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1971-89 Mercedes-Benz SL

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On: Fri, Sep 9, 2011 at 9:29AM | By: Peter C Sessler

1971-89 Mercedes-Benz SL

The updated SL made its debut is Europe in 1970, but it wasn’t available for sale in the U.S.A. until 1971. The new SL wasn’t based on the previous Pagoda 230/250/280 SL; instead, Mercedes-Benz used the chassis from the W114 sedan model along with six and V-8 engines from the W116 S-Class.

The result was a car that looked a lot bigger than the previous SL. However, it actually wasn’t much larger, at least in the beginning. The first American SL had a wheelbase that was 2.9 inches longer, its length was 3.8 inches more, its width at 1.5 inches and its height at 1.00 less. It was the styling that made it seem much larger. It’s paired round 5.25 inch headlights and fluted taillights made the car appear much wider and longer. And in 1974, when the longer bumpers were mandated, that added 13.6 inches to the car’s length. Different bumpers were again used in 1986 which were 2 inches shorter.

In 1971, the 4.5-liter “350 SL” that became available in the U.S.A. should have been classified as a 450 SL, if one is to follow the Mercedes-Benz nomenclature. However, the 350 SL classification was used in the first year in U.S.A. as the larger engine was not available in the German market. Starting in October, 1972, the correct classification was used on the 4.5-liter cars. Initially, the 4.5-liter engine was rated at 230 hp; by 1980 it was down to 160 hp as the engine had to meet the U.S. emission regulations.

The SL was also joined with the SLC, which was a coupe version. This hardtop coupe version had a longer 111-inch wheelbase and could accommodate four passengers. The SLC was available from 1972-1981 in the U.S.A.

The front suspension was the typical Mercedes-Benz double wishbone but in the rear, a new improved trailing arm rear suspension was used. Brakes were power-assisted four wheel disc, but an anti-lock braking system was available in March 1980. This was the first ABS system offered by any manufacturer in U.S.A.

There were only three engines available officially for the U.S. market, and all were V-8s. The first, was installed in the 350 SL in 1972 and this engine measured 4.5 liters. The 4.5-liter SOHC was rated at 230 hp initially and 160 hp( later) @ 4,750 with 240 ft.-lb. torque @ 3,000 rpm.

In 1981, the 4.5-liter engine was dropped and replaced by a 3.8-liter V-8 and thus the SL was now known as the 380 SL model. The 3.8-liter SOHC engine had the lowest output of any V-8 engine. It was rated at 155 hp @ 4,750 rpm with 196 ft.-lb. torque @ 2,750 rpm. One problem with this engine is that it came with a single-row timing chain on the 1981-83 models. This failure-prone chain was replaced with a stronger double-row chain on later models.

The last engine fitted on the R107 Class was the all-aluminum 5.6-liter SOHC V-8. It was rated at 227 hp @ 5,200 rpm with 287 ft.-lb. of torque @ 3,500 rpm. The SL model was now known as the 560 SL and was available from 1986-89. A smoother four speed automatic was made available on the 560 SL. The 560 SL was available only in U.S.A., Japan and Australia.

There were other major changes that occurred on the SL. The standard Bosch D Jetronic fuel injection system was replaced in 1976 by the Bosch K Jetronic system. This was an entirely new mechanical fuel injection system. In 1985, the Bosch KE Jetronic system was fitted. This system used a more up-to-date engine management system which controlled idle speed, fuel rate, and air/fuel mixture.

In 1985, the R107 received its final updating. Besides the larger 5.6-liter engine, the car received new disc brakes, a different limited-slip differential, a front air dam, leather upholstery, anti-theft alarm and new 15 x 7 inch aluminum wheels. Besides these, the car actually received many changes that were not readily visible.

By the end of the 1980s, the SL was now firmly in control of the luxury sports car market. No other car could touch it. In its eighteen years of production, there were 237,287 SLs built—European and American.

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