The transition to a two-seater that offered both comfort and power made a compelling step forward with the Mercedes-Benz 350 SL (R 107) of 1971. For the first time in the history of this spectacular sports car series, the elongated bonnet now concealed an 8-cylinder power unit. This 3.5-litre engine developed 200 hp (147 kW) and took just nine seconds to accelerate the elegant two-seater from 0 – 100 km/h. Other engine variants followed. With its many intelligent detail features, the integrated safety concept of the 350 SL underscored the high safety levels aspired to by the Mercedes-Benz brand:
high-strength A-pillars and a front windscreen framework with fixed glass insert combined to form sturdy roll over protection; the distinctive wideband tail lights with their ribbed surface were particularly effective at repelling dirt. The fuel tank was no longer accommodated at the rear, but instead positioned above the rear axle for protection in the event of collision. Other innovative features included the four-spoke steering wheel with large impact plate and reach-through door handles that stopped the doors from springing open in the event of an accident. From March 1980 the SL was also available with the anti-lock braking system ABS; airbag and belt tensioner were offered from January 1982.
The detachable hardtop, previously available as an optional extra to the soft top, became standard-fit equipment in March 1980. After 18 years, production of the SL R 107 series came to an end in August 1989.
The still unbeaten record production figure of 237,287 vehicles impressively demonstrates the special popularity of this series.
The four-spoke safety steering wheel with large impact boss offered the SL driver much improved protection over conventional designs in the event of a collision. The benefits of this were not to be underestimated back in 1971: although the airbag was by then already in development at Mercedes-Benz, it would be another ten years before this innovation reached series maturity.
From autumn 1985 Mercedes-Benz offered a closedloop catalytic converter on all passenger car models with petrol engine. Effective in reducing exhaust emissions, this environmentally friendly technology came with all SL models in the R 107 series. The environment also benefited from the introduction of the lead-free petrol required with catalytic converters.