Mercedes-Benz Honors Top Down Driving In Sunny Amelia Island

March 5, 2013 by Mercedes-Benz
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Mercedes-Benz Honors Top Down Driving In Sunny Amelia IslandFlorida's sunny weather is creating the perfect back-drop to honor the 50th anniversary of the famed Mercedes-Benz 'Pagoda,' SL which takes center stage during this week's Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, March 8-10, 2013.

The launch of the Mercedes-Benz 230 SL at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1963 caused quite a sensation. Mercedes-Benz had presented the motoring world with this single successor to the extremely successful 300 SL (W198) and 190 SL (W121).

The Daimler-Benz design team and particularly designer Paul Bracq produced a two-seater Coupe/Roadster, known internally as the W113, with a distinct contemporary flair which set new benchmarks for handling and safety. The sweeping curve of the W113's hardtop inspired enthusiasts to nickname this model the 'Pagoda' SL. These design characteristics served practical purposes as well as providing safety benefits. The inward curvature of the removable hardtop roof improved outward visibility, ingress/egress while increasing the roof's rigidity and lowering the overall weight.

The 230 SL was the first sports car in the world to incorporate safety features in the body structure, which contained a rigid passenger compartment with crumple zones both front and rear. The safety engineering of the W 113 were reflective of the ideas developed by Daimler-Benz Chief Safety Engineer Béla Barényi with respect to passive safety integration within automotive body shells.

'The Pagoda was the first Mercedes-Benz SL that combined sports car characteristics with elements of today's modern luxury roadster,' said Mike Kunz, manager of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, CA. 'For a first time collector, the Pagoda is great car to own, maintain and restore. It can be driven in a sporting manner, but is just as happy as a comfortable cruiser. Lately, it has become very fashionable and we are forecasting that its popularity will continue to grow.'

The Mercedes-Benz Classic Center has restored and provided maintenance for many vintage Pagoda-series SLs. Recent efforts have included benchmark, high-end restorations which have moved the Pagoda into the premium collector car arena.

During the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, the Mercedes-Benz Star Lounge is featuring three iconic vehicles representing fascinating convertible design of the past and present, capturing the true essence of top down driving. The display includes a Mercedes-Benz 1968 280 SL, a 1956 220 S Cabriolet (both restored by the Classic Center) and a 2013 SL65 AMG with V-12 bi-turbo hand built engine that produces 621 hp and capable of zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.9 seconds.

A Sports Car Born from Sedan Engineering: The technical basis of the 230 SL Roadster was provided by the Mercedes-Benz 220 SE (W111) luxury-class 'fintail' sedan including its shortened and reinforced frame floor as well as its front and rear suspension. The engine in the 220 SE also formed the basis for the development of the 2.3 liter 150 hp M127 six-cylinder in-line engine which was fitted to the new SL when it launched in 1963. It was also the first time an SL was available with an optional four-speed automatic transmission.

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Towards the end of 1966, the 230 SL was succeeded by the 250 SL. Its six-cylinder in-line engine (M129) also had an output of 150 hp but generated 10 per cent more torque. This meant that the vehicle could accelerate to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 10 seconds which was 1.1 seconds faster than the 230 SL. The top speed of both the 230 SL and the 250 SL was 125 mph.

Finally, in 1968, the 280 SL with engine M130 became the third and last version of the W113 model series to enter the market. Its 2,778 cc six-cylinder in-line engine developed 170 hp and could accelerate the sports car from a standstill to 62 mph in 9 seconds. The top speed remained at 125 mph, still a very respectable figure for this era.

The three SL models that made up the W113 model series were available as a Roadster with folding soft top, as a Coupé with a removable hardtop and occasional use rear jump seat often referred to as a 'California Roadster' and its most common variant, a Coupé with both a removable hardtop and folding Roadster soft top.

Production of the W113 ended in March 1971 with 48,912 units to its credit. The completely redesigned successor model series R107 took over from the technically and stylistically trailblazing 'Pagoda' - and went on to set new benchmarks for luxury sports roadsters.

Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz
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