The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is a grand touring car manufactured by Mercedes since 1954. The designation SL derives from the German Sportlich-Leicht, (English: Sport Lightweight). The original idea was suggested by American importer Max Hoffman, who perceived a market for a toned-down Gran Prix car tailored to affluent performance enthusiasts in the booming post-war American market, which remains the primary market for the vehicles.
The W 113 SL was developed under the auspices of Mercedes-Benz Technical Director Fritz Nallinger, Chief Engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut and Head of Styling Friedrich Geiger. The lead designers were Paul Bracq and Béla Barényi, who created its patented, slightly concave hardtop, which inspired the "Pagoda" nickname.
All models were equipped with an inline-six cylinder engine with multi-port fuel injection. The bonnet, trunk lid, door skins and tonneau cover were made of aluminum to reduce weight. The comparatively short and wide chassis, combined with an excellent suspension, powerful brakes and radial tires gave the W 113 superb handling for its time. The styling of the front, with its characteristic upright Bosch "fishbowl" headlights and simple chrome grille, dominated by the large three-pointed star in the nose panel, paid homage to the 300 SL roadster.
280 SL (1967–1971)
The 280 SL was introduced in December 1967 and continued in production through 23 February 1971, when the W 113 was replaced by its successor, the entirely new and substantially heavier R107 350 SL. Over the years, the W 113 evolved from a sports car into a comfortable grand tourer, and US models were by then usually equipped with the 4-speed automatic transmission and air conditioning. Manual transmission models came with the standard 4-speed or the optional ZF 5-speed, which was ordered only 882 times and thus is a highly sought-after original option today. In Europe, manual transmissions without air conditioning were still the predominant choice. Of the 23,885 280 SLs produced, more than half were sold in the US.