﹒£11,000 body restoration and repaint ﹒£10,000 interior retrim ﹒Fascinating transatlantic history ﹒Rare manual transmission and factory-option power steering
Mercedes-Benz’s perennially popular range of SLs is a phenomenon that’s easy to explain. These cars offer so much to so many; beautifully styled classics that are well engineered, robust, reliable, practical, fun… they’re aspirational and desirable pieces of art that can also be used on a regular basis without stress or histrionics.
The W113 generation, nicknamed ‘Pagoda’ for the distinctive curves of its removable hard-top roof, is a model very much in demand in the 2020s. This iconic car, built from 1963-71, runs on underpinnings that 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 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.
Today, these cars make sense equally as an investment or as the realisation of a dream. Of course, the tricky part can be distinguishing between the good ones and the, shall we say, less good ones – but fear not, as the example we have for you here really is very, very good indeed.
You’ll no doubt have spotted that the steering wheel is on the left, and the reason for this is that the car was originally delivered to its first owner in 1968 in the city of San Antonio, Texas. After a few years it made its way across the North Atlantic to Wiesloch, Germany in 1971, then up to Soignies, Belgium in ’72 where it remained for a number of years. We can’t say at exactly what point it returned to the USA, but a host of documents in the file show maintenance work being carried out in Texas through the 2010s. It ultimately crossed back to Europe and found itself UK-registered in July 2017.
The SL then received a full body restoration and repaint to an extremely high standard, with the work amounting to over £11,000, before a further £10,000 was spent on fully restoring and retrimming the interior. The history demonstrates that the mechanicals have always been looked after, and with a huge amount recently spent on a beautiful restoration, it’s now ready for its next owner to take it on a new set of adventures.
The V5 is present, which shows that the Pagoda was first registered in 1968, and first registered in the UK on 01/07/2017. The original service books and manuals are also in the file, including the full details of the first owner (along with a very cool metal Addressograph stamping template), and showing the car’s early service history in Texas, Germany and Belgium. There are some period photographs of the car in Texas, along with a sheaf of detailed invoices from specialists in TX detailing parts acquired, engine work and maintenance. Most recently, there’s a receipt from White’s Bodywork in West Sussex from December 2017, showing a body resto and repaint at a cost of £11,628.
This Pagoda’s interior is absolutely superb. It’s recently had in the region of £10,000 spent on fully reviving it, and you can see the quality of the work in every inch of the cabin. The seats have been re-trimmed in sumptuous magnolia leather (including the factory-option third seat in the rear), and the level of craftsmanship is outstanding. The doorcards and dash have been retrimmed to perfectly match the seats, and the car has all new carpets. All of the correct trim pieces and equipment are in place, including the period-correct stereo, and the dials are all in good working order. The re-trimmed steering wheel shows no signs of wear, and the wood trim across the dash top and centre console has been renewed. Inside the boot everything is solid and original, with the spare wheel mounted in the correct cover.
Finished in mid-blue (code 903), the restoration work on this body is exquisite. It’s obvious that this is a high-end job, as the paint finish is stunning throughout. The panel fit is excellent, and as you’d hope of a recently repainted car, there’s no evidence of corrosion bubbling through anywhere, it all presents beautifully. It’s obviously been done by a firm who know their Pagodas too – aficionados will recognise the correct notches on the front wings. It’s also a nice touch that some of the original service stickers from San Antonio have been retained inside the driver door. All of the right chrome trim is in place, and all in beautiful condition with no pitting or corrosion. The correct wheel trims are present and the wheels wear quality Michelin rubber with excellent tread.
The soft-top roof is in superb condition, and raises, lowers and secures without any problems. The car also comes with its original hard-top, which again is excellent. We can see that the engine bay wears its original paint rather than having been painted as part of the recent works – it’s all solid and complete and, aside from some very minor surface corrosion beneath the header tank, it’s all just as it should be. The car is impressively solid underneath too – you’d expect a little surface corrosion here and there with a car of this age, but everything looks very solid and straight under there. We’re assured that it’s all as good as it looks.
Interestingly, and quite unusually, this car is fitted with a manual gearbox – almost every Pagoda you find on the market has an automatic transmission, so this is a rare find indeed. It’s even more rare to find a manual Pagoda that’s also equipped with the factory-option power-steering, so this is quite an unusual spec.
Being a 280 SL, this car is fitted with the top-of-the-range 2.8-litre M130 straight-six, an advanced unit with multi-port fuel injection and peak power of 170bhp. The engine itself is extremely clean with no visible signs of leaks, and it sits within a very tidy and original bay. It fires up happily on the first turn of the key, idling smoothly and pulling keenly through the gears. The gearbox is slick in its operation, and there are no troubling noises from the transmission, engine or differential. Indeed, it’s a joy to drive, with the seller also reporting no issues with the brakes or suspension. Everything here is as it should be.
The allure of a Pagoda SL is undeniable. It’s a car so pretty, so elegant, so classically styled, that it raises a smile from every passer-by. People will strike up conversations in petrol stations, they’ll let you out of side turnings, they’ll buy you a swift half in the local to hear your tales of automotive adventure. And all the while you’ll be having a marvellous time, because it’s impossible to do otherwise in a car like this – good times and happy vibes are baked right into the recipe.
This Pagoda in particular is a very strong option indeed for anyone on the lookout for such a feelgood machine. There can be few on the market that look so good inside and out, thanks to the large amount of money that’s been spent on getting the body and interior in such fabulous condition. The car runs like a dream, it wants for nothing, and – perhaps most endearingly of all – it’s got a whole load of secret stories hidden within it. We know that it’s criss-crossed the globe searching for fun; a Texan at heart, but with footprints across Western Europe. Could you be the next curator to continue these colourful and life-affirming tales?
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