Mercedes-Benz unveiled the W113 230 SL Coupe/Roadster to the public in 1963. A new car from the ground up, it replaced both for the four-cylinder 190 SL and the exotic 300 SL roadster. Rather than attempt to create a direct replacement for the costly 300 SL, Mercedes-Benz chose to bridge the gap between the two outgoing cars, creating a sophisticated, stylish sports-tourer built with the exceptional quality Mercedes buyers expected. Designed in-house by Paul Bracq, the handsome body styling was crisp and modern – a drastic departure from the swoopy coke-bottle shape of the 190. One of the most distinctive features was the removable hardtop’s concave roof panel that when viewed from the front, resembled the form of a Japanese Pagoda – earning the car its famous nickname.
The Pagoda SL represented an entirely new philosophy for the SL line which still defines the nameplate today. High on style and practicality, yet with impeccable build quality and robust performance, the SL walks the line between an all-out sports roadster and relaxed grand tourer. In performance terms, the Pagoda made a marked improvement over the outgoing 190 SL. Despite the smooth and refined fuel-injected six-cylinder engines, they were never really known for particularly storming performance. Output ranged from approximately 150 horsepower to 170 horsepower for the late cars. Despite having the compact, all-alloy 3.5 liter V8 at their disposal, Mercedes was content to stick with the inline-six throughout the entire production run. Buyers would have to wait for the new R107 for the first ever V8 SL. Of course, that hasn’t stopped owners from seeking ways to squeeze more performance out of the capable W113 chassis, with some much more successful than others.
At first glance, our featured 1967 230 SL appears to be a sharp, nicely restored and well-presented standard car. However, under the bonnet of this very special Pagoda lurks a surprise in the form of a 5.0-liter Mercedes-Benz M117 V8 sourced from a European-specification 1983 500 SEC. Carefully planned and implemented over two years, this incredible conversion uses almost all factory Mercedes-Benz components and hardware. This car was a personal project of a Mercedes-Benz specialist, and the transformation is carried out to a very high standard, with virtually no detail overlooked. From the outside, one would be hard pressed to see this as anything other than a standard SL. The restored body is very attractive in the factory shade of bright white (DB050), with matching hardtop and color-keyed wheels. The paintwork is lovely, with straight body sides and properly-aligned panels. Chrome and brightwork consists of a mix of restored and very good original items, and the car rides on factory 14-inch steel wheels with the correct early-style “dog dish” hub caps with trim rings. Slightly larger-than-standard Michelin 195/75 R14 radials are about the only hint that this car may be more than what it appears on the surface.
The interior is pleasingly well-restored to factory standards without as much as a hint of the car’s performance potential. Correct dark blue MB Tex upholstery is in excellent order on the seats, door cards, and panels. The dash features correct original instruments and a period-correct Becker radio. Blue square-weave carpet and satin finish woodwork are all standard SL items and in excellent condition. The factory-optional under-dash A/C unit has been completely rebuilt and updated with modern internals adapted to the original housing. This car includes both the factory hard top in white and a soft top in dark blue German canvas, both in excellent order. Even the trunk is properly detailed with a correct rubber mat, factory jack, and tool roll.
Of course, the star of the show sits under the hood. The Mercedes-Benz 5-liter V8 looks right at home in the SL’s engine bay; exceptionally well detailed with silver powder-coated cam covers, air cleaner, and other accessories. Before installation, the heads were refurbished with new guides, valve stem seals, and more, and installed with fresh factory gaskets and seals. The refresh also included a new timing chain, chain tensioner, guide rails, and an overhaul and reseal of the 4-speed automatic transmission. The detailing is outstanding, with fresh cadmium plating, proper German plumbing and factory-appropriate wiring. To handle the additional heat from the V8, the cooling system features a custom aluminum radiator and twin thermostatically-controlled electric fans. Extensive use of OEM components ensures the car remains both reliable and easily serviced. Timevalve Manufacturing of Melbourne, Florida built the custom stainless steel exhaust system, which exits in the stock location for a discreet appearance while delivering a rich exhaust note. The chassis was also refreshed and four-wheel disc brakes ensure there is plenty of stopping power in reserve.
Despite the extensive nature of this project and significant gains in performance, this 230 SL has lost none of its original charm. The qualities of the standard car remain, such as the refined road manners and easy to drive nature, yet it packs an extra 80-plus horsepower punch accompanied by an addictive yet subtle V8 soundtrack. Beautifully built, turn-key, and ready to enjoy on the road, this is a one-off opportunity to acquire what is possibly the ultimate interpretation of the iconic Pagoda SL.
Offers welcome and trades considered