Mercedes-Benz 560SL R107 1971

We have told you so often about Japanese cars that were either influenced by the North American market or specifically designed for it, that you may have gotten the impression that the Japanese automotive industry only focused on the United States. But that’s not true – it’s not just Japanese.
Of course, I am slightly exaggerating, but in the post-war years, the US market did show the most impressive appetite for expensive cars. Mercedes, whose sales in the American continent were not overly impressive, also wanted to get their share of the pie, actively promoting European-style comfort there. One of the unquestionable representatives of this family were the Mercedes R107 and C107 – the convertible and hardtop coupe, respectively. We will leave the removable roof for future articles and talk a little bit about the roofless car.

ntroduced in 1971, the R107 replaced the W113 and became a true dream for a successful egoist. The new SL initially didn’t even have an economical version: you could only buy the car with a 3.5-liter V8 engine. A year later, a more modest 4.5-liter engine with a similar cylinder arrangement was added. The new powertrain was not introduced without reason – the car officially made its way to dealerships in North America, Japan and Australia. In the export version, the Bosch D Jetronic fuel injection system was mostly used.
However, the main feature of the car was the fact that, for the first time, a two-door model was not based on a sedan platform. Undoubtedly, the platform was unified with the W114 generation: the same double-wishbone front suspension, the same diagonal swing axle at the rear and a similar steel body structure. But the body dimensions, exterior design, and elements of the car were absolutely unique, which added exclusivity and… difficulties in repair if you were involved in an accident.

In 1973, the SL received a treacherous blow from the global community – the fuel crisis hit. It seemed almost impossible for a luxury car to survive it and in its place, there should have been some 2-door Mazda. But do you really think that all wealthy people went bankrupt during the crisis? No, that didn’t happen, but Mercedes had to release a version with a 6-cylinder engine, the 280 SL.
The sales of all models turned out to be quite satisfactory and in 1985, there was a change in the engine lineup. Driven primarily by concerns about efficiency and ecology, the replacement affected the 280SL, which became the 300SL and the 380SL, which transformed into the 400SL. All cars now featured the KE Jetronic, which was one of the most advanced systems at the time and is now affectionately loved by tuners and owners in Russia for its complexity in servicing.

But the most significant milestone in the model’s history occurred in 1986 when the most powerful, luxurious and iconic version was introduced – the 560SL, which you can see in the photos. It’s worth noting that the R107 is the second-longest-running model in Mercedes’ production history. Do you know which one was the first? Of course, it’s the G-Wagen, which continues to delight fans to this day. But 18 years for a convertible is a very impressive result. The 560SL served as the final chapter in its history, being sold until the very end in 1989. The 5.6-liter engine produced a modest output of 227 horsepower and 389 Nm of torque, but the model was not considered a sports car. The difference from the 5-liter engine was the increased piston stroke: 94.7 mm compared to 85 mm. Such cars were primarily exported to the United States, Australia, and Japan.

This beauty arrived in Moscow directly from Japan, where European cars were traditionally highly regarded. This helped it maintain its factory-perfect condition up to such a respectable age.
The front part of the car resembles its contemporary and closest relative in terms of design, the W116 – with its predatory shapes of the headlights and radiator grille and the elongated hood. The body shape, as befits a convertible, appears incredibly low. The rear lights are playfully wide and slightly disproportionate by modern standards, but at that time, these lights clearly signaled that a premium convertible was approaching. The rear arches have a characteristic slightly slanted upper part, visually reducing the distance from the wheel to the top of the arch.

Inside the car, maximum luxury awaits. As you look at the interior from 2020, you realize that it is damn good. The wood trim is not just a piece of plastic with a wood pattern, it’s the real deal. In case you get stranded somewhere in a blizzard without food or communication, you could use this wood to start a fire. While the designers at Mercedes-Benz may not have had such uses in mind for their products, it’s still worth noting! Accompanying the wood is leather – the genuine kind that is no longer made and is hailed as a “legend!” It’s truly immaculate and unlike some modern cars, stitched everywhere where there is no wood. The abundance of small buttons on the center console gives you a feeling that you haven’t wasted your money – there are no placeholders here. And just imagine the sound of the doors closing – we can only daydream about how satisfying that “thud” is in “older” Mercedes models. By the way, according to the creators’ intent, there shouldn’t even be a second row of seats in the convertible. However, for those egotistical individuals with families, the engineers did provide folding seats – though only as an option.

It’s not surprising that 62% of the cars were sold in North America. The German Gran Turismo was well-received by wealthy individuals across the ocean, resulting in a total of over 237,000 convertibles sold worldwide over the span of 18 years! Considering the price and the specific nature of the car, this is a more than worthy result! In 1989, as the world prepared to enter a new decade, Mercedes introduced the new S-Class without a roof – the R129.

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