of power and strength.

Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., also lays claim to being the inspiration for the car’s name. According to it, Ernest Breech, a Thunderbird Country Club member and then chairman of Ford Motor, was supposedly deeply involved in creating the Thunderbird. Breech, it is claimed, asked the club’s permission to use the name, which was granted.

Thunderbird Legacy

Succeeding generations of Thunderbird became larger until the line was downsized in 1977, in 1980, and in 1983. Sales were good until the 1990s when large two-door coupes became unpopular. Thunderbird production ceased at the end of 1997.

Production of a revived two-seat Thunderbird was launched for the 2002 model year and continued through the 2005 model year.

From its introduction in 1955 to its final phaseout in 2005, Ford produced more than 4.4 million Thunderbirds.

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Cadillac Debuts Hydra-Matic Drive for 1940

Advertising in 1940 proclaimed GM’s Hydra-Matic Drive Transmission as “the greatest advancement since the self-starter”

A black-and-white PR photo of a Cadillac Sixty-One coupe.

The1941 Cadillac Sixty-One five-passenger coupe was touted as ‘the mightiest, thriftiest, lowest-priced Cadillac V-8 ever built.’ (GM Media Archive)


In 1939, General Motors’ Cadillac and Oldsmobile divisions introduced breakthrough technology in the fully automatic Hydra-Matic Drive transmission. The transmission debuted for the 1940 model year.

“The Hydramatic was the first mass-produced fully-automatic transmission developed for passenger automobile use,” according to its page in Wikipedia.

Shiftless transmissions had been a focus during the 1930s. Then, as now, shifting a manual gearbox required more effort than most drivers cared to exert.

According to the Wiki story, automakers were in the fast lane to develop a transmission that reduces or eliminates the need to shift gears.

“At the time, synchronized gear shifting was still a novelty (typically only for higher gears). The exception was Cadillac’s breakthrough synchromesh fully synchronized manual transmission.”

The synchromesh transmission was designed by Cadillac engineer Earl A. Thompson and introduced in the fall of 1928.

Developing a Shiftless Transmission

By the early 1930s, Thompson had begun work on a “shiftless” transmission. His pioneering work led to creating a new department within Cadillac Engineering. Headed by Thompson, the transmission group included engineers Ernest Seaholm, Ed Cole, Owen Nacker, and Oliver Kelley.

“During 1934, the Cadillac transmission group had developed a step-ratio gearbox that would shift automatically under full torque,” according to Wikipedia. “This group of engineers was then moved into the General Motors Research Laboratory, building pilot transmission units during 1935-36. The transmission then went to Oldsmobile for testing.

a 1940 color print ad for General Motors' new Hydra Matic fully automatic transmission

All Cadillac models for 1941 could be optioned with the Hydra-Matic. (GM Media Archive)

The group effort led to the so-called Automatic Safety Transmission. The AST was a semi-automatic transmission using planetary gears and a conventional friction clutch. Drivers were still required to use the clutch to shift into or out of gear, but not between the two forward gears.

Oldsmobile offered the AST from 1937-1939, while Buick offered it only in 1938.

The next step was the Hydra-Matic. It combined the hydraulic operation of a planetary gearbox (for the automation of shifting) with a fluid coupling instead of a friction clutch, eliminating the need for de-clutching. The transmission would have four forward speeds plus reverse.

The transmission was named “Hydra-Matic Drive” and went into production in May 1939 for the 1940 model year.

Start of Hydra-Matic Production

The first Oldsmobiles so equipped were shipped in October 1939 in the Oldsmobile Series 60 and the Oldsmobile Series 70.

Oldsmobile was chosen to introduce the Hydra-Matic for two reasons:

  • Economies of scale — Oldsmobile produced more cars than Cadillac and Buick at the time, thus providing a better test base;
  • And to protect the reputation of Cadillac and Buick in case of a market failure of the new transmission. Advertising proclaimed it “the greatest advancement since the self-starter.”

In 1940, the Hydra-Matic was a $57 option (around $1,102 today). The price almost doubled for 1941, to $100 (or about $1,842 today). For the 1941 Cadillacs, the Hydra-Matic cost $125.

The transmission was a popular upgrade. Almost 200,000 cars had been optioned with the transmission by the time passenger car production was halted for wartime production in February 1942.

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1956 Volvo 122 ‘Amason’ aka Amazon

A vintage corporate PR image showing three Volvo Amazon cars being weighed together and lifted by a crane.This corporate PR image for the Volvo Amazon has the caption: “Three models are lifted to check their total weights.” (Photos courtesy of Volvo)



The Volvo Amazon was a midsized car manufactured and marketed by Volvo Cars from 1956 to 1970, according to its page in Wikipedia. It was introduced to the United States in 1959 as the 122S during the New York International Auto Show.

When introduced, the car was named the Amason (with an ‘s’) in tribute to the fierce female warriors of Greek mythology, the Amazons. German motorcycle manufacturer Kreidler had already registered the name. After negotiations, the two companies agreed that Volvo could only use the name Amazon within Sweden. Subsequently, Volvo began its tri-digit nomenclature and the line became known as the 120 Series.

Volvo invented the three-point seat belt in 1959

In 1959, Volvo claimed to be the world’s first manufacturer to provide front seat belts as standard equipment.

Ponton Styling 

The Volvo Amazon was sold in body styles of two-door sedan, four-door sedan, and five-door wagon — all noted for their ponton styling.

“The Amazon’s “ponton” (pontoon-like) three-box styling was inspired by U.S. cars of the early 1950s, according to Wikipedia. The ponton styling strongly resembled the Chrysler New Yorker sedan and the Chrysler 300C hardtop coupe. Amazon designer Jan Wilsgaard said he was inspired by an American Kaiser he saw at the Gothenburg, Sweden, port.

At introduction, the Amazon had a choice of two four-cylinder engines. The base in-line OHV 1.6-liter had 60-horsepower and there was an uplevel 85-hp variant. Power upgrades came in 1961 with a 70- or 90-hp 1.8-liter four-cylinder, with a bump to 95-hp in 1965.

A colorful marketing image of a two-tone red and white Amazon surrounded by admiring caballeros

This group of caballeros (ranch hands) might be pondering an Amazon pickup.

The Volvo Amazon had floor-mounted manual transmissions had either three- or four-speeds, with or without overdrive. However, some cars were delivered with a steering-column shifter.

Always a safety innovator, Volvo invented the three-point seat belt. It then began to provide the front seat belts as standard equipment. The belts were added to all Amazon models, including those for export.

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1964 Dodge 330 HEMI Lightweight?

A B&W image from Stellantis PR archives of the production line for “Historical Mopar 1964 Package Car Production.”

“Historical Mopar 1964 Package Car Production,” from the Stellantis PR archives.


This photo from the Stellantis PR vehicle archives shows “Historical Mopar 1964 Package Car Production.” The car being assembled is not identified in the caption, but it appears to be a 1964 Dodge 330 HEMI Lightweight. Built for speed, it was a privateer’s super stock drag car.

Note the skinny front tires with magnesium wheels (not steelies with dog-dish nut covers). Also unique are the hood pins and the grille with single headlights because we don’t need no turn signals on a race track.

A car similar to this factory image sold at Bonham’s 2021 Amelia Island Auction. According to the auction report, the 1964 Dodge 330 Hemi Lightweight on offer was “One of 55 A864 lightweight cars for the model year.” And it was built with aluminum and magnesium parts from the factory.

How Much?

There is a fine example for sale now through Hemmings. Asking price: $159,000.

According to a report in, the Dodge 330 Lightweight was identified by the Hemi engine code A864. The engine denoted the cross-ram-equipped race Hemi drag engine.

“For 1964, the Hemi package had an aluminum intake, offset dual Holley carburetors, 12.5:1 compression, and chrome valve covers,” according to the ConceptCarz report.

“The exhaust system used factory cutouts, one transverse-mounted muffler, and a single exhaust exit.

“The Hemi models used light aluminum components wherever possible, including the fenders, hood, scoop, front bumper, and doors.

“The battery was moved to the trunk and the rear seat was deleted. The engines were backed by the A727 TorqueFlite transmission operated by pushbuttons in the dash.

“Interiors included factory lightweight A100 bucket seats with lightweight brackets, red carpeting, and radio- and heater-delete plates.

“The side windows were made from thin plastic and the rear window was from lightweight Plexiglas. Magnesium wheels were at the front.”

Bonham’s Auction Report

In Bonham’s auction report, the red 1964 Dodge 330 HEMI Lightweight on offer was “Stored & unused from 1966 – 2006.” And its authenticity was documented by Mopar expert Galen Govier. The car was sold new at Mr. Norm’s Grand Spaulding Dodge . “Mr. Norm” was the legendary purveyor of high-performance Mopar muscle, beginning in 1962 at his Chicago dealership.

The car in the Bonham’s auction did not sell at the time, and it likely would have taken $150,000 or more.

Bonham’s car had these specs for chassis no. 6142229092:

  • 426ci Hemi V8 Engine
  • Dual Offset Holley Carburetors
  • 425bhp
  • 3-Speed 727 Torqueflite Racing Automatic Transmission
  • Independent Front with Live Rear Axle
  • 4-Wheel Hydraulic Drum Brakes
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