· Sublime interior, and excellent hard- and soft-tops
· As tidy underneath as it is up top
The W113 ‘Pagoda’ wasn’t the first Mercedes-Benz model to wear the SL badge, but it undoubtedly marked a clear starting point for all the SLs to follow.
Prior to the W113, automotive aficionados found themselves tantalised and titillated by the gullwing 300 SLs of the 1950s, along with the sylph-like drop-top sibling, the 190 SL.
But in 1963, the covers came off this slinky little roadster – a new model to replace them both at once, offering a heady mixture of style, performance, luxury, comfort, and robust engineering.
Conceived as a two-seater roadster, it’s the removable hardtop which gives the W113 its ‘Pagoda’ nickname, the slightly concave nature of it calling to mind the distinctive curves of ancient Chinese architecture.
Naturally, there was nothing ancient about the engineering – the underpinnings 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 door skins, bonnet, bootlid and tonneau cover were made from aluminium to keep weight down, and the car was designed with a rigid passenger cell and crumple zones – the first sports car to be conceived specifically with occupant safety in mind.
All of this adds up to an alluring formula today: it’s got all the charm and character that a classic SL should have, along with more advanced mechanicals than its peers, and an unparalleled drive. But most of all, there’s the way it looks. Friedrich Geiger’s glorious design really is the stuff of dreams, isn’t it?
This car was built in 1966 in US-market specification, and has been in the UK since 2016. Originally white, it was repainted in period-correct G10 Silver at some point in its past.
On arriving in the UK as a matching-numbers car, it was welcomed into the caring arms of a specialist, who carried out an incredibly thorough assessment (a full print-out is in the file) and then embarked on a total no-expense-spared restoration.
The work carried out is painstakingly documented, and interestingly (and somewhat modestly) it states that “I don’t consider this to be a full nut-and-bolt restoration, although many people do”.
In essence, everything has been gone through with incredible attention to detail, and the finished product is unquestionably one of the finest Pagodas we’ve ever seen.
The documentation accompanying this car is a dream-scenario file when it comes to buying a restored automobile.
There’s no ambiguity about the details here, every single thing has been photographed and noted down; the car comes with a CD full of photos showing every element of the restoration, and there’s also a sizeable report detailing everything that needed addressing and then explaining how it was done. It’s exactly what you want to see with a car like this.
Also in the file we find the correct V5, showing the car to be a 1966 model which was first UK-registered on December 1st 2017. (n.b. the doc we saw was a printed out photograph of the V5 rather than the original.) There are copies of old US titles for the car from Ohio and Virginia.
Well, what an utterly splendid Pagoda interior this is. The fastidious attention to detail of the project is evident throughout the cabin, with everything presenting exactly as it should.
The seats are beautifully trimmed and pleasantly supportive, with each one tilting forward and resecuring correctly. The carpets have been replaced and are excellent, and the wood trim on the dash-top, gearknob and centre console is complete and free from wear or damage.
The dash is all straight, tidy and complete, with all of the gauges functioning as they should, and the car is fitted with a lovely period Blaupunkt push-button radio. Inside the boot it’s all extremely tidy too.
The restorer is keen to point out in his notes that “A car can only be new once; a restored vehicle can look like new, but this can only be an illusion”. Let’s face it though, it’s a pretty convincing illusion in this case, isn’t it?
If you thought the interior was something special, wait till you get a load of this fabulous body. It wears the period silver so well, and it’s evident that this reassembly has been undertaken at the hands of a person obsessed with detail and correctness.
Every panel is superb, we couldn’t find any evidence of scuffs, scratches, dings, dents or damage, and each panel hangs straight and true with nice even gaps.
All of the correct chrome trim and badging is in place, in excellent condition with no undue wear or patination, and the light lenses and window glass are all good. The 14” wheels all wear immaculate hubcaps, and are shod with a nearly-new set of Radar Rivera Pro tyres.
The soft-top is in very good condition, with no wear, marks or holes, and it raises and lowers very smoothly, latching securely and unlatching with ease. The tonneau recess is very tidy and free of corrosion, dirt or debris. The car also comes with its matching factory hardtop.
Take a look at that engine. Then blink, rub your eyes, and look again. Remarkable, isn’t it? We’ve never seen a Pagoda engine this clean – everything’s not only been renewed or refreshed, but also lovingly polished throughout the assembly process.
It’s the sort of engine you could stick on a plinth and have as a piece of art in your drawing room.
But this isn’t just a show pony. The engine is smooth, willing and eager, behaving exactly as Mercedes-Benz intended – it fires on the first turn of the key, idles evenly, and pulls strongly through the revs.
The automatic transmission is similarly reassuring, and there are no issues to report when it comes to the brakes, power steering system or suspension.
Take a look underneath the car and you’ll see that everything has been gone through, there’s no hint of rattles or knocks caused by loose bolts or worn bushes, because everything’s been addressed here. A thoroughly lovely SL to drive.
This car is a truly compelling proposition. With so much care and thoughtful attention put into the high-end restoration, the mechanical package is outstanding – this is a car that loves to cruise, and drives just as these things did back in the 1960s.
But the attention to detail throughout the rest of the car means that it would be equally at home on the showground or the concours lawn, with the bonnet up and mirrors laid underneath, so everyone can see that this beauty is way more than skin deep.
Quite frankly, this is one the very best Pagodas we’ve seen – and we’ve seen quite a few Pagodas. Everything’s been addressed, and to an impeccable standard. So why settle for second-best?
If you’re in the market for a 230 SL, this is absolutely the one you
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