Two Fifty Year-Old SL Pagoda Slot Cars from Germany
By Frank Koh
MAR Online does not publish about slot cars very often, but these cars are so nice that they can act as static display models in any cabinet! Two of my favorite slot cars are models of my favorite European sports car: the W113 Mercedes-Benz “Pagoda” SL. I took these two units out which I have owned for a couple of years now, so I could simply re-live my love affair with them.
The orange Fleischmann roadster and the maroon Stabo coupe shown above are, in my humble opinion, much more realistic than the contemporary Scalextric slot car model, which is considerably more common and well-known to slot car mavens.
The iconic Mercedes-Benz 230SL/ 250SL/ 280SL of 1963-71 needs no introduction. The “SL Pagoda” as it was fondly referred to because of its unique hardtop design was Stuttgart-Sindelfingen’s sports car of the sixties that was revered for its sparkling grand touring performance, exceptional comfort, leading-edge safety and timeless beauty.
While the real car was being produced, two West German slot car manufacturers released scale masterpieces of the Pagoda, the Stabo 230 SL Coupe and the Fleischmann 280 SL Roadster. The external dimensions of both appear to be nearly-identical; hence we can take an educated guess that these two West German beauties are spot-on at 1:32 scale. The photos speak for themselves.
By its very nature, a closed coupe would be less susceptible to damage than an open roadster, both in real life and in slot car parlance. The Stabo SL has that distinct advantage, but there are no plans to even take a low-speed “cruise” on the slot car track with this rare, well-preserved model.
Working headlights came standard on the Fleischmann SL Roadster. I don’t know if the lenses turned yellow from age, or the manufacturer sought to replicate a “French Market” headlight setup. The photo does not do justice to the very accurate and crisp detail on that signature “SL” grille.
The W113 230SL/ 250SL/ 280SL got its “Pagoda” moniker from the unique hardtop that was designed by Bela Barenyi, and the recessed center portion with raised sides are evident from this angle. An inside joke at the design studio of Mercedes-Benz was that the roof was created when a tree fell lengthwise on the car.
While Barenyi created the roof of the SL Pagoda, it is renowned French designer Paul Bracq who penned those very pleasing, timeless lines of the overall car. With its large “greenhouse” and stately yet flamboyant stance and the unmistakable Mercedes-Benz Three Pointed Star on that lovely SL radiator grille, the SL Pagoda looks as fresh and fast today as it did when it first debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1963.
The Stabo slot car featured revolutionary front wheels that “steered” in the direction the car would take on the track. Truly ingenious. While this particular unit appears to have seen some serious track use, it is nevertheless very well preserved for its half century-old age.
This particular Fleischmann unit does not appear to have been used at all. The contact brushes show practically no wear, the chassis plate is devoid of scratches, and the metal case of the high speed motor maintains a uniform shine with no abrasion. There’s even an “Ein/Aus” (“On/Off”) switch for the headlights.
Sadly, there is no public slot car track in Manila at this time; hence, these beauties will remain as display models, and “out of trouble”, indefinitely. For any avid SL Pagoda enthusiast, this vintage pair is irreplaceable!
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