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Between 1963 and 1971, Mercedes-Benz produced nearly 50,000 sports cars dubbed the W113 series. The cars were known to the public as the Mercedes 230SL, the 250SL and finally the 280SL, though despite minor changes the model remained as it did when it was first launched at the Geneva Motor Show in ’63. The sport coupe/convertible was designed to replace two existing Mercedes models, the sluggish yet stylish 190SL, and the iconic 300SL – known best for its gullwing doors. The W113 series SL was designed to be a happy medium between the grand touring geared Mercedes 190SL and the high-performance minded 300SL. Therefore ,the W113 series SLs were designed to be fast and nimble sports cars but also featured plenty of comforts that made it a great car for long distance drives.
The W113 featured a number of historic firsts both for Mercedes-Benz and for the automotive industry in general. In an effort to build a safer car, the W113 was the first car to have front and rear crumple zones (innovated by MB engineer, Bela Barényi) they were designed to absorb the energy from a collision while protecting occupants. It was also the first Mercedes to have radial tires. Typical of the cars Mercedes-Benz produced in this era, the W113 was marvelously crafted. It featured a plastic dipped under-body to protect the car from corrosion and used aluminum body panels for the hood, trunk and doors to save weight. As a result, the first iteration of the W113 model series, the Mercedes-Benz 230SL weighted approximately 2,900 lbs.
Despite being anywhere from 51-43 years old, the W113 series Mercedes SLs are just starting to become truly collectible cars. They combined a distinctly stylish 1960’s ascetic, with generally modern conveniences that together create a usable and desirable package sure to appreciate in future years. If you’re in the market for a well maintained W113 series Mercedes, expect to pay anywhere from $40,000 – $200,000 depending on the car’s conditions and options list. Desirability of these cars depends on several factors. First, the engine output improved over the years, and as a result more powerful later models fetch higher prices. Between 1963 and 1966 the W113 was known to the public as the 230SL and produced a little under 150 horsepower and 150 lb.-ft. of torque. In 1967, Mercedes introduced the 250SL, the car produced about 10 more horsepower and 20 more lb.-ft. of torque. Finally, between 1968 and 1971, Mercedes made the 280SL, which produced 170 horsepower and 186 lb.-ft. of torque. The most powerful 280SLs are also the most valuable. In addition to engine output, the transmission type has a large impact on the car’s value. The ubiquitous 4-speed manual and 4-speed automatic (the automatic was essentially standard on American models) are not nearly as valuable as the much rarer 5-speed ZF manual transmission. In addition to engine and transmission specs, the final key to determining the value of a Mercedes W113 is the condition. The car’s were well made in Stuttgart, Germany, however, like any older car there are a few areas of the vehicle that tend to deteriorate over time. Here’s what you should pay attention to when looking at a Mercedes W113 SL:
The Mercedes W113 SL has no bolt-on body panels. They are all affixed to the car via a series of spot welds. Given that this is the case, it can be expensive to replace a significantly damaged body panel. Make sure that all body panels fit properly. Mercedes had very high standards regarding panel gap tolerances, so if things are inconsistent inspect further for signs of an accident. Check the seams in the engine bay to ensure spot welds are visible. If joints are smooth it could be the case that the car was in an accident and the body shop applied Bondo to the damaged panel. Mercedes stamped all major body panels with the vehicle’s serial number, ensure that the serial numbers match those located on the car’s Type Plate, which can be found on the left side of the firewall (see image below).
Inspect the firewall of any Mercedes W113 to ensure that the original firewall material is still in place. The factory installed a woven rubber cover to act as a firewall insulator. Often below-par restorations will use a vinyl non-woven material that is not period correct. If the vehicle is missing a firewall lining altogether, it is often an indicator of a rushed re-spray. Replacing the firewall liner is not expensive (about $200 for a new liner) however it can be a time-consuming DIY project.
Ensure that the front grille is in good condition. Mercedes manufactured the grille as one piece, and it can cost approximately $3,000 to remove a damaged grille and replace it with an original one. Check the condition of chrome trim pieces, especially trim pieces affixed to the doors. These trim pieces are only included on American spec cars, and can be difficult to replace and are costly to repair. The best way to see how the wood veneer trim on the interior of a W113 has aged, is to compare it to the wooden trim on the inside of the rear window of the removable hardtop. Often the veneer that covers the upper dashboard and stereo speakers, is in much worse condition then the trim that outlines the rear window on the SL’s removable hardtop.
Rust is particularly present in the trunk floor, so be sure to lift up the rubber trunk liner to see if any moisture or rust is present. Also make sure to look behind the rear license plate, as water can sometimes leak behind the plate and into the trunk. Also check around the front headlights for rust, the gasket around the light can become loose and as a result water can pool inside of the light housing. While inspecting around the headlight, make sure that the headlight trim is grooved. If slight grooves are missing, it means that the trim was replaced with a poor reproduction piece. Like many cars of this vintage, the frame rials can become rusted. The most popular area for this to occur is just ahead of the rear wheels. If rust is present on the frame rails, consider finding another vehicle to add to the garage, as it can be quite costly to repair. It should be noted that rusty frame rails can also indicate rust elsewhere on the vehicle.
To see what options came with any specific W113 era Mercedes-Benz SL, the best bet is to send a copy of the vehicle’s VIN to Mercedes-Benz directly. From there, Mercedes Classic can supply translated Data codes that will outline how the car was ordered from the factory.
As a result of safety regulations, the Mercedes W113 250SL and the 280SL models received different interior pieces. From August, 1967 onwards, the cars received a collapsing padded steering wheel, a padded dashboard, concave rubber switch gear, and elastic door side packets. It’s often the case that owners will replace later model steering wheels with earlier model ones. Most Mercedes W113s were ordered with a radio as an option. The original radio was made by Becker. If the car does not have a Becker radio, be aware that finding an original Becker can be quite difficult.
Why Buy A Mercedes W113?
Though not as sexy as the 300SL, nor as ubiquitous as it’s predecessor, the W107, the Mercedes W113 is a great car for someone looking to get into the classic car hobby. Though the car is moderately expensive to maintain, most parts are not difficult to find. Some parts are still produced by Mercedes-Benz classic, meaning the cars should be able to be serviced well into the future with little difficulty. The W113 offers distinct 1960’s styling with its Pagoda removable hardtop, open greenhouse and compact proportions. It provides the driver with a rich exhaust note thanks to a sport tuned exhaust. The car’s well designed suspension allows it to sit nicely between an all-out sports car and boulevard cruiser, making the W113 a versatile classic car worthy of most collections. As discussed above, prices for W113’s fluctuate greatly based on engine and transmission type and overall condition. As always, the best place to start looking for one is on Ebay Motors or Hemmings.
For readers looking for further information on how to go about purchasing a Mercedes W113 series SL, see below: