Isn’t it strange how the same car, with only very minor differences, can elicit contradictory feelings? This sublime Benz is exactly that. I caught a Pagoda last year and it really didn’t go well. Wrong day, wrong setting, wrong colour, wrong version? Well, yes. And here is its mirror opposite – the same damn car, but irresistible.
When I say “the same damn car,” I mean another W113 with its famous hardtop. The one I caught last year was a later model with sealed beam headlamps and it wore a sort of lilac hue that, while not absolutely horrid, did not do the car any favours. White works much better.
Here, we have an early model. I picked 1965 as a year, but really I have no idea – these came out in March 1963 and were made until 1967. As far as I know, there were no particular visible changes from one model year to the next.
Compared again to the lilac car I found last year, this one seems to have the correct tyres and it doesn’t look gangly or jacked up. It’s wearing the correct headlights – another crucial detail. And Mercedes did add a few bits of side trim to the W113 over the years, which did not improve anything.
It also helps that this 230SL is (as expected in Tokyo) either superbly preserved or carefully restored, and in either case well cared for. That was not exactly the case of the 280SL I caught last year, which was quite scruffy in places.
Not that I mind a bit of dirt on my CCs – these are 50-plus year-old automobiles, after all – but I wasn’t exactly a beggar, so I can be a chooser. So I’ll choose the pristine one over the not-as-nice one as a subject to photograph. Because why not?
I failed to capture the interior of the previous Pagoda, and sort of did it again this time around. My side interior shot was a blurry mess. But this one was usable. At least the huge glass area was of use. Thank you, Monsieur Bracq!
I do a lot of my CC discoveries on weekends. More classics prowl the streets and I usually can find the time to prowl them myself, so we eventually meet up. Case in point: I found our feature car on a Sunday in the late afternoon, in a mercifully deserted street. This does not preclude the odd weekday encounter of course, but those are rare and usually around noon.
And that is when last year’s lilac W113 was found, sitting right in the midday sun in a dingy alley. There are always ways to make the best of a bad situation, but the wrong car in the wrong place at the wrong time was a lot to ask. Early mornings can also be challenging, but there is usually room for maneuver. Nighttime finds are an absolute nightmare and high noon is a close second. But if you want to do some easy CC picking and picturing, the Golden Hour (just before sunset) is a sure thing.
The Pagoda is back to being a thing of beauty to my eye. It’s not a perfect design – some of what I levelled against it in my 280SL post remains. But I can once again overlook the tall glasshouse and somewhat jarring jumble of lines created by the hardtop in profile and focus on the car’s tasteful restraint and magnificent detailing. The world makes sense again and the night can now fall on the city; this W113 made my day.
CC Capsule: 1967 Mercedes-Benz 280SL – Triste, by Joseph Dennis
Curbside Classic: 1963 Mercedes-Benz 230SL – Big Shoes To Fill, by Tom Klockau