The Enduring Beauty Of A Mercedes 230 SL
The year 1966 was revolutionary for music. On January 14, 1966, David Bowie released his first record in the United States, Can’t Help Thinking About Me. On September 10, 1966, The Beatles Revolver album went number one on the charts, and on December 16, 1966, the Jimi Hendrix Experience released their first single, Hey Joe, in the UK—just to mention a few things that made 1966 memorable.
The world was ready for yet another revolutionary beauty. Although this one could not be heard over the airwaves, it made music in its own way. The 230 Super Leicht (Super Light) represented a radical design for the Mercedes SL model and doubled the sales of its predecessors. It was made in Germany, painted cream, available only to the true fans.
Take a breath, close your eyes, and turn up the volume: It’s springtime in 1966, and you are one of the lucky Californians to own this coveted automobile. Imagine yourself driving along the Pacific Coast Highway in a two-seat GT roadster SL. On the radio is the brand-new hit from The Rolling Stones, Paint It Black, which was released on March 13 of that year, or perhaps you are listening to the Beach Boys masterpiece, Pet Sounds, which hit the airwaves on May 16. Life was good in 1966.
Released in the German market for the first time in 1963, the 230 SL was powered by an inline six-cylinder engine, featured front-disk brakes, and a single pivot independent rear suspension. Although this cream-colored beauty was capable of 125 mph, power is nothing without safety, so it was also a reliable car, being the first sports car worldwide with a safety body of rigid passenger cell and front and rear crumple zones. The 230 SL was available in automatic or 4-speed manual transmission with collapsible hood, and the total numbers of cars produced until 1967 was about 19,500—today only one of those resides in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Silverlake.
Photography by Giammario Villa