Mercedes 230SL For Sale?

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    Mercedes 230SL Review (1963 - 1966)

    Overall Summary

    Dusty Cars Rating

    The 230 SL is a part of the three-model W113 lineup (also known as the Pagoda) which came as a replacement for two models – the four-pot 190 SL and the legendary six-pot 300 SL. These two models were catering to two very different crowds. The 190 SL was a luxury tourer with a somewhat ordinary engine and a lower price, while the 300 SL was the ultimate car of the era, not only for Mercedes, but for the entire industry as well and the price reflected this.

    In 1963 the W113 came in the form of the coupe and the roadster as a replacement for both models, making the SL class more powerful than the 190 SL and far cheaper than the 300 SL. Everything was somewhere in the middle. The design was elegant and timeless, upping the looks of the 190 SL, but still lying shy of the Gullwing extravagance of the 300 SL; the engine had the same number of cylinders as the Mercedes 300 SL for sale, but it had a smaller displacement of 2.3 l, which made it less of a beast than the 300 SL had been, but a far more capable car than the four-cylinder 190 SL. So, how did this mixture turn out?

    The W113 is one of the most popular classics out there today, especially in its final form of 280 SL and it was an absolute hit when it came out. Moreover, it was incredibly popular in the USA, where Mercedes-Benz sold almost 40% of all the W113s ever produced. The first model to appear was the 230 SL, with the 2.3 l engine. It was more capable than the 190 SL, but it also proved to be a very successful test for the market. Its success propelled the two following increases in displacement which lead to the ultimate W113 in 1968 – the 280 SL, which also included some of the modernized design features of the 250 SL.

    The 230 SL also brought several other improvements, including weight reduction stemming from the aluminum hood, trunk and door skins, improved suspension and brakes and a wonderful combination of the measurements in the chassis length and width and wheelbase. This made the 230 SL one of the most interesting cars to drive at the time – the handling was unanimously praised by anyone lucky enough to test drive the car.

    You could opt for the coupe version, or the roadster with a soft top, or hard top. The car was mainly a two-seater with an optional rear bench in the Mercedes 250 SL California Coupe for sale. Several other special models were also offered.

    The W113 was the perfect blend of the 190 SL and 300 SL, but it brought much more. It was the first Mercedes with radial tires and the first sports car in the world with a ”safety body”, which was a revolutionary design that included increased rigidity of the passenger area and crumple zones in the front and back which served to absorb impact and thus increase safety tremendously. This made the W113 a car with remarkable legacy, since crumple zones are still a tool of preference for increased safety in the automotive industry.

    All things considered, the W113 was a sports car that offered great design, modern technologies, unprecedented safety and incredible driving dynamics, but also retained a very high level of comfort.

    Driving & Performance

    The 230 SL was incredibly interesting to drive. It was lightweight – weighing just under 3,000 lb – with a remarkably wide body and short wheelbase which meant that the car was very responsive and agile. Furthermore, compared to the 190 SL, the car provided more power and torque and transmissions were very precise, beautifully engaging and responsive.

    The shorter wheelbase could have easily spoiled the comfort, but incredible finish and even better suspension easily made the 230 SL one of the best handling in most comfortable cars in its class.

    Similarly, the brakes were fantastic, especially for a car of this weight. However, Mercedes-Benz wouldn’t be Mercedes-Benz if they weren’t pushing boundaries, so later versions of the car got all-round disc brakes, which made handling even better. As Fritz Nallinger, technical director at Mercedes-Benz said it: “It was our aim to create a very safe and fast sports car with high performance, which despite its sports characteristics, provides a very high degree of traveling comfort”. And this is exactly what they did.

    However, Mercedes never departed from their class and comfort philosophy, so even though the 230 SL was more than capable at the time, it was still very nice to drive even for people who didn’t enjoy racing but rather relaxed cruising. This is perfect for today’s buyers who are sure to enjoy the class and comfort more than strictly racing capabilities of the 1960s sports cars, which can’t really provide the power of modern cars, but they often do provide far more engaging drive.

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    Equipment & Comfort

    The Mercedes-Benz 230 SL was the first version of the W113. Chronologically, it was closest to the 190 SL, so it is no wonder that the interior is very reminiscent of the previous model. It had a classy dashboard dominated by an upright instrument surrounded by two rounded ones. The steering wheel had a new shape with flat-topped chrome ring in the middle and a more massive middle section.

    The middle of the dashboard housed vents, radio and a clock which used to be on the glove compartment on the previous model. The dashboard mounted rearview mirror was also abandoned for the one positioned more commonly at the top of the windscreen.

    The middle column between the driver’s and passenger’s seat housed the transmission stick, but in the W113 it also included a large storage compartment, a feature present even in the W124 from the 1990s.

    The seats were, once again, a perfect middle ground between comfort and support, angling slightly towards long-distance cruising comfort, but still providing confidence while driving through curves.

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    Running Costs

    The Mercedes-Benz 230 SL is a very reliable car, much like most other Mercedes-Benz models. If it is in good condition, it should run forever, provided you perform regular maintenance.

    Its parts, however, although aren’t very expensive, are far from cheap. A clutch plate assembly costs about $150, while a drive shaft with synchronizing cone costs about $1000. Lower control arms cost about $800, and a front spring costs around $100.

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    History & Development

    In 1957, six years before the W113 was officially in production, the 190 SL’s lack of power was becoming a burden for Mercedes, so they decided to increase the power in the form of the 220 SL (W127). Around the same time, a completely new platform came to light in the Stuttgart factory – the W112, which was a predecessor to the S class, today widely acknowledged as the ultimate production luxury car. The new chassis development ideas proved to be highly successful and the W127, otherwise known as the 220 SL, never saw the light of day, since the idea was dropped completely and a new platform was developed based on the new technology from the flagship model.

    The result was presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 1963 and it was the 230 SL, developed on a completely new platform dubbed W113. Among other things, the slight increase in displacement and improved fuel injection system brought more power and torque.

    The 230 SL, the first of the W113 bloodline, saw the light of day in 1963. It featured an all new chassis, an independent single-joint, low-pivot swing rear-axle with transverse compensator spring and double wishbone front suspension, recirculating ball steering, also offering an option of power steering and front disc and rear drum brakes.

    The I6 engine with multi-port fuel injection had the displacement of 2.3 l producing 150 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. The engine was not simply bigger than that in the 220SL, but it also had a new fuel injection system, increased compression ratio, different valves and cylinder head and a new camshaft. It was paired up with either a four-speed manual (five-speed from 1966), of four-speed automatic. Surprisingly for the era, even the automatic was very responsive and a joy to drive.

    The car was a beast on the track. For example, a professional Grand Prix driver Mike Parkes used the legendary Ferrari 250 GT with a 3 l V12 engine to clock the Annemasse Vétraz-Monthoux race track in 47.3 seconds. The 230 SL, with an inline six and 700 ccm fewer driven by Rudolf Uhlenhaut, a chief engineer at Mercedes-Benz, clocked the same track in 47.5 seconds.

    The 230 SL saw numerous, albeit mainly cosmetic, changes in the next three years, including the new manual transmission in 1966, which is now very rare and especially sought after among collectors.

    In total 19,831 230 SL was made, 4,752 of which were sold in the United States.

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    Facts & Figures

    BodyHard top convertible, soft top convertible, coupe
    Engines2,308 ccm SOHC l6 (150 hp)
    Dimensions and weight
    Weight2,866 lb – 3,000 lb
    Mercedes-Benz W113 years of production
    230 SL1963 – 1966
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