In April 1971, Mercedes-Benz launched the 350 SL – the first SL car with a V8 engine.
It was also the first model with the “R” abbreviation – for “roadster” – in its designation, which was R 107.
“The completely new development – as an open two-seater with a fully-retractable fabric top and removable hardtop – was a self-confident, sporty-but-luxurious vehicle and combined both performance and ride comfort perfectly,” said Mercedes-Benz.
The R 107 was produced between 1971 and 1989, receiving facelifts and new engines along the way.
The company said no other Mercedes-Benz has been produced for longer, except for the G-Class. During the 18 years of its production, just over 237,000 Roadsters of this model series were built.
Enhanced safety and engines
A focus for the company when building the roadster was safety, and the 350 SL featured an “independent frame-floor unit” which provided enhanced crumple behaviour in the event of an accident.
The fuel tank was also placed above the rear axle to protect it from damage in an accident.
“From March 1980, this SL was fitted with the ABS anti-lock brake system and, from January 1982, with a driver’s airbag and belt tensioners as a supplementary restraint system. These items were available as optional extras,” said Mercedes-Benz.
Several engine variants were available for the car over its lifespan, too, including the 165kW 450 SL and the six-cylinder 280 SL with 136kW.
“As a result of the 1980 facelift, the 380 SL (160kW) replaced the 350 SL, and the 500 SL (177kW) took over the position as the top model in place of the 450 SL.”
Interior options were upgraded alongside the engine options, and were “adapted to match the S-Class saloons of the 126 model series”.
The top model in the R 107 series eventually emerged as the 560 SL.
This car packed a 5.6-litre, V8 engine – but was only sold in North America, Japan, and Australia.