1964 MERCEDES-BENZ 230 SL PagodaView vehicle description
The Mercedes W113 ‘Pagoda’ - a nickname it gained due to its slightly concave hardtop roof - was the first Mercedes sports car to be based on the so-called ‘safety body’, a rigid passenger compartment bookended by crumple zones that dissipated energy in the event of an accident.
Which is worthy but dull. So, shall we talk about the way it looks, instead? Or the way it drives? Or its performance? Or shall we just take all that as read and agree that it is one of the most iconic sportscars of the 20th century?
The 230SL is the earliest and purist iteration. Introduced in 1963 and fitted with a 2.3-litre, fuel-injected engine developing 148bhp, the 230SL might not have been fast, but it was sprightly enough to be fun and anyway, to criticize the 230SL for not being fast is like criticizing Audrey Hepburn for not being able to run the 100m in under ten seconds…
A firm favourite with Hollywood the Pagoda has appeared in a number of films and can count several actors, including John Travolta, Charlton Heston and Peter Ustinov, among its fans.
And if the legends of the Silver Screen leave you cold, then rest assured that David Coulthard, Stirling Moss, Nico Rosberg, and even Fangio himself, have been similarly smitten.
Originally Arabian Grey, this delightful Mercedes-Benz 230SL ‘Pagoda’ was resprayed red in 1965, shortly after being purchased in Germany by a chap in the military who took it home with him to the United States when his overseas tour finished.
Believed to have spent most, if not all, of its time in Missouri and Arizona, we are told that it still has its original floors as a consequence. It came to the United Kingdom in around 2020/21 and its coachwork was restored only last month and it is now resplendent in Arabian Grey once more.
The interior is said to be the original and the seller says it was in such a good condition that it only needed cleaning and refreshing. The owner now proudly says “it speaks for itself”.
The SL comes with the iconic ‘Pagoda’ roof in addition to a soft-top, making it the ultimate in all-season elegance. Fitted with a set of winter tyres and a ski rack, we can’t think of a more elegant way to arrive at your Swiss ski chalet…
On the Outside
Fresh out of the paint shop, the Arabian Grey paintwork looks wonderful. The vendor is not a man to skimp, so he took the opportunity to fit many new rubber seals at the same time, a shrewd move that’s paid dividends in easing the car’s overall condition ever higher.
The underlying panels are excellent with neat alignment, consistent panel gaps, and very good chrome; a colour like grey oughtn’t to work on a classic sportscar but the flashes of colour provided by the red interior, rear lamps, and the silver brightwork mean that Arabian grey is one of our new favourite colours.
It helps, of course, that the design is so achingly lovely. Very of its time, the combination of svelte lines, a perfect stance and those vertical headlamps make this one of the most beautiful cars of the period.
The rear view is especially noteworthy: with chrome quarter bumpers, twin tailpipes, a black and silver numberplate, and a pair of wide, low rear lamps, it’s a lovely design and one we can’t imagine ever tiring of looking at.
The 14-inch wheels are trimmed with a set of M-B hubcaps, painted and adorned with chrome. They’re in great shape and are fitted with a matching set of Hankook Optimo H724 tyres
We will never get tired of telling you that experience shows that matching high-quality tyres are an infallible sign of a caring and mechanically sympathetic owner who is prepared to spend the appropriate amount in maintaining their car properly. Their presence does not, of course, preclude the need for a thorough inspection - something the vendor would welcome, by the way – but it does perhaps give you a shortcut into their attitude towards maintenance.
The black folding hood is in a good condition, furling and unfurling as it should. It’s free of rips and tears but is creased and stained in places (i.e. #302, #306, and #308).
The hardtop’s paint looks good and it fits well. If the SL’s best lines are created with the roof down, then its profile with the solid roof fitted is only very slightly behind; the ensemble looks absolutely terrific but we did notice that the chrome edging strips aren’t to quite the same high standard as the rest of the exterior brightwork.
On the Inside
The pagoda’s interior is typical of Mercedes of the period, which is to say it’s utterly gorgeous while remaining very useable, form and function combining seamlessly to create something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
The star of the show is, perhaps, the huge white steering wheel that’s such a vital part of the ‘60’s M-B experience. It’s in great shape, as are the seats, which are firm and yet yielding in that way no-one else seems to manage.
The vendor tells us that the leather interior required nothing more than cleaning and refreshing, and the result is bright and inviting.
As you can see, the carpets and dashboard are also very good – and we love how stylish the black overmats are.
The boot floor is solid but does have some surface rust on it, which will need sorting out (#277).
Other work depends on your attitude towards patination. The sunvisors are a little saggy (#292), the ashtray in the centre console doesn’t sit flat (#91), there are a few marks on a door card (#218), and there is a tiny crack in the rim of the steering wheel (#92).
Some of the interior chrome is a little pitted too, but that’s almost inevitable in a convertible.
All are fairly trivial and that this is all we can find to mention says all you need to know about the quality of the interior as a whole.
The car didn’t need anything doing to it mechanically, so the seller restricted his work to a service. We do note what appears to be a coolant leak (#348) as well as some perished bushes (#349).
Now running well, the fact the mechanical system was largely untouched does mean that the engine bay isn’t finished to the same high standard as the rest of the SL and we can see its new owner would want to tidy it up over time and possibly give the engine a good "once over" to ensure everything is in check.
The underside is, according to the seller, the original metalwork. Freshly coated with underseal, it presents well.
The Mercedes comes with its owner’s handbook and service history booklet plus the shipping documents from 1965. It also has some old invoices for parts and servicing from its time ‘Stateside, including some from as recently as 2019 and 2020 for servicing and miscellaneous fettling.
The Pagoda doesn’t have a current MoT certificate, and while it is exempt by virtue of its age, we would strongly encourage the new owner to have it MoT’d at the earliest opportunity. The cost of an MoT is a small investment when offset against the purchase and upkeep of any classic vehicle, and it gives an independent, third-party assessment of the car’s condition, which not only provides reassurance to the owner (and any subsequent purchasers) but might also be invaluable in the event of a bump when negotiating with the police and any interested insurance companies…
The recent Vehicle History Check is clean.
What We Think
The Mercedes-Benz 230SL Pagoda spent a lot of its life in the shadow of its more famous siblings, which is ridiculous because not only is it utterly gorgeous, it also has a star-studded appeal all its own.
Trouble is, folk are starting to cotton on to just how good these pretty little sportscars are, so prices are starting to nudge up, which means we think you’ll have to stump up somewhere between £60,000 and £70,000 to make this one yours.
Still, the cost of any classic car can only be calculated after you’ve sold it and cars of this quality are always in demand, so you might be pleasantly surprised when the time comes to let it go.
And besides, who wouldn’t want to be able to say they drove the same car as Fangio?
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- Location: The Market HQ, Abingdon, United Kingdom
- Seller Type: Private
- Odometer Reading: 63000
- Chassis Number: 11304210006610
- Engine: 2300
- Gearbox: Manual
- Steering position: Left-hand drive
- Colour: Arabian Grey
- Interior: Red Leather
- Estimated Price: £60,000 - £70,000