Early SL cars had not yet gone out of fashion, as in the early 1960s, automotive design began to change dramatically. Therefore, in the summer of 1963, the Mercedes-Benz 230 SL appeared, nicknamed “Pagoda”, because of the shape of its roof, reminiscent of a Chinese pagoda.
The W113 or 230SL replaced the 190SL and 300SL in 1963 and immediately won the market. By the early 1960s, the fashion for fins had already gone, but the renewal of the automobile fleet was in full swing: in the summer of 1963, the SL sports series went through a new update. The development of the vehicle followed the same path, a deep modernization of the pontoon body. But at the same time, it already had not a four-, but a six-cylinder engine. With a simple compact body, independent suspension, and of course the option to remove either the hard or canvas roof, the new 230SL roadster quickly became a popular automobile, especially among women. It was the unusual shape of the roof that gave it the nickname “Pagoda” during its premiere. Subsequently, the model was upgraded twice with rear disc brakes and more powerful engines – “250SL” (1967) and “280SL” (1968-1971). A total of 48912 such models were produced.
Source: Classic Driver
The first Mercedes-Benz SLs were the 300SL supercar and the 190SL sports roadster, created for the American market in 1955. After eight years of production, it was clear that the 300SL was too expensive to successfully compete in its segment, and the 190SL lacked performance. Thus, Daimler-Benz technical director Fritz Nallinger proposed to replace them with a unified model that would be a mix of all necessary features but would stand out from its original design. So the 230SL (W113) appeared, unofficially nicknamed “Pagoda” – thanks to the concave removable hardtop roof. At the debut of the W113 at the 1963 Geneva Motor Show, Nallinger called it “a safe and fast performance car that, despite its sporty performance, had a high degree of smoothness.” For the Mercedes-Benz W113, Paul Braque developed a completely new two-seater monocoque body – low, wide, and short, with a wheelbase of 2400 mm. The hood, trunk lid, and doors were made of aluminum. Unlike other Mercedes-Benz vehicles, the W113 had a horizontal grille with a three-pointed star in the middle. The European version was fitted with Bosch Lichteinheit vertical headlights, fashionable at the time, while the American one replaced them with round headlights and turn signals. As standard, the W113 was a convertible with a soft top folding under a metal cover, but as an option, it was equipped with a removable hardtop with a large glass area.
The 1964 model was, in a sense, a compromise. The vehicle was neither a refined sports car nor a racing car modified for the public road. It was a comfortable two-seater GT vehicle with excellent driving performance and the highest possible degree of safety in those years. Apart from the same wheelbase (2400 mm), the new SL had nothing in common with its two predecessors. Technically it was based on the 220 SE, from which it received a power body frame (reinforced and shortened), suspension, and engine. The 1964 model had an increased engine displacement to 2.3 liters and a compression ratio, which in turn increased its power to 150 hp. The model was also offered with an automatic 4-speed transmission alongside the standard 4-speed manual transmission. The 230 SL was the first safe-body sports vehicle built on Bela Bareny’s principles, with a central rigid passenger’s place and crumple zones at the front and rear of the vehicle. The design of the roof was no less impressive: the vehicle was equipped with a removable hardtop, and buyers liked this avant-garde project for a reason: it was a classic illustration of the principle “ the form follows the function”. According to Bareny, the shape of the “pagoda” gave the roof a high coefficient of rigidity, even when lightweight structures were used. In addition, access to the car’s interior was facilitated, and visibility increased.
The celebrity list of the first “Pagoda” owners included John Lennon, Tony Curtis, Charlton Heston, John Travolta, Sophia Loren, Kate Moss, etc. In addition, the car starred in many Hollywood films.
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