Mercedes-Benz R107 and C107

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Mercedes-Benz SL (R107) and SLC (C107)
20181208 Retro Classic Bavaria Mercedes Benz 300SL R107 850 3316.jpg
Mercedes 300 SL R107
ProductionSL: 1971–1989
SLC: 1971–1981

300,175 built[1]
SL: 237,287
SLC: 62,888
Model yearsSL: 1971–1989
SLC: 1972–1981
DesignerJoseph Gallitzendörfer; Friedrich Geiger (1968)
Body and chassis
ClassSports car/Grand tourer
Body styletwo-door roadster
two-door coupe
LayoutFR layout
RelatedMercedes-Benz W114
2.8L (SL, SLC)
3.0L (SL)
3.5L (SL, SLC)
3.8L (SL, SLC)
4.2L (SL)
4.5L (SL, SLC)
5.0L (SL, SLC)
5.6L (SL)
3-speed 722.0 350SL/SLC 450SL/SLC
4-speed 722.1 280SL/SLC
4-speed 722.2 350SL/SLC 450SLC
4 speed 4G-TRONIC
4 speed (280/350 SL/SLC)
5 speed (280/300 SL/SLC)
Wheelbase1970s SL: 2,460 mm (96.9 in)
1970s SLC: 2,820 mm (111.0 in)
1980s: 2,456 mm (96.7 in)
Length1970s SL: 4,390 mm (172.8 in)
1970s SLC: 4,750 mm (187.0 in)
1980s: 4,580 mm (180.3 in)
Width1970s: 1,790 mm (70.5 in)
1980s: 1,791 mm (70.5 in)
Height1970s SL: 1,300 mm (51.2 in)
1970s SLC: 1,330 mm (52.4 in)
1980s: 1,298 mm (51.1 in)
Curb weight3,494 lb (1,585 kg)
PredecessorMercedes-Benz W113 (SL)
Mercedes-Benz W111 (coupe)
SuccessorMercedes-Benz R129 (SL)
Mercedes-Benz C126 (coupe)

The Mercedes-Benz R107 and C107 are sports cars which were produced by Mercedes-Benz from 1971 through 1989, being the second longest single series ever produced by the automaker, after the G-Class. They were sold under the SL (R107) and SLC (C107) model names as the 280 SL, 280 SLC, 300 SL, 350SL, 350SLC, 380SL, 380SLC, 420SL, 450SL, 450SLC, 450SLC 5.0, 500SL, 500SLC and 560 SL.

The R107/SL was a two-seat car with a detachable roof. It replaced the W113 SL-Class in 1971 and was replaced by the R129 SL-Class in 1989.

The predecessor W113 was notably successful in North America, with 19,440 units (40%) of 48,912 total units sold in the US.[2] The R107 and C107 were even more focused on the American market, with specialized engines, bumper designs, headlights, and emissions management designs. The R107 and C107 sold 204,373 units in the US (68%) of 300,175 total units sold (excluding grey market sales into the US).[3]

It was the only Mercedes roadster during its entire production.[clarification needed]

The C107/SLC was a four-seat car with a fixed roof and an optional sliding steel sunroof. It replaced the W111 Coupé in 1971 and was replaced by the C126 S-class coupe in 1981.

Model history[edit]

early 350SL

The R107 and C107 took the chassis components of the midsize 1968 Mercedes-Benz W114 model and mated them initially to the M116 and M117 V8 engines used in the W108, W109 and W111 series. The body styles for both R107 and C107 did not change materially from introduction in 1971 to end of production in 1989.

The SL (R107) variant was a 2-seat convertible/roadster with standard soft top and optional hardtop and optional folding seats for the rear bench.

SLC rear quarter window slats

The SLC (C107) derivative was a 2-door hardtop coupe with normal rear seats. The SLC is commonly referred to as an 'SL coupe', and this was the first time that Mercedes-Benz had based a coupe on an SL roadster platform rather than on a saloon, replacing the former saloon-based 280/300 SE coupé in Mercedes lineup. The SLC was replaced earlier than the SL, with the model run ending in 1981, with a much larger model, the 380 SEC and 500SEC based on the new S class.

Volume production of the first R107 car, the 350 SL, started in April 1971 alongside the last of the W113 cars; the 350 SLC followed in October. The early 1971 350SL are very rare and were available with an optional 4 speed fluid coupling automatic gearbox. The 1971 4sp auto were quick cars for the day with 0-60 mph in 8 seconds. In addition, the rare 1971 cars were fitted with Bosch electronic fuel injection.

European Engines[edit]

The 350SL and 350SLC for the European market used a 3.5 liter V8 engine.

From July 1974 both SL and SLC could also be ordered with a fuel-injected 2.8L straight-6 as 280 SL and SLC.

The C107 SLC has had a successful rally career

In September 1977 the 450 SLC 5.0 joined the line. This was a homologation version of the big coupé, featuring a new all-aluminium five-liter V8, aluminium alloy bonnet and boot-lid, and a black rubber rear spoiler, along with a small front-lip spoiler. The 450SLC 5.0 was produced in order to homologate the SLC for the 1978 World Rally Championship.

Starting in 1980, the 350, 450 and 450 SLC 5.0 models (like the 350 and 450 SL) were discontinued in 1980 with the introduction of the 380 and 500 SLC in March 1980. At the same time, the cars received a very mild makeover; the 3-speed automatic was replaced by a four-speed unit, returning to where the R107 started in 1971 with the optional 4 speed automatic 350SL (3.5lt).

The 280, 380 and 500 SLC were discontinued in 1981 with the introduction of the W126 series 380 and 500 SEC coupes. A total of 62,888 SLCs had been manufactured over a ten-year period of which just 1,636 were the 450 SLC-5.0 and 1,133 were the 500 SLC. Both these models are sought by collectors today. With the exception of the R171 SLK 55 AMG Black Series and the SL65 AMG Black Series, the SLC remains the only fixed roof Mercedes-Benz coupe based on a roadster rather than a saloon.

Following the discontinuation of the SLC in September 1981, the 107 series continued initially as the 280, 380 and 500 SL. At this time, the V8 engines were re-tuned for greater efficiency, lost a few hp and consumed less fuel- this largely due to substantially higher (numerically lower) axle ratios that went from 3.27:1 to 2.47:1 for the 380 SL and from 2.72:1 to 2.27:1 for the 500 SL.

Mercedes 560 SL (Australia)

From September 1985 the 280 SL was replaced by a new 300 SL, and the 380 SL by a 420 SL; the 500 SL continued and a 560 SL was introduced for certain extra-European markets, notably the USA, Australia and Japan.

Also in 1985, the Bosch KE Jetronic was fitted. The KE Jetronic system varied from the earlier, all mechanical system by the introduction of a more modern engine management "computer", which controlled idle speed, fuel rate, and air/fuel mixture. The final car of the 18 years running 107 series was a 500 SL painted Signal red, built on 4 August 1989; it currently resides in the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart, Germany.

North American models[edit]

SL - US version 1974-1989
1980 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC, US-spec with prominent bumpers

North America was the key market for this Personal luxury car, and two thirds of R107 and C107 production was sold there.[4]

The R107/C107 for the North American market sported four round low-output sealed beam headlights, due to unique U.S. regulations.

Sales in North America began in 1972, and cars wore the badge 350 SL, but actually had a larger 4.5L V8 with 3 speed auto (and were renamed 450 SL for model year 1973); the big V8 became available on other markets with the official introduction of the 450 SL/SLC on non-North American markets in March 1973. US cars sold from 1972 through 1975 used the Bosch D Jetronic fuel injection system, an early electronic engine management system.

From 1974, the front and rear bumpers were dramatically lengthened, by 8 inches (203 mm) on each end, to comply with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations, that mandated no damage at an impact of 5-mile-per-hour (8 km/h).[5]

R107 and C107 cars were exported to the US with low compression 4.5 liter V8 engines to meet stringent US emissions requirements, yet still provide adequate power.

US models sold from 1976 through 1979 used the Bosch K Jetronic system, an entirely mechanical fuel injection system.

The 450 SL was produced until 1980. Starting in 1980, US cars were equipped with lambda control, which varied the air/fuel mixture based on feedback from an oxygen sensor. The smaller engined 380 SL replaced the 450SL from 1981 to 1985. The Malaise era 380 SL was the least powerful of the US market R107 roadsters.

North American market SL and SLC models retained the "protruding"[6] 5 mph bumpers, even after the wisdom of the law was reconsidered in 1981.[7][8]

US Grey Market sales[edit]

Mercedes-Benz 450SLC 5.0 (U.S.)

The more powerful 500 SL with 5.0 liter engine, produced from 1980–1989, was not available in the US. This drove many customers to obtain the European specification car in the "gray market." Finally, a more powerful version was available from the factory, from 1986 to 1989, the 560 SL. It was exclusive to the USA, European, Japanese and Australian markets.

Despite the larger 5.6 liter engine of the U.S. 560 SL, the forbidden Euro-spec 500 SL was the fastest production 107 produced (mostly because of the lack of emission restraints). The 500 SL was published by Mercedes-Benz as having 0-60 mph times of 7.4 seconds for a top speed of 225 km/h (140 mph). Torque for the 500 SL is 296 lb⋅ft (401 N⋅m) at 3200 rpm and for the 560 SL 287 lb⋅ft (389 N⋅m) at 3500 rpm.

Mechanical troubles[edit]

Model years 1975 and 1976 450 SLs suffered from vapor lock and hard restart because of the under-bonnet position of the catalytic converter. Starting in MY 1977, the catalytic converter was moved to replace the resonator, located just behind the transmission in the exhaust system.

The 380SL/C engine came with a single row timing chain from 1981 through 1983. These early 380 models were plagued with chain failure problems and the problem was corrected by Mercedes-Benz, free of charge. Some models, however, escaped retrofit and may at some point fail as a result.

MYs 1984 and 1985 came with a double row timing chain from the factory to address this issue.

Another problem area for late 450 SLs was the automatic climate control system. Based on a "servo," which controlled coolant flow to the heater core, as well as vacuum to actuate the vents in the interior of the car, the system proved unreliable. It was installed on 450 SLs through end of production in 1980. Models produced prior to 1978 had a manual climate control system, 380SL models produced from 1981 received a more reliable automatic climate control system.

South African assembly[edit]

Both the SL and SLC models were also assembled in South Africa by UCDD (United Car and Diesel Distributors) for the captive domestic market from early 1977 (on a contractor basis before Daimler-Benz A.G. acquired a majority stake of UCDD in 1984).[9][10] Only about 40 units per month were built.[9]

Technical data[edit]


North America[edit]

Models timeline[edit]

Appearance in media[edit]

In the 1980 movie American Gigolo, Richard Gere drives a black 1980 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL (R107). In a later disconcerting scene, Gere's character Julian Kaye rips the car apart in his apartment garage looking for a stash of jewels he believes planted in the car to frame him for the Rheiman murder.

A modified Mercedes R107 appeared in Season 1, Episode 9 (Berks to the Future) of the Amazon Prime Video original series The Grand Tour. It was used by Jeremy Clarkson, who was trying to create a new type of sports utility vehicle by combining the chassis and engine of a Land Rover Discovery with the bodies of classic sports cars. Originally he tried it with a 1978 MGB, which failed, so he used the Mercedes R107. The car was named as 'The Excellent' and Clarkson still owns it today.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Werner Oswald: Deutsche Autos 1945–1990, vol. 5. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-613-02131-5, p. 52.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Retrieved 11 May 2016
  5. ^ Solomon, Jack (March 1978). "Billion Dollar Bumpers". Reason.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Berndt, Frank (2 April 1982). "Interpretation 1982-1.38". United States Department of Transportation NHSTA. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  8. ^ Burgess, John (1 October 1981). "U.S. Agency Seeks Eased Auto Bumper Standards". Washington Post.
  9. ^ a b Wright, Cedric, ed. (August 1978). "20 000 km test: Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC sports coupé". CAR (South Africa). Vol. 22 no. 7. Ramsay, Son & Parker (Pty) ltd. pp. 45, 47–48.
  10. ^ Cauvin, Henri E. (24 November 2001). "A Quest to Promote the Quality Of Cars Made in South Africa". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  11. ^ Oswald, Werner (2001). Deutsche Autos 1945-1990, Band 4 (1. ed.). Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-613-02131-5.
  12. ^ Mike Covello, op. cit., pp. 527–545.
  13. ^

External links[edit]