The Mercedes-Benz 560 SL
Fifty years ago, in April 1971, Mercedes-Benz initiated a new chapter in the fascinating history of the SL sports car: the 350 SL was the brand’s first SL with a V8 engine and the first model in the R 107 model series to bear the “R” abbreviation for “roadster”. 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.
The R 107 was produced from 1971 to 1989, during which time it was kept up to date with regular facelifts and new engines. With the exception of the G-Class, no other Mercedes-Benz has been produced for longer. Technically speaking, the Mercedes-Benz 350 SL launched 50 years ago had little to do with its direct predecessor, the W 113 “Pagoda” SL. Instead, the designers forged much closer links to the brand’s current passenger car range of the time: the front and rear suspension systems, for example, were based on the “Stroke/8” models of the upper medium-size category. The 147 kW (200 hp) V8 engine with a displacement of 3,499 cc was a carry-over from the premium-class Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 of the W 111 model series (coupé and cabriolet) and the W 108/109 model series (saloon).
The technical innovations found in the open sports car included the enhanced safety body development with an independent frame-floor unit made of sheets of different thicknesses to provide defined crumple behaviour, the fuel tank installed above the rear axle to protect it in the event of a collision, high-strength steels in the A-pillars and windscreen frame with its glued-in glass, as well as the interior with a new four-spoke safety steering wheel, padded surfaces and deformable elements as a contribution to passive safety. 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.
Following the debut of the 350 SL, Mercedes-Benz continued to expand the range of this model series. In 1973, the 165 kW (225 hp) 450 SL, also with an eight-cylinder engine, that had initially been reserved for export to North America from autumn 1971, appeared on the European markets. In 1974, the six-cylinder 280 SL (136 kW/185 hp) version followed. For the first time in the history of the SL, this meant that a model series was now available with a choice of three different engines.
As a result of the 1980 facelift, the 380 SL (160 kW/218 hp) replaced the 350 SL, and the 500 SL (177 kW/240 hp) took over the position as the top model in place of the 450 SL. As part of the extensive overhaul, the interior of the sports cars, among other things, was adapted to match the S-Class Saloons of the 126 model series. In addition, the engineers upgraded numerous technical items, such as the transmission. Externally, the facelift was restricted to a few discreet improvements, among other things involving new bonnets made of light alloy and a front spoiler. The 500 SL was also fitted with the light-alloy boot lid with a black plastic rear spoiler from the SLC Coupé with the 5-litre V8 engine.
In 1985, Mercedes-Benz once again presented a completely revised model range for the R 107 model series. Besides slight changes to the exterior with 15-inch wheels and a uniform front spoiler for all the models as well as improved front suspension with zero scrub radius, the main focus was on an updated choice of engines. A highlight for all the fans of the sports cars with the star was the 300 SL with a 3-litre six-cylinder engine – because this 138 kW (188 hp) sports car revived the model designation with which the SL story had begun in March 1952. The 420 SL (160 kW/218 hp) was a completely new addition, while the 500 SL (180 kW/245 hp) was given a redesigned engine with an electronic ignition system and the Bosch KE-Jetronic electronically controlled mechanical fuel injection system. The top model of the R 107 series was the 560 SL with a spectacular 5.6-litre V8 engine, which, however, was reserved for export to North America, Japan and Australia. All the models were now offered with a closed-loop three-way catalytic converter.
This Mercedes-Benz 560 SL
This highly original car was built for the Japanese market, which means it was delivered new with European style bumpers and headlights, as left-hand drive and with a km/h speedometer with km odometer reading. Finished in striking DB355 Diamond Blue with 072 blue fabric interior, also known as Blue Sports Check and reminiscent of the interior trim of the legendary 300 SL Gullwing. This example remained in Japan until 2015, when it was imported to Europe by a German Mercedes collector, sourcing only accident free, single-family owned cars in excellent condition. Subsequently, the vehicle was acquired by another collector, who sadly passed away some time ago and thus this stunning automobile is now offered for sale.
When inspecting the car, we were struck by its fantastic, original condition. While Mercedes built plenty of R107, finding another one with such low mileage and great provenance would be almost impossible. The paint is unmarked, chrome trim and brightwork spotless and the interior as the car left the factory. The original soft top is in excellent condition with 'Polyglas' markings on the windows. All original plates and stickers are present. Naturally, the stylish hardtop comes with the car, together with its original cover and stand, all in pristine condition. The spare wheel has never left the car and still has the original instruction note on how to change the alloy wheels attached to it. All original Mercedes service sheets are present with the corresponding mileage recorded. In short, this is the closest you will get to entering a Mercedes showroom in 1987 to pick up your brand new 560 SL.
The car was recently gone through by Mercedes to assure everything is as it should. Needless to say, the car drives as well as it looks. The engine starts at the button, settles to a smooth idle and then pulls strongly from low engine speeds. The 4-speed automatic gearbox shifts smoothly. The famous Mercedes build quality becomes apparent when driving and due to the stiff chassis, there is no scuttle shake at all and the suspension provides a smooth ride. While 238 hp may not sound much in today's world, in the eighties sports cars like the Porsche 911 or the Ferrari 308 had a power output in the 230-250 hp range. Naturally, it's the abundance of torque from the 5,5l-V8 that makes this vehicle a true pleasure to drive and an excellent grand tourer. All instruments and controls work with an efficient air conditioning. The Becker Mexico Cassette Electronic is a nice period extra.
Possibly the best 560 SL on the market. Inspections are welcome by appointment. If you always wanted to buy a new R107, but missed out in the eighties, this is your chance to own an important part of Mercedes history.