The basic details of your classic Mercedes-Benz SL can be deciphered from the vehicle identification plate, but where is it, and what do the numbers mean?
Your SL should have a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) plate riveted to the bonnet on the right hand side of the bonnet, and stamped into the slam panel on the opposite side.
Models built up to 1980 have a 14 digit VIN, changing to 17 digit from 1981 on, with a slight variation between European and USA cars. Most territories outside of the USA used the European VIN numbering system.
This code can be vitally important when ordering parts, especially when it comes to engine components and electrical equipment. Upgrades throughout the production run means our parts team often need this code to understand compatibility and whether a part is suitable for you car. Knowing where to find it and how to use it can be very helpful indeed.
Identifying a pre-1980 Mercedes-Benz R107 SL:
Prior to 1980, all R107 models have a 14 digit code that identifies the car, stamped with separators but usually printed on documentation as one long number, for example:
10704512016986 or 107 045 1 2 016986
This code can be broken down as follows.
The above VIN identifies a 350SL Right Hand Drive Automatic.
This example is a European SL.
Identifying a post-1980 Mercedes-Benz R107 SL (European Car):
The VIN format changed in 1980, with a new 17 digit layout as follows. The location of the VIN plate remained unchanged, on the right hand side of the bonnet and stamped into the slam panel on the left.
The above VIN identifies a LHD 300SL with a Manual gearbox. This car here, for those who are interested.
Identifying a post-1980 USA Mercedes-Benz R107 SL:
American cars had a similar but slightly different number system, formatted as follows: WDBBA48D1HA071877
This code contains 9 sections of information, which can be shown when highlighted like so:
The world manufacture code remains the same as WDB.
W means Germany, D means Daimler, B means Benz.
WDC would be Chrysler and WDD would be Daimler AG.
The 4th character denotes the model series, in this case the letter B meaning 107 series. WDB is always an R107.
(A is W123 / C is W126 / D is W201 / E is W124 / F is R129)
The 5th character A denotes body style. A for Roadster.
(F is Saloon / G is LWB / H is Wagon / J is Coupe)
The 6th and 7th characters tell the model type.
(41 is 300SL / 46 is 500SL / 47 is 420SL / 48 is 560SL)
(SLC models – 38 is 380SLC / 50 is 500SLC)
The 8th character is letter related to car safety:
A is belts only
B is belts with SRS drivers airbag
C is belts with pretensioners
D is belts with pretensioners & drivers airbag
E is belts with pretensioners & driver and passenger airbag
The 9th character is a check digit, either X or a number between 1 and 9. In the example above the check digit is 1.
The 10th character is a letter to denote the year of the car:
B is 1981, C is 1982, D is 1983, E is 1984, F is 1985, G is 1986, H is 1987, J is 1988, K is 1989
The final letter would be an A, signifying that the car was built at Sindelfingen. (A very small number of cars were built in South Africa).
Finally the last 6 digits make up the serial number.
eg. WDBBA48D1HA071877 indicates that the car is a:
1987 Mercedes-Benz 560SL, fitted with seatbelts with pretensioners and drivers airbag. Serial Number 71,877.