SL Evolution, Part 4: French Design Shaped the Most Elegant SL Ever


The Mercedes-Benz SL Second Generation: The Pagoda W113 (1963-1971).

Two extremely talented designers took part in creating the Pagoda: Frenchman Paul Bracq, who was only 30 years old when the car was launched. He designed it with subtle artistic flair that is evident all throughout the car. He is also responsible for the individual pagoda-shaped roof. The second designer was Bela Barenyi, probably the most prolific inventor in the history of the motor industry, who contributed a few advanced safety features.

The exterior of the 230 SL is characterized by distinct, straight lines and the unmistakable SL front-end. The proportion from the hood to the trunk was more evenly distributed than before, therefore the car looks more gentle and less powerful. The headlamps are posing in portrait position (as in the W198 II), the air intakes beyond the front wheels disappeared and the two longitudinal bulges on the hood were erased. The dashboard design was almost the same as that of the 300 SL Coupe. It had two prominent round gauges, one for the speedometer the other for a tachometer, and between them was a longitudinally positioned set of gauges.

Like its predecessor, it was a two-seater with an optional extra rear transverse seat, just like in the 190 SL. Since the basis for the W113's floor unit was the W111's floor, the world's first saloon with a safety body innovation was copied to the W113 chassis as well. It was designed to reduce injury hazards in accidents and seatbelts were optional. The body adopted from the 220 SE was characterized by more subtle lines, particularly at the front-end. It was first introduced as 230 SL with a 6-cylinder 2.3-liter 148hp engine. The car was a bit heavier than competing models though a few panels were made of aluminum in order to lighten it.

Later editions were the 250 SL and the 280 SL, both with inline 6-cylinder engines. The 230 SL was available as a roadster with a user-friendly folding soft top or a thoroughbred hardtop coupe. Those roof versions were later adapted later to the 250 SL and the 280 SL. The 230 SL Pagoda in its coupe version also displayed its abilities in long distance rallying, a motorsport format that no longer exists. In 1963, it won the Spa-Sofia-Liege long-distance rally, one of the most grueling and respected events on the calendar.

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