SL Evolution, Part 5: The Longest Life Span of a Mercedes-Benz Model


Mercedes-Benz SL 3rd Generation: R 107 (1971-1989).

For 18 long years, Daimler produced the R 107 SL (R stands for Roadster), the longest run of an SL Class model. It had a slick and elegant body that was beefier than its predecessor. The coupe version maintained a few cues from the Pagoda roof, though it lacked the charisma of the previous two generations. The front-end was characterized by the rectangular grill, and the headlamps were positioned in a landscape position as opposed to the previous portrait position.

The main novelty of this generation was the integration of V8 engines, the first SL-Class with an engine larger than the six-cylinder. Bizarrely, the first version used a 4.5-liter engine but was named 350 SL and only when exports to the US began, in 1972, the 450 SL, with the same engine, was born. However, the 350's engine sputtered 200hp and the 450's engine was more powerful with 224hp. As with the previous generation, this one was available as either an open top (either in soft top or hard top version) or a coupe, which was called the SLC. It was based on the R 107 but had a few different design cues.

This was produced for 'only' 10 years before it was replaced by the new SLC in 1981. During the 18 year SL life span, there were versions like the 280 SL and 280 SLC (with an inline six-cylinder 185hp engine, a response to the oil crisis of 1973), 300 SL (inline six-cylinder 188hp engine, towards the end of model production), 420 SL (V8 218hp engine), 380 SL and 380 SLC (V8 218 engine) 500 SL and 500 SLC (V8 240hp engine). The engines evolved throughout and during the last few years of the generation they were equipped with the first catalytic converter systems. Once again a lot of efforts were made to ensure the innovation of safety features.

These were thanks to a carefully defined crumple body behavior and body shell, a high-strength A-pillar, and interior appointments uncompromisingly designed according to safety criteria. When production ended, more than a quarter million third generation SLs were produced and a record was set for the longest production period of one model by Daimler-Benz in the company's history.

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