W113 Body Basics – Let the Pagoda reveals its secrets

October 20, 2016
Posted by: pbcadmin

The first 60 seconds of a Pagoda SL assessment in the field!

A well-maintained SL offers legendary Mercedes-Benz quality and reliability, handling that set the standard of its day, more than sufficient performance to keep up with today’s traffic, and styling that turns heads as much now as it did in the 1960s.

By now, every Pagoda SL is at least 45 years old, many are over 50. When looking at a car you’ve got to try to piece its history together based on what is in front of you at that moment.

Service records are extremely valuable, as they present cold, hard facts with dates and odometer readings.

Figuring out the physical history of a car from a body / condition standpoint can be a challenge, but if you know what you are looking for, the car will reveal its secrets.

The photos below illustrate a few of the things you need to look at when you approach a Pagoda SL for the first time in an effort to understand whether you are looking at a $40,000 or $140,000 car.

It can be especially educational to speak with long time owners or collectors about their cars at concours and club events.


Open the hood and look for the 4 digits stamped in the upper corner on the driver’s side.

Do those 4 digits match the body tag affixed to the driver’s inner fender?

Why do ‘original fenders’ matter and how do they affect value? The leaded seam ‘fender notches’ inboard of the headlights have long been a topic of Pagoda discussions. They are often filled down and smoothed out by a body shop tech performing a repaint who does not understand their significance. They are easy to remove and relatively easy to re-create. The inner fender spot welds that affix the fender to the rest of the body tell a more important story

Fender spot welds that are intact usually identify an ‘original’ car or at least a car that has not been suffered a front end accident or serious rust.

Original spot welds


Original ‘fender notch’


Long before Pagoda SLs were collector’s items, when they were ‘just cars’, even a minor fender bender or rust would warrant a fender replacement, it was the easy thing to do. The old fender was cut off and a new one put on. Quality of workmanship varied greatly.

Today, the ‘investment buyer’ always opts for an ‘original fender’ car. While originality is rewarded with dollars today, there is no shame in a car with replaced fenders, just know what you are paying for.

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