The wonderful SL Pagoda legend was born with the 230SL, it epitomising all that is good about automotive design. Few cars have ever been this pretty, nor enjoyed the heritage of its forebears, as was the case in 1963 when Mercedes-Benz launched the 230SL.
Of course the linage of the Pagoda goes back to the 300SL, a production car that was not meant to be, given the company had really only designed the car for racing purposes.
It was the far sighted Daimler-Benz General Director Wilhelm Haspel who gave the green light for the SL’s production, he being convinced by U.S. importer Max Hoffman that there was a market for the race-track special.
That said, only 1,400 Gullwing and 1,800 Roadster 300SL’s would be manufactured before production ended. Was there something dramatically wrong with the SL? The answer was yes – and no.
The 300SL was unquestionably a mechanical masterpiece, it boasted jaw-dropping good looks, the inherent build quality was unquestioned, and even the lady folk could forgive the less than lady-like posture required for entry and egress via the Gullwing’s doors.
The problem with the SL was instead much more simple, the cost of purchasing one putting it out of reach of pretty much everyone, including the well-heeled, particularly when you considered the entry cost to sports car ownership offered by some of the other high-brow manufacturers, most notably Jaguar and Austin Healey.
To make the SL a commercial success, Mercedes needed to create a more price competitive model, one that retained the good looks of the 300SL, but offered a price tag that was at least within reach of a few. The resultant 190SL was a watershed design, and brought over the inherent build quality, along with similar stunning good looks and design.
However there was one ingredient missing with the 190SL, and that was performance. If you compared it against the Jaguar E-Type or Austin Healey 3000 you quickly realised, at least from a performance perspective, it was so far off the pace that it was better described as a boulevard cruiser than a true sports car.
Of course the main problem with the 190SL was the use of a 4 cylinder engine, and it was obvious a six cylinder would be much better suited to a car with such sporting pretensions. In a way, the Daimler-Benz engineers were forced to play catch-up, and the result of their labours was the 230SL, the first of a string that led directly to the 280SL.
The 230SL was, however, still not the equal for the E-Type, at least from a performance perspective. However the pretty Mercedes, with it’s unique Pagoda roof, now offered a better performance worthy of the SL moniker.
The styling was also “softer” than that of the E-Type, and today both are still held in high regard as two of the best looking sports cars ever built.
While the E-Type had a more purposeful look and demeanour, and performance to match, the 230SL had an elegance about it that exuded quality and craftsmanship. Like the E-type, it was a classic the day it rolled off the production line...
- Years of Manufacture: 1963 - 1967
- Number Built: 19,831
- Price at Introduction:
- 230SL Roadster: DM 20,600
- Optional Hard Top: DM 1,100
- Power Steering: DM 550
- Automatic Transmission: DM 1,400
- Date of Introduction: March, 1963
- Exterior Dimensions 230SL:
- Total Length: 168.8 inches (4285mm)
- Total Width: 69.2 inches (1760mm)
- Height at Kerb Weight: 51.4 inches
- Wheelbase: 94.5 inches (2400mm)
- Front Track: 58.5 inches (1486mm)
- Rear Track: 58.5 inches (1487mm)
- Kerb Weight:
- Roadster: 2860lb (1300kg)
- Optional Hardtop Fitted: 3036lb (1380kg)
- Fuel Tank: 17.2 gallons (65.0 litres)
- Turning Circle:
- Transmission (Manual, 4 Speed, to 1965):
- 1st: 4.42:1
- 2nd: 2.28:1
- 3rd: 1.53:1
- 4th: 1.00:1
- Transmission (Manual, 4 Speed, from 1965):
- 1st: 4.05:1
- 2nd: 2.23:1
- 3rd: 1.42:1
- 4th: 1.00:1
- Transmission (Automatic, 4 Speed):
- 1st: 3.98:1
- 2nd: 2.52:1
- 3rd: 1.58:1
- 4th: 1.00:1
- Single cushion disc, dry plate clutch
- Rear Axle Ratio:
- To September 1965: 3.75:1
- From September 1965: 3.69:1 or 3.92:1
- Engine Speed at 100 km/h:
- 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h):
- Manual: 11.0 seconds (approx)
- Automatic: 13.0 seconds (approx)
- Maximum Speed:
- Manual: 123 mph (200 km/h)
- Automatic: 121 mph (195 km/h)
- Engine 6 Cylinder M 127:
- Capacity: 2306cc 140.7ci
- Type: Conventional, watercooled four
stroke, reciprocating piston type with
- Configuration: Front mounted, longitudinal,
- Head: Pushrod and rocker actuated ohv, overhead camshaft
- Fuel System: Bosch six plunger pump
- Bore and Stroke: 3.23 x 2.87 inches
(82 x 72.8mm)
- Power: 150 hp (DIN) @ 5500rpm (170hp SAE @ 5600)
- Torque: 20.0 mkg @ 4200rpm (159.0 ft/lb @ 4500)
- Compression Ratio: 9.3:1
- Ignition and Electrical:
- 12 volt
- Coil and alternator
- Independent front and rear, with coil springs, single joint swing axle
- Recirculating ball, ratio: 22.7:1 (4.1 turns)
- Servo assisted 17.3:1 (3.2 turns)
- Front: Disc, 9.96" 253mm
- Rear: Drum 9.06" 230mm
- Servo assisted
- Two circuit hydraulic
- 14" Pressed steel disc wheels
230SL Production Schedule