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CURRENT BID: £63,000
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1965 Mercedes-Benz 230 SL Pagoda

Guide Price: £67,000 - £77,000

﹒Multiple show-winner
﹒Engine rebuild
﹒Massive history file
﹒Matching numbers
﹒Over £20,000 recently spent 
﹒Automatic transmission and power steering

The Background

The perennial attraction of classic Mercedes SLs is that they’re just as good to drive as they are to look at. Furthermore, they’re not known for being flaky and uncooperative like so many classics are – a well-maintained model can easily offer just as much reliability as a modern car… with the added benefit of being ineffably stylish. Honestly, when we were photographing this car we could have sold it to passers-by a dozen times over, everyone wanted a piece of this compact slice of sunlit perfection.

The so-called ‘Pagoda’ generation, sold from 1963-71, offers a beguiling mix of style and desirability, and it’s all underpinned by extremely strong and hard-wearing tech; the mechanicals of this car were cutting-edge for the early 1960s, with the range of straight-six engines featuring multi-port fuel injection, along with boasting double-wishbone front suspension, dual-circuit brakes with discs up front, and optional power steering. The body design was equally impressive, with the door skins, bonnet, bootlid and tonneau cover made from aluminium to reduce weight, and the combination of robust drivetrain, eager chassis and low weight makes for some very sprightly performance.

The ‘Pagoda’ nickname, incidentally, comes from the shape of the hardtop, which echoes the distinctive curves of ancient Chinese architecture. You see, every element of this era of SLs tells a tale – and these are such desirable cars that everybody will want to hear about it.

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The History

This Pagoda was originally a California car, spending much of its life in Santa Monica, and we know what that means: a life enjoyed in warm sunshine, a dry climate, and unsalted roads. All very desirable with a classic car. The SL’s first UK registration is noted as October 2015, and since it’s been in the UK the car has received a huge amount of attention to make it the best that it can be. It’s all happened in no-expense-spared fashion – the engine’s been rebuilt, the transmission was overhauled, the brakes, suspension and steering were addressed, and the bodywork and paint were optimised. The current owner estimates that the cost of the work amounts to over £20,000, and the quality of the work speaks for itself: as well as being an entertaining road car, it’s been a bit of a hit on the show circuit. ‘Best in Class’ at the 2018 Glasgow Classic Car Show, and ‘Best in Class’ at the 2019 Great Northern Show are chief among its accolades – and believe us when we say that this car is ready to scoop more silverware if the new owner so desires.

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The Paperwork

The previous owner is a retired lawyer, which explains the extraordinary fastidiousness with which the paperwork is organised. Inside the meticulously labelled file we find all sorts of treats, starting with the V5 which shows the car to be correctly UK-registered with the right VIN. An album of printed photographs documents the engine rebuild that was undertaken in April 2018. There’s a copy of the California title, along with a document from The Mercedes-Benz Club UK verifying the car’s particulars at point of import. We also find a number of interesting recent receipts, including £1,250 for a new soft-top, £3,274 for reconditioning the transmission, £3,972 for bodywork and paint rectification, £4,323 for the engine rebuild (there's a picture in the gallery showing the engine out during rebuild) plus assorted bills for the brake rebuild, overhauling the wheels, fitting a new electronic distributor and ignition, and plenty more. This is a car that’s been loved, and it’s all carefully documented here. The original owners manual and workshop manual are also present.

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The Interior

The interior of this SL is beautifully presented, as befits a show-winner like this, and the lipstick-red trim artfully counterpoints the sober white exterior, the car also benefits from having the desirable ivory steering wheel. A fresh new set of Coco mats has been fitted inside as well as in the boot, and the seat trim is in superb condition with no cracks, splits, tears or undue wear. The car is fitted with the rare and desirable rear seat option, and it also has a high-end Becker Europa II stereo with colour-coordinated Polk Audio speakers. The dashtop has no cracks (there’s just a tiny split on the leather to the left of the instrument binnacle), and the dashboard is in superb condition with no marks, scuffs or missing trim. All of the gauges work as they should, and there’s no undue wear to the steering wheel. The seats tilt forward as they should, and their rear trim panels aren’t loose (as can so often be the case with these cars). Inside the boot it’s all dry and solid, with the original spare wheel in its correct holder.

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The Exterior

This Pagoda really is gloriously presented and, thanks to being a California car, it hasn’t required a body resto to get it to the condition you see here – as much as possible, it’s been kept as original as can be. Recent documented works to finesse the aesthetics include a repair to the bonnet to correct the way it fits, repairs and corrosion removal to the left front wing, corrosion removal to the right front wing, blending to colour-match the driver door paint, correction of a previous repair to the left rear quarter (with a new section fabricated by hand and welded in), and reshaping of the front valance to ensure proper alignment. All of this has been done to the highest standard, and the quality of the work speaks for itself.

This is a remarkably tidy Pagoda to behold, with excellent paint and superb panel gaps. All of the correct trim is in place, the light lenses and window glass are in good order, and it appears to be extremely straight and solid underneath too. The soft-top is very recent and as such is in excellent condition, and the car also comes with its original hard-top – again, in excellent condition. The wheels have been overhauled and wear quality whitewall tyres with good tread. You can see why this car keeps winning ‘best in class’ at shows, it’s magnificent to behold.

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The Mechanicals

The smoothness of this car to drive is a thing of great joy. With the engine having been rebuilt in 2018, and the gearbox and torque converter thoroughly overhauled, the drivetrain is in splendid working order. It fires up on the first turn of the key, idles evenly, keeps the correct pressures and temperatures, and pulls eagerly through the gears. The auto ’box shifts smoothly, and there are no noises from the diff. The suspension, brakes and steering have all received the proper attention in recent years so everything there is working as it should. The previous owner was a fastidious type, and wanted everything about the car to be just-so – which is why no stone has been left unturned, and everything here is working just as it should be. No skeletons in the closet, no to-do list for the next owner – this is a mechanically sound Merc that’s ready to enjoy.

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The Appeal

The reaction this car received when we took it out for its photoshoot speaks for itself: everybody loves a Pagoda, and this one really is a very, very desirable Pagoda indeed. Every passer-by stopped to chat about it, many asking how much it would cost to see themselves behind the wheel, and every one of them saying either they’d always dreamed of owning one, or that they’d found a new dream car here.

It’s not hard to see why. It’s a beautiful machine, isn’t it? And that beauty isn’t skin-deep – everything on this car has been gone through with a fine-tooth comb: engine rebuild, transmission overhaul, bodywork attention, interior upgrades, it’s all been put together in such a thoughtful and considerate way. That’s all meticulously documented in the paperwork too, it’s a car with stories to tell and the paper-trail to verify them.

The Pagoda is an extremely popular model these days, and they’re becoming increasingly rare. What’s rarer still is to find one like this: honest, usable, solid, dependable… oh, and don’t forget how it just loves to win show trophies. What a fabulous polymath this pretty little car is.

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Vehicle specification
  • Year 1965
  • Make Mercedes
  • Model 230 SL
  • Colour White
  • Odometer 40,325 Miles
  • Engine size 2300
  • Location London
Bidding history
19 bids
  • Go•••• £63,000 03/03/21
  • ro•••• £62,500 03/03/21
  • da•••• £62,000 03/03/21
  • ro•••• £60,000 03/03/21
  • Go•••• £58,500 03/03/21
  • ro•••• £57,000 03/03/21
  • Go•••• £54,500 02/03/21
  • ro•••• £54,000 02/03/21
  • Go•••• £51,000 02/03/21
  • ro•••• £50,000 02/03/21

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