In 1963 when Mercedes-Benz introduced the new 230SL, the company had a very full catalog. There were sedans large and small, diesels, coupes, cabriolets in several lines and six different sports cars. Those sports cars were the revered 300SL, the boulevard-cruising 190SL and the brand new 230SL. With a factory hardtop bolted onto any of those three sports cars, suddenly there were three sports roadsters and trio of two-seater coupes.
The brand new sports car had a shape that was crisper than its predecessors, but the grille showed a clear family connection. Although there was a single convertible body, the car was available in three configurations: soft top only, hard top only and both tops. The fuel-injected, four-main bearing 2.3-liter overhead camshaft inline six was rated at 170 SAE horsepower and drove the rear wheels through either a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission. Like its stable mate sports cars, independent suspension was fitted all around. Stopping was addressed by disc brakes up front and drums in the rear.
When it came to performance and comfort, the new SL was a perfect compromise between the 190 and the 300, which vanished from the line for 1964. The 230SL was equally capable for around town use and for covering long distances at high speeds with little driver fatigue. The stylish Mercedes-Benz also made a statement that its driver had means and great taste.
For 1967, the SL was given a larger 2,496cc engine built around a seven main-bearing crankshaft. This longer-stroke engine was much stronger and offered up more torque. Horsepower was unchanged, but flexibility was greatly improved. The 250SL also gained rear disc brakes and a collapsible steering wheel column. Gone after a single model year, the 250SL was replaced by the most developed version of the model, the 280SL. Once again, the big change came under the hood.
The single-cam injected six was enlarged again, this time to 2,778cc. Horsepower was up to 180 and torque took a big jump again, this time to 193 pound-feet.
In 280 form, the SL was quick, comfortable and beautifully built. With the manual transmission it was a sporting car and with the automatic it had a tamer character. The car on offer is jet black with a complementary cream interior. It features the rare four-speed manual transmission and is fitted with both a recent soft top and its original colour-matched hardtop.
Unlike many cars that are approaching 40 years old, this one is perfectly suited for the modern world. It has excellent performance, an engine known for a long life, and the timeless looks of an open Mercedes.