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Survivor? 1963 Mercedes-Benz 230SL

The roots of the 230SL dug deep into its predecessor, the 300SL. At the same time, the new car was required to carve its own identity, and that included enticing plenty of buyers. Only 2658 300SLs were made (coupe and roadster), as its price was out of reach for all but the most well-heeled enthusiasts. The 300SL fathered the more consumer-friendly but underpowered 190SL, which managed to sell over 25,000 copies – still not enough to move the needle for a company remaining under the weather after WWII. When replacement time arrived, Mercedes knew a mere derivative would not be enough. From the drawing boards emerged the W113, aka the 230SL. With a newly sophisticated engine, modern brakes, superior safety features, and outstanding handling, the 230SL was ready to impress, and so it did, nearly doubling the sales of the 190. Here on Hemmings, tip courtesy of Jenn, is a 1963 Mercedes-Benz 230SL, with an asking price of $85,000. This car is said to be in original mechanical condition, with just one repaint in its history.

With many years of engine development in hand, Mercedes was able to maximize the power from the new car’s 2.3-liter overhead cam six-cylinder, using direct port injection to produce 150 hp – a considerable upgrade over its sibling, the 190. The reworked four-speed manual transmission with a low first-gear ratio gave a sporty feel. An automatic was available, but in today’s market, is less desirable. Our subject car has been serviced, including refreshed brakes, a new slave cylinder, shifter and steering column bushings, and a new exhaust. The odometer reading of 55,830 miles is said to be original. The seller believes the drivetrain is matching numbers and has never been apart, though no documentation to support either claim is provided.

This 230SL was in the possession of its original owner for more than 45 years. The car was sold to the gentleman who repainted the car at the behest of said owner, and it sat in his garage for another 20 years. The Oxblood interior is in very good condition. The real wood dash and ivory steering wheel appear fresh. The carpets retain a deep color and plenty of nap. Both tops – including the hide-away maroon soft top and the elegant “pagoda” hard top – are said to be in good nick. The only nit I can pick with the interior is the sun visors – a weak point on many cars as they bloat from heat.

While the survivor aspects of this car are attractive, I am not thrilled with the driver’s lower door edge. Perhaps it’s the photo, but it doesn’t seem to fit flush and tight. Meanwhile, the listing is silent on the question of rust. Most Mercedes models hold up very well against the tin worm, but they are not impervious. As always, caveat emptor, particularly at this asking price.

Comments

  1. Avatar photo Aussie Dave Member

    The seller “believes” it’s number’s matching? Asking 85k?, he should shell out the dollars to confirm.
    I’m a Merc fan, but I’d want proof prior to even looking at it.

    Like 9
    • Avatar photo B Hogan

      Shell out what money ?
      230SL’s have their ID tag in the engine compartment, the seller just has to show a picture of the block number and ID tag which confirms its numbers matching as well as the low production serial number…literally as with any old car…

      Like 0
    • Avatar photo B Hogan

      230SL’s have their ID tag in the engine compartment, the seller just has to show a picture of the block number and ID tag which confirms its numbers matching as well as the low production serial number… literally as with any old car…

      Like 3
  2. Avatar photo Bo West

    I strongly disagree with the theory of Mercedes not having rust issues. As a previous body shop owner operator and at that time a restorer of my 250SL I know better. If you look at the construction design they have lots of places to hold mud etc couple inches or so thick. Like above the head light buckets and above the front tires from the firewall to the spring towers and on to the front of the apron. Doors, hood and deck lid are aluminum. Everything else is sheet metal.
    It’s common to find mastic or under sealer gooped on to try and hide rust repairs. Inner aprons and structure from firewall forward and floorboards are usually the worst part.
    Early SLs are fun little cars, but like ALL of the European cars of that era, that had major design issues that caused rust.

    Like 9
  3. Avatar photo David R.

    I’ve heard these cost about $20,000 new. Anyone know if that’s true? If so, that’s over double the cost of the two bedroom, one bath home my grandparents built in 1951! Also a far cry from the $2,800 my Comet Caliente was brand new after trade in in 1965!

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo justpaul

      Original MSRP was in the $7500 range still a lot of money in 1963.

      Like 3
      • Avatar photo David R.

        Ah, that’s much more reasonable. Still quite a lot of money in those days indeed!

        Like 2
  4. Avatar photo Bruce

    Mr. West is totally correct this body design is filled with rust traps and so many I have dealt with in the past are at best rust buckets and at worst dangerous to drive on the street. In a dry climate it will be OK but in the Mid-West where we have ice, snow, frequent rain and high humidity these cars dissolve. This is very sad as they are a great deal of fun to drive and mechanically are very well made. While not the fastest the are a good blend between rough and ready sports cars and boulevard cruiser. I love them I just wish the bodies would be something that was not so complex and parts to repair not so breathtakingly expensive to purchase and install. Very sad. I hope this one finds the right kind of owner to keep it running and rust free.

    Like 6
  5. Avatar photo JohnD

    That production number must be for the one year. They are all pretty much the same, so I think that number is misleading. There are a lot of 230sl cars out there . . . .

    And some of them aren’t rusty like this one. The car just looks wavy and patched up, and sits wrong. Run . . .

    Like 4
    • Avatar photo Little_Cars Member

      I agree completely. Mismatched finish between the driver’s rear quarter and the door and fenders on that side. Door appears to be hanging oddly too. Something peculiar about the stance. I’ve been on the lookout for a driveable survivor Pagoda…one that hasn’t been processed through Hemmels. This might have fit the bill if it didn’t have a 2 with five zeros after it.

      Like 2
      • Avatar photo Martini ST

        You’re right about the stance. While it looks good to the eye, a correct (unoccupied) pagoda SL should be high in the rear with slightly negative camber because of the wacky swing axle design. That rear end has failing springs, I bet.

        Like 3
  6. Avatar photo jwaltb

    Michelle, I think your first sentence should end with 190SL, not 300 SL.

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo TRUTH

      Sorta seems to be about 35k of sentimental value in that asking price.

      Like 1
  7. Avatar photo matthew grant

    I have owned 2. a 70 and a 71. one was pristine when I bought it from a born-again guy who lied out his yazoo to me about the car. over a week while I was in the Bahamas, I came back and rust was breaking out on the rockers. turned out he had fiberglassed the floor due to rust. the second never had rust issues but when driven in the rain, water flooded the floors from under the dash, the calking was bad thus not sealing the engine compartment. from the dashboard, the subject car was a difference color before silver. hard to tell from the photos (poor quality) but appears to be maroon? given the sheer numbers built, it stuns me that an average quality 230SL is considered a bargain at $85M. I think the market is one big bubble waiting to burst.

    Like 2
  8. Avatar photo GuernseyPagoda

    This car is all wrong. Good luck getting 85K.

    Like 2
  9. Avatar photo TRUTH

    Sorta seems to be about 35k of sentimental value in that asking price.

    Like 1
  10. Avatar photo Dan

    Both the driver and passenger doors seem to have fitment issues. At least this car isn’t listed on FB or eBay and the interior looks wonderful but $85K is too rich for this one.

    Like 1

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