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230 SL (July, 1963 − January, 1967)

Production began in 1963 with the 2.3 liter 230 SL. These models were commonly 4-speed manual transmission cars, but a 4-speed automatic transmission was also available and popular for U.S. market cars. The 230 SL sported front disc / rear drum power-assisted brakes. They quickly gained popularity in the U.S. market, and this eventually led to more and more cars being built with automatic transmissions. 19,831 copies of the 230SL were built, of which 11,726 cars were exported.[4]

 250 SL (December, 1966 − January, 1968)

1967 Mercedes-Benz 250SL roadster, late Euro model (180G silver grey).

The 250 SL was basically a one-year model, introduced at the 1967 Geneva Motor Show,[5] although in North America many were sold in, and titled as, 1968 model year cars. This model is the rarest of the W 113 cars. The main changes were the use of a 2496 cc motor with seven main bearings in place of the 2306 cc with four main bearings of the previous car.[5] Cylinder bore was unchanged but the stroke was increased from 72.8 mm (2.9 in) to 78.8 mm (3.1 in). Also unchanged was the claimed 150 bhp (112 kW; 152 PS) maximum power: the new engine did, however, significantly improve torque, up from 145 lb·ft (197 N·m) to 159 lb·ft (216 N·m).[5] Stopping power was also improved with the addition of rear disc brakes. The 250 SL retained the stiffer suspension and sportier feel of the early SLs but provided significantly improved performance, especially given the engine's wider power band. Like its predecessor, the 250 SL was offered with a four speed automatic transmission,[5] and was also sold with a ZF 5-speed manual transmission that remained available on its successor model through 1970. Of the 5,196 250 SLs built, 3,808 cars were exported (1,791 to the U.S.).[4]

[edit] 280 SL (December, 1967 − March, 1971)

The 2.8 liter 280 SL was introduced in 1967 and continued production largely unchanged through 1971 when the W 113 was replaced by the entirely new, and substantially heavier, R 107 350 SL/450 SL. The previously optional oil-cooler became standard with the 2.8 liter engine. Most 280 SL cars built for the U.S. market were equipped with automatic transmission. Manual transmission cars came with either a 4-speed manual transmission or the very rare ZF 5-speed manual transmission, which is now sought after by collectors, and typically commands a ~10% price premium. In the European market, manual transmission cars were still dominant. 23,885 280 SLs were produced, of which 12,927 units went to the U.S. and 5,754 to other countries outside of Germany.[4]

[edit] European versus American specifications

1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SL roadster, US model (050G white). The concave hardtop inspired the "pagoda" nickname.

These cars are also popular as U.S. gray-market import vehicles. That is, cars brought to the U.S. from Europe some years after their original production. The European-spec vehicles have a number of subtle differences from U.S. market cars. The most visible is the distinctive European 'fishbowl' headlights versus the 'sealed beam' bulb headlights required in the U.S. Somewhat less known is that some European cars were using amber lenses on the rear turn signals much earlier than U.S. models, which were legally required to use all-red tail lights (U.S. laws eventually changed allowing amber turn-signals). Other differences included metric gauges, no chrome bumper guards, no side reflectors, no emission control equipment, 'single-side' parking lights, higher rear-axle ratios, and more use of chrome throughout the interior (most notably the rear mirror frame). When compared to their Euro cousins, many more USA cars were fitted with air conditioning, automatic transmission and white wall tires. Depending on the market, many Euro-spec cars were also equipped with aftermarket hazard lights, a safety requirement for cars brought into the U.S. that was not a standard feature in the European market until later production years.

Model timeline

Models, timeline and sales numbers

Chassis Engine
1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971
Total U.S.
230 SL W113.042 2.3L M127.II I6
1,465 6,911 6,325 4,945 185

19,831 4,752
250 SL W113.043 2.5L M129.II I6

17 5,177 2

5,196 1,791
280 SL W113.044 2.8L M130 I6

143 6,930 8,047 7,935 830
23,885 12,927

48,912 19,470

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