Built from 1971 to 1989, the Mercedes-Benz R107 enjoyed a lengthy production run with only minor changes taking place during this time. Most R107 enthusiasts understand that the R107 is split into ‘Early’ cars and ‘Late’ cars, but what does this mean for a prospective buyer….?
Although there was an upgrade to the range in 1980 (as shown below), the key improvement for the R107 SL came in 1986, for the final three years of production to take the model to it’s final days in 1989 – when it was replaced by the more technologically advanced R129.
Mercedes-Benz R107 SL Model and Engine Timeline
Aesthetically, later cars have an extended front apron, or valance, a slightly wider track and 16 inch flat face alloy wheels. It’s amazing how small changes can make such a dramatic difference to the appearance of the car.
The boot spoiler was standard on the late 500SL, though many are seen without them. Badge designation delete was also a factory option. Inside the interior was revised, with a re-styled central console, gear gaiter and more toys available from 1986 to 1989.
This front view highlights the differences in aesthetics between the early and later cars. A new range of engines allured new buyers in 1986, with the 300SL replacing the 280SL, an all new 520SL and 560SL for export markets. The 500SL is the badge that remained throughout almost the entire production run, hence it is the badge that many buyers most closely associate with the R107 SL.
The slightly larger wheels hide improved brakes and handling, a key driver for buyers on whether to choose an early or later car.