I really, really love the Mercedes-Benz SL models from the 1950s. The 300SL Gullwing is truly the most beautiful car ever made, and the 190SL wasn’t far behind. And I really, really love the Mercedes-Benz SL models from the 1960s: The “Pagoda” model is one of my dream cars; it’s the perfect stylish vehicle to cruise around in along the coast, with the wind in your hair and the sun setting. See the used Mercedes-Benz SL-Class models for sale near you
But I really, really hate the Mercedes-Benz SL models from the 1970s and 1980s.
In “Mercedes-Benz code,” this is called the “R107” model — and it was sold from 1972 to 1989. The sole changes throughout that time gave it a larger engine, which did not improve its performance, and cosmetic upgrades, which made it uglier. I’ve never, ever, ever liked this car, and as they’ve started to rise in value, I can only ask: WHY?
I’ll start my criticism of this car with the exterior styling, which I’ve always found terribly ugly. Every single wheel design offered with this car was horrible, the bottom half overstyled with its stupid horizontal lines and the rear wheel arch in some sort of half-circle thing. The U.S. models had these giant bumpers that made it look like you could stand on the car like a trolley if you wanted to catch a ride somewhere. The car was also bizarrely out of proportion: The giant hood made the front look like an S-Class sedan, while the rear end was so short that it looked like a 1980s SLK.
Then there’s the “SLC” version, which was a long-wheelbase model that somehow managed to look even worse. They took the standard design and stretched it out to get four seats in it — the entire thing looks like it was done by some middle-schooler in Photoshop. Except it was actually done by Mercedes-Benz, and it was sold that way.
And then there was the performance. This isn’t entirely the SL’s fault, as it was a victim of the malaise era, but the best model we got in the U.S. — called the 560SL, to imply it had some giant 5.6-liter V8 engine — had 227 horsepower. Yes, it did actually have that giant 5.6-liter V8 (actually, 5.5 liters, but that’s the least offensive thing about this car), but it was a total dud. It was only offered with an automatic, and it did zero to 60 in something like 6.5 seconds. I can tolerate a relatively slow car if it’s beautiful (the Pagoda SL) or an ugly car if it’s fast (Ferrari F50), but I will not put up with the travesty of a vehicle that’s both, unless it’s some sort of dull people-mover, which this isn’t.
Then there’s the other issue: Because the R107 SL was made for almost two decades, Mercedes-Benz manufactured zillions of them. Truly zillions. I don’t know the exact number of zillions, but I would guess, with some back-of-the-napkin math, approximately 57 zillion. This means the R107 SL is not attractive, not fast and not rare. On the contrary, it’s slow, ugly and common. So why are values shooting up again?
Part of me thinks values are going up because people think they have to; the 300SL went through the roof, then the Pagoda, and now this is next. But I personally think people should take a long hard look at the R107 before spending big money on one as their next “investment” car. And then they should look away, because you don’t want to stare at it for too long. Find a used Mercedes-Benz SL-Class for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.