Mercedes-Benz W113 is First Produced
The Mercedes-Benz W 113 automobiles were produced from 1963 through 1971.
They were sold as the "pagoda roof" SL Class. The W 113 replaced the W 198 SL-Class in 1963 and was replaced by the R107 SL-Class in 1972.
All models boast an inline six-cylinder engine with multi-port fuel injection using a mechanical pump system adapted from the diesel motors. All are rear-wheel drive, but are also equipped with independent rear suspension, a feature that greatly improved road handling. Most of these early SLs were sold with both the removable hard top and a soft top in the so-called "Coupe/Roadster" configuration, but there was also a "California Coupe" version available that came with the removable hardtop but no soft top. In these models, the soft top well (between the passenger compartment and trunk) is removed, and a drop-down bench seat is installed in its place. The rear seat is small and not very useful, so these 2+2 models are rare but not especially sought after today. While the SLs are relatively heavy compared to other similar roadsters, weight was reduced in part by the use of aluminum panels for the trunk lid, front hood, tonneau cover and door skins.
230-SL (July, 1963−January, 1967)
Production began in 1963 with the 2.3 liter 230-SL. These models were commonly 4-speed manual transmission cars, but a 4-speed automatic transmission was also available and popular for U.S. market cars. The 230-SL sported front disc / rear drum power-assisted brakes. They quickly gained popularity in the U.S. market, and this eventually led to more and more cars being built with automatic transmissions. 19,831 copies of the 230-SL were built, of which 11,726 cars were exported.
250 SL (December, 1966−January, 1968)
The 250 SL was basically a one-year model, introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1967, although in North America many were sold in, and titled as, 1968 model year cars. This model is the rarest of the W 113 cars. The main changes were the use of a 2496 cc motor with seven main bearings in place of the 2306 cc with four main bearings of the previous car. Cylinder bore was unchanged but the stroke was increased from 72.8 to 78.8 mm. Also unchanged was the claimed 150 bhp maximum power: the new engine did, however, significantly improve torque, up from 145 to 159 lb. ft. Stopping power was also improved with the addition of rear disc brakes. The 250 SL retained the stiffer suspension and sportier feel of the early SLs but provided significantly improved performance, especially given the engine's wider power band. Like its predecessor, the 250 SL was offered with a four speed automatic: it was also sold with a ZF 5-speed manual transmission that remained available on its successor model through 1970. Of the 5,196 250 SLs built, 3,808 cars were exported (1,791 of which to the USA).
280 SL (December, 1967−March, 1971)
The 2.8 liter 280 SL was introduced in 1967 and continued production largely unchanged through 1971 when the W 113 was replaced by the entirely new, and substantially heavier, R 107 350 SL/450 SL. Most 280 SL cars built for the U.S. market were equipped with automatic transmission. Manual transmission cars came with either a 4-speed tramsmission or the super rare ZF-5 speed. The ZF 5 speed is very rare sought after by American collectors. In the European market manual transmission cars were still dominant. 23,885 280 SLs were produced, of which 12,927 units went to the USA and 5,754 to other countries outside of Germany.
European versus American specifications
These cars are also popular as U.S. export vehicles. That is, cars brought to the U.S. from Europe some years after original production. The European-spec vehicles have a number of subtle differences from U.S. market cars. The most visible is the distinctive European 'fishbowl' headlights versus U.S. sealed beam bulb headlights. Somewhat less known is that some European cars were using yellow lenses on the rear turn signals much earlier that were cars in the U.S. which were required by law to use all-red tail lights (U.S. laws were eventually changed to allow yellow turn signals). Other differences include the metric gauges, no chrome bumper guards, more use of chrome throughout the interior, and, generally speaking, no air conditioning. Depending on the market, many Euro-spec cars were also often equipped with an "add-on" red emergency flasher, a safety requirement for cars brought into the U.S. that was not a standard feature in the European market until later production years.
Today, the W 113 Pagoda is considered a highly desirable collectors car, with current values for the 280 SL suggesting that it is the most desirable of the three models. The 250 SL, being quite a bit rarer, is also popular with collectors who prefer the somewhat stiffer suspension and sportier feel of the earlier cars, but also appreciate the improved performance of the 2.5 liter engine, and the addition of rear disk brakes. The 230 SL is widely available, but demands a lower price due to the perception of lower performance from a smaller engine. Buyers of these vintage autos should look closely for rust, especially in the floors, trunk, and under the doors. These cars, while generally well cared for, are known for having rust problems. Replacement parts including engine, transmission, interior, and rust repair panels are readily available making restoration a viable alternative.
The W113 name-tag indicates a range of vehicles produced from 1963 to 1971 sold as the SL Pagodas. The name is derivative from the car's high and sleek roof that, if seen from the sides, looks as if it just hung over the rest of the car having been linked to the rest of the body only through the tonneau and a slim B-pillar that looks rather like a design element. These exotic coupes were also available with a soft-top and removable hard-top with the latter having also been dubbed as the "California Coupe". All models came equipped with an inline six-cylinder petrol unit, rear-wheel drive and a live rear axle.
All Mercedes SL-Class W113 models boast an in-line six cylinder engine with multi-port fuel injection using a mechanical pump system adapted from the diesel motors. All are rear wheel drive, but are also equipped with independent rear suspension, a feature that greatly improved road handling. Most of these early SLs were sold with both the removable hard top and a soft top, although "California Roadster" versions came with the removable hardtop but no soft top. In these models, the soft top well (between the passenger compartment and trunk) is removed, and a "kinder-seat" (childrens-seat) is installed in it’s place. The rear seat is small and not very useful, so these models are rather rare, and not especially popular with collectors today. While the Mercedes SLs are relatively heavy compared to other similar size sport roadsters, weight was reduced in part by the use of aluminum panels for the trunk lid, front hood, and door skins.
The first W113 SL, introduced at the 1963 Geneva Motor Show, effectively replaced both the 190SL and 300SL. The all-new 230SL - the first to be offered with air conditioning and automatic transmission - had a six-cylinder 2.3-litre engine developing 170bhp and featured the Bosch fuel injection. Its structure was basically similar to that of the 190SL, though it was built on what was essentially a shorter, stiffer version of the 220-series saloon platform, with a steel body and aluminium doors, bonnet and bootlid, and the double-wishbone suspension with rear swing arms. Its most distinctive feature was its (optional) hard-top, however - its elegant shape with thin, upright pillars led it to be nicknamed the "pagoda roof".
The roof was slightly dipped in the centre, to give a little extra room for getting in and out, and to allow for large side windows without making the car top-heavy. The 230SL also incorporated front and rear crumple zones around a rigid passenger cell, safety technology Mercedeshad already introduced in its saloons, and had an alternator rather than a generator.
The comforts and civilised nature of the 230SL meant that it sold in far greater numbers than its predecessors, appealing to women as well as men. Over 19,800 were sold, and it also proved a successful rally car, winning the Liege-Sofia-Liege marathon in 1963. Its engine was enlarged to 2.5-litres in 1967, upping torque by 15lb ft to 175lb ft, though horsepower remained unchanged, and rear disc brakes also became standard for the 250SL, as it was now called; 5,200 of these models were sold.
Just a year later, the engine was enlarged again to 2788cc, giving 180bhp and 193lb ft; five-speed manual transmission became optional. Performance was actually little different to that of the 230SL, however, due to the car’s heavier weight and the now-compulsory emission control devices. The 280SL went on to become the most popular model of its series nonetheless, with nearly 24,000 sold, and it remained in production until 1971.