Birthdays are both a time to reflect and a time to plan. To celebrate 50 years of the R107 SL, Francis Robertson-Marriott steps into the future to see what the a restomod version of the Marque would look like.
Across the world, there has been a surge in coachbuilders and outlaw outfits, reimagining iconic classic cars for the rapidly changing world. These organisations are embracing the history of a select few cars and reconfiguring their design language and purpose to fulfil the appetites of a set few affluent customers, each looking for a bespoke vehicle exclusive to their car cave. The R107 SL was confidently over-engineered for its time and remains a revered classic, but there remains an international group of individuals intrigued by the prospect of a redesigned rendition. Sort of like a remastered album; more REM than Beatles.
Enter Canadian Automotive designer, Matthew Finbow, who is well-versed in the art of fusing old with new to reincarnate a specific vehicle. Matt possesses a master’s degree in Automotive Design from Coventry University – the home of English automotive manufacturing – and was the former Lead Designer at David Brown Automotive and BionX International Corporation. Matt’s approach began with a simple question, ‘’What would Mercedes-Benz themselves do if they wanted to produce an in-house celebratory R107 SL restomod?’’
Starting with the powertrain, the obvious choice would be to utilise the electric platform developed for the Mercedes EQ range, specifically to meet decarbonisation targets. By retrofitting the EQ platform to meet the unique proportions of the R107 SL, the power delivery and performance would be significantly altered. The R107 SL would benefit from all-wheel drive characteristics provided by an electric motor placed at each axle; with an overall output of 300kW (approx. 400hp), 765 NM torque and a range of 450km from the 80kWh Lithium-ion battery. Drivers may miss the throaty burble of the nostalgic V8, but the art of reducing noise provides non-intrusive thrills by way of even more power and silently sophisticated open-top driving.
In the spirit of the original, the exterior sports an Ivory White paint coating, and retains the chrome bumpers and trim accents around the circumference of the vehicle. The bonnet now benefits from a chrome lip, and triangular anti-roll bars add more bling to the rear’s presence. Screaming R107 SL, the design maximises the use of the ridged streaks found mainly down the side skirting on the original. Matt has used this prime motif to unify the grille and headlamps with a gloss-black panel that spans the full width of the vehicle. When not in use, the stacked LED headlights and indicator lights disappear behind, giving the front-end a sleek and uncluttered aesthetic. There’s no need for different European or American headlights here. Similarly, the rear continues this motif with ‘’thin horizontal strip LED taillights paying homage to classic Mercedes Benz lighting design.’’ This design vernacular very much belongs to the EV arena, emulating the elongated light bars established by EVs like the Polestar 2, the Renault 5 concept and the charismatic grins of Volkswagen’s ID range.
Matt has achieved a sportier essence with this reincarnated R107 SL, drawing on the marque’s rallying days by enlarging the flared wheel arches and extending the rocker panels and front and rear valences. Larger multi-spoke alloy wheels taken from the EQC ensures some remnants of the original design’s stance. Minimal panel gaps remain a feature of the angular shape, but with the absence of chrome door handles in favour of what could be keyless, touch entry at each side and to access the boot. Keyless touch entry would be an essential modern feature compatible with the affluent customer-base of the 21st Century.
Naturally, the interior needs to be similarly modern, and Matt has achieved a balance of past and present with an exciting combination of tech, materials and patterns. The central spine follows the same shape as the original, integrating the curved infotainment system found in the S-class – a similar architectural overlap between the original R107 SL and the W116 in the 1970s. Signature navy ‘Turbine’ HVAC vents are arranged in the centre of the dash, unifying the interior with the exterior. A digital instrument display has also been positioned behind the original steering wheel, standing slightly too high and would perhaps block the driver’s appreciation for the vast bonnet.
Incorporated into this design is a strong consideration for sustainability beyond the switch to electric. The open-pore wood veneer which extends across the dashboard and along each of the doors will be sourced in partnership with a tree-planting initiative to ensure proactive carbon capture and preservation of the landscape. There is even the possibility for materials such as Flax to replace lightweight composites – Flax can be moulded into hard surfaces like seats, body panels and much more. Flax can also be ground down and thermally recycled without any residual waste. In other areas, the need to replace leather is paramount and there is the opportunity here to use AppleSkin™ – a leather replacement made with the mushy pulp (made up of cellulose fibres) leftover as a result of industrial juicing. Likewise, the headlining and foot mats can be made out of products like Econyl®, which is made from Sugar cane and corn waste. Clearly, there is a new vision for this luxury car.
This reincarnation of the R107 SL is akin to a jar of marmite. It will both anger and excite the masses. What is clear though is that Matt has retained the wholesomeness of the original, going beyond minor modification of the vehicle in favour of a utopian-galactic zest. That’s the beauty and rarity of having artistic abilities. If the year were 2049, then this would perhaps be Rick Deckard’s vehicle of choice. The wheels would retract inwards like that of a 747 and the turbine rims would produce the downward force to lift and propel the R107 SL like a Harrier Jump Jet. With this sort of vision and a lot of cash, the R107 SL could be reincarnated for eternity.
Let us know in the comments what you think of Matt’s take on the SL R107.