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Tail lights

This component is part of Lights.


A variety of taillights (rather: colour of lens glass) were delivered with the cars, depending on the year of manufacture.

Taillights sometimes “Tail Lamps” “Tail Lights” or “Rear Lights”. German: Heckleuchte.

  • Taillights on W113 cars have several functions: ‘Steady On’ red makes the car visible to cars following; brighter ‘Steady On’ red light indicates that the brake is being applied; a “Steady On’ White light shows when the shift lever is in the Reverse position; and a ‘Blinking’ light on one side indicates that the car will be making a turn. (This turn indicator may be red or amber as discussed here.)
  • W113 cars were fitted with 4 types of taillights: one was the original All-Red style, two were modified All-Red lights; and one was the later Red-Amber style. Each is discussed here and shown in photos.
  • Except for the country specific modifications mentioned here, taillights of US version cars and Euro version cars were the same. Three different types of All-red taillights were used before the final change to the later Red-Amber lights. All the light styles are listed in the factory spare parts list
  • The so called “All Red” lights are the oldest. They are red except for the clear Back-Up lens. These All-Red lights have not been available for purchase since the 1980’s. Similar style lights are being reproduced. These which have been described as very close in appearance to the original lights. All-Red style lights modified from other Mercedes cars are described below.
  • The All-Red lights were installed on all W113 cars until the change to the final late rear light in 1969 beginning with the 280 SL with VIN 007938 for non-USA cars and for US market cars beginning with VIN 011041.
  • There were two modified All-Red lights that for cars marketed in specified countries. These were fitted from the beginning of W113 production until the change to the later style was adopted.
  • One modification to the All-Red lights was for cars delivered to Australia, Italy, and perhaps, the UK. These were All-Red style lights with the usual clear Back-Up indicator but on these modified lights the Turn Signal area was Amber not red
  • Another All-Red modification was for cars delivered to France. These cars were fitted with lights similar to the All-Red lights except that the white Back-Up indicator was Amber.
  • Because of the Amber Turn Signal area, these modified All-Red lights are similar in appearance to the later Red-Amber style but the modified All-Red has a much wider center section than the later style Red-Amber lights. Also, the later style lights have a much flatter profile than the earlier lights. See Photos.
  • The All-Red lights are a one piece unit with the red light unit molded to the chrome bezel. The later Red-Amber lights are two piece units. The early taillights were not designed to have replaceable lenses. Replacement was the entire one-piece chrome frame with the molded-in lens and reflector.
  • The All-Red light lens can be separated from the bezel by drilling or similar technique and a new reproduction lens (or a lens from another style car) can be glued to the original bezel.
  • To separate an All-Red lens from the chrome bezel (your own risk): cut the lens carefully from inside the bezel with a Dremel ® or similar small drill or grinder. Once separated, the inner "glued-in" edge of the lens will be destroyed. After re-chroming, a new lens must be re-glued to the bezel.
  • Reproduction All-Red style lights are available new (2008) and are often installed on older cars when the original All-Reds are not available. These newer taillights will "drop in" to the older cars - no modification is necessary.
  • The later style Red/Amber taillights are original to all 280SL’s after the car cited above. These lights are available and sometimes used to replace the All-Red lights when availability or budget considerations make the later light style the best choice.

Above: All-Red Style

Above: All-Red style modified for Australia, Italy, and the UK. Note the Amber Turn signal and the "Wide Center".

Above: All-Red style modified for France. Note the Amber Back–Up section in the center bottom of the light unit.

Above: All-Red style light, back view.

Above: Red-Amber late style light. Note the Amber Turn Signal area and the "Narrow Center".

Above: Red-Amber late style light, back view.

Above: Red-Amber late style light, profile view.

Rear Taillight Styles----
StyleBack-UpTurn SignalYearsComment
All-RedClearRed1963-1969Up to 044-007937 for non-USA and up to 011040 for USA cars
All-Red modifiedClearAmber1963-1969Australia, Italy, UK
All-Red FranceAmberRed1963-1969France
Late StyleClearAmber1969-1971280SL after VIN 011041 (USA cars) and after VIN 007938 (non-USA)

Electrical Socket Plate or Bulb Holder

Mercedes sold the taillights always as a combined 3-part unit, that is, the outside lens, the reflector, and the electrical plate with the sockets that hold the different bulbs. The socket plates of the early style lamps are wired whereas the bulb sockets of the later lamps are sitting on an imprinted board. In addition the later ones incorporate two diodes into the electrical circuit.

Above: Bulb holder in a 230SL

  • Brake light: 18W / Base: BA15s
  • Tail light: 4W / Base: BA9s
  • Parking/clearance light: 4W / Base: BA9s
  • Back-up light: 15W / Base: BA15s
  • Turn signal: 18W / Base: BA15s

Above: Late 280SL bulb holder

  • Brake light: 21W
  • Tail light: 5W
  • Back-up light: 15W
  • Turn signal: 21W

Ground Connection

On an early style taillight the ground connection is a brown wire coming out of the electrical 6-prong connector that is attached to the chassis as shown here:

When not properly grounded this wire is very often the culprit of a fast blinking turn signal or a non-functioning brake light.

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