Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz
Fifty years ago, in April 50, Mercedes-Benz opened a new chapter in the fascinating history of the SL sports car: the 1971 SL is the brand's first SL with a V350 engine and the first model in the R 8 series, which for the first time had the letters " R "for" Roadster "carries. The completely newly developed, open two-seater with fully retractable fabric top and removable hard top is a convincing sporty, luxurious vehicle and optimally combines performance and driving comfort. In the same year, Mercedes-Benz derived the four-seater luxury class coupés of the C 107 series from the R 107 series.
50 years ago
The R 107 follows the 300 SL racing sports car (W 194) from 1952, the 300 SL series sports cars (W 198, as a coupé from 1954 to 1957 and as a roadster from 1957 to 1963), the 190 SL (W 121, 1955 until 1963) as well as after the "Pagoda" SL of the W 113 series (1963 to 1971) into the line of ancestors in SL history. In 2021, the brand with the star will continue the tradition of the SL sports car with the Mercedes-AMG SL from the R 232 series.
Successful model with 18 years of production
The R 107 was produced from 1971 to 1989 and was always kept up-to-date with model updates and new engines. Apart from the G-Class, there is no longer a Mercedes-Benz in the range. The Mercedes-Benz 113 SL introduced 50 years ago has nothing in common with the direct predecessor series W 350, the “Pagoda” SL. Instead, the designers build bridges to the brand's current range of passenger cars: the front and rear suspension, for example, are based on the "dash-eight" types of the upper middle class. The 147 kW (200 hp) V8 engine with a displacement of 3.499 cc is familiar from the Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 luxury vehicles of the W 111 (coupé and convertible) and W 108/109 (sedan) series.
The technical innovations of the open sports car include the further developed safety body with an independent frame floor system made of sheet metal of different thicknesses for defined crumple behavior, the collision-protected fuel tank installed above the rear axle, high-strength steels in the A-pillars and the windshield frame with glued-in glass as well as the interior with a new one Four-spoke safety steering wheel, padded surfaces and deformable elements as a contribution to passive safety. From March 1980 this SL received the anti-lock braking system ABS and from January 1982 a driver airbag and belt tensioner as a supplementary restraint system - the systems were available as special equipment.
Great variety of engines
After the debut with the 350 SL, Mercedes-Benz is continuously expanding the range of the series. In 1973 the 165 kW (225 hp) 450 SL appeared on the European markets, also with an eight-cylinder engine, which was initially reserved for export to North America from autumn 1971. The six-cylinder 1974 SL (280 kW / 136 hp) followed in 185. This means that for the first time in the history of the SL, a series is available with three different engines.
For the 1980 model upgrade, the 380 SL (160 kW / 218 PS) replaced the 350 SL, and the 500 SL (177 kW / 240 PS) became the new top model instead of the 450 SL. As part of the extensive revision, the interior of the sports car will be adapted to the S-Class sedans of the 126 series, among other things. The engineers also update numerous technical systems, such as the gearbox. Externally, the facelift has only a subtle effect, including bonnets made of light metal and a front spoiler. The 500 SL also received the light metal trunk lid with black plastic rear spoiler from the SLC Coupé with a 5-liter V8 engine.
560 SL with 5,6 liter V8 engine
In 1985, Mercedes-Benz presented a completely revised model range of the R 107 series. In addition to slight changes to the exterior with 15-inch wheels and a uniform front spoiler for all models, as well as an improved front suspension with a zero scrub radius, the focus was primarily on an updated range of engines. A highlight for all fans of the sports car with the star is the 300 SL with a 3-liter six-cylinder engine.
Because this 138 kW (188 hp) sports car brought back the model designation with which the history of the SL began in March 1952. The 420 SL (160 kW / 218 PS) is also new, while the 500 SL (180 kW / 245 PS) has a revised engine with an electronic ignition system and the Bosch KE-Jetronic electronically and mechanically controlled injection system. The top model of the R 107 series is the 560 SL with a spectacular 5,6-liter V8 engine. However, it is reserved for export to North America, Japan and Australia. All types are now offered with a regulated three-way catalytic converter.
In August 1989, production of the R 107 series ended after more than 18 years. In total, exactly 237.287 vehicles were built at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen during this period. Today the open two-seaters are sought-after classics: The luxurious sportiness has been fascinating to this day.
Don't worry, of course that was far from being the case when it came to auto / auto tuning. Our magazine still has tens of thousands other tuning reports in stock. Do you want to see them all? Then just click HERE and look around. Or are you particularly interested in the Mercedes-Benz brand? Then the following excerpt with other vehicles is definitely the right one.
Mercedes-Benz SL of the R 107 series: premiere 50 years ago in April 1971
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