The 230, 250 and 280SL Mercedes sports cars are as sought-after today as they were in their 1960s heyday. They supply a mix of chic styling, solid German build quality and engineering and spirited driving qualities that few could the same. Always a firm favourite with women drivers, the cars offered handling and performance that also won approval from Stirling Moss, one-time works driver for Mercedes in Grand Prix and sports-car racing, who owned a 250SL.
A well-sorted SL can inspire a passionate driver with its fine handling, road holding, braking and a surprisingly sporty automatic transmission. Many witness the SL as too sumptuous, spacious and sybaritic to undoubtedly true sports car, yet it proved itself in Europe's toughest rally, the Marathon de la Route, over a Spa-Sophia-Liege route. won in 1963 along with a 230SL- driven by Eugen Boringer. The SL designation - first used around the much more powerful 300SL of the 1950s - stood for 'super light', even though cars were heavyweights ranging from 2855lb (1295kg) for the 230SL to 3120lb (14l5kg) for the 2B0SL. The only concessions to weight saving were the doors, bonnet, bootlid and hood stowage panel, made of aluminium.
The first 230SLs - with removable 'Pagoda' steel roof panel - were built in March 1963. They featured a 150bhp four-bearing straight-six engine (with Bosch injection pioneered by Mercedes on its W196 Grand Prix cars of 1954 and 1955), front disc brakes and optional power steering. Sales neared 20,000 in 1967 when the 230 made way for the 250SL.
Power stayed at 150bhp but the engine was sweeter and had more torque, however the 250 had discs all round and power steering as standard. Best of the bunch was the 280SL, built from November 1967 to March 1971. Along with a 170bhp seven-healing engine this version goes well with automatic transmissions, though there was four- speed manual options and an exceptional five-speeder. The only external recognition point was one-piece wheel trims. Some later cars had optional alloy wheels. Production totaled 23,885, therefore 280SL the most popular model.