- An especially exciting, rare, and engaging example of the one-year-only 250 SL
- Desirably equipped from new with the extremely scarce ZF five-speed manual transmission
- Presented today wearing its factory-correct, special-order shade of Anthracite Grey Metallic (DB 172) with matching “Pagoda” hardtop
- Benefits from an exquisite, multi-year restoration completed in 2016
- Updated with factory-style Kuhlmeister air conditioning system
Put simply, Mercedes-Benz had a very tough act to follow after winding down production of their immortal, world-beating 300 SL. The company could not afford to repeat the disappointments of the “budget-friendly” 190 SL, nor could any luxuries be sacrificed in pursuit of the 300 SL’s lofty performance pedigree.
The new super-leicht model, bearing a revolutionary unibody construction with a central “safety cell,” debuted as the 230 SL at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1963. Designer Paul Bracq created a car that was modern and safe, yet also elegant in appearance. In addition to its clean lines, it featured beautiful detailing and a distinctive removable hardtop—the concave roof of which earned it the nickname “Pagoda.” The motoring press was similarly thrilled with the car’s superb handling characteristics and comfortable ride.
By November 1966, the model’s inline six-cylinder engine had been upgraded to 2.5 liters, thereby creating the one-year-only 250 SL, which was further improved with front and rear power-assisted disc brakes, larger anti-roll bars, and the availability of a five-speed manual transmission with a 4.08:1 rear axle. Just 5,196 examples of the 250 SL were produced, with as few as 112 reportedly being factory-fitted with this sporty, engaging five-speed transmission. Officially, the Mercedes-Benz archives report 882 SL five-speeds produced across all available engine ranges between 1963 and 1971 (representing the 230, 250, and 280 SL models). This equates to less than two percent of the approximately 49,000 SLs produced during this period!
This Italian-market 250 SL was delivered new on 7 March 1967 equipped with this impossibly scarce transmission option, as well as a hardtop, power steering, black soft-top, and special-order Anthracite Grey Metallic (DB 172) paint. After having found its way to Southern California sometime early in its life, this super-leicht was acquired by the previous owner in 2009 as a disused, but well-preserved and highly original candidate for restoration.
Marque specialist Jared King of Transcendental Finishes in Prescott, Arizona was subsequently commissioned to head this 250 SL’s complete and multi-year restoration, which included additional mechanical work and a full engine rebuild from Metric Motors of Canoga Park, California. Nearly $60,000 of invoices on file show that minimal body repair was undertaken by King directly, with the car then refinished in its original color of Anthracite Grey Metallic over a period-correct light red leather (204) cabin complete with matching square-weave carpeting. Wherever possible, its correct Italian-market features have been retained, and today this stunning 250 SL presents with distinctive signifiers such as European headlights, slim bumpers, metric instrumentation, Becker Europa radio, and the absence of side indicator markers. For ultimate driver comfort, King updated the cabin with a Kuhlmeister underdash air-conditioning system sourced by Bud’s Benz, Inc. of Douglasville, Georgia.
A well preserved and well restored factory five-speed “Pagoda” is, without a doubt, the “holy grail” of SL-model enthusiasts. Pagodas of this rarity and stunning condition are ever-more difficult to come by, and the opportunity to own a true one-year-only, five-speed 250 SL example of such high quality is truly exceptional.