This year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance marked the 50th anniversary of some legendary cars, including the Chevrolet Corvette and the Porsche 911. It also celebrated the 50th anniversary of automaker Lamborghini, but (nearly) lost in the crowd was another milestone birthday commemorated in the Florida sun.
In 1963, Mercedes-Benz launched a new roadster in its SL series to replace the beloved 300 SL and its sibling, the more affordable 190 SL. Knowing that he needed to take the new car’s lines in an entirely different direction, designer Paul Bracq penned a car that would also become a classic - the “Pagoda Roof” Mercedes SL.
The Pagoda Roof name comes from the removable hard top’s distinctive concave shape, which allowed for the use of larger side windows to aid outward visibility. It also made entry and exit easier, while producing a more rigid roof structure.
The 230 SL pioneered the use of a safety cell and crumple zones in a sports car, based on the research of Daimler-Benz chief safety engineer Béla Barényi. It managed to incorporate both performance and luxury into a single timeless package, which makes the car desirable to this day.
Power came from a 2.3-liter in-line six-cylinder engine, rated at 150 horsepower and mated to the buyer’s choice of a four-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission (a first for Mercedes in the SL). A five-speed manual was introduced in 1966, and these cars are now among the most desirable 230 SL models.
The Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, California, seen in the above video, has restored and maintained numerous 230 SL roadsters (as well as later variants, the 250 SL and the 280 SL) over the years, and considers the car a great choice for the first-time collector. Even 50 years on, the 230 SL remains a reliable and stylish daily driver.
Don’t expect to find too many bargain-priced 230 SLs on the market, though. Demand is up, especially for high-end, perfectly restored examples, and the supply is finite. If you want to park one in your own garage, the current Hagarty price guide says you’ll pay $68,500 for a Condition 1 car, while a “needs work” Condition 4 car should price at $17,900.