The technical innovations found in the open sports car included enhanced safety body development with an independent frame-floor unit made of sheets of different thicknesses to provide defined crumple behaviour, the fuel tank installed above the rear axle to protect it in the event of a collision, high-strength steels in the A-pillars and windscreen frame with its glued-in glass, as well as the interior with a new four-spoke safety steering wheel, padded surfaces and deformable elements as a contribution to passive safety. From March 1980, this SL was fitted with the ABS anti-lock brake system and, from January 1982, with a driver’s airbag and belt tensioners as a supplementary restraint system – these items were available as optional extras.
Following the debut of the 350 SL, Mercedes-Benz continued to expand the range of this model series. In 1973, the 450 SL, also with an eight-cylinder engine, that had initially been reserved for export to North America from autumn 1971, appeared on the European market. In 1974, the six-cylinder 280 SL version followed. For the first time in the history of the SL, this meant that a model series was now available with a choice of three different engines.
As a result of the 1980 facelift, the 380 SL replaced the 350 SL, and the 500 SL took over the position as the top model in place of the 450 SL. As part of the extensive overhaul, the interior of the sports cars, among other things, was adapted to match the S-Class Saloons of the 126 model series. In addition, the engineers upgraded numerous technical items, such as the transmission. Externally, the facelift was restricted to a few discreet improvements, including new bonnets made of light alloy and a front spoiler. The 500 SL was also fitted with the light-alloy boot lid with a black plastic rear spoiler from the SLC Coupé with the 5-litre V8 engine.
In 1985, Mercedes-Benz once again presented a completely revised model range for the R 107 model series. Besides slight changes to the exterior with 15-inch wheels and a uniform front spoiler for all the models as well as improved front suspension with zero scrub radius, the main focus was on an updated choice of engines. A highlight for all the fans of the sports cars with the star was the 300 SL with a 3-litre six-cylinder engine – because it revived the model designation with which the SL story had begun in March 1952. The 420 SL was a completely new addition, while the 500 SL was given a redesigned engine with an electronic ignition system and the Bosch KE-Jetronic electronically controlled mechanical fuel injection system. The top model of the R 107 series was the 560 SL with a 5.6-litre V8 engine, which was reserved for export to North America, Japan and Australia. All the models were now offered with a closed-loop three-way catalytic converter.
Production of model series R 107 ended in August 1989, after more than 18 years. Over that period, the Sindelfingen plant had produced a total of 237 287 cars. Today, these open two-seaters are sought-after classics: the combination of luxury and sportiness still fascinates enthusiasts to this day.