«  Jaguar Classic reveals E-type 60... <- Back to: Archive Reopening of the Porsche Museum on...  »

Collectors Corner - The tradition of the Mercedes-Benz SL


 

On 12 March 1952, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the spectacular 300 SL racing sports car to the media on a motorway. From 1954 onwards, that very successful competition car shaped the tradition of the Mercedes-Benz SL sports cars. 

Built for the racetrack: 12 March 1952. On that day, Mercedes-Benz presented the 300 SL (W 194), a thoroughbred racing sports car, to the media on a stretch of motorway near Stuttgart. Only a few weeks later, the brand began its participation in international motorsport with that car.

Meaningful lettering: The press information of the time explained that the “S” stood for “super” and the “L” for “light”.

Five races – four victories: Mille Miglia, 24 hours of Le Mans, sports car races in Bern and on the Nürburgring as well as the Carrera Panamericana were entered in the diary for the first SL.

Debut in New York: Calls for a production version of the highly successful racing car were becoming louder. Mercedes-Benz responded and presented the standard-production sports car 300 SL Coupé as early as 1954, together with the comfortable Roadster 190 SL. The Gullwing was superseded by the 300 SL Roadster in 1957. Today, it is safe to say that every notable car collection has one or even both of these models.

Limited: Only 1,400 of these coveted sports cars with the characteristic gullwing doors were built. Today, these classics command prices well beyond one million euros.

Pagoda: In 1963, the 230 SL replaced both the 300 SL Roadster and the 190 SL. It featured sportiness, comfort and safety, which means that it has been leading the way for the traditions of the SL ever since.

High-volume model: The first SL model series with an eight-cylinder engine was the R 107, launched in 1971. That model was built for no less than 18 years – a record.

High-tech: The next SL (R 129, 1989) was a milestone in many respects. A pace-setter: the pop-up roll-over bar was deployed in just 0.3 seconds – even with the hardtop closed. The twelve-cylinder top-of-the-range models, 600 SL / SL 600 (290 kW/394 hp) and the SL 73 AMG with a 7.3-litre V12 engine and 386 kW (525 hp) have well-earned places in the company’s heritage.

16 seconds: That’s how quickly the R 230 model series SL could open up to let the sun in – or close the folding Vario roof in bad weather. Optionally available as a coupé or roadster – a dream come true for customers.

High-performance coupé: The SL 65 AMG Black Series boasted an output of 493 kW (670 hp). The cars built in Affalterbach were very successful – almost a third of all R 230s had AMG engines.

Athlete in a tailor-made suit: In the R 231 model series SL from 2012 onwards, Mercedes-Benz produced the first all-aluminium body manufactured in large-scale production, which saved around 140 kilograms in weight.

 

A stretch of motorway near Stuttgart became the stage for the presentation of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 194) on 12 March 1952. Two days before that, the Stuttgart brand’s press office had caused a sensation when it issued invitations to selected journalists. It was not simply a question of the “new Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (super-light) sports car [...] undertaking test drives in public for the first time”. This was simultaneously a clear statement that the brand was returning to motorsport with this car, as the press release noted: three 300 SLs had already been registered for “that famous Italian road race, the ‘Mille Miglia’, to be held on 3 and 4 May 1952”.

The press photo sent out with the invitation showed a dynamically drawn sports car depicting the archetypal SL lines. Its gullwing doors ended at the waistline of the body. Later, Mercedes-Benz enlarged the cut-outs downwards, making it easier to get in. What was completely new was the structure hidden under the body and made of thin aluminium-magnesium sheet: this was the roll cage, developed by Rudolf Uhlenhaut especially for this racing sports car and weighing 50 kilograms, made of thin tubing that was subjected only to compression and tension. It was this frame design that made it technically necessary to hinge the gullwing doors to the roof. The M 194 engine was derived from the M 186 production engine used in the Mercedes-Benz 300 (W 186) representation car presented in 1951. For use in the racing sports car, the engineers increased its output to around 125 kW (170 hp). By tilting the engine through 50 degrees to the left and employing dry sump lubrication, it was possible to lower the installation position. Other technical components in the 300 SL were also derived from the Mercedes-Benz 300, the legendary “Adenauer” saloon, and the sporty-luxurious 300 S touring car (W 188).

The 300 SL was the car of the season. In the 1952 Mille Miglia, Mercedes-Benz took second and fourth places with the 300 SL in the very first race. The racing sports car also took a triple victory in the sports car race in Bern, a one-two victory in the 24 hours of Le Mans and a quadruple victory in the sports car race on the Nürburgring. The last race of the 300 SL – which now had an output of 132 kW (180 hp) – was the third Carrera Panamericana 1952 in Mexico. Karl Kling/Hans Klenk and Hermann Lang/Erwin Grupp achieved a legendary one-two victory.

For 1953, a successor model to the highly successful 300 SL racing sports car was developed, the W 194/11. However, that car was never entered in a race. From 1954, Mercedes-Benz decided to compete in the Formula One World Championship and concentrated on developing the W 196 R racing car. 

An unbroken tradition of production vehicles since 1954

The motorsport successes of the 300 SL racing sports car in 1952 quickly prompted calls for a production version. Mercedes-Benz responded and presented the 300 SL (W 198) super sports coupé and the sporty but elegant 190 SL (W 121) in February 1954. To this day, the Stuttgart brand has continued to uphold the success story of the SL without interruption.

The year 2021 is completely dedicated to the new SL: The performance and sportscar brand Mercedes-AMG is applying its comprehensive expertise to developing the R 232 model series, which will debut in the year of the 69th birthday of the very first SL.

After the successful 300 SL racing sports car (W 194), three iconic production vehicles filled customers all over the world with enthusiasm: they were the 300 SL Coupé of the W 198 model series (1954 to 1957), the open 190 SL sports car of the W 121 model series (1955 to 1963) and the 300 SL Roadster of the W 198 model series (1957 to 1963). Together, these sports cars defined many of the key characteristics of future SL generations. As their joint successor, the 230 SL of the W 113 model series with the safety body designed by Béla Barényi debuted in March 1963. Due to the unusual shape of the hardtop, the sports car was quickly nicknamed the “Pagoda”. The R 107 was then built for 18 successful years from 1971 onwards. At the same time, the roadster formed the basis for the luxurious SLC Coupés in the C 107 model series. The R 129 appeared in 1989 as a pioneering technology car. Its successor, the R 230, introduced the folding Vario roof in 2001, combining the automotive pleasures of travelling in a roadster and a coupé. The consistently applied lightweight design, amongst other features, aroused considerable enthusiasm from 2012 onwards, when the model series R 231 Mercedes-Benz SL debuted. The new SL in the R 232 model series will premiere in 2021 and will lead the SL legend into the future.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupé from the W 198 model series (1954 to 1957)

What a launch: In February 1954, the 300 SL standard-production sports car (W 198) celebrated its world premiere at the International Motor Sport Show in New York. Next to it at the show was the near-production level prototype of the future 190 SL Roadster (W 121). Both cars underlined the direct tradition of standard-production sports cars with the race-proven SL abbreviation. Maximilian E. Hoffman, importer of Mercedes-Benz cars for the US market, dedicated considerable effort to encouraging their production.

As a coupé, the 300 SL with its characteristic gullwing doors thrilled experts and the public alike. Not only the shape was reminiscent of the racing sports car, but such technical details as the roll cage also originated from the successful competition car. This makes the 300 SL unique amongst the standard-production sports cars of the era. The doors that were hinged on the roof, which was a necessary feature of the design, earned it such nicknames as “Gullwing” and “Papillon” (butterfly).

The M 198 engine with direct petrol injection was originally developed for the 1953 racing prototype. In the standard-production sports car, the straight six-cylinder engine produced up to 158 kW (215 hp), which gave the car a top speed of 260 km/h, depending on the rear axle ratio. That was an impressive figure for a road-going sports car of the time. This was underlined by the successes of the 300 SL in races and rallies with numerous victories as well as championship titles.

The 300 SL was a super sports car of its time – which was also reflected in the price of DM 29,000. By way of comparison, a Mercedes-Benz 220 (W 180), a predecessor of today’s S-Class, could be had for around DM 12,500 at that time. The 300 SL became an iconic car of the 1950s with an appeal that remains unbroken to this day: in 1999 it was voted “Sports Car of the Century” by an international jury of experts. Between 1954 and 1957, a total of 1,400 of the 300 SL Coupés were built. Of these, 29 had an aluminium body, and one individual model was fitted with a body made of GRP (glass-fibre reinforced plastic), a new material at the time, for testing purposes.

Mercedes-Benz 190 SL of the W 121 model series (1955 to 1963)

The Mercedes-Benz 190 SL was designed as an elegant, open sports car. In 1954, the Stuttgart-based brand presented it together with the 300 SL at the International Motor Sports Show in New York. “Due to its high standard of comfort, [it is] intended for a group of buyers wishing to cover even long distances at high cruising speeds in this car of highly sporty outer appearance.” This was how Mercedes-Benz designer Josef Müller summed it up in 1957.

The body design of the 190 SL was closely based on the Gullwing, but designed as a two-seater roadster. It was available with a fabric top and with a removable hardtop – optionally with or without a fabric top. On request, a third seat could be accommodated in the rear at right angles to the direction of travel. The 190 SL was assigned to the W 121 model series, like the Mercedes-Benz 190 “Ponton” saloon, which appeared later in 1956. The 190 SL was technically closely related to the W 120/W 121 “Ponton” model series. The – shortened – floor assembly, the front suspension and the subframe concept were carried over from the saloon. From the 1956 Mercedes-Benz 190 onwards, the saloon and the 190 SL shared the single-joint swing axle with a low pivot point.

The 1.9-litre petrol engine of the sports car had been completely redesigned by Mercedes-Benz. The four-cylinder unit with an overhead camshaft produced 77 kW (105 hp) in the 190 SL and accelerated the car from 0 to 100 km/h in 14.5 seconds in the version with the fabric roof and its top speed was 170 km/h. During its production period from 1955 to 1963, the details of the 190 SL were improved several times. Over that period, the Sindelfingen plant produced a total of 25,881 cars.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster of the W 198 model series (1957 to 1963)

In 1957, the 300 SL Roadster replaced the “Gullwing” coupé. Like its predecessor, this car was created on the initiative of Maximilian E. Hoffmann. Technically, the roadster corresponded to a large extent to the coupé; by modifying the side sections of the roll cage, it was possible to reduce the sill height to such an extent that normal doors could be used.

The rear suspension was fundamentally improved compared to the coupé: the single-joint swing axle with its low pivot point introduced in the “Ponton” six-cylinder models of the W 180 model series in 1954 was now also fitted in an adapted form in the 300 SL Roadster and, for the first time, was equipped with a compensating spring. Seat belts were available as optional equipment from 1957 onwards. Starting in October 1958, a removable coupé roof with a wrap-around rear window was available as optional equipment. The sports car’s details continued to be enhanced throughout the production period. Amongst other things, it was fitted with Dunlop disc brakes on the front and rear wheels from March 1961 and an alloy engine block from March 1962.

Production of the 300 SL Roadster in Sindelfingen ceased at the same time as construction of the 190 SL on 8 February 1963. A total of 1,858 of these open sports cars were built. Both versions of the W 198 model series, the roadster and the gullwing coupé, were collectors’ cars from the very beginning. Today, they are amongst the most sought-after and highest-priced classics.

Mercedes-Benz SL of the W 113 model series (1963 to 1971)

Mercedes-Benz unveiled the new 230 SL (W 113) at the 1963 Geneva Motor Show. It was designed as a comfortable, high-performance two-seater touring car and replaced the 190 SL (W 121) and 300 SL Roadster (W 198). The exterior featured clean, straight lines and the SL front with the large central Mercedes star. The optional hardtop with its high windows and the concave shaped roof supported by narrow pillars was reminiscent of Asian temple buildings, which quickly earned the W 113 the nickname “Pagoda”. The basis of the floor assembly were the Mercedes-Benz “tail fin” saloons of the 111 model series, the world’s first passenger cars with a safety body. This SL generation also benefited from corresponding contemporary research.

The chassis, taken from the Mercedes-Benz 220 SE Saloon, was tuned to the needs of sports-orientated cars. Its suspension was firm and, at the same time, atypically comfortable for a sports car of its time. The six-cylinder engine was also taken from the saloon, but modified for use in the SL. The engine, bored out to 2.3 litres, produced 110 kW (150 hp) and was a sporty power pack.

In 1967, the Mercedes-Benz 250 SL replaced the 230 SL. The changes were mainly to be found in the engine and brake system. The larger-displacement engine offered ten per cent more torque, making the 250 SL much more flexible to drive. In addition to the three familiar body versions (roadster with a folding top, coupé with a removable roof and coupé with removable roof and roadster top), the 250 SL was also available as a 2+2 coupé with a rear seat bench on request. Less than a year after its presentation, the 250 SL was replaced by the Mercedes-Benz 280 SL with a 2.8-litre engine and 125 kW (170 hp) output. From 1963 to 1971, a total of 48,912 “Pagoda” SLs of the W 113 model series were built.

Mercedes-Benz SL from the R 107 model series (1971 to 1989)

The SL of the R 107 model series premiered in spring 1971, starting with the 350 SL. For the first time in the history of the Mercedes-Benz SL, the car was powered by an eight-cylinder engine. The 450 SL followed in 1973. The model series exuded elegance and solidity. The crash performance of this open-top two-seater car was way ahead of its time. From a technical point of view, for example, this was reflected in the carefully defined crumple behaviour of the body and bodyshell structure, as well as an interior that was consistently designed to accommodate safety criteria.

In its very successful 18-year production period, the R 107 model series received a wide range of six- and eight-cylinder engines. The model designations are equally diverse. In July 1974, the 280 SL was launched. This meant that there was a choice of three engines for the sports car. Today, that amount of choice is not unusual, but at the time it represented a novelty in the tradition of the Mercedes-Benz SL cars. Until the end of production in August 1989, all the engine variants were revised with slightly modified performance figures in order to comply more closely with the emission limits that had meanwhile been made more stringent in most European countries.

With more than 18 years of production, the R 107 model series set an internal brand record that is unlikely to be surpassed: apart from the G-Class SUVs, no passenger car model series in the entire history of the company has been produced over such a long period. A total of 237,287 open sports cars were built in Sindelfingen during this period. This figure underlines the tremendous popularity of the model series. Alongside the open-top SLs, the corresponding SLC luxury class coupés of the C 107 model series were produced: from 1971 to 1981, a total of 62,888 of these were built.

Mercedes-Benz SL from the R 129 model series (1989 to 2001)

At the Geneva Motor Show in 1989 Mercedes-Benz presented the SL from the R 129 model series. The confidently stylish, straightforward lines of the slightly wedge-shaped body, the flared wheel arches, the split front spoiler, a very steeply raked windscreen, the skilfully modelled rear and alloy wheels as standard equipment made for an exceptionally harmonious overall effect. With this vehicle the brand hit the bull’s eye: production capacity was soon fully booked. Some customers accepted delivery times of several years.

The car set new standards in safety. This was underlined by rigorous Mercedes-Benz crash tests with very good results in frontal and rear impacts at the time. Other integral components of the safety concept were the pop-up roll-over bar, which deployed within a few milliseconds under sensor control in the event of an imminent roll-over, and the integral seats, which could absorb many times the possible forces in the event of a crash. The chassis was tuned to the requirements of an elegant-but-sporty roadster and enabled precise, high-speed driving with a high level of comfort. In autumn 1992, the 600 SL with a twelve-cylinder engine (290 kW/394 hp) took over the top-of-the-range position.

In the summer of 1993, the Stuttgart brand adapted the model designations of its open sports cars to use the nomenclature that is still valid today. Since then, the legendary abbreviation “SL” has preceded the three-digit number that refers to the engine capacity. For example, the 600 SL became the SL 600.

The facelift in autumn 1995 brought a slightly changed body design, a more extensive set of standard equipment and with finer details in its sophisticated technology. A second facelift in 1998 added subtle stylistic touches for an even more dynamic look. It also brought a modified engine range with new six-cylinder V-engines, instead of the previous in-line engines, and with a new V8 engine. The absolute top model of the model series was the SL 73 AMG with 7.3-litre V12 engine and 386 kW (525 hp) which was presented in 1999.

In the summer of 2001, production of the R 129 model series ended after twelve years and a total of 204,940 cars. This meant that the total number of units of this SL generation was lower than that of the predecessor model series R 107. However, in terms of its average annual production, the R 129 was much more successful, with around 16,500 units.

Mercedes-Benz SL from model series R 230 (2001 to 2012)

In 2001, the next SL generation with the internal code R 230 made its debut. Its most striking innovation was the steel folding Vario roof: for the first time in the history of the Mercedes-Benz SL, it enabled both an open car and a coupé in one. The transformation took place within 16 seconds. The design of the R 230 model series combined tradition and the future by means of striking details. For example, the marked air vents in the front wings picked up on a typical feature of the legendary 300 SL from the 1950s. The narrow, ridge-like profiles on these side air openings were also reminiscent of the fins of the legendary W 198. Top models were the SL 55 AMG (350 kW/476 hp, 2001), SL 600 (368 kW/500 hp, 2003) and the SL 65 AMG (450 kW/612 hp, 2004).

Since the “Pagoda” at the very latest, the Mercedes-Benz SL has stood for pioneering achievements in the fields of active and passive safety in open sports cars. With its completely new overall concept, the R 230 model series clearly surpassed previous safety standards. This included electronic vehicle dynamics systems such as Active Body Control ABC, Brake Assist BAS, anti-slip control ASR and the Electronic Stability Program ESP®, as well as structural safety aspects of the body in many different accident scenarios. Occupant protection also included two-stage airbags for driver and front passenger, head-thorax bags in the doors, integral seats, high-performance belt tensioners, belt force limiters and the sensor-controlled roll-over bar, which also functioned when the folding Vario roof was closed.

The 2006 facelift brought, amongst other things, new engines with four-valve technology and reduced fuel consumption coupled with higher performance. The 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission became standard equipment, with the exception of the AMG models. The most striking feature of another facelift in 2008 was the redesigned car front, which brought the SL into line with the brand’s passenger car design current at the time. In the upper performance range, the SL 63 AMG with a new 6.2-litre naturally aspirated AMG engine (386 kW/525 hp) and the exclusive SL 65 AMG Black Series (493 kW/670 hp) with a fixed coupé roof rounded off the model range in 2008.

From 2001 to 2012, a total of 169,433 sports cars of model series R 230 were built at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Bremen. The most successful was the SL 500 with 99,556 production vehicles. The three AMG models also accounted for a large share of the total, with a combined total of 29,570 units.

Mercedes-Benz SL of the R 231 model series (2012 to 2020)

In January 2012, to mark the SL’s 60th birthday, the R 231 model series was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. One focus of the new design was on reducing the weight of the sports car. The aluminium bodyshell weighed 256 kilograms. Despite its more voluminous size, it was 110 kilograms lighter than its predecessor and featured 20 per cent greater torsional rigidity. The boot lid was a composite construction of steel and plastic, the elements of the electrohydraulically folding roof consisted of a magnesium frame with plastic panelling. The roof, painted in the colour of the vehicle as a standard feature, was available on request with a transparent centre section and roller blind (standard equipment from 2016) or as a glass roof with adjustable tinting and transparency (MAGIC SKY CONTROL).

The R 231’s safety features included spring-loaded roll-over bars behind the driver and front passenger seats, airbags and sidebags for the driver and front passenger as well as head airbags in the doors, the MAGIC VISION CONTROL adaptive windscreen washer system and also an active bonnet to protect pedestrians in the event of a collision. Dynamic safety features included ESP®, PRE-SAFE®, ADAPTIVE BRAKE and ATTENTION ASSIST. Numerous other systems for active safety and comfort were available on request.

The SL 350 (V6 engine with 225 kW/306 hp) and SL 500 (V8 engine with 320 kW/435 hp) sports cars, which were the first models launched, were followed as of March 2012 by the high-performance variants SL 63 AMG (395 kW/537 hp) and SL 65 AMG (V12 engine with 463 kW (630 hp). Only automatic transmissions with seven or nine gears (9G-TRONIC from April 2016 onwards) were used. In the course of the construction period, the engine and model designations, as well as interior touches, of the sporty-luxurious R 231 were updated. The new SL in the R 232 model series is scheduled to make its debut in 2021.

 

 

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports car (W 194, 1952)

  • First new competition car of the brand after the Second World War
  • The abbreviation SL was derived from the designation “super light”
  • Lightweight roll cage whose elements were subjected only to tension and compression loads
  • Aerodynamic aluminium-magnesium body with a height of only 1,225 millimetres
  • Flat racing car front instead of the classic, upright Mercedes-Benz radiator grille
  • Coupés with gullwing doors hinged to the roof
  • M 194 engine based on the M 186, installed at an angle of 50 degrees to the left and with dry sump lubrication
  • Removable steering wheel to make it easier to get in and out of the car
  • Debut at the Mille Miglia in Italy with 2nd (Karl Kling/Hans Klenk) and 4th (Rudolf Caracciola/Peter Kurrle) places.
  • Success in the Bern Grand Prix (triple victory), the 24 hours of Le Mans (one-two victory), the Nürburgring Grand Jubilee Prize (quadruple victory) and the Carrera Panamericana (one-two victory). 

300 SL racing prototype (W 194/11, 1953)

  • In-line six-cylinder M 198 engine with direct petrol injection
  • Body with magnesium panelling
  • Rear single-joint swing axle with low pivot point
  • Transaxle gear arrangement
  • Development for the 1953 racing season, but not used due to preparations starting in 1954 for the planned Formula One entry 

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 198, 1954 to 1957)

  • Lightweight roll cage
  • Coupé with gullwing doors hinged to the roof, which was structurally necessary because of the high sills in the roll cage that restricted access
  • First petrol injection in a four-stroke engine in a production vehicle
  • Twenty-nine 300 SL Coupés were produced with an aluminium body that was 130 kilograms lighter
  • One-off for testing purposes with a GRP (glass fibre reinforced plastic) body
  • Successful in motorsport: Including class victory at the 1955 Mille Miglia (John Cooper Fitch/Kurt Gessl), European Touring Car Championship titles in 1955 (Werner Engel) and 1956 (Walter Schock) as well as class victories in the USA Sports Car Championships in Production Class D in 1955 and 1956 (Paul O’Shea). 

Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (W 121, 1955 to 1963)

  • Modern four-cylinder engine with one overhead camshaft
  • Modern chassis for improved ride comfort and a high standard of safety
  • First open-top standard-production sports car in the SL tradition with a fully retractable folding soft top
  • Floor assembly from the planned Mercedes-Benz 180 (W 120) cabriolet
  • The successor to the previous Cabriolet A expressed the new product philosophy
  • Body design by Walter Häcker inspired by the shape of the 300 SL
  • The sport version was built as a small-batch run 

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster (W 198, 1957 to 1963)

  • Introduction of Dunlop disc brakes and light-alloy engine block from 1961 onwards
  • Seat belts available as optional equipment from 1958 onwards
  • Rear wheel suspension with single-joint swing axle
  • Available from 1958 as roadster, coupé and coupé with roadster soft top
  • Last Mercedes-Benz passenger car model with a separate frame
  • Basis for competition car 300 SLS, the winning car of the 1957 US Sports Car Championship in Category D (Paul O’Shea) 

Mercedes-Benz SL of the W 113 model series (1963 to 1971)

  • Remarkably easy-to-operate folding soft top
  • Initially, there were three versions:
    • Roadster with a folding top
    • Coupé with a removable roof and roadster top
    • Coupé with a removable roof, but without the roadster top; more space for luggage
    • For all three: A transverse seat in the rear on request
  • As of 250 SL (1967) additionally available: Coupé with rear seat bench
  • Six-cylinder engine with six-plunger injection pump
  • Automatic transmission available for the first time on an SL
  • Safety body with rigid occupant compartment and deformable front and rear sections
  • Numerous other safety features such as interior designed so as to reduce injury hazards in accidents and an articulated steering column
  • Interior designed without hard edges and corners so as to reduce risk of injury in accidents
  • Steering gear moved from the crash-prone area at the front of the car to the firewall, articulated steering column to prevent the dreaded lance effect in a crash.
  • As of 1967: Telescopic safety steering column and the dashpot in the steering wheel were added
  • Disc brakes on the front axle, as of 250 SL (1967) also on the rear axle
  • Nickname “Pagoda” was inspired by the inwardly curved (concave) lines of the hardtop
  • First Mercedes-Benz passenger car with radial ply tires 

Mercedes-Benz SL from the R 107 model series (1971 to 1989)

  • Further developed safety body
  • Frame/Floor system with different sheet thicknesses and resulting carefully defined crumple behaviour
  • Roll-over protection: High-strength A-pillars and windscreen frame with bonded-in glass
  • Tank in impact-protected area above rear axle
  • Special air ducting on the doors ensures low soiling of the side windows and exterior mirrors
  • Dirt-resistant broad-band rear lights
  • First SL generation with a V8 engine (350 SL and 450 SL, 1971)
  • Contactless transistorised ignition, Bosch K-Jetronic, hydraulic valve play compensation (1975)
  • First SL with catalytic converter (1985)
  • Evocative model designation 300 SL was revived (1985)
  • Constructive basis for the SLC luxury class coupés of the C 107 model series
  • Following the great rally successes of the SLC Coupés, a 235 kW/320 hp rally car based on the 500 SL was built for the 1981 season, but was not used. 

Mercedes-Benz SL from the R 129 model series (1989 to 2001)

  • Fully automatic roll-over bar even with the hardtop in place (deployment time: 0.3 seconds)
  • Highly stable integral seats with complete belt system and electrically powered adjustment functions
  • Drag coefficient of 0.32 (with hardtop)
  • Automatic electric-hydraulics for the folding soft top
  • World premiere of the draught stop
  • Adaptive Damping System ADS (optional)
  • High torsional stiffness due to elaborate body construction
  • First twelve-cylinder engine in an SL (1992)
  • The SL 60 AMG (280 kW/381 hp) was the first AMG model in the SL tradition (1993)
  • Electronic Stability Program ESP® (1995)
  • Newly developed five-speed automatic with torque converter lockup clutch in the SL 500 and SL 600 (1995)
  • Brake Assist BAS (1996)
  • Cruise control down to 30 km/h (1996)
  • Top-of-the-range SL 73 AMG 7.3-litre engine (386 kW/525 hp, 1999) 

Mercedes-Benz SL from model series R 230 (2001 to 2012)

  • Folding Vario roof with sophisticated articulation mechanism and a deployment time of only 16 seconds
  • Design details reminiscent of the 300 SL of the 1950s
  • Full functionality of the sensor-controlled roll-over bar even with the folding Vario roof closed
  • Chassis with Active Body Control ABC
  • New head-thorax airbags in the doors
  • Drag coefficient of 0.29 (vehicle closed)
  • Use of lightweight components for best fuel economy
  • SL 65 AMG with V12 biturbo engine (450 kW/612 hp) was the world’s most powerful series production roadster (2004)
  • New front design as part of the facelift (2008)
  • SL 63 AMG modified for the racetrack as the official Formula One Safety Car (2008 and 2009)

Mercedes-Benz SL from the R 231 model series (2012 to 2020)

  • Body and other components made almost entirely of aluminium: While offering greater inside space, the car was up to 140 kilograms lighter than the predecessor model series
  • Boot lid as a composite construction made of steel and plastic
  • Improved side impact protection through solid external side members
  • Body-in-white construction up to 110 kilograms lighter than predecessor, at the same time with 20 per cent higher torsional stiffness
  • Engines up to 29 per cent more economical
  • Folding Vario roof made of double-skin roof elements with magnesium frame and plastic panelling
  • Available with optional glass roof and MAGIC SKY CONTROL – with adjustable tint and transparency
  • Drag coefficient of 0.27 (vehicle closed)
  • HANDS-FREE ACCESS: Hands-free and contactless opening of the boot lid via foot movement in front of a sensor in the bumper
  • Electromechanical direct steering with speed-dependent steering power assistance and transmission ratio which was variable by adjusting the steering wheel angle
  • Folding Vario roof with MAGIC SKY CONTROL (optional equipment): Glass roof with switch-controlled tint and transparency settings
  • MAGIC VISION CONTROL: Adaptive windscreen washer system with direct washing function through the wiper blades
  • Sun-reflective leather for the seats
  • Sound system with front bass system
  • SL 65 AMG: (V12 engine with 463 kW (630 hp) and 1,000 newton metres


Related Material 


300 SL Auction Results 2014 - 2020