The racing-derived Mercedes 300SL coupe with gullwing doors was the must-have sports car of the mid-1950s. It was the first of the SL (Sport Leicht = Light Sports) class that has continued to the present day, though subsequent SLs haven’t quite recaptured the glamour of the sensually rounded 300SL – also offered as a roadster and voted one of the top sports cars of all time.
But Mercedes certainly tried hard. The 300SL’s companion car was the smaller but similar-looking 190SL. Together they comprised the W198 SL class, discontinued during 1963 after the W113 SL class appeared in the form of the 230 SL.
This marked the debut of the famous ‘pagoda roof’ SL with its six-cylinder fuel-injected engine and aluminum body panels, which reduced weight and improved the performance of this solidly built car. The 230 SL was a Coupe-Roadster, with an in-built soft top stored in a well behind the two seats and a removable coupe hardtop that enabled either configuration to be used.
There was a 23 California Coupe. It came with the coupe top – only, though this could-still be removed for open-top motoring presumably in the ever-reliable California sun. In the space normally occupied by-the sod-top was a drop-down bench seat, but this was virtually useless and the2+2 wasn’t a hit.
The heavier R107 SL class superseded the W113 SLs- in 1972, but not before the 230 SL, had evolved, though this was not apparent—visually as the main difference was larger engines. The 250 SL was offered in 1967 and 1968, whilst the 280 ST, ran from 1968 to 1971. The production run of the three models was around 49,000, ensuring that these classics are not rare with about 20,000 original 230 SLs produced.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1963 (until 1967)
2.308 cc Straight Six
Top speed of 124 mph (200 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 10.5 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The 230 SL is the least desirable of the three 1960s SLs, as the smaller engine offers less impressive performance than later brethren, but this means that (despite a marked tendency to rust underneath) there are plenty around for anyone who fancies stylish pagoda-top motoring.