1964 Mercedes-Benz 230 SL Pininfarina Coupe

The Springer Pagoda.

The first ”special version ” of the Pagoda SL straightaway lost its pagoda roof and became something of a multicultural design experiment, a successful one in the view of this author. Pininfarina had taken up the gauntlet just two months after the 230 SL was unveiled in Geneva. In a letter to Karl Wilfert, (Head of the bodywork plant in Sindelfingen) which the latter presented to the Board of Management in May 1963, the world famous coachbuilding firm asked to be allowed to produce its own custom-bodied version of this vehicle. It should be noted that in the 60 years of the creation of individual bodies on the basis of production models was not uncommon, but Pininfarina company was one of the leaders in the production of individual original body.

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It may seem strange to us today, not all enthusiastically welcomed the creation of Paul Marriage (Paul Bracq) and Bela Baren (Bela Barenyi), because the roof in the style of a Chinese pagoda was very unusual and require getting used to. It was also unusual and the overall style of the car, which was considered too modern press with wide rectangular flat surfaces, contrary to the image of the elegant roadster / coupe. Therefore, the desire was to demonstrate that his Pininfarina vision of  230 SL looks natural.

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Pininfarina launched a competition among its designers vision coupe based on the 230 SL and at the first stage of the project a young 28 year old American designer Tom Dzhaarda (Tom Tjaarda)was chosen. A young American stylist Tom Tjaarda, who came to Turin to produce designs for Pininfarina In 1963, was entrusted with a very prestigious project by the Italian coachbuilder to come up with a Pininfarina custom model based on the 230 SL.

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Tjaarda’s creation retained the grille and headlamps of the original, but he raked the grille more sharply, sculpted the wings and made the sides more bulbous and thus wider, while the engine hood became narrower and shorter. The rear was reminiscent of the Tom Tjaarda-designed Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, but without taking away the distinctive personality of the 230 SL. Inside, Tjaarda left the dashboard unchanged, but the interior as a whole bears the stamp of elegant Italian hand craftsmanship.

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In 1964, at the 51st International Paris Show, the silver Mercedes Benz 230 SL coupe Pininfarina was brought before the public. The car was well received by the audience and about thirty potential customers turned to Pininfarina with a request for the production of these compartments. However, the coupe remained in a single copy, which was acquired by German press baron Axel Springer who one year later passed it on to his ex-wife Rosemarie. Also it would get the nickname “Pagoda Springer.”

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Next the Pininfarina SL went to Monaco, then to Palm Springs, where it was bought by Joe Morell.

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Morell first painted it black…

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…then later on gave it a makeover in a rather unbecoming shade of red.

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Present owner Weston Hook bought the SL in 1997, he had a vision: he would strip off the ”camouflage paint” and restore the vehicle to its original 1964 condition. It was left to restorer Jerry Hjeltness from Escondido, California to transform Weston Hook’s dreams into reality. Straightaway the results were honored by the high-profile jury of the 1997 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, who awarded Hook’s car first place in the European sports car class.

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By a stroke of irony or chance, the jury members included not only former Pininfarina designer, Tom Tjaarda himself but also Bruno Sacco, at the time still Mercedes-Benz Design Chief.

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2011 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, Sunday March 13th at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia, Island Florida.

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