Main.TrailIndexPage | Tops

Hard- and soft tops


The Mercedes-Benz 230SL, 250SL, and 280SL came in three variants (see also Body Styles):

  • Roadster: soft top only
  • Coupe: hardtop (with either a soft top or at least a space for one)
  • California coupe (from 250SL onwards): hardtop only; no provision for soft top at all (and a tiny rear bench seat)

The hard-top has the typical "Pagoda" roof line, which lent its name to the series of cars.

The Hardtop is known as Hard-top, Pagoda-Roof or (German:) Dach. The soft-top, is Stoffverdeck in German.


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California Coupe

The California Coupe is not a cheaper version of the Pagoda for open-top motoring fans in places around the world with less inclement weather than Germany or Europe. It was actually an optional extra from the late model 250 SL that Mercedes-Benz offered to customers who were prepared to pay some 660 DM to lose the soft-top cover and storage compartment, and add a small +2 (as in 2+2) forward facing bench for tiny passengers.

A hardtop was usually supplied with a California Coupe.

As many Californian cars are re-imported to Europe, these California Coupes are in less demand than soft-top equipped Pagoda's and subsequently end up being a lot cheaper. However, refitting a softtop is a very pricy proposition. Niemöller ( sell complete softtop mechanisms for around € 9700 (prices January 2009).

Lachotta ( sell complete conversions whereby they can retrofit the softtop compartment from saved shells of old Pagoda's.

If you would like a soft top, we would recommend buying one in the first place.

Fuel Economy

The fuel economy of the Pagoda is very much affected by whether it's driven top up, top down, or with the hardtop. The results are primarily related to its Cw value (it's streamline value if you like)

Engelen states:

  • "best" fuel economy with softtop up; Cw x A = 0.481
  • "medium" with hardtop, Cw x A = 0.515
  • "worst" top down, Cw x A = 0.610

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