HOME > Lot 54 - 1964 Mercedes 230 SL

Lot 54 - 1964 Mercedes 230 SL

Lot 54 - 1964 Mercedes 230 SL

  • A very early 'vertical spare wheel' example
  • Imported from the dry island of Cyprus
  • Freshly MOT tested and UK registered
  • Comprehensively refurbished throughout
  • In excellent condition

Winning Amount: £ 47,850.00

User ID: n*************l


“In all the years I have been driving, I cannot remember ever driving a car that I would have liked to own more (except for racing cars!)”. Sir Stirling Moss in a letter to the Mercedes-Benz racing director Alfred Neubauer regarding the 230 SL.

Mercedes-Benz has been producing an SL (Sport Leicht) model or range of models since the introduction of the now super-desirable 300SL in 1954. The similarly styled but mechanically unrelated 190 followed in 1955 and completing the first generation of cars and their successor was the W113 series SL which proved to be more comfortable than the former and faster than the latter. Designed by Paul Bracq and Bela Barenyi, the SL was developed by a team including the legendary Mercedes-Benz Chief Engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut. These roadsters were produced from 1963 through to 1971 and are now collectively and fondly known as ‘pagoda’ cars due to the unusual concave design of their optional removable hard tops though we prefer the somewhat less prosaic ‘dented roof’ moniker.

Introduced at the 1963 Geneva Motor Show the 230 is arguably the sportiest of the three SL variants as, despite it having the lowest displacement engine, the later cars perhaps drifted towards the GT end of the spectrum with more weight, softer suspension, less rev-hungry engines and increasingly common automatic gearboxes. With less than a quarter of 230s ending up in the USA as opposed to well over half of all 280s, it appears that Mercedes were reacting to the demands of its customers from across the pond where the boulevard cruiser held sway over the pure sport car the Europeans favoured. To reinforce these sporting credentials, in 1963 Uhlenhaut took a 230SL around the challenging Annemasse Vetraz -Monthoux race track just 0.2 seconds slower than Grand Prix driver Mike Parkes in a Ferrari 250GT and it is worth noting that the Factory Works Rally SLs for events such as the gruelling 6,600 km Spa-Sofia-Liège Rally, which they duly won in 1963, were always 230s.

With independent coil sprung suspension all round, powerful disc and drum brakes and revolutionary radial tyres, the 230 SL drove beautifully. Mercedes’ engineers worked their magic on the classic straight six M180 engine giving it a revised camshaft, more compression, a new cylinder head, a bit more capacity and fuel injected directly into its cylinders, diesel engine style. The resultant M127 labelled unit gave a quoted 150 bhp and ensured the chassis’ capabilities were suitably exploited.

This tip top manual 230 SL is a very early example which left the Stuttgart factory in February 1964 and it displays features such as the vertically mounted spare wheel and square weave carpeting that were lost fairly early on in SL production. To European specification with metric instrumentation and the somewhat more attractive versions of the signature stacked front lights than those fitted to machines destined for the USA, this 230 has only relatively recently come to reside in the UK from the essentially dry, car-friendly climate of Cyprus. It is not known how the factory left hand drive Mercedes came to the Mediterranean Island on which people tend to drive on the correct side of the road, though there is some Cypriot taxation and registration paperwork in the car’s document file which details that the car was purchased by a Mr Edward Simpson back in 2012 and that prior to this it was registered to a Mr M. Aopithe.

Since the SL entered the UK it has been entrusted to a team of SL experts in rural Hampshire (they had some nine examples in various stages of refurbishment when we visited) who meticulously went through the car from stem to stern, port to starboard. Though we would stop short of calling this a full restoration, no area was overlooked with every item being evaluated and refurbished or replaced as required. These guys work to exacting standards and the first time we saw the Mercedes we considered it to be in fine order but were instructed to return a couple of weeks later once the last few minor details had been attended to. With the fresh paintwork polished yet again and correct profile tyres fitted to the now refurbished wheels complete with body coloured hub caps, in our view their effort (and our wait) has paid off handsomely.

The bodywork is in great condition, helped no doubt by the dry Mediterranean climate and the doors open and close perfectly with that over-engineered solidity that is a hallmark of Mercedes’ of this period. As can be seen in the photo gallery, their shut lines are similarly top draw with all the trim strips and swage lines lining up perfectly; the benefit of a car that has never required major body restoration. The underside and wheel arches of the Mercedes have just been refinished and though the rural run to the MOT station has resulted in a little light mud spatter, the undercarriage remains very tidy indeed.

The paintwork, in original ‘050’ code white as it left the factory, looks superb against a substantial area of chrome, all offset by a very smart black cloth hood which has just a few areas of light wear. Against the new paintwork some of the chrome does show its age slightly, most notably on the door handles and rear light surrounds.

Mechanically the SL has been ‘sorted’ with new shock absorbers, brakes and exhaust fitted, while the suspension components have been stripped and refinished to a good standard.

The engine bay is really very well presented with re-enamelled or plated fittings throughout and clinically clean aluminium castings with thankfully no over-polishing indulged in. Obviously the Mercedes has been comprehensively serviced to ensure it is running spot on.

Inside everything is nicely original with the black “tex” trim in excellent order which is not always the case with hot climate cars while what appears to be the original early “Boucle” carpeting has just the right amount of wear to look lived in but not scruffy or neglected. Similarly the wooden trim pieces are in good order with no evidence of cracking or heat damage. A period radio is fitted and the stylish white Bakelite type steering wheel and gear knob are pure 1960s. The ‘juke box’ dash is bright and very shiny – again pure 1960s glamour.

The 230’s history file contains the aforementioned Cypriot paperwork including a 2012 Tax Disc and FIVA Identity Card from the same year. The UK registration documentation is also present along with the current V5C and MOT certificate valid until 5th March 2019.

If ever there was a styling icon that epitomises elegance, then this is surely it. With celebrity owners from Moss’ Stirling and Kate via Sophia Loren, John Lennon, Charlton Heston and Peter Ustinov to David Coulthard, you can relax in the knowledge that you’re joining a classy bunch of people when you invest in a machine as wonderful as the SL. Doubtless it is a case of ‘Horses for courses’ but we found this manual boxed 230SL just about perfect; as much a joy to behold as conduct. Arguably sweeter and, in the real world, possibly no slower (just four mph on paper against a 280) than its 60kg heavier, larger engined offspring, the 230 could be the pick of the SL bunch even before you factor in the not inconsiderable price advantage the model affords. With the manual box keeping you where you want to be in the rev range the difference in performance is less than you might think, it is just delivered in a different, more energetic fashion. Extensively refurbished, on the button and ready to enjoy as they say, this 230 SL comes highly recommended. Though we don't normally publish auction estimates preferring to let the market decide a car's value, with such a wide variation in SL prices we feel it might be helpful to stress that this example is, we feel, very realistically reserved at well under £45,000.

Registration number: RCA 475B
Chassis Number: 113.042.10-002301
Engine Number: 12798110002137



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