by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img via eBay ::: 1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SL
HARD to beat an R107 SL for pure curbside appeal. The ultimate boulevardier of both the 70s and 80s, it’s as if this generation Benz roadster mirrors the best, trouble free years of Michael Jackson – for those of you who appreciate Jackson, the performer. The 560SL was the most sophisticated of these SLs, though not a true 560 – in the sense that the car’s V8 seem to have the same range and oomph of the 500SL. Still, the 560SL was unique to North America – so embrace those marvelous sealed beam lamps and 5 mph bumpers. This Benz’s main coin in trade is character.
by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img via eBay ::: 1989 Mercedes 560SL For Sale
THE ULTIMATE boulevardier, the automotive experience doesn’t get much better than cruising, top-down, behind the helm of an R107 generation Benz. M.Y. 1989 being the last year for the 560SL and R107, you’d have the benefit of that generation SL’s most powerful V8 (though, sadly, not quite tuned to the same degree as the “identical” 5.6 liter in the 560SEL or 560SEC), driver’s side airbag, ABS, and the smaller variant of the regulation-third-brake lamp. That said, you will miss the 70s cat-eared headrests.
by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img BMW & Daimler ::: BMW Z4 & Mercedes-Benz R107 SL-Class
HERE it is. I’m going to put this out there: the BMW Z4 (sDrive35is) is the Mercedes-Benz 560SL reincarnated. Only with a propeller badge.
And like its Teutonic cousin, the ultimate roadster’s failing to rise to the ‘ultimate driving machine’ creed.
Z4=SL? Blasphemy? Hardly.
Both the 2011 Z4 and the R107 SL of the 1970s and 80s are tightly proportioned, yet long bonneted, two-seater, German boulevardiers that drip cache from their exhausts.
For yours truly, time behind the wheel of the Z4 sDrive30i quickly affirmed this trans-brand-generational feeling last summer.
But the upmarket R107’s a direct descendant from the mighty 50’s Gullwing, you say.
The Z4’s ancestor started as the low-market, Miata chasing Z3 that first debuted 15 years ago in Golden Eye, you’ll add. And the old Bimmer was built in South Carolina which puts a globalized dent in the Made in Germany cred just a little.
Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.
Anyway, the similarities abound. Both weigh in between 3500-3800 lbs, stretch to 170 inches or so (discounting the SL’s US-spec, 5-mph bumpers), and feature hardtop insulation against the elements.
And both models are slower than they ought to be.
In a just world, BMW would reprise the same magnificent Twin-Turbo, 4.4 Liter V8 that plays a heroic, lag-free role in the 750i/Li and the X5 & X6 and also in the bored-out M variants of the latter models to shine as the engine exemplar for the Z4.
We might call such a version Z4 M or M4 or Z4 sDrive44i if you’re into BMW’s recent sesquipadalian schtick. R&T, C&D, MT would all give it front cover status. And we’d idolize it as the BMW roadster that took on Porsche’s 911 (and likely won).
But do we live in a world where justice forever prevails? Where pragmatic SUVs take back row to sexual sports cars?
Instead, BMW allows us a hungry-but-not-ravenous Inline Six, that makes a nod-worthy, if restrained 335 horsepower. Keep in mind, the roadster weighs 3549 unladen lbs. This power to weight ratio makes for good… yes…spirited… swift?… progress.
But not blazing speed.
In the Go-Go 80s, Mercedes-Benz wound out the decade with the 560SL, the last of an aging SL line that was designed to evoke Stuttgart’s fastest performance.
In theory, the same 5.6 liter, 5547cc V8 that launched the 560SEL and 560SEC and later the 500E a.k.a. “The Hammer” powered the comparatively minute 560SL.
The potential for (un)righteous burn-outs and auto-bahn stormin’ was high.
Sadly, not so. The model designation “560” was merely a marketing ploy directed at North American customers (Euro customers were still sold the 500SL).
With throttle firmly depressed, drivers were treated not to the red-lining, Wagnerian wailing horizon chase of the mighty 5.6, but rather the low roar and deliberate climb of the much-less urgent 5.0 liter.
Numerically, what should have been a start from naught to 60 in maybe 6.3 seconds, felt closer to 8.1+. An engine that should’ve fought the rev-limiter @ 155, instead likely crept to 135.
Big difference? Not in the cosmic scheme.
Yet, quixotically, if you wanted the best in MB performance, the large S-Class was your sedan or coupe, not the slick SL roadster.
The Z4 is BMW’s only two seater. It should be the Roundel’s best wheel forward.
True, the Z4 sDrive35i makes 0-60 in only 4.8 seconds. But a V8 would drop that time by a second or more, easy.
Like the vintage SL, the Z4 should offer (at least as an expensive option) the greatest, most unhindered driving experience that BMW can provide. The difference is – the Z4 should deliver!
There. I said it. It’s out there. My conscience can rest now.
[Further Reading: 2009 BMW Z4 Sports Car Lite]
By Gunnar Heinrich
I could go on writing posts about late 80s Benzes. So, I will.
What registers most about the amount of good content featuring old German cars is that there’s a severe lack of good content featuring old German cars.
For the Teutonic aficionado, the online absence of professional photos, thoughtful commentary, and accurate data on the late model cars that many of us love is sad, to be sure.
So, ADL is doing its part to fix that.
And considering the number of ADL posts written last week that featured some of Stuttgart’s finest, yours thought it best to consolidate the various scanned images from my own 1986 Mercedes-Benz North America brochure and to create one, centralized post to encapsulate the whole lot.
Click to enlarge. And enjoy.
You know I do.
By Christopher P. Davis
IN a perfect world, the elves from the Black Forest pictured a three-car garage.
In it sat a 560SEL – which would propel you to your daily slayings in the corporate world – to the right, a 560SL – for open-top boulevard cruising and of course the occasional weekend picnic – and, finally, the 560SEC.
Sporty yet refined. Classic yet modern. Sadly, one of Benz’s best is now just some forgotten coupe. Perfect for a night at the opera, and maybe a Friday car, like the current CL-Class, the SEC was an expensive, low volume choice. So much so, the “E” is SEC should have stood for “exclusive.”
Arriving in an S-Class coupe, you made a statement, frankly, that money was no object and that practicality was for “the little people.” Sure, for a little less money (the coupe’s MSRP was north of $70,000) you could have a 560SEL and two more doors, but who bothered to count? You had accountants for that.
Confronted by a 560SEC, there’s little room to doubt that it is a true Mercedes-Benz. The Tri-Star logo, representing land, air, and sea is prominently featured, much in the way it currently is on the CL and on the new C-Class Sport.
The star has an angular front, which through former Benz Design Chief Bruno Sacco’s genius avoids being overtly “sporty” or ostentatious. Simply told, it’s the embodiment of the balanced design ethic that was part of every model Mercedes produced in the 80s.
On the headlamps rest diminutive wiper blades, a feature that I always thought to be rather cool and somewhat practical, but overall, just plain cool. On top of the hood where a star ornament would usually stand, is a larger blue-white star and laurel roundel that’s featured on nearly every Mercedes two-door.
From the side, your eye sweeps across the car, as the design is completely fluid, there is no rough spot, just one beautiful automobile. The 560 SEC is a pillarless coupe, a fact that greatly enhances that sweep.
In a December 2006 edition of British Mercedes-Benz magazine Mercedes Enthusiast, Bruno Sacco was reported to have recently acquired, as the writer put it, “(A) low mileage 560SEC in Anthracite with black leather and burr walnut. ‘It is now almost perfect,’ he murmured, eyes twinkling.”
From the rear, the 560SEC is very similar to any other W126. The only difference between the rear of sedan is that the coupe sports a slightly larger rear windscreen.
On the interior, a 560SEC has all the sharp fit and finish of its four door sibling.
One novel feature is a seat belt presenter – a think black plastic arm that extends the belt out for you from a chrome ringed cavity beneath the rear window sill. Although novel in the 80s, it’s a feature that time has shown to be just a tad temperamental.
Between the back seats of the SEC was a beautiful burled wood retractable console. Similar to that found on current CL-Class models, although on the 560SEC it is much larger; the amount of burled wood is stunning!
The 560SEC is a big car by any measure. It weighs in at over 3960 pounds and covers just over 199.2 inches of asphalt stem to stern.
In today’s world of Prius’ (or is it Prii?) the 560SEC is a throwback to a bygone era – the decadence of the 80’s.
Owning one today is as much a statement as it was then. It denotes success, style, intelligence, and class. It’s a designer tank, engineered unlike any other car in the world and styled to please even the most fashion conscious.
“Luxury cars” abound, but 560SECs do not – with only 28,929 of these beauties made. What’s more, a well cared-for example will mechanically stand the test of time at least as well as its classic good looks.
The 560SEC is the perfect coupe to complete anyone’s garage.
[Images: 1986 Brochure by Mercedes-Benz of North America, Inc.]
*Note* An avid reader since early 2007, Mr. Davis is a new contributor to Automobiles De Luxe.
By Gunnar Heinrich
PHOTOGRAPHY being the artful demarcation of time and place that it is, there’s something about this image that’s at once period and on the other hand, indelibly timeless.
Pictured above is a 1986 Mercedes-Benz 560SL shot in the great American West in red over cream; popular for topless Teutons of that era.
These three SL photos are scanned facsimiles from an old US S-Class brochure that a friend gifted me nearly nine years ago.
The brochure itself is a testament to an unapologetic era of status assertion.
It reads as follows:
“The legendary SL Coupe/Roadster has earned its unique niche in the motoring world by blending two rich automotive themes: the lure of a lithe and eager top-down sporting machine and the reassurance of a strong, secure, supremely livable Mercedes-Benz. For 1986, the most confirmed SL advocate will revise his opinion upward.”
Much of the rest of the promotional text talks with the same über confidence that can only come from successfully selling a model line that sold virtually free from competition in the US market for two decades.
[Linked: March 1994 R&T Review of R107 Line]
By Gunnar Heinrich
PRECIOUS few cars can match the iconic R107 generation Mercedes-Benz SL.
The third generation SL roadster was also the second longest running generation Benz. Penned in the Johnson era and discontinued just as Bush, Sr took office, the two seater followed the sublime W113 “Pagoda” SL to become a true tri-star titan.
Mint examples are plentiful in California, but are less frequently found in the Northeast. So, having spied one while out to dinner on this fine Friday’s eve, yours just had to take some shots to share with the blogosphere at large.
The 560 engine – a 5547 cc V8 beast- was the final power unit to propel the R107’s mid-weight 3,500 lbs chassis, and was unique to the North American and Australian markets. Our Euro friends had to make do with the older 500’s 4970 cc V8.
Also unique to North America, are the extended five-mph bumpers and the double circular headlamps, as opposed to the rectangular halogens known to the rest of the world.
Click on the gallery below to have a look at this glänzenden Auto!
The ultimate survivor. Built to military spec., there’s solid reason why the UN and NGO peace organizations use the G-Wagen to get the job done. Utilitarian looks as timeless as the Range Rover County and Hummer H1.
This solid, stolid generation of flagships included the legendary might-makes-right 450SEL 6.9. The classic three box German saloon, the 70’s S-Class rolls on as a great vestige of the marque’s grand heritage.
Despite being chastised for running out of step with the times, the W140 saloons set the standard for the 90s. Big and beautiful, these chariots were commodious, luxurious, and represented the last generation of Mercedes sedans to embody the vaunted “vault-like” feel.
Not as solid as its W124 predecessor, but miles ahead in style. No other model in contemporary Mercedes history generated as much excitement or so revolutionized the marque as this generation E. Hugely popular, the line included the torque rich E55 AMG.
Elegant yet sporty, the current generation SL embodies a classic blend of pure style. The SL is the most comfortable and luxurious roadster Mercedes-Benz has yet built and is also the most powerful. The SL55 and 65 AMG models lifted the bar on performance.
The start of the greatest flagship series the world has known. Subtle design belies solid quality and luxurious craftsmanship. The first of postwar Benz’s opened topped tourers stands as one of the 20th Century’s grandest.
An icon for two generations. Greater than the previous W113 “Pagoda”, this roadster rolls with class, style, and substance. The 500SL and 560SL V8s produced performance times that rivaled Ferrari and Porsche. Among the ultimate boulevardiers of all time.
Perhaps the best 2+2 convertible ever built. Precious few cars can rival the SE cabriolet’s classic panache. Instantly collectible and reliably solid, this generation will be remembered as among the finest cars Stuttgart ever built.
Sex on wheels. The roadster may rank as the most beautiful car ever built. The Gullwing may rank as the most iconic Benz ever. The symbol of revival to postwar Germany’s auto industry. The straight-six’s performance set the bar for supercar performance for more than 30 years. It’s easy to justify six to seven figure price tags.
The greatest generation. The longest lived S-Class and among the most commercially successful model lines in Mercedes history. Part of Benz’s golden era of over-engineering, the 80s S-Class rank among the most solid cars ever built. The 300SD, 500/560SEC, 500/560SEL are icons. Bruno Sacco’s grand sedan and coupe – penned in the 70s – influenced industry design through the 90s.