The third generation Mercedes SL R107 turns 50 years old. This model is important because from it was derived the first coupe of the S Series, codenamed C107.
The SL series is probably the most famous Mercedes range. It debuted with the iconic 300 SL (W198, 1954-1947) coupe and roadster (1957-1963) and 190 SL (W121, 1955-1963).
The second generation W113 (1963-1971) is known as the Pagoda. Then followed the third generation Mercedes SL R107 which is the longest-lived Mercedes SL, being in production for no less than 18 years from 1971 to 1989, with more than 237,000 units produced.
History continued with R129 (1989-2001), R230 (2001-2008, facelift 2008-2011) and R231 (2011-2015, facelift 2016-2020) and although the luxury roadster market is declining, Mercedes has found the solution and a new Mercedes SL will appear this fall: the R232, developed by AMG on a dedicated platform that it will share with the future AMG GT.
But let’s go back to the Mercedes SL R107.
Mercedes SL R107 was the first SL to receive a V8 engine in the 350 SL version. Mercedes SL R107 was a completely new construction as an open two seater with a fully retractable fabreic top and removable hardtop. In the same year with the launch of the R107, Mercedes also launched the C107 coupe version, the first in a series of six generations of luxury coupes.
Mercedes 350 SL was powered by a 3,499 cc V8 engine and 200 HP taken from Mercedes 280 SE 3.5 W 111 (coupe and cabriolet) and W 108 / W 109 (saloon). The luxury roadster came with some innovations like the fuel tank installed above the rear axle to protect it in the event of a collision, high-strength steels in the A-pillars and windscreen frame with its glued-in glass, as well as the interior with a new four-spoke safety steering wheel, padded surfaces and deformable elements as a contribution to passive safety.
Since March 1980, the SL R107 has been equipped with an ABS system, and since January 1982 with an airbag for driver and belt tensioners. After the debut of the 350 SL, the range was expanded with a new V8 model (450 SL) that had 224 HP. 450 SL was launched for the American market in 1971 and debuted in Europe in 1973. In 1974, the basic version 280 SL was launched, equipped with a 6-cylinder engine with 185 HP.
In 1980 a facelift was operated after which 380 SL (218 HP) replaced 350 SL and 500 SL (240 HP) replaced 450 SL. During the facelift, the interior was adapted to the style of the S-Class W126 limousine. The 500 SL also features a light alloy boot lid with a black plastic rear spoiler from the SLC Coupe with the 5 liter V8 engine.
In 1985 a second facelift followed which focused on new engines. Thus appeared the 300 SL, a name that reminded us of the iconic model from 1954. It had under the hood a 6-cylinder 3-liter engine with 188 HP. Completely new was the 420 SL with 218 HP while the 500 SL (245 HP) received the electronically controlled mechanical fuel-injection system Bosch KE-Jetronic.
The top model was the 560 SL with a 5.6-liter V8 engine reserved for North America, Japan and Australia. All models had a three-way catalyst.
Production of the Mercedes SL R107 ceased in August 1989 after more than 18 years and 237,287 units produced.