The 230, 250 and 280 SL model Mercedes are still regarded
today as the pinnacle of German styling, quality and engineering.
Always popular with women, these fabulous cars boasted
fine handling, road holding and a surprisingly sporty
The SL designation (or "Super Light") was first used on
the more powerful Mercedes 300SL "Gullwing"
and 300SL "Roadster" of the 1950's, although
these models were far heavier than their later counterparts.
Initial production of the 230 SL commenced in March
1963 with a removable "Pagoda" steel roof panel and
a 150 bhp straight six engine with Bosch injection.
Although the engine was "borrowed" from the
220 SE, Daimler Benz engineers extensively modified
it by boring it out to 2,306 cubic centimeters (roughly
140 cubic inches), then adding unique manifolding,
a more aggressive cam and bigger valves.
Post modification, the 230 SL's in-line six cylinder
produced 170 horsepower (at 5,600 rpm) and 159 foot-pounds
The 4 speed transmission lever was located
on the floor and, in keeping with the boulevard cruisers
who would make up a great part of the buyers for such
a vehicle, an automatic version was also available.
The braking system featured a two-circuit servo with
discs at the front and drums at the rear. Power steering
was also available as an option, but the feature for
which it is most famous is the one you are least likely
to see on a sunny day - the slightly converse hard-top
that gave the car its now famous nick name "Pagoda".
Much maligned, (although probably because it was little
understood), was the 230SL's swing axles- dubbed "single-low-pivot".
The suspension featured a strut suspended from the
body that supported a single joint close to the differential.
Long half-axles, each located by a trailing arm and
sprung by a coil, extended to each wheel, pivoting
on this nearly central point. Combined with the wide
rear track, the long half-shafts minimized camber
change in cornering, allowing smooth, predictable
handling even on the relatively narrow tires of the
For avid car spotters the easiest way to recognise
a 230SL from its larger engined cousins (apart from
the boot vehicle identification) are the solid chrome
wheel rims. In its 10 year production run its styling barely altered.
In 1967 after nearly 20,000 sales the 230 was replaced
by the 250 SL.