The Mercedes-Benz W113 model, of which this 250SL is based, was introduced in 1968 to replace the outgoing 190SL models (W121). From the outset, it was a two-seat open-top sports/touring car with a variety of engines, including a 2.3-litre version in 1964 (the 230SL) and 2.5-litre and 2.8-litre versions of the straight-six, fuel-injected motor. This was paired with the ZF four-speed automatic transmission and in some very rare cases, a five-speed manual gearbox, both driving the rear wheels.
The 250SL is reported to be the most exclusive of the model range, with little more than 5000 examples being produced in the shorter, one-year production run. The cars were supplied with folding fabric roofs as well as a solid, metal hardtop with a distinctive curved front section, earning the model its ‘Pagoda’ moniker. The hard-top is easily removable – albeit with at least two strong people or a winch and strap system – for unrivalled open-top style and genuine wind-in-the-hair motoring.
The car was particularly desirable in the United States – around 1/3 of all models were exported there and part-way through its life, the 250SL was facelifted to include a variety of US-specific changes, including engine emissions equipment, seat belts, interior furniture and bumper over-riders.
Despite showing just 67,000 kilometers on its odometer, this left-hand drive example has done some travelling.
It was sold new, by Edger E Ege of Berlin, on May 17 1967 and spent the following nine years – and 60,000kms – in Germany. However, such was the demand for the 250SL in the States that the car was exported in 1976 and spent the following four decades languishing in the Californian sun. Its exact history during this time is a little vague but it seems it was purchased by a lady of a certain age and potentially, ill-health led to its inactivity.
The current owners saw the car for sale on the internet with a reputable dealer in 2015 and, having owned several Mercedes in the past and instantly falling for the SL’s shape and looks, bought it sight-unseen. Several weeks of trepidation followed until the car finally arrived from Harwich docks and saw the light of European sun for the first time in 40 years. Rolling out of the transporter, it was clear the car had been left out in the Californian sun for some time – only 6000kms had been added to its odometer since its last service in July of 1974 and arriving in the UK in August 2015, with the new owners having no evidence to suggest it had done more. The paint was faded, the interior was flat and aged and the folding roof was just a frame with a few tatters of fabric hanging on.
The new owners then began a sympathetic rolling restoration program which resulted in the car you see pictured here.
The vehicle comes with a very comprehensive raft of paperwork dating from its new sale in 1967. There is the original German-language handbook as well as a separate, multi-language version in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. There is a service book for a 280 model which includes the car’s service record (using the correct chassis number) and a data card for the vehicle when supplied new. There is also a selection of paperwork from the car’s period in the USA, including a 1979 Michelin tyres booklet and a registration card (the US equivalent of UK tax) dated December 2003, giving the owner’s location as Pleasant Hill, California, just east of San Francisco and on the edge of the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. There is also a Certificate of Title which appears to show that the owner transferred ownership of the vehicle in mid-2014. There is then the necessary paperwork to prove that the car has had its import duty paid to HMRC and DVLA registration and clearance of issue of a UK age-related number plate. Finally, there is the UK V5 registration document that shows no former owners, since UK records only begin when the vehicle was imported into the UK in 2015. There are also a host of receipts and invoices for parts supplied including interior retrimming, new seat belts, various seals and ignition key blanks.
The car is also supplied with a copy of a workshop manual, written by Kenneth Ball and published in 1971 by Autobooks Ltd.
The interior of the 250SL is simply stunning. From the factory, it was a beautiful place to be, with a large Bakelite-style steering wheel (with chrome horn-ring) giving way to a view of the two round dials for engine and road speed with the central cluster of gauges for fuel level, oil pressure and coolant temperature. All the gauges are chrome-rimmed and the dash panel and the chrome embellishments are in superb condition. Switchgear works, as do all the necessary functions, according to the owners and while some areas appear to require some additional detailing, all appear to be in sound condition.
The headliner of the hard-top roof is in clean and undamaged condition and the door trims and furniture (including the release levers for the hard-top at the bottom of the B-pillars and across the top of the windscreen) are in excellent working condition. The wooden trim surrounding the edges of the hard-top, as well as the soft-top cover and across the top of the dashboard are in very nice condition, having been sanded and re-varnished by the owner.
The seats have been completely renovated with new padding and re-trimmed in period-correct colour and style of leather. Neither front seat appears to have suffered much wear, with very slight crumpling on the driver’s base. The car features a very rare, factory option cross-car jump seat in the rear which has been re-trimmed to match the front seats. The carpets have also been completely replaced in period-correct colours and to a very high standard. The driver’s footwell is protected by a mat when the car is being driven.
A new original-quality soft-top roof has been fitted and the original frame reconditioned to work perfectly. The glove box lid features a delightful lamp/reading light which illuminates the contents when the lid is opened but also, shines on to the passenger’s lap through a clear section on the outside of the lid.
Elements of the chrome, for example on the rear-view mirror, appear to show some minor pitting but this is inevitable given its life in the Californian sun. The Bakelite steering wheel has similarly been restored but still retains some of the tiny cracks that testify to this car’s character and globe-trotting history.
The boot contains the flat-mounted spare wheel in a leatherette cover, with the original chocks within and the car’s jack to the side. There is a tool roll containing what the owners believe to be the original tool kit and the general area is in excellent condition, though the floor shows evidence of repair work.
The car was, by the owners’ admission, a bit of a state when it returned to the UK. The paintwork was flat and faded and so the entire car was resprayed in its original metallic silver. During this process, it became clear that the car had not had any body damage, as the panels themselves were in remarkably good shape and required no repairs prior to paint being applied. As a result, the panels are straight and the new paint offers a deep and luxurious shine.
The brightwork – front and rear bumpers and badging – are all original and have also been restored to their former glory. There is some evidence of slight pitting in some locations but like the interior, this only adds to the car’s character and shows it is a genuine vehicle rather than a museum piece.
The hard top has also been sprayed and retains the same depth of shine as the rest of the car, though it shows three slight scratches beneath the surface. The original steel wheels have been treated to a new set of wheel trims and the tyres are Yokohama all-season, presumably from its time in the USA.
The side rubbers are slightly discoloured but again, this will inevitably be the result of sunlight and it in no way affects either their purpose or their impact on the exterior of the vehicle. The badging is in excellent condition – the ‘250SL’ and the three-pointed star at the rear are superb and the bonnet badge and the front grille star are also excellent. There is a satin-finish petrol filler cap and the boot, bonnet and both doors open and close with typical Mercedes reassurance.
The owners have had service work carried out to the mechanical systems but such was the low mileage of this vehicle, coupled with what has clearly been an easy life from a mechanical point of view, it needed little more than maintenance. The straight-six 2.5-litre engine, using mechanical multi-port fuel injection, works well and was treated to a new fuel pump when it returned to the UK. The car was also fitted with a new battery and although this sounds as if it struggles to turn the engine over, the owner feels it is the high-pressure fuel-injection system that requires priming, as the engine fires easily and settles to an even idle with just the slightest moisture in the exhaust initially, from a lack of use. It also smells rich on the cold-start cycle, which would presumably lessen as the engine warms up.
The brakes were completely overhauled by the owners though the car appears to have been fitted with a non-genuine brake master cylinder fluid reservoir in its past. This has electrical connections for low-fluid warning lamps in each of the two sections, a feature that was not present on the car in 1967. The owners have also stripped the paint from the brass cooling system header tank and polished it to reveal a stunning finish.
The transmission selects gears easily and provides smooth, even drive. The positioning for the lever for the four-speed automatic transmission is reversed from a traditional arrangement, with the ‘Park’ position at the rear and the lowest gear available for manual override, ‘2’, at the front. This takes a little getting used to but isn't an issue, according to the owners.
Underneath the car appears to be in good condition, the owners reporting the only structural work they had to do was some repairs to the boot floor which entailed the fuel tank to be removed. The underside seems to be covered in underseal with what appears to be evidence of previous repairs and the mechanical components – axle, suspension arms etc – seem to be in very good condition, powder-coated in plain black.
As a product of its time – though remaining both technologically and stylistically up to date – the 250SL was a simply stunning car, to look at and to be seen in. The engine could easily handle what was asked of it and the suspension, particularly in the 250 variant, was up to the task of a rewarding drive or a stylish cruise.
This example has a lovely history and is in excellent condition, the result of caring and passionate ownership by those who very clearly enjoy their cars. They describe it as an easy car to drive and enjoy and have done so on their own and as members of the Mercedes Enthusiasts’ Club. It is, apparently, smooth, easy to place and park and a delight with the roof down; hence it only leaves the garage on dry days and has never seen British rain.
In fact, they are selling as they have had their fun and wish to move on to their next vehicle. The car is now ready for its new owners to take it on and enjoy the next phase of its life, providing them with both style and performance for a slice of 1960s style and charm, alongside icons such as Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Peter Ustinov, Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio, all of whom had impeccable taste and also owned a 250SL Pagoda.
Important: Although every care is taken to ensure this listing is as factual and transparent as possible, all details within the listing are subject to the information provided to us by the seller. Car & Classic does not take responsibility for any information missing from the listing.
As is normal for most auctions, this vehicle is sold as seen, and therefore the Sales of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. All bids are legally binding once placed. Any winning bidder who withdraws from a sale, is subject to our bidders fee charge. Please see our FAQs and T&C's for further information. Viewings of vehicles are encouraged, but entirely at the sellers discretion.
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