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Mercedes-Benz Pagoda

Mercedes-Benz Pagoda Published: 11th Aug 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mercedes-Benz Pagoda
Mercedes-Benz Pagoda
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Iconic image - Looks and build quality - Very expensive to restore - More tourer than sports car

Timelessly elegant, the SL also known as Pagoda due to its roof design, is a sports classic dripping with sheer good taste. Old school Mercedes engineering and peerless build quality makes it a connoisseurs’ classic although joining this select club is becoming expensive.


The Pagoda is better suited for touring than tearing around in because the handling largely discourages anything otherwise, especially on the 280SL where the suspension was actually softened for a better ride to the detriment of coring capers. It can be tightened up if required but don’t go mad here as performance ‘mods’ can seriously devalue a Pagoda.

Most versions are automatics and the rather odd ‘back to front’ selector gait needs familiarising with. Predictably, the bigger the engine the more performance and, as a result the better the SL is to drive, although none can be termed road burners. On the other hand if all you want to do is quietly (and why not?) cruise then there’s little wrong with a 230SL especially if the price is right.

Best models

Predictably, the 280SL is the most wanted although for touring there’s little wrong with the more than adequate 250 and even a 230. The 250SL’s rarity may count for something in years to come plus there’s a rare manual option to make the most of its 150bhp. Modified cars put off buyers say specialists as they can devalue and debase any SL; having said that, better electrics, mild handling mods, with proper high quality tyres, as recommended by an SL expert, are about the only accepted alterations.


You’ll need at least £30,000 to secure a proper Pagoda although it will need fair old work to bring it into line. The cheapest good 250SL costs around £55-£25,000, while very nice 280SL’s usually go for £75,000 upwards. If you fancy something a bit special or up to concours standards you will have to pay a lot more, try £100,000 and perfect Pagodas breach the £120,000 barrier with ease. The good news is that a peach of a Pagoda is as good as money in the bank so you’ll always see a decent return.

Buying advice

A sound history backed by maintenance from a reputable SL expert counts for a lot. Rust can be rife so you need to look beyond the gloss and look for poor restorations. Bulkheads corrode but it’s sill condition which determines the car – costing at least £2500 per side to fix. Crawl underneath to check floorpan and the chassis members, particularly by the boot floor. Inspect the SL’s chassis legs carefully; you need to remove a cover behind the rear seats to do this properly but if the buyer refuses – walk away! Don’t overlook ‘mere’ details such as chromework or a tatty hood.

For example, a grille and brightwork refurb runs to over £5000 and woe betide if you need a hood frame as these cost £3000 for a good used one, half the price of new…

Engines are everlasting if serviced right and regularly. Dirty oil not only hurts longevity but also infects the fuel injection pump leading to a £1000 rebuild. A worn rear axle costs up to £2000 to put right but the rest of the transmission is tough. Irregularly used SLs can cause brake callipers to seize.


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