1981 Mercedes-Benz 380SL Convertible of the 1970-1990 SL (R107) models
1981 Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible

The 1970-1990 Mercedes-Benz SL (R107) was the long-lived successor to the W113 SL series, based on the same concept, but larger, heavier, and plusher. The car was more imposing, too, with lines echoed in 1970s S-class sedans, because Bruno Sacco designed both.

The SL (R107) was less agile than its lighter predecessor, but still quite capable -- and more predictable in corners with Mercedes-Benz's traditional rear swing axles altered to function as semi-trailing arms. It was sold only with various V-8s in the U.S., where styling was compromised by quad headlamps (versus single flush units) plus protruding "safety" bumpers from 1974.

Remarkably few changes were made over many years (mostly engines), though a more efficient four-speed automatic was substituted along the way for the original three-speeder. Manual shift was available only on six-cylinder models. The later 5.0- and 5.6-liter V-8s are preferred for performance, but there's nothing wrong with the "little" 3.8-liter V-8 of the early '80s -- or, for that matter, a six.

The SL (R107) was finally replaced for 1990 by a far more ambitious SL, the all-new R129.

Pluses of the 1970-1990 Mercedes-Benz SL (R107):

  • Solid, highly refined touring machines all
  • Good performance with larger engines
  • Mercedes cachet
  • Convertible allure
  • Not long gone, so parts/service backup still ample

Minuses of the 1970-1990 Mercedes-Benz SL (R107):

  • Not sports-car agile
  • Mileage disappointing to drunkardly
  • Rather too common in some locales
  • Mercedes North America won't help with "gray market" Euro-spec cars

Production of the 1970-1990 Mercedes-Benz SL (R107):

  • 350SL: 15,304 (1970-1980)
  • 450SL: 66,298 (1971-1980)
  • 280SL: 22,598 through 1984 (1974-1989)
  • 380SL: 45,056 through 1984 (1980-1985)
  • 500SL: 6053 through 1984 (1980-1986)
  • 300SL: NA (1985-1989)
  • 420SL: NA (1985-1989)
  • 560SL: NA (1986-1989)

Note: Parentheses indicate production years, not model years.

Specifications of the 1970-1990 Mercedes-Benz SL (R107):
Wheelbase, inches: 96.7
Length, inches: 172.4-182.3
Weight, pounds: 3,390-3,880
Price, new: $10,540-64,230 (U.S.)

Engines for the 1970-1990 Mercedes-Benz SL (R107):

TypeSize
Horsepower
Years
ohc V-8
3,499 cc (213.5 cid)230
1970-1980
ohc V-84,520 cc (275.8 cid)190-250
1971-1980
ohc I-6
2,746 cc (168 cid)177-180*1974-1985
ohc V-83,818 cc (233 cid)218*1980-1989
ohc V-83,839 cc (234 cid)1551980-1985
ohc V-84,973 cc (305 cid)231-2401980-1989
ohc I-6
2,962 cc (181 cid)188*1985-1989
ohc V-84,196 cc (256 cid)218*1985-1989
ohc V-85,547 cc (339 cid)2271986-1989

*DIN (European models); otherwise SAE net

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