The 190SL had shown the world that when it came to making a two-seat roadster, Mercedes-Benz was very much the brand to beat. It was a nimble, fast, beautiful machine that looked as good standing still as it did when whizzing by. It was a triumph, but this of course made it a very hard act to follow. However, Mercedes-Benz engineers and designers weren’t afraid of the challenge and, in 1963, they proudly showed the world the 230SL, or W113 to use its internal designation.
Again, it was a low, lean machine. The unique concave detachable aluminium hard top, penned by Paul Bracq, gave the car its now signature ‘Pagoda’ name. It featured a new, more modern face with tall ‘stacked’ headlights, a wide grille and clean, sharp lines. It wasn’t just a pretty face though. It was clever, too. The 2.3 straight-six engine featured Bosch mechanical fuel injection, there was a fluid (so no torque converter) four-speed automatic transmission and it was also one of the first cars to have safety built in. Known as the ‘safety body’ it featured crumple zones - a very new idea at the time. It was fast, safe, well-made and utterly beautiful - no wonder then, that people still covet them today.
This particular 230SL had an interesting early life. A 1966 model, it is indeed UK specification and right-hand drive. However, it was delivered to its first owner in Germany. That first owner was the impossibly long-named Prince Faisal Bin Saud Bin Muhammad Al Kebir. The car and its delivery were arranged by Prince Faisal’s solicitor, Robert Clarke. Knowing he would be coming to the UK to attend Cambridge University, the car was in UK specification as mentioned. It was first registered in the UK in 1967.
The car was highly specified. The rare optional third seat was fitted, as were bumper over-riders, leather trim, Becker radio and additional shortwave radio, all of which is still present today. The Prince used the car for a number of years before selling it to his solicitor, Mr. Clarke. He would go on to sell the car to Sir Edward Singleton, who in turn sold the car to Russel E. Wood Esq in 1981. In 1987, the car was sold again, to a custodian who would enjoy the car through to 2003, when the current owner would purchase it.
The odometer reads 28,781, though in reality this is of course 128,781. However, these cars are built for mileage, so it’s still in excellent health. Helped no end by the fact the engine was completely stripped and rebuilt in 2013 along with the transmission. The car has been in pretty much constant regular use over the course of its life, as is reflected by the extensive MOT history. It stands today as a rare example of an iconic car, but that has enough life and gentle patination to ensure further use isn’t an intimidating prospect.
There is a pleasing collection of paperwork included with this SL. There is an original wallet complete with owners’ manual and other dealership documentation. Within this, we find a service book which has been stamped accordingly throughout the years, with stamps dating back to ‘66!
There is a rich MOT history included in the guise of the majority of past certificates. The last MOT it had was on the 21st of April 2021, which it passed with a small number of advisories; some wear to the suspension bushes, worn seat belts, and some worn/fraying hoses on a fuel return hose.
Other paperwork includes a charming letter from Sir Edward Singleton, who details the life of the car prior to his ownership. And of course, there is also an invoice and breakdown of all the work carried out to the engine in 2013. This shows new pistons, full refurbishment of the fuel pump and injectors as well as all the other sundry items.
You can’t go wrong with the combination of black leather with lashings of chrome trim, so we’re happy to report this SL has plenty of both. The interior of the SL was always surprisingly functional, and as such comes across as being very clean cut and unfussy. The black door cards are all in good condition, with no excessive damage or warping. There is some sign of life to them, most notably the lower edges, but it’s nothing to be overly concerned by.
The front seats are again in good order. There’s some wear, of course, but commensurate with the car’s age and use. Nothing to suggest any neglect or damage otherwise. They’re still well sprung and comfortable, that’s the main thing. The rear single seat - an rarely seen optional extra on which the rear passenger sits across the car - is again in good order.
The dash is bright and clear, and all the gauges function as they should, with the exception of the fuel gauge which, we’re told by the owner, can under read. The optional short-wave radio is still fitted to the dash, though unfortunately this now a decorative addition rather than a functional one. The Becker radio in the dash is also still present, correct and fully functioning. The wooden dash top is perhaps in need of some attention.
The floors all look decent, and while the carpet has some age to it, it’s complete and free from any serious issues or defects. The sills look good, as do kick plates. Looking into the A-pillar area, the hinges look good and the metal looks to be solid. The doors hang true, and don’t drop at all. All the latches look good.
Finally, the top of the car. The folding canvas roof has been repaired in the past, but is now watertight as a result. As for the all-important hard top, inside it’s in good order. The same can be said of the exterior, as it has recently been restored. All catches and clips function as they should.
The original toolkit is supplied, in great condition and complete, even down to the fuses!
As you can see from the pictures, this SL presents very well indeed. The car has been repainted in the past, but it’s been done to an acceptable standard and as such, still looks good today. There is some minor surface rust on the front arch inner lips, but it’s not holed at all. There is also a small amount of bubbling between the nearside front wing and the headlamp housing.
All the chrome is in good order across the car. No corrosion at all, and all the important bits like the bumpers and light surrounds are free from any damage. All four metal hubcaps are also in good condition, as are beauty rings and the tyres.
The rear valance is in excellent condition, as are the lower rear wings. The arches all look to be very solid indeed. Silver is one of those colours keen to exploit and highlight underlying issues, so it’s pleasing how very well this car presents. Good panel lines, excellent chrome, excellent glass - it’s just a very, very attractive car.
Looking underneath the SL, the sills look good, as do the floors. There is some rust protection in place, which is always good to see. There is no evidence of any poor repair, and everything looks to be straight and true. It’s a very solid old car indeed.
Having been completely rebuilt fewer than 5,000 miles ago, the straight-six engine is in excellent health and fires up on the button. The current owner has had a stainless steel exhaust system fitted, which not only looks great but also sounds wonderful. The car runs cleanly and smoothly, no smoke, no untoward noises and there are no issues with maintaining temperature. These engines were tough to begin with, and having been so well cared for, this one undoubtedly has more life in it than most.
The transmission has also been rebuilt, and as such is in excellent order and shifts with a silky smooth action - remember, this is a fluid coupling, not a converter. The brakes, too, are in good health and do a wonderful job of bringing the car to a halt. The vehicle is also fitted with factory fitted power steering.
Looking under the bonnet, everything is in order. The engine is clean, there are no signs of leaks, and everything is clean. The fuel injection pump was rebuilt with the engine, so that’s in good health. And the engine was given a complete service last month, so it is completely fresh and ready for the lucky new owner. Another great feature is that all major parts are stamped with the body number, all matching numbers.
Rare specification, a life of care and attention, and right-hand drive - this is very much the perfect SL230 in many regards. It’s the kind of classic you could hop in tomorrow and drive anywhere, no matter how far. It’s in excellent health. A truly ‘ready to enjoy’ SL. Sure, there are some little jobs to do, the dash, the small advisories on the last MOT. But they’re simple, ‘home tinkering’ jobs. Do them when you get around to them. Until then, jump in, fire up that silky smooth straight-six and enjoy what has to be one of the most sought after, beautiful cars to ever roll out of the Mercedes-Benz factory. Truly, an automotive icon.
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