VIDEO: ENGINE MANAGE Y KUKFILMS / TEXT AND PHOTO: JAVIER ROMAGOSA
What have we brought you today? It's about a Mercedes 250SL, one of the second generation SL known as Pagoda by the shape of its hard roof. It has been left to us by the Madrid rental company STS, that it has a fleet of classics to which we will already be throwing the guente. At the beginning of the 60s, Mercedes wanted to combine the two sports product lines of the 50s, corresponding to the 300SL and the 190SL., In a single product, and thus this beauty was born, sponsored by the best German engineers and designers of its time. .
The amazing design you see on the screen is the work of Paul Brack, who needs no introduction, but also from Friedrich Geiger, father of the 540K. What is underneath the body mostly corresponds to the engineer-pilot Rudolf Uhlenhaut, who played a fundamental role in the history of the silver arrows of the 30s and 50s. Other illustrious engineers who took part in the development of the Pagoda were Fritz Nallinger, introducer of independent suspension and the famous Mercedes diesels, and Béla Bárenyi, pioneer of passive safety applied to the car.
Mercedes Pagoda: Worthy successor to the 300SL?
Even with this pedigree, when the Pagoda It was presented in Geneva in 1963, it was not considered a sports car but rather a luxurious and quite beautiful GT convertible. With automatic transmission or power steering, among other options more typical of a car with sports overtones but not a sports car in essence, it had staunch detractors in those fans who expected a new gullwing instead of a powered 190 SL.
Actually drink from both, combining the legendary claw and technology of the former with the comfort of the latter. And as I could see after spending almost 1,000 kilometers behind the wheel, and at least to my understanding, it is a full-fledged sports car. As is often said, we can understand the acronym SL as Light Sport as Super Luxurious, and in this case both things are combined at 50 / 5th.
A balanced and versatile Mercedes SL
The new generation of Mercedes SL had also and above all to be more civilized and predictable. To do this, the Stuttgart house focused on improving the rear axle. the Achilles heel of Gaviota's wings, which made him nervous and oversteer.
The result is the one I drove, a noble and extremely neutral car, whose architecture favors neither oversteer nor understeer. It feels short, big, powerful, and heavy, but if you're not brusque or force radical weight transfers, it can be very fast. It takes an experienced driver to push it to the limit, and in highway use there is a wide margin of safety, even if we are clueless into corners. On the other hand, it brakes really well. Definitely, it has a great chassis, very well balanced.
The Mercedes Pagoda in motion
Once you get hold of a somewhat imprecise and uncommunicative address, with a large steering wheel like the rudder of a ship or an old taxi, depending on how you look at it, the Pagoda goes exactly where you say with astonishing stability. Hold the steering wheel well and dance with it; gracefully, delicately, decisively, and you will see how you bring out what it conserves from its illustrious ancestor. This is not a 190SL chubby.
The sound is part of its charm. It comes from the M180 inline six-cylinder with overhead camshaft that powered the brand's mid-range saloons, tuned for the task with larger valves, a higher compression ratio and state-of-the-art Bosch mechanical injection. The Pagoda had three engines of between 150 and 170 CV, with displacements of 2,3, 2,5 and 2,8; this 250 SL mounts the 2,8 mechanics that provide the torque and power that the model should have had from the first moment.
It pushes in the whole arc of revolutions but the good comes when crossing the 4,000. That's when a sharp, imposing sound makes it clear what you're riding on. Actually, this melody, thanks to the cheerful character of the mechanics and a relatively short gear change, and also imprecise and with a hard clutch, it must be said, is what continually invites us to give gas and let it breathe.
If you simply want to go for a walk, it is also a delight, especially sitting on the sofas that carry seats; yes, it is possible that then it seems a bit tank, in the style of some of his rivals of the time but with more punch, as is the case with the Citroën DS Chapron or the Lancia Flaminio Convertible. Proof that this Mercedes was a bit between two worlds is that it also looked from you to you at the Porsche 356 and the Alfa Romeo 2600 Spider, but unfortunately not at the Jaguar E.
A German Sports GT
The quality of engineering and construction is unquestionable -this is a Mercedes-, along with the detail of its design. Everything in the Pagoda, except for the light switch or the gear lever, which is somewhat delayed, is functional and also adds a touch of style. Every element exists right on: the straight lines, the curves, the chrome, the real wood, the colors… French design but almost Italian, timeless, together with German engineering. A winning combination.
In other words, although driving is physically demanding, especially when it comes to getting the most out of it, the Mercedes Pagoda has almost it all: Quality, character, attractiveness, manners, power, comfort, reliability… It is a full-fledged German sports GT.
Do you want more? Read the chronicle of the route we did with this convertible clicking here.