Mercedes-Benz SL Pagoda (1963 – 1971) Review

Mercedes-Benz SL Pagoda (1963 – 1971) At A Glance


+Stylish, handsome and slightly unsporting default choice roadster

-Full restorations are not for the faint hearted, financially

The 'Pagoda' generation of Mercedes-Benz SLs are a great introduction into 1960s roadsters for those with a fair budget. They are strong, reliable and achingly attractive. But why the name Pagoda? It's down to the kicked-up edges to the roofline of the optional hardtop, which bear a slight resemblance to those Chinese structures.

The R113-generation SL was certainly an improvement on what came before - it offered more power and performance than the 190SL it replaced, and it also ended up doing well in competition: the 230SL won the Spa-Sofia-Liège rally. The 250SL replaced it, but was only around for 1967. The larger engine offered no more power but extra torque, and there were only detail differences elsewhere.

The best was to  come after the 250. The final version of the Pagoda roadster was powered by an uprated straight-six, bored out to 2.8 litres. Even with the restrictions caused by new emission controls it offered more power and torque this time, though some of the benefits were lost due to the weight the car had gained. The suspension was also retuned in favour of ride comfort, meaning the 280SL didn’t have quite the same handling capability as previous SLs. Despite this, still judged as an all-time great classic.

Ask Honest John

Should I use a petrol additive in my classic Mercedes-Benz?

"I have a 1966 Mercedes 230SL, which I use lead substitute whenever I fill it. Should I add a fuel system cleaner every so often and will the lead and fuel cleaner additives cause issues between them, or would it be ok to use both? The car does not cover many miles each year."
Is the car misbehaving? If you're concerned there's gunk in the system, there are few steps you can take. First fit an inline fuel filter (because whatever rubbish you're about to dislodge you don't want to make its way into the carbs and the engine). Second, use a premium fuel as these often have cleaners in. Third, you could go down the additive/cleaner route. Fourth, you could take the tank off and try and clean it yourself. Finally, you could send the tank away to a company that will clean it for you. Whatever you do, chances are you're going to upset an awful lot of sediment. Personally, I'd start by fitting a inline fuel filter and not letting the tank go below 1/4. If it's misbehaving, then check the operation of the carbs, make sure that the air filter isn't blocked, clean and gap the plug and inspect the rotar arm and distributor cap. You could also make sure the throttle cable can move smoothly.
Answered by Keith Moody

What do you think is the best classic car to buy for £100K?

"What do you think is the best classic car to buy for £100K? Which would be fun and not too expensive to keep and might increase in value?"
Whatever classic you buy, you'll need to budget for maintenance and running costs, but really the best classic depends on what you want to do with it. Fancy something for solely for investment purposes? Ferraris and Porsches are often solid bets - think Testarossa or 911 Turbo. A high days and holidays car to enjoy with your significant other might be a W113 era Mercedes SL or a Jaguar E-type. If on-track action is your thing, you may be able to get a race car with FIA Papers - there are a few race-specific auctions to keep an eye on. Alternatively, an iconic piece of American muscle car action is well within your budget (think 1969 Shelby GT350 Mustang). Prefer your classics older? Then a Lagonda 2-Litre could be a smart buy. Stately and smart? 1950s Bentley S1 Continental. Modern high-performance? Ford Sierra RS500. Just make sure that whatever you buy you do your homework... and enjoy it.
Answered by Keith Moody

What's the best way to sell a modern classic?

"I'm trying to get rid of my 20 year old Mercedes-Benz SL280 with 141,000 miles on the clock. It has over six months MoT left, but I've struggled to get a valuation due to the car's age. Where would be the best and easiest place to dispose of the car?"
If you're absolutely desperate to offload it, then you could put it into an auction. There are several classic specialists while modern car auctions also do modern classic sales. It just depends on where you're based. If you go down the auction route then be aware of all the fees involved and any possible penalties for withdrawing your car from the sale (if you change your mind).
Answered by Keith Moody

Is it wise to sell a classic car at an auction with no reserve price?

"We have inherited two Mercedes-Benz Pagoda. One is a white manual 230SL made in 1964 with with previous owners and 75,000 miles. The second is a 1970 280SL Coupe Auto, 71,000 miles with one previous owner. Both have hard and soft tops. Both cars have been in a dry garage for the past 45 years. One has a personalised plate worth possibly £5,000. Neither car has an MoT or been run in that time. A leading auction house has suggested selling these without reserve and anticipate they could fetch £15,000 - 20,000 for the 230SL and £17,000 - £22,000 for the 280SL. They also suggest leaving the personalised plate on as it would be too expensive for me to get an MoT to enable me to transfer it. I know little about classic cars but I feel very uneasy about the advice I have received and do not believe they should ever be sold without a reserve."
Let's start with the numberplate - the auction house is correct - you will need an MoT (and tax) if you want to retain the numberplates. I've no idea what condition the car is in so it's impossible to say whether getting an MoT would be prohibitively expensive or not. There's a chance having an MoT will increase its value. Selling a car at auction is fairly hassle-free - you won't have to deal with endless inquires from buyers, but the price you get will often be slightly lower than it would have been if you'd sold the car privately. Costs to watch out for include a 'listing fee' and a 'commission fee' (often a percentage of the sale price, plus VAT). Ask the auction company to provide exact details of their pricing structure. Whether or not you choose to sell your car without a reserve or not is up to you. If you don't want to, then don't. If you're happy with the guide prices they've offered, pick a reserve that is in the middle of the high and low estimates. If you're not certain about the guide values, do some market research to find out what similar models have sold for. You could also contact a few different auction houses in the same way you'd contact a few different builders for quotes for work on your house. The cars you have for sale are very desirable so make sure you get the best possible price you can.
Answered by Keith Moody
More Questions

What does a Mercedes-Benz SL Pagoda (1963 – 1971) cost?