The Mercedes-Benz W113 automobiles were produced from 1963 through 1971. They were sold as the "pagoda-roof" SL-Class. The W113 replaced the W198 SL-Class in 1963 and was replaced by the R107 SL-Class in 1972.
All Mercedes SL-Class W113 models boast an in-line six cylinder engine with multi-port fuel injection using a mechanical pump system adapted from the diesel motors. All are rear wheel drive, but are also equipped with independent rear suspension, a feature that greatly improved road handling. Most of these early SLs were sold with both the removable hard top and a soft top, although "California Roadster" versions came with the removable hardtop but no soft top. In these models, the soft top well (between the passenger compartment and trunk) is removed, and a "kinder-seat" (childrens-seat) is installed in it’s place. The rear seat is small and not very useful, so these models are rather rare, and not especially popular with collectors today. While the Mercedes SLs are relatively heavy compared to other similar size sport roadsters, weight was reduced in part by the use of aluminum panels for the trunk lid, front hood, and door skins.
The first W113 SL, introduced at the 1963 Geneva Motor Show, effectively replaced both the 190SL and 300SL. The all-new 230SL - the first to be offered with air conditioning and automatic transmission - had a six-cylinder 2.3-litre engine developing 170bhp and featured the Bosch fuel injection. Its structure was basically similar to that of the 190SL, though it was built on what was essentially a shorter, stiffer version of the 220-series saloon platform, with a steel body and aluminium doors, bonnet and bootlid, and the double-wishbone suspension with rear swing arms. Its most distinctive feature was its (optional) hard-top, however - its elegant shape with thin, upright pillars led it to be nicknamed the "pagoda roof".
The roof was slightly dipped in the centre, to give a little extra room for getting in and out, and to allow for large side windows without making the car top-heavy. The 230SL also incorporated front and rear crumple zones around a rigid passenger cell, safety technology Mercedes had already introduced in its saloons, and had an alternator rather than a generator.
The comforts and civilised nature of the 230SL meant that it sold in far greater numbers than its predecessors, appealing to women as well as men. Over 19,800 were sold, and it also proved a successful rally car, winning the Liege-Sofia-Liege marathon in 1963. Its engine was enlarged to 2.5-litres in 1967, upping torque by 15lb ft to 175lb ft, though horsepower remained unchanged, and rear disc brakes also became standard for the 250SL, as it was now called; 5,200 of these models were sold.
Just a year later, the engine was enlarged again to 2788cc, giving 180bhp and 193lb ft; five-speed manual transmission became optional. Performance was actually little different to that of the 230SL, however, due to the car’s heavier weight and the now-compulsory emission control devices. The 280SL went on to become the most popular model of its series nonetheless, with nearly 24,000 sold, and it remained in production until 1971.
- 1963–1966 230SL
- 1966–1968 250SL
- 1968–1971 280SL