The ‘Pagoda’ generation of Mercedes-Benz SLs are a great introduction into 1960s roadsters for those with a fair budget. They are strong, reliable and achingly attractive. But why the name Pagoda? It’s down to the kicked-up edges to the roofline of the optional hardtop, which bear a slight resemblance to those Chinese structures.
Mercedes-Benz SL Pagoda
The R113-generation SL was certainly an improvement on what came before – it offered more power and performance than the 190SL it replaced, and it also ended up doing well in competition: the 230SL won the Spa-Sofia-Liège rally. The 250SL replaced it, but was only around for 1967. The larger engine offered no more power but extra torque, and there were only detail differences elsewhere.
The best was to come after the 250. The final version of the Pagoda roadster was powered by an uprated straight-six, bored out to 2.8 litres. Even with the restrictions caused by new emission controls it offered more power and torque this time, though some of the benefits were lost due to the weight the car had gained. The suspension was also retuned in favour of ride comfort, meaning the 280SL didn’t have quite the same handling capability as previous SLs. Despite this, still judged as an all-time great classic.
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