As the oldest car company in the world, Mercedes-Benz has a lot to live up to year after year. By the time the 1960’s had come around the company was nearly 70+ years old, nearly twice that of most of their contemporaries. They offered grandeur in the 1930’s, and superb engineering and competitive road going race cars for the 1940’s and 50’s. For the 1960’s however, the ever successful SL or “Sport Leicht” was due for a refresh, face lift, and an all-round new concept. Debuting in 1963 at the Geneva Motor Show, the 230SL also known as the “Pagoda” was about to kick off nearly 50+ years of evolution and success that has yet to end. These nimble, technologically advanced, refined roadsters became the standard, and today offer a timeless experience that anyone can relate to as the standard for a luxury sports car.
The example on offer here is of the first generation of SL “Pagoda” offerings, the 230SL. These sporty little light weight roadster were in production from mid 1963 through 1966 before later being developed into the 250SL and then eventually the 280SL. 1971 marked the last of the hand built Mercedes Benz and the last of the very pretty “Pagoda” SL’s which were later replaced by the 107 model SL. This particular example, finished in its original color combination of DB568 Signal Red over 116 Kaviar Black Interior, a classic color combination for a sports car and for a convertible. Thanks to Mercedes Heritage, the original data card translation shows this example, Chassis # 113 042 10 015021 left the factory exactly as follows:
Engine number: 127 981 10 012148
Transmission number: 012086
Front axle number, L: 145906
Front axle number, R: 145205
Rear axle number: 015222
Steering box number: 261888
Ignition key code: D 32532
Trunk/glove key code: KW 060
Door/tank key code: TA 029
Exterior color code: 568 – Signal Red
Interior color code: 116? – Kaviar mbtex
401 single seats
416 hardtop mounted
593 USA version
508 side view mirror, left
515 Becker radio
524 paint coat preservation
641 white wall tires
669 mode of packing VE I
720 soft-top fabric, black
This example was first delivered new on 7/15/1966 through Autohaus Brugger of Palo Alto, CA to a Mr. John H. McQuilkin also of Palo Alto, CA. The original maintenance log shows that the car was consistently serviced by the selling dealer (later Mercedes Benz of Palo Alto) by the first owner until June of 1972 at 68,710 miles. At which time it was sold to a Mr. Dennis R. Jennings of Sunnyvale, Colorado. The maintenance log continued under Mr. Jennings ownership and serviced at Kumpf Motor Imports of Denver, CO until 11/16/1973 at 83,873 miles after which there are no more entries into the factory maintenance log. During and after Mr. Jennings the car is assumed to have always been driven and enjoyed and never left to languish or exposed to the elements. The most recent and assumed to be third owner, a Mr. JD Hoyt of Flagstaff, AZ did acquire the car in CO some years ago. We can only assume by the current condition of the car and the most recent owners testament to its prior history that it remained a CA and South West car its entire life. As such it shows to be completely rust free, dry, and still retaining many high points of originality throughout the car.
There are many things to look for on a 230SL, first and foremost is rust. This example we are happy to report is free of any corrosion at all whatsoever and appears to have never been a rusty car at any one point. There unfortunately aren’t factory spot welds present on the fender seems nor are there headlight notches. Most of these cars have been repainted or have had boy work done in the past, however most sellers will fail to address this whether it be positive or negative. In the interest of full disclosure we believe some minor work to the front of the car may have been completed on this car at one point or another. However, it was done to a very high standard and as such the car shows to be dead straight with excellent gaps and superb panel fitment. Unless you’re a well educated SL enthusiast you’d never take notice.
Cosmetically the car shows to have had one repaint some years ago and done very well. The paint shines nicely throughout and the chrome is either original or was done when the paint was completed years ago. Both present beautifully for an excellent driver and neither are in need of any attention to be enjoyed immediately. The paint does have a minor scratch/chip to be found here or there on the body in the usual spots, but nothing that warrants any sort of refinishing. The rubber on the car is newer throughout and in excellent condition and all items are present with nothing missing at all. While this is indeed a US-Spec car the car has acquired the Euro Spec Bosch “Fishbowl” head lamps, which do make for a much better look.
The interior shows to be an older refurbishment but done well, most likely completed when the paint/chrome was done, which we estimate to be the mid 1990’s, but hardly used since and well kept. All of the interior surfaces are excellent, a very nice original dash, good original wood with patina, and all gauges and dash instruments in working order. The seats are leather in a correct style, slightly shrunk from the AZ heat, but the carpeting and other items on the interior are in good condition throughout. Nice door jams as well and a very nice headliner on the hardtop with no issues either. Overall a nice interior, very presentable and an enjoyable place to spend the afternoon.
Opening the engine bay shows a highly original, but very correct engine bay that has never been tampered with beyond normal service needs. Everything appears in order overall and presents as a driver with nothing out of order in terms of function. We have noted the firewall pad needs replacing and as such have one on the way, the car will be delivered with a new firewall pad installed for the new custodian. The trunk shows about the same as the engine bay, rust free, mostly correct and in no need of attention. The spare wheel, jack and some factory tools are present as well.
The underside of this SL is remarkable, and is always the first place one should look when considering a proper SL. Thanks to it being well cared for and finding its home in the South West and CA this example has never been exposed to the elements of other parts of the country. As such it has been incredibly well preserved on the underside. Still present is the light tan undercoating that these cars left the factory with. Yellow, blue, green, and red factory paint markings are present in a variety of places throughout the braking and suspension parts showing that this car has never been apart beyond normal service needs. An incredibly rare thing to see on one any SL. The floors and supporting frame work are all 100% rust free and straight with factory finishes. The only item we have a complaint about is that it appears someone jacked the car up on the floor at one point and therefore put a hole in the floor about the size of a silver dollar. It’s not worth addressing, but is present. Otherwise we see clean and straight rockers, and wheel wells with correct color, not undercoated like so many others. The metal is thin everywhere and this is definitely a car that has never been rough or rusty, a very good thing in an SL and quite rare.
More recently the car was in the care of marque specialist Larry Kay of Phoenix, AZ. During Larry’s care the car received a plethora of minor updates and sorting. The soft top was completely replaced, correctly, with a German Canvas top via the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center. The shifter linkage and bushings were all redone, the rear end cleaned and resealed, the fluids changes and a variety of other minor items tended to. All to put the car in excellent working order as a good driver quality car that could be enjoyed whenever, wherever. All of this was completed to the tune of nearly $5,000 rendering this example completely up to date and in order. Not to mention in the care of what is quite possibly one of the best MB Specialists in North America. Today the car shows nearly 144,000 miles, but acts and presents like a 44,000 mile example in every way. The interior light comes on when you open the door, the Becker Radio is still in working order and the whole car has a feeling of a good car no matter what your doing in it. Everything works and is in order as it was on day one. This doesn’t happen often with these cars as so many were rough used cars at one point, a good example is hard top come by.
As a result of Larry’s work the car starts instantly idles smoothly and quietly and is definitely dialed in. The throttle response is instant and all of the systems work exactly as they should. The clutch operation is superb, the brakes in working order, and the shifting as new. The oil pressure always reads strong and the temperature would be hard pressed to exceed the half way point. All things considered this is a tidy little SL that has no needs to be enjoyed immediately.
All things considered this is a fantastic opportunity for any collector, enthusiast or nostalgic onlooker to enjoy a classic sports car finished in classic colors; a well serviced and in order 230SL with good history, high points of originality and everything one looks for in a great example of the timeless “Pagoda”.
Available Documentation: (Click on the links below to view the file)