Monday, July 20, 2009

The Mercedes 300 SL R107 - an ever green classic car

When Mercedes replaced the famous Pagoda (230 SL - 280 SL, R113) with the R107 many people were disappointed. The new car was heavier, larger and seemed to look less elegant. Despite the not very enthusiastic welcome the R107 series though was built for 18 years (1971 to 1989) and the number of cars delivered to customers was an impressive 237'286. Most of them had 8 cylinder engines (350 SL, 380SL, 420 SL, 450 SL, 500 SL and 560 SL), only 38'879 6 cylinders (280 SL, 300 SL) were built. The 300 SL was introduced in 1985 and built until the end of production of the R107 series. In total 13'443 cars were built.
The reason the car got bigger and heavier than its predecessor was mainly because of increased safety standards. In that aspect the R107 was quite innovative and exemplary. ABS (anti lock brakes) and airbags for examples were on the options list very early.
Looking at the car today it's actually a quite elegant shape and the use of chrome makes it look older than it actually is. The latest R107 SLs just got 20 years old, while the first ones now are almost 40 years old.
When you drive an SL today, the car feels fairly modern despite its age, especially when you have chosen one of the latest cars, as in 1985 the suspensions and the interior were upgraded.
The R107 even had quite an impressive movie career, starring in "Hart to Hart" (driven by Stephanie Powers), "American Gigolo" (driven by Richard Gere), Dallas (driven by Victoria Principall) and visible in many many other productions.
Most of the R107 were delivered with an automatic gear box. Only the 6 cylinders and the 350 SLs could be ordered with a manual gear box. It's estimated that only 10 to 15% of the 300 SLs allow for manual gear shift despite a fuel consumption advantage of 8 to 20% against the automatic thanks to five gears and lower revs.
The silver 300 SL pictured is a 1987 model, equipped with the 4 seat option, passenger side mirror (yes, that was an extra) and radio preparation. Delivered in Germany it has been brought to Switzerland in 2009.
R107 came with a standard hardtop to make the car better usable in the winter or for highway traffic. The picture here shows the three ways you could drive an SL.
Many people say that the R107 was one of the last (if not the last) Mercedes that was built by true engineers not by marketing people. Everything you touch feels solid and the sound of the closing door is unmatched. Even after 20+ years the car feels almost like new and certainly is capable of another 20 years easily. With this and the fact that it has a catalyst on board, an R107 SL may actually be one of the more ecological cars on earth.

No comments: