The official Mercedes codename for its 1970s Sports Leicht was `R107′ but in the trade it was nicknamed the Panzerwagen because, although somewhat lighter than a tank, it weighed around 1,550 kg (3,400 lbs) — 140 kg (300 lbs) more than the 1960s Pagoda 230SL. It was only marginally lower, longer and wider than the Pagoda but its sophisticated Bruno Sacco styling gave the illusion of an altogether broader car.
The R107 was a success right from the start and can still claim to be the longest-running of all Mercedes-Benz car series (not including the G-Wagen). The R107 came in two versions: the SL two-seater roadster with optional attachable hard roof, and the slightly longer SLC, a fixed hardtop two-door coupe with small but functional rear seats. Mercedes used the chassis from their mid-size W114 first with the 2.8 litre straight six engine from the Pagoda and then the new S-class sedan’s fuel-injected 3.5 litre V8 (except in North America where it had a larger 4.5 litre V8 engine yet, confusingly, was still designated 350).
In 1973 the 4.5 litre V8 engine was made available everywhere (and the model numbering was rationalized). To attempt to follow the numerous minor modifications, different engine sizes and model designations over the years is to wade through a mire of Teutonic complexity. Suffice it to say that the SLC was offered as an alternative to the SL only for the first ten years of the R107’s 18 year run. The SLC is the only fixed-roof Mercedes coupe to have stemmed from a roadster not a sedan. As soon as you drive one you can see why it was so successful. Although not renowned for its agility, its solidness and ease of handling wrap you in a protective comfort zone that inspires absolute confidence.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Germany
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1972 (until 1981)
ENGINE: 2,746 cc Straight Six; 3,499 cc, 3,818 cc, 4,520 cc or 4,973 cc V8
PERFORMANCE: With 2.8 I engine — top speed of 129 mph (207 km/h)
YOU SHOULD KNOW: The last 8107 ever made was a silver 500SL. You can see it in the Mercedes-Benz museum, Stuttgart.