Classy Convertible: 1964 Mercedes 230SL

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When Mercedes introduced the “Pagoda” type SL roadster in 1963, it was a major departure from the preceding 190SL and 300SL models. Featuring distinctive styling, sedan-based reliable mechanicals and an extremely ridgid (for the time) body shell, the 230SL brought the Mercedes sporty car into the 1960’s. This particular one is said to be a low mileage (more about that later) California car that is now located in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s listed for auction here on eBay, where it hasn’t reached reserve yet.

This 230SL is equipped with the four speed manual transmission, which seems to be a little unusual for these cars. Later versions could be equipped with a ZF five speed, but they are even more rare. The paintwork looks extremely nice, and we are told it is a recent repaint in it’s original white. There is said to be no rust present anywhere, which means this car may end up at a pretty high selling figure.

While not a barn find, if you believe the seller this is an extremely lightly used car–a restovivor, given the fresh paint. How lightly? Supposedly, this SL has only 10,525 miles! I struggle with that low of a figure, but I have to admit the car is in very nice shape cosmetically.

I’m hoping an expert can tell us for sure, but I believe this to be MB Tex material, some of the finest non-leather material ever made. It is extremely long-lasting, and may well be the original interior. While I know this isn’t the original shift knob (you can buy a genuine factory new one here for $88.95) I think it fits the interior well and I would leave it installed. Frankly, apart from what is either slight fading or dirt on the rear carpet, I’m very impressed with the interior from the pictures and wouldn’t change a thing if it were mine.

Here’s where I think the mileage claim starts to fall apart. That’s a lot of dirt for 10,525 miles! Also, some clamps and hoses don’t appear to be original, and the fact that what I think is a heater outlet at the firewall doesn’t even have a hose on it scares me. It appears that the heater has been bypassed. There’s a core here on eBay for $345, but that doesn’t include the valve–whew! So tell me, what do you think this one will go for? And do you think the buyer will care that the heater doesn’t work?

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  1. Oingo

    Say it Jerry, Show me the paperwork!

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  2. psbat

    Love it! but not buying the miles. would have to see more

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  3. Rustytech RustytechMember

    I’m not usually an import guy, but this is a very nice Benz. With the stick it would be a fun drive, but it’s already out of my price range.

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  4. HeadMaster1

    These are riding a bubble just like the early 911’s…..Expect this to go over $50k

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    • Francisco

      $50k would be a bargain for this car.

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      • Francisco

        I take back my comment. I am beginning to believe that the knowledgeable readers and commenters of Barn Finds are going to change the way we all approach buying cars without seeing them in person.

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  5. erikj

    Good catch on the heater hose. Why would the seller not spend a bit and fix that and do a little detail on that engine compartment.

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  6. Skeptical

    I remember these from the mid-70’s when they could be purchased for less than
    $10,000 and were often passed on, because parts were expensive, and the performance was anemic at best. Now, parts more expensive and performance the same. This is NOT a 10k miles car.

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  7. ccrvtt

    I remember the initial reportage on this car in Road & Track when a rear-view picture from the auto show where it was introduced (Geneva?) was captioned, “A pretty good view, other than the pagoda…” The name struck a chord and has followed this car ever since.

    The lines of the removable hardtop are very delicate and make the car which is otherwise pretty generic. The grille opening is nice with the emphasis on the the star.

    Nice find.

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  8. jcs

    Something to make you question the mileage figure even more: This appears to be a European model (headlights?) and speedometer (220 KM/H) which would mean that the 10,520 showing on the odometer are not miles, but kilometers. 10,520 kilometers are actually only 6,522 miles (1 kilometer equals .62 mile). If the odometer did roll over, that would men that this car has 68,522 miles on it (or more if it’s a double roll over).

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  9. John M

    You’re correct, the interior is definitely MB Tex.

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  10. Luki

    Yes I always photograph my cars under the fluorescent lights at the gas station at night.
    I can’t spell either.
    Bogus claim by an illiterate as usual.

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  11. JRATT1956

    I have a 1966 4 door 250 SE with the fuel injected engine, that I bought for $2,500 in 2013. It has 175,000 and my engine compartment looks way better than this one. I do not know the exact miles because the plastic gear in the tranny is bad, Some day I hope to find a 250 SE Coupe and do a swap with my running gear. I missed one for $6,500 2 years ago, but I am still looking. There is a 1966 230 SL on autotrader for $34,500, it will be interesting to see if this one meets the reserve. I am not sure it will.

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  12. Woodie Man

    I had a ’67 230 Sl. in the late Eighties..actually redid the whole interior in original pattern learher. It too was a European import with Euro headlights.

    The car was stunning….maroon over light brown interior. Even with a slushbox I loved that car. I used to stand in the seats and bend over. lifting the top on my back and stepping out to remove the top! Great to be young and dare I say it….dumb!

    Anyway it was a car tht appeared to be a 9 out of ten. One day, a stupid lady t- boned us. The insurance company totaled the car….and basically it needed a front passenger fender and door work. What sealed the deal and the fate of my S was the unbelevable rot behind the headlight buckets.

    So first thing I would do in looking at this car is pull the headlight buckets…and work my way back.

    One of my favorite cars now sadly out of reach

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  13. Mike Burnett

    I doubt if it is MB-tex because the wavy line along the top of the driver’s seat would not pass Mercedes-Benz’s strict quality control before it left the factory and it would be unusual for an aftermarket to re-upholster the seats using MB-Tex; they would usually use leather. If the seats have been re-upholstered, adding to the other readers’ comments, I am suspicious that this is a high mileage rebuild with a ‘clocked’ speedometer. If I did not have arthritis I would be running away at speed from this one.

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  14. Ron Bajorek

    love these Pagoda Sls’

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  15. EU Broker

    I had a chance to buy one of these, a low mileage, one owner car back in the mid 80’s, for somewhere around 10K. I bought a Euro 635CSi with a close ratio dog-leg tranny instead. The Merc would have been a better investment, but the women did love that 6…

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  16. JohnD

    I don’t buy the miles but still like the car. That said, the heater core is a BIG deal. Replace one and you’ll know why. The old story is that the whole car is built around the heater core . .. and I can’t argue with it. Figure in lots of hours and cuts and scrapes.

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  17. stp

    I’m pretty sure the 4 speed is most commonly found in the pagodas. But that’s anecdotal based on the ones I have known. I suspect the heater was bypassed because the valve froze in the open position and the dash levers broke off. I’ve seen more SLs with heater levers broken than intact due to this tendency.

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    • Bruce Best

      I have seen very few manual cars, almost to a man they have been automatics. The comment from John D about Mercedes being built around the heater core is exactly correct and if that is the problem expect to rebuild from the back of the doors to the back of the engine. A massive pain to do and very time consuming.

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      • JRATT1956

        I own a 1966 250 SE 4 door sedan with the 6 cyl fuel injected gas engine with 4 speed. I do not think automatics really took off until after 1970. Many cars with Europe specs that were brought to the U.S. by returning military had the manual. The savings was worth going with the manual, plus they are more fun to drive.

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  18. Horse Radish

    jcs seems to be the only one who caught the km/h speedo and therefore rebuke the sellers b.s.
    So, obviously, you cannot believe anything the seller says.
    Not only does he not know his own car, but he won’t even take photos in his own driveway.
    Typical flipper behavior .
    New paint to cover rust and/or previous body damage/bondo.
    What you see is what you get (or better: what you don’t see comes with it too).
    He probably picked this up for $10k somewhere.
    Car has 210 000 km = 140 000 miles minimum, unless a compression test/ leak down test disproves that.
    Now would you still spend $50k + on this ?
    or even $20k ?

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  19. Bruce Best

    I would not worry so much about the milage but be very concerned about rust. These cars have a number of rust pockets that are extremely hard to correct. I have seen a number of them that look good for a year or so and then the patch work begins to fail and it will cost more than you paid for the car to fix the body.

    The mechanical and electrical on these are generally excellent and if you have the right connections in Europe I have been told you can get a manual transmission if you want one (Read Expensive) but while not a great sports car the are a wonderful size and tremendous value for a vacation car for two.

    Have the car checked with magnets over paper to see if there is real metal there and I would not worry to much about the rest. My Mercedes had almost 400K on it and it was near perfect and drove like new. If cared for this could be a buy if not it is a nightmare

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  20. Henrik

    Mileage is hard to believe judging from the state of the engine bay. The cosmetics of the interior is no indicator as it has clearly been at least partially recarpeted (See the gap between the stick boot and the carpet?)
    I would suspect also that the car might have had front end repair due to both the missing headlight alignment ridges and the missing fender spot welds on the inside. (at least they dont show in the picture, and if they were there, thats one of the things you would definitely highlight)

    Speaking against prior damage however is the excellent shutlines.

    Could be a bodyshop/painter not in the know, we see that sometimes.

    Firewall pad is also not original, but its hard to repaint without replacing that.

    This is one of those SL’s that will require closer in person inspection, but regardless of milage and lacking originality it will not sell for a meager 23000 :-)

    The SL113 forum provides a good checklist for the prospective buyer:

    Lovely cars and the 230 manual is even livelier than my ’67 250SL which I love dearly.


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  21. Tom hetrick

    why would you not invest in the engine bay? if everything was connected and correct folks would pony up.

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  22. charlieMember

    Had a friend’s one for a week. SLOW to accelerate. Top speed was well above speed limits, but took a long time to get there, and you could feel the gas being drunk up.

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  23. SidMember

    I have a 69 280SL 4 speed.
    I have heard only 10% have a 4 spd but it seems 50% of the ones for sale have one.
    No bumper guards and no side markers = european model.
    Looks very nice

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  24. Rolf Poncho 455

    lovely !!! car

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  25. Ralph

    I am from germany an I grown up with working on pagoda SL.
    What I can say by my experience and how the car looks like – it is definitely not true that it has a low mileage and the body is not in original condition.
    There has been some bodywork at the front, the edges of the hood are not fitting 100% as it was original and the little edges at the inner side behind the chrome ring of the front lamps is not where it should be on on one side. Also the door on the driver side is not fitting really good and on the backside…
    If you are interested, please be carefully and take a lot of time to look for all possible and very well know problem areas. Restauration of a pagode is very, very expensive if it should be a car like 100% original.

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  26. Ralph

    Hi again,
    I did take a look again – I am not completely sure but for me it looks like that the engine is a 280…
    If you are interested to buy this car – please check the engine number.
    Here in germany are many 230 SL with 280SE machine, of course the 230SL machine has only 5 crankshaft bearings which caused a lot of dead 230 engines. The 280 has 7 and is much more stable.
    Take care.

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  27. Wm Lawrence

    I remember reading a road test on one of the SLs that said they were a little down on power so they weren’t going to blow anyone’s doors off, but that they were smooth and comfortable enough that on a long run they would suck your doors off.

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  28. Mike Burnett

    I have had 190SL’s for some years and found the petrol (gas) economy acceptable considering that they are heavy for sports cars and have 2 twin choke carbs (Solex PHH’s, though the American practice of replacing them with Webbers adds a very satisfying and needed crispness to low speed performance) but I had a 230SL and a 280SL which, while benefitting from the fast rate of technical development in the ’60’s and on, were absolutely appalling on fuel consumption, which is why I did not continue with that generation of Mercedes. I understand that there were about 6 ‘transition’ cars made with the beautiful 190SL body style and a 2.2 litre 6 cylinder engine. Boy, would l like to find one of these. I Wonder if any survive?

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  29. Scott Keller

    I sent the seller a question asking why the heater was disconnected. It bounced. I wouldn’t touch this one.

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    • Scott Keller

      I did receive an answer after all, as follows:

      ” New message from: sk8high123 (45Yellow Star)
      it was reconnected i wanted to check the heater core to make sure everything was working properly ”

      So far, his reply has not posted on the eBay listing.

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