1963 Mercedes-Benz SL Pagode230 SL ‘Pagoda’ Factory Development Car
Year of manufacture1963
- A development car used to refine the 230 SL in the model’s pre-production phase
- Ordered new for Daimler-Benz AG’s head of development and research, Professor Fritz Nallinger
- Used as Prof. Nallinger’s private car during testing and registered to Daimler-Benz AG
- Thought to be the first 230 SL to feature an automatic transmission and power steering
- Accompanied by a detailed report compiled by Mercedes-Benz Heritage GmbH in 2023, chronicling this car’s importance to the development of the 230 SL
- Retains its matching-numbers body, chassis, and engine
Upon its introduction at the 1963 Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz bosses knew that the 230 SL had big shoes to fill. Following directly in the footsteps of the 300 SL and 190 SL, the Stuttgart marque sought to address criticisms levelled at its earlier sports cars—namely, that the former was too expensive, and the latter lacked power. As the 230 SL was revealed in Switzerland, the long-serving and leading Mercedes-Benz head of development and research, Professor Fritz Nallinger, announced: ‘It was our aim to create a very safe and fast sports car with high performance, which despite its sports characteristics, provides a very high degree of traveling comfort.’
And so, the W113-platform 230 SL was born. The roadster wore an attractive, Paul Bracq-styled design, while the removable concave “Pagoda” hardtop roof added distinctive looks that would come to characterise the car. The model was a hit, with over 48,000 examples made over a four-year production run, with almost 20,000 of those going to the United States. Famous owners ranged from John Lennon and Sophia Loren to Sir Stirling Moss.
The example offered here was instrumental to the long-lasting success of the 230 SL, as it served as a development car for the model. Ordered in the name of Prof. Nallinger—the driving force behind this and other Mercedes-Benz sports cars, including the 300 SL—the car was configured by the engineer with automatic transmission and power steering. As a result, it is believed to be the first 230 SL to bear these features. The car was registered to Daimler-Benz AG of Stuttgart as “S-RV 439” on 11 June 1963, known internally as “Experimental Vehicle Ut” and assigned the test car number “8”. Prof. Nallinger used the car as his personal transport while also fulfilling the car’s developmental role.
Over a series of documented test drives made by Prof. Nallinger—available to view in the history file as part of a report compiled by Mercedes-Benz Heritage in 2023—Prof. Nallinger noted improvements to be made on the 230 SL, such as high noise levels recorded in the cabin. These documents extend to internal letters from Prof. Nallinger to the legendary Rudolf Uhlenhaut, and the engineers Herren Müller and Wilfert. It is thought that the single seat in the rear of the car—facing forward, unlike the sideward-mounted rear seat of the production-ready 230 SL—was installed for test purposes.
Prof. Nallinger specified the car in the same configuration as the 230 SL revealed at the 1963 Geneva Motor Show, complete with the factory-correct colour pairing of Orange Metallic over Leder Türkis upholstery, with black dashboard panels and black hardtop. Today, the car retains this configuration, together with a largely original interior showing characterful patina, while the 230 SL retains its matching-numbers body, chassis, and engine. The car is offered with copies of its Data Card and order sheet, its first German registration, further to its history report compiled by Mercedes-Benz Heritage GmbH. Marque enthusiasts will relish this opportunity to acquire a significant piece of automotive history.
To view this car and others currently consigned to this auction, please visit the RM website at rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/mu23.