230SL: Super Light Pagoda


Super Light Pagoda

This is the kind of car that'll make you feel like a million dollars each time you hop in.

The cool roadster profile and convertible top, who wouldn't want to be seen cruising down in this stellar classic? Lucky for Bill, who patiently waited and scoured the web for the perfect SL 113 series, he finally landed himself behind the wheel and the proud owner of this very special 1964 Mercedes-Benz 230SL.


The year was 1963, and up until then the 190SL and 300SL have been the leading powerhouses of the marque. When it was decided that these models would terminate production in that same year, Mercedes-Benz needed a new face to take over the reins. The SL moniker was already popular and established, so there was no need to convince the audience of its reputation.

The 230SL was one of three series that made up the third generation of the Sehr Leicht (translated as Super Light). The big debut took place at the Geneva Auto Show in March to roaring success. Design wise, it was Mercedes' signature to use bulbous curves to characterise its vehicles. However, the launch of the 230SL took on a new body aesthetic; with a squarish shape, clean lines and a removable hardtop, also known as the 'Pagoda'. Though only a "spiritual descendant" of the previous cars, the 230SL managed to surpass expectations by doubling sales and even topping the 190SL when compared to its best year.


The third generation SL was mechanised by a straight-6 cylinder engine and equipped with front disc brakes and a single pivot independent rear suspension. The 230SL could hit up to 200km/h, and for the first time, the SL presented buyers with a choice between an automatic or 4-speed manual transmission. Interior refinement also sets the 230SL apart from its competitors. These cabin upgrades include luxurious leather seats, big clear gauges, a Blaupunkt radio system, and more refined craftsmanship throughout.

While looks did play an important role, it was the car's performing ability that really skyrocketed the SL to greater heights. Bill Boddy, a MotorSport journalist back in the day who had the privilege of test-driving the 230SL in 1965, described it as a "supreme sporting car" with an "impeccable finish". Handling was regarded as neutral, with light, easy steering even at the speed limit. Though it was not built for the racecourse, the reliability and robustness of the 230SL made it a suitable car for rally races. It even won the championship at the 1963 Spa-Sofia-Liege Rally.


As for Bill, a vehicle's history and provenance are the most important. Right now, he's got nine classics secured in his garage, including a 1993 limited edition Mazda MX5 (1 of 100) and a 2002 Mazda Motorsport MX5 SP (1 of 100).

Not much is known about his 230SL in particular, except that it has made several appearances in movies and TV shows (though the owner has not specified the titles). Bill purchased the car in 2014 in near original condition, and the only modification - or in this case, reversion - made by him so far was replacing the modern audio system to one that is period correct.

The timeless elegance and comfort are just some of the reasons why Bill loves his 230SL. We asked what his favourite memories are, to which he replied, "too many". Of course, with a car that was regarded as "one of the finest from the Stuttgart firm", making memories will come easy.

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