Mercedes-Benz SL-Class History

29 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Mercedes-Benz SL-Class History
Mercedes SL 350

Used Models

Automotive don’t come more than the Mercedes-Benz series of SL roadsters. But the first SL wasn’t a and, despite that, still considered the greatest of the breed. The SL story is really the evolution of two ideas: The first a legendary coupe for both the and track.

The second has sired of elegant, capable and lavishly open two-seaters.

Each of the SL has been exceptionally long-lived. more than half a there have only five full-size SLs and two smaller SLs (the 190SL of the late and early ’60s and the current That means an average SL in production for a full decade.

The 300SL Coupe (1954-1957)

recovered rapidly from the of World War II and was producing Mercedes again by 1946 #151; a virtually unchanged version of the model 170 sedan. Before the the company had considered racing winning) a critical part of its engineering development and public and there was no reason for that to after the war.

By the early Mercedes was ready to reenter It looked at immediately going Grand Prix racing, but on 15, 1951, the Board of Management decided its initial efforts be aimed at winning the 24 Hours of Le Less than a year in March 1952, the company the prototype for the sports car built to do the 300SL Coupe.

This 300SL was built around a space frame chassis and was by a version of the 3.0-liter, SOHC six that had been developed for the 300S sedan, formal and convertible. In the 300SL, everything was for performance.

The 175-horsepower high-compression was tilted 45 degrees toward the side to lower the cowl and the suspension was independent both and rear (though the rear rather diabolical swing and the aerodynamically efficient skin was of aluminum. However, because the frame’s design depended on small tubing running along the car’s sides for conventional doors were on the 300SL racecar.

Faced that quandary, Mercedes set about finding a new way for drivers to and exit their developing car. What they up with were doors cut into the roof and hinged at top, so that they up to open. And when open, resembled the wings of a seagull.

the doors quickly picked up the nickname gullwing doors and after that, so did the car itself.

On first racing prototype, the didn’t extend down beyond the side windows so in or out took real gymnastic Plus, no one ever really how they’d get out of a 300SL should it up on its roof after a crash. But no the car was a sensation.

It was the first truly post-war sports car whose lines had a negligible coefficient of the suspension was advanced, and there was 1,930 pounds spread its 94.5-inch wheelbase and 166-inch length.

In May, the 300SL its competition debut at the 1952 Miglia, the epic 1,000-mile road race that ran the of Italy. Three 300SLs the race, but the winner was a Ferrari It would be one of the few times the 300SL win that year. In June, came home both and second at Le Mans accomplishing the set out for the car. Then they won at the and again at Mexico’s Carrera road race.

The 300SL Coupe race was all that it was supposed to be and more. So was nothing left for it to do, and after Mercedes abandoned sports car to concentrate on Grand Prix with the astounding single-seat, W196.

With its racing secured, the 300SL could faded away. But Mercedes’ importer, Max Hoffman, thought would be a market in North for a road-going version of the car. On the of Hoffman’s passion, and his order for 300SLs, Mercedes began the production machine.

And at the 1954 New Auto Show, the production of the 300SL was shown for the first

Sharing its distinctive profile and door design with the it was impossible to mistake the road-going for anything but a 300SL. But in fact the car was much more civilized in many ways, more than the racer.

With its sides and austere decoration the wasn’t suitably ornate for a road machine #151; for a Mercedes. So the body was redesigned cooling vents, chrome a bold three-pointed star in its eyebrow protrusions over wheel well and larger, cut gullwing doors that easier ingress and egress and had small wing windows for at some ventilation. Also of being built of aluminum, of the road 300SL’s body was with an aluminum hood, and trunk lid (29 all-aluminum road-going would be built after

Carrying over more or intact from the racecar the tubular space frame, the suspension and the huge ventilated brakes. But while the engine was based on the 3.0-liter, SOHC six from the 300S sedan still sat at a 45-degree angle the hood), it now sported a groundbreaking direct injection system.

The were mounted in the upper of the cylinder wall where the plugs would be in a standard 300 and the spark plugs were in moved to the side of the cylinder Add in a high (for the time) compression ratio and a dizzying the time) 6,600-rpm redline and the was a thrilling 215 horsepower at 5,800 Keeping in mind that the engine (with less a milder cam and carburetors) was making 115 horsepower in Mercedes’ 300 sedans, and the of the SL’s engine becomes

Luxury equipment like leather upholstery and fitted bounced the ’54 300SL’s up past 2,700 pounds and its to a lofty $11,000 #151; twice what GM was asking for its expensive car that year, the Cadillac Eldorado.

The 300SL was one of the sports cars of its era. the all-synchromesh four-speed gearbox, Motor Sport magazine had the coupe zipping to 70 mph in just 8.5 and attaining a studly 146-mph top The effect is electrifying, wrote about the car’s acceleration.

Trend ‘s test had the hitting 60 mph in 8.5 seconds and the quarter-mile by in 16.1 ticks of the clock. though the 300SL was, it be a mistake to call it easy or With its swingarm rear the change in rear tire could be quite extreme, to a sudden onset of oversteer.

But in the of an expert, that trait be managed.

As production of the 300SL up, Mercedes was able to cut the price so in 1955 it could be had for less $7,500. But even at that low the coupe’s appeal was limited by its tough-to-overcome tall and wide sills, limited luggage and notoriously toasty interior conditioning was not an option). If the SL were to go Mercedes knew it would to produce one tamed for the gentlemen means who shopped Mercedes. So building 1,400 Gullwings, replaced the coupe with a more civilized open for the 1958 model year actually began in the summer of ).

By the way, SL originally stood for and Light. The original coupe always be the sportiest SL and the last one could accurately be described as

The 300SL Roadster (1958-1963)

destined to always be overshadowed by its Gullwing brother, the 1958 roadster was in many ways the true SL as we know it today. atop the same basic using the same basic and having a body similar to the the roadster nonetheless projected its own of dignity, elegance and power.

To the roadster, Mercedes strengthened the tunnel portion of the chassis and the were revised to allow the of conventional doors. The rear was tamed somewhat by moving the points for the swing axles in the chassis and by adding a supplementary mounted transversely above the and linked to the axles via vertical Also improving the handling wider front and rear and wider tires.

The roadster benefited from engine including a new camshaft and a higher to 1) compression ratio, that output to 235 horsepower. But it also over 200 pounds more the coupe, which meant was virtually identical.

From the the most readily apparent between the coupe and roadster the obvious decapitation) were the of a wraparound-style windshield and new bezels grouped the headlights, side lights and turn signals a single, very attractive Less obvious was the incorporation of a usable trunk. In 1961 . the also got four-wheel Dunlop brakes for the first time.

It was a far civilized car than the Gullwing, but were less than With prices in 1958 again hovering at nearly that’s hardly surprising.

with both a soft roof and a bolt-on hardtop, the set the standard by which all future SL would be judged. But even Mercedes built more (a total of 1,858) than coupes, they would match the former car’s status.

The 190SL (1955-1963)

for the SL part of its name, some cues and the fact that it was a roadster, the 190SL was unrelated to the roadster. Based on the mechanical of the prosaic 180-Series sedan, the 190SL was always perceived as and not particularly sporty in its handling. But it was

An early prototype of the 190SL appeared alongside the 300SL coupe at the 1954 New York Show. With its open filled with a big Mercedes and pontoon fenders featuring over the wheel openings, the 190SL had a family resemblance to the But with its drooping rear and taillights, it also looked an lot like a 1950 Studebaker particularly when fitted the optional bolt-on hardtop.

the Commander had been drawn by the Raymond Loewy and is generally a design classic, the resemblance was not a bad thing.

Under that (the doors, hood and lid of which were aluminum) lay the suspension and structure; a simple of stamped steel panels, wishbones up front and the low pivot often ornery, swing in the rear. However, the 180-Series a 1.8-liter L-head iron-lump was rated at just 52 feeble in the sedan.

So instead the 190SL got a new 1.9-liter, OHC breathing through twin carburetors to make 120 horsepower it entered production early in The engine sat upright in the nose and the transmission was a floor-shifted four-speed Eventually, the 1.9-liter engine find its way into the sedans to the 190-Series and would grow in to power Mercedes’ mainstream models through the ’60s and the ’70s.

Compared to such as the 95-horsepower Triumph TR3 or 72-horsepower MG the 190SL wasn’t at all underpowered, but it was heavier than those sports cars. Perhaps if it shared showrooms and the spotlight its bigger brother, it would been considered among the sports cars of the era. But it a Triumph or an MG, it was a Mercedes, and many cars shoppers dismissed it as a car.

The 190SL stayed in through the 1963 model virtually unchanged and, critical indifference, was quite The 25,881 190SLs sold emboldened Mercedes more the legendary Gullwing in its decision to go with the SL.

The Pagoda Roof SL (1963-1971)

The original 300SL the SL name, but it was the family of SLs, with the 1963 230SL, made it big business for Mercedes. replacing the 190SL and 300SL, the 230SL was about the same as the 190SL, but about the same as the 300SL and, like the powered by a fuel-injected six-cylinder It was plusher than the 190SL, but expensive than the lavishly 300SL, and so civilized that it was the SL to be offered with air conditioning and an transmission.

With its square cut the 230SL set the styling idiom for Mercedes products throughout the But it was the optional hardtop, which at the center, that was the car’s distinctive feature. It was designed to the height of the side windows to visibility and ease getting in and out of the

The result was a roof that like a pagoda, and that the name that stuck the car.

Like the 190SL, the chassis was strictly conventional a Mercedes). The suspension consisted of wishbones up front and the rear had those somewhat nasty arms. The body was mostly of steel, except for the doors, and deck lid, which aluminum. Mercedes also that this new SL was the first car to feature a rigid cockpit by front and rear crumple (which the company had pioneered on its

It was the first passenger car to have an rather than a generator and the sports car with an automatic (conveniently overlooking that the Corvette in 1953 was offered with a two-speed automatic).

for the 230SL came from a enlarged version of the 2.2-liter OHC six then powering the maker’s and full-size sedans. Displacing 2.3 and breathing through Bosch fuel injection, it was rated at a 170 horsepower. The manual transmission was a four-speed, but the optional automatic a fluid coupling instead of a converter and functioned as a clutchless

The 230SL was a sensation, attracting not men but #151; thanks to the automatic elegant appearance and tasteful #151; women. It wasn’t a sports car as much as a relentlessly (even the trunk was large) of grace, luxury and competence. And didn’t tamper with it over the next eight

In 1967 the SL’s engine to 2.5 liters and its name changed to Though the larger engine make any more horsepower, it did an additional 15 pound-feet of peak (a total of 174). The other big to the car was a set of rear disc brakes to go with fronts.

A collapsible wheel column was adopted same year.

While the was an improvement over the 230SL, it was in for less than a year being replaced by the 280SL for .

As the name indicates, the big change for the was another displacement bump for the six, up to 2.8 liters. The bigger pumped out 180 horsepower and 193 pound-feet of torque and was also available an optional five-speed manual The 280SL would prove to be the popular of the Pagoda SLs and it stayed in through the 1971 model

A total of 23,885 280SLs built, compared to 19,831 and 5,196 250SLs.

Unlike the and 190SL, the Pagoda SL left while still fully and attractive. Why replace it at all?

The V8 SL

With V8 engines increasingly aboard full-size Mercedes during the late ’60s, it was that a V8-powered SL would But in 1972 . few would have that the new SL (code-named R107 Mercedes) would define luxury cars for almost two and over that time, be by eight different engines.

The is that while it was under at Mercedes, the R107 was referred to as der because it weighed more 3,400 pounds #151; 300 or so more than the Pagoda, but slightly short of a battle Compared to the Pagoda SL, the R107’s was 2.5 inches longer, and it was about a wider and a quarter-inch lower.

the styling, with horizontal (paired round ones in America, single squarish in the rest of the world) and fluted taillights, made the new car appear wider. Some criticized the car for Americanized. Americanized or not, it better than ever.

Mercedes SL 350

the more … skin, the still had a double-wishbone front and a new, vastly improved arm rear suspension with the Pagoda’s familiar 2.8-liter six or the then-new S-Class sedan’s 3.5-liter, SOHC V8 rated at 230 Well, at least the rest of the had that choice.

In North the only version available was by a 4.5-liter version of the same V8, rated at 230 horsepower and paired a three-speed automatic transmission. Yet the 1972 model year R107’s first over it would still be called the

Introduced alongside the R107 roadster was a stretched (14-inch wheelbase) 350SLC fixed coupe. The coupe, which had for four, would stay in with the SL throughout the R107’s carrying equipment almost to the roadster’s.

For 1973 . Mercedes the obvious and changed the names of R107 to 450SL and 450SLC, but them over otherwise unchanged. However a change to SAE net ratings meant the 4.5-liter V8 a 190-horsepower rating.

Like all sold on the American market year, the 1974 450SL got a set of big to meet new government regulations and an interlock system that the car couldn’t be started until the seatbelt was fastened.

Emissions strangled another 10 horsepower out of the 450SL and the ignition interlock was but otherwise the car carried over much intact from In fact the car barely changed all the way the 1979 model year.

But 1980 brought Mercedes’ new braking system to the SL #151; the electronic ABS offered in America. for 1981 . the 4.5-liter engine was in favor of a new all-aluminum 3.8-liter V8 at just 155 horsepower, and the names to 380SL and 380SLC. But over in a 5.0-liter, 240-horsepower version of engine was presented in a 500SL and a few of trickled into the United in a developing gray market.

In . a driver-side front airbag but the car would otherwise remain unchanged through the 1985 year.

Mercedes finally did about the SL’s lagging for the 1986 model year by in a new 5.6-liter version of the all-aluminum V8 out 238 horsepower and a healthy 287 pound-feet of torque. Beyond that, the new was routed through a new, four-speed automatic transmission, and the was quickly recognized as the fastest yet. Too bad it had that ugly on the deck lid that contained the mandated third brake

That blister would move to the lid’s edge and in size. In the early ’80s, the was already looking and feeling By the late ’80s, it was absolutely

The Muscular SL (1990-2002)

By the time the left production, memories of the Gullwing had grown a bit creaky and To most of the world, a Mercedes SL had been a brawny, luxurious roadster. Whatever sportiness it was incidental to the car’s true of shuttling the rich from location to intimidating edifice and

The all-new R129 generation of introduced during 1989 to and in early 1990 to North was clearly more contemporary and than the outgoing car, but were just as clearly an of the species. In fact, thanks to heavy components as a roll bar automatically snapped up into during an accident and a power top used hydraulic motors to and raise itself with the of just one button, the new 1990 was the first SL to weigh in at more two tons. Guess that the L in SL didn’t stand for light

Under the chiseled wedge of the body was a densely packed with a double-wishbone front and a rear end held up with a new system that provided the precise wheel location Power came from a new 24-valve, 3.0-liter, DOHC six in the 300SL, making 228 horsepower, or a new 5.0-liter, DOHC V8 making 322 Both engines were with the six lashed to either a manual or five-speed automatic and the V8 coming hooked to a four-speed

Despite their great the power from the new engines these were among the SLs since the original. But in 1992 . brought along the awesome with a massive 389-horsepower, DOHC V12 under its hood a four-speed automatic. It was very like having two original engines under one hood.

Mercedes’ electronic stability antilock brakes, adaptive shock absorbers and front the W129 SLs were among the technologically intense road-going of that era. But despite immense computerized competence, the also brought back a of sporting vigor to the SL with offering various sport that included items 18-inch AMG wheels.

For the 1994 model year, the six was given a displacement bump to 3.2 Oddly, output decreased to 217 and the 300SL became the 320SL.

in 1994, for no apparent reason, renamed all of its cars by putting the before the numbers. So instantly the variations became the SL320, and SL600. Significant changes few however, except for the adoption of automatic transmissions by the V8- and V12-powered

The Current SL (2003 –

The state of the SL art now resides in what is as R230 inside Mercedes. a folding hardtop like the the new SL is the first one since the original not offered with a canvas of some sort. It’s the quickest SL ever.

With the SLK to cover customers who might a six-cylinder roadster, the R230 is only with V8 or V12 engines. At the introduction during late (in Europe) and early 2002 as a 2003 model (in North the only version of the car available was the with 302 horsepower on tap from its 32-valve, DOHC V8. It also every technology Mercedes conceive, including airbags to the head and thorax in side Active Body Control to keep body roll in around turns, Sensotronic braking control and Distronic cruise control.

However the is hardly the ultimate R230. months of its introduction, Mercedes the SL55 AMG, which put a on the SL500’s motor to boost to an astounding 493 horsepower. For the 2004 year, Mercedes unleashed the new also generating 493 horsepower but a twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V12.

the V12 offers more torque the supercharged V8 (590 pound-feet 516), Mercedes claims 0-60 times for both leading one to question why the company to build them both. insists that the visceral is aimed more at sports-car while the SL600, with its power, is more of a grand

Nothing happened for 2005 for 2006 Sirius Satellite became a no-cost option, a monitor became standard and the lost its mobile phone but keyless starting and a heated wheel.

More power was the big for 2007 as the base SL’s changed from SL500 to indicating a new, 5.5-liter V8 At 382 hp, the SL550 boasted 80 ponies than before, dropping the SL’s 0-to-60 time to 5.3 seconds. Other changes the fitment of a more direct system, new wheels, three bars (versus the previous a deeper front airdam and a taillight insert.

The SL55 AMG and also sported more this year as they tweaked to put out 510 hp each. After all the SL remained essentially unchanged for .

Although the style of this SL was wearing well, after six it was time for an update, so for 2009 it one. An aggressive new front end led the way as the dual headlights were by more angular single units while a wider and dual hood bumps the classic 300SL of the ’50s. As far as changes, handling prowess was via tweaks to the steering and Active Control systems. The steering continuously-variable ratio technology

And the became the SL63, as the force-fed V8 was replaced by a new naturally aspirated unit with 518 hp. The SL63 heralded the arrival of Mercedes’ MCT, a new multiclutch seven-speed transmission that afforded gearchanges.

Mercedes SL 350

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