・Very smooth and dependable runner ・Desirable colour scheme
Mercedes-Benz’s SL model line has always represented a keen and effervescent mixture of luxury, style and sporting prowess, right back to the elegant Pagodas of the early 1960s. And while the current-era models have evolved to tilt more towards the ‘luxury’ end of the scale, it’s those early Pagodas that best encapsulate the purity of what the iconic and enduring SL formula represents. ‘Pagoda’ was, of course, never an official nomenclature, but rather a nickname applied in reference to the gentle curvature of the hard-top roof. These cars, first emerging in 1963, hid all manner of cutting-edge technology beneath the skin, fusing glamorous looks with a low kerb weight and an eminently strong and willing series of engines. There’s a very good reason why these SLs command the prices they do these days, and why SL aficionados often cite the Pagoda as the classic Mercedes that you can happily use every day – a good example that’s been looked after will be just as robust, capable and dependable as it was half-a-century ago… and you’ll be going about your business rather more stylishly than everybody else on the road. Bearing all that in mind, it’s arguably the perfect classic car: just as good to drive as it is to look at.
Delivered to its first owner in March 1966, this is a UK car which has evidently been looked after. In its history file we find copious evidence of it having been attended to by specialists, and the overall condition of the car and the pleasant manner in which it drives is all testament to a life of care and attentiveness by former keepers. In a beautiful colour scheme and driving like a dream, it’s more than ready for its next set of adventures with its new owner.
There’s a decent amount of paperwork accompanying this car, showing that the former keepers have been careful to get the correct servicing and maintenance carried out by respected specialists. We find a number of receipts from The SL Shop (a specialist outfit renowned in the Mercedes-Benz community for its impeccable work and unparalleled knowledge); an invoice from 2014, for example, lists almost £4,400 of work spent on such tasks as dismantling the suspension to replace all the bushes, renewing the engine mounts, overhauling the brakes, refurbishing the steering box, flushing the radiator, and fitting new seat belts. There’s also a very comprehensive checklist from this time in which The SL Shop assess every element of the car and analyse accordingly. (This is presented here for background information rather than to be taken as gospel, as it was seven years ago, but nevertheless it’s a useful document to have.) Elsewhere in the file we find the correct V5, showing the car to have been first registered on March 24th 1966, as well as a sheaf of old MOTs. There’s also a receipt for the fitting of the RetroSound San Diego stereo, which was fitted in 2018. Most recently, in 2020 the highly-respected specialist Steve Redfearn carried out over £1,200 of work including fully inspecting and servicing the car, removing the cam cover to check the valve adjustment, and replacing one of the rocker arms.
Well, how splendid does this Pagoda’s cabin look with its lipstick-red leather? It’s a real statement of an interior, eschewing the usual black or dark blue for something far more vivid and eye-catching – after all, when you’ve got the top down you don’t want to disappoint your public with a dowdy interior, do you? It’s all in truly beautiful condition too. The seats are in very good order indeed, with no marks or wear to the lovely leather, and the seats correctly tilting forward. The carpets and overmats are similarly tidy, and the wood trim is all great save for some very slight warping to the pieces at the centre of the dash-top. The dash is unmarked with all the correct switchgear in place, and everything is working as it should. The gauges all function correctly, the windows lower and raise easily, and the car is fitted with a RetroSound San Diego stereo which looks appropriately classic but is actually a modern DAB radio with iPod and USB interface. The steering wheel and dash-top are trimmed in tasteful red leather to match the seats, and the doorcards are also in excellent order. Inside the boot it’s all solid and tidy, with a clean carpet and the spare wheel housed in its correct cover. The original tool roll is present.
This Pagoda really is gloriously presented, with excellent paint and even 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 straight and solid underneath too. The car comes with its original factory hard-top, which is in excellent condition inside and out and fits perfectly. The soft-top is also very good; finished in a tasteful contrasting red, it has a patch on the base at either side but is lovely overall with no holes or marks and a clear and uncreased window. The wheels are tidy and proper with their correct centre caps, and wear elegant whitewall Hankook tyres with excellent tread. Everything is attractive and correct here – a truly beautiful SL that drew many admiring glances from passers-by during our photoshoot.
We can see from the history that this car has been correctly serviced and maintained, and this is very much in evidence from the manner in which it drives. Starting easily and idling evenly, it’s a very smooth car to drive, with the engine pulling strongly yet quietly, and the automatic transmission shifting very smoothly. We can see from the paperwork that the specialist Steve Redfearn has recently checked over and serviced the car, as well as checking the valve adjustment, and replacing a noisy rocker arm, so all is now behaving exactly as it should. There’s evidence in the paperwork of the brakes and suspension having received the proper attention in recent years, and today it rides and stops just as an SL should. This car is equipped with the factory-option power steering, and again there are no issues here.
Being a proper right-hand-drive UK car makes this 230 SL desirable on the UK market, but what marks it out yet further is the sublime colour scheme: white-and-red suits the Pagoda so well, and the condition of this car backs up the delectable aesthetic with gusto. With a robust history of specialist care, this is an SL that’s extremely pleasant to drive; supremely comfortable, appropriately willing, and just as dependable as you’d hope. Sensationally pretty too, isn’t it? We’ve got a scorching summer ahead of us, and this would be such a wonderful car with which to enjoy it.
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