Mercedes Benz ww13 230 SL 1966

The "Pagode" - Mercedes Benz series W113

Pagoda restorer Stickel dubbed this SL series an "economic miracle car". The W113 was called a "dream on wheels" by many automotive journalists of its time, and the lineup of Pagoda owners reads like a bullet list from an Oscar event:
David Coulthard, Tony Curtis, John Lennon, John Travolta, Peter Ustinov, Sophia Loren, Kate Moss, Stirling Moss, Charlton Heston, and many more actors, entrepreneurs and politicians.

A look back:

There was still no talk of an oil crisis, VAT would not be introduced for another ten years or so, the USA was still a long way from the Vietnam War and the Cuban crisis had already been overcome - in short, the new "SL" was unveiled to the world at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1963 during a peaceful phase in which the first economic successes were being enjoyed.

Internally designated "W113," the car was to replace the 190 SL "touring roadster" on the one hand and the 300 SL sports car (Gullwing and convertible) on the other. A task that seemed almost unsolvable. The W113 series was therefore designed as a two-seater touring car with high performance and optimum safety, thus focusing on the strengths of both previous SL series.

Technically, the 230 SL, the first version of the roadster, was based on the top-of-the-range W111 model of the time - better known as the "Heckflosse" - whose frame-floor system was used in a shortened version. The W113 is available in three versions:
– as an open roadster with an easy-to-operate soft top
– as open version with hardtop
– as a hardtop coupe

Frenchman Paul Braq was responsible for the design, providing the hardtop with small "humps" on the driver's and passenger's side to prevent passengers from bumping their heads when getting in and out. From the front, the inward curve of the hardtop is reminiscent of Far Eastern temple buildings (pagoda roof), and this SL model series has its name gone before it really hits the road: the "Pagode".
As with the 190 SL, a transverse seat in the rear is available on request for all three versions.

Whereas in the 300 SL the engine was installed at an angle to achieve a low vehicle height, in the W113 it stands upright, which explains the central bulge of the engine hood. The exterior of the 230 SL is characterized by clear and straight lines.

A new aspect: safety

The "Pagode" is the first SL in which safety is an important aspect alongside sporty speed. The "Heckflosse" (W111) as the "donor" of the floor assembly was already the world's first sedan with a safety body. For this reason, the SL also received a rigid passenger cell and crumple zones in the form of easily deformable front and rear segments. The interior has no hard corners and edges. Seat belts are available as optional equipment, as in the predecessor.

The steering gear is moved from the crash-prone area at the front of the car to the bulkhead, the steering column is bent and also has a joint that prevents the dreaded lance effect in the event of an accident. In 1967 (280 SL), the safety telescopic steering column and the impact pot in the steering wheel are added.

Chassis, engine and transmission

The chassis also comes from the W111 and is tuned to the needs of the sporty car. It features recirculating ball steering, a dual-circuit braking system and disc brakes on the front axle. Its suspension is firm, but almost uncharacteristically comfortable for a sports car at the time. Damping is provided by gas-pressure shock absorbers, and for the first time a Mercedes-Benz passenger car rides on belted tires.

However, the sedan's six-cylinder engine has to endure a number of changes, the most important of which is the transition from the two-ram to the six-ram injection pump. This makes it possible to "shoot" fuel directly into the combustion chamber through the preheated intake port and the open intake valves, rather than just into the intake manifold. The engine (M 127 II), which has been bored out to 2.3 liters, delivers 150 hp and 196 Nm of torque to the road. The SL's very sporty powertrain wants to be "revved", underdriving is not its cup of tea.

The four-speed transmission was only slightly shorter in first gear for the SL: the sprint from zero to 100 km/h is completed in 9.7 seconds, and the top speed of the Type 230 SL with fabric roof is 200 km/h (196 km/h with hardtop). With the optionally available automatic transmission, the "Pagode" reaches 195 km/h. In the eyes of sports car purists, this variant is downright immoral, but history teaches a different lesson: At the end of the production period, the automatic transmission accounted for around 77 percent of the total. Similar to the power steering, which is also optional.

Higher displacement successors

On February 27, 1967, Mercedes-Benz presented the 250 SL, which replaced the 230 SL. Externally, the newcomer is indistinguishable from its predecessor. The changes mainly concern the engine and the brake system, which now come from the type 250 SE (W 108/Wikipedia). The engine has an increased displacement of 200 cc and produces 150 hp as before, but 10 percent more torque (216 Nm), with a flatter torque curve. The Type 250 SL thus drives much more elastically and has better running comfort.

With a four-speed manual or automatic transmission, the 250 SL is about 5 km/h (depending on the rear axle ratio) slower than its predecessor; with the five-speed manual transmission now available, it reaches 200 km/h (124 mph).

The 250 SL now also has disc brakes on the rear wheels, larger brake discs and a brake force regulator to prevent overbraking of the rear wheels. A differential lock is now available as an option. The fuel tank, which has been enlarged to 82 liters, allows a greater operating range.

A "2+2" seater with rear bench seat and hardtop is now available as a fourth version. This variant is called the "California" version because it is not possible to retrofit the convertible top, so it only promises unadulterated driving pleasure in regions with little rain (or with the coupé roof on).

Less than a year later, the 280 SL followed. Apart from the nameplate, the only external difference between it and its two predecessors was the modified wheel trims. In the course of the market launch of the mid-range W114/115 - better known as the "dash eight" - the top-of-the-range coupés and cabriolets get a new 2.8-liter engine. The SL now produces 170 hp, and torque is increased by another 10 percent (240 Nm). This brings the 280 SL back up to the driving figures of the 230 SL. The chassis, designed for increased comfort, is softer than in its predecessors. The service intervals are 10,000 instead of 3,000 kilometers.

For car collectors, the proximity of the "Pagoda" to large-scale production technology is a positive aspect - to this day, the availability of spare parts is very good. "Pagodas" today are restored even in the worst condition. For a "Pagoda" in brand-new condition (grade: 1), you have to invest somewhere between 120,000 and 190,000 euros.

  • The Mercedes Benz W113 on Wikipedia