der R-SL


RPR rejuvenates a venerable classic with modern technology

While some purists may regard a V8-powered Pagoda as heresy, there is a factory precedent for this conversion. Back in 1965, Mercedes’ legendary chief engineer, Rudolph Uhlenhaut, who was known for pushing the power envelope, made a 250SL with the 250hp, 6,332cc V8 from the 600 limo stuffed into its nose.

While the idea was quickly abandoned, the overall concept was not. When the succeeding R107 SL was born in 1971, it came with the smaller and lighter M116 and M117 V8s to supplement the M110 twin-cam straight six. This option quickly bolstered SL sales in the V8-hungry US market.

NEWtech, latterly renamed RPR Engineering, hit the ground running by offered substitution of the M130 straight-six in the W113 Pagoda SL for the 50kg lighter and more powerful 18-valve V6 (M112). With bespoke chassis upgrades to handle the extra performance, the cars could even have modern safety systems like ABS fitted as an option.

Sitting further back in the chassis for even better weight distribution, this more efficient motor, paired with its five-speed electronic automatic gearbox, are a match made in heaven for the Pagoda.

Extrapolating this line of thinking, Carsten and his team also realised that concluded that the long engine bay designed to take a big iron-block straight-six would also swallow the M112 V6’s modular big brother, the M113 V8, while still offering significant weight savings over the original six.

Thus, RPR extended their offer with the M113 V8 in 4.3 and 5.0-litre guise as an alternative power plant. The blue Pagoda in this story is one of these V8 powered cars. It has the 279hp 4.3-litre V8 from an S430 and belongs to a Swedish client, who commissioned it a few years ago.

The 5.0-litre V8 is probably more engine than the SL needs, and the sweeter 4.3-litre V8 (M113) normally found in the W220 S430, is a better natural pairing for the Pagoda.

While the V6 saves 50kg, even the V8 is 30 kg lighter than the original cast iron straight six, so the cars weight distribution is much better than when it left the works over 40 years ago. Where the kerb weight of the original 280SL is 1,360kg, the V8 car tips the scales around 1,330kg, and has far more power and torque on tap.

From the outside there are no giveaways that this Pagoda is anything other than a pristine example of its ilk. It even wears steel wheels with the original colour-coded hubcaps.

The only external clue is a ride height about 40mm lower than stock, but there again, owners have been known to uprate the suspension of such cars to make them ride and handle better anyway.

You definitely know something is different when you start the engine. There is no characteristic classic car starter motor churning until the motor catches. Instead, you are greeted by the instant start up and crisp V8 burble experienced in an early to mid-2000s Mercedes.

With 500kg less dead weight to propel than the S-Class, the 4,266cc V8 feels more sporty and free revving. With 279hp at 5,750rpm and a healthy 400Nm of torque between 3,000 and 4,400rpm, its newfound gusto and deep burbling soundtrack are a good match for a roadster.

This Pagoda sits on Mercedes steel wheels with the customary chrome and body colour coded hubcaps. Because they look so right on the car, hardly anyone gives this any thought, but they are not the 6.0J x 14-inch wheels on which it left the factory.

(Text by Ian Kuah)