Early Edition:

1971 Mercedes 350SL 4.5
Two-Top Roadster

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In the late 1960s, when the Pagoda SL approached the end of its nine-year production lifespan, Mercedes-Benz had a worthy successor waiting in the wings.



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Code-named the R107, it was the first Mercedes Roadster in history featuring a V8 engine. The 3.5-liter unit was sourced from the high-dollar 280SE 3.5 W111 Coupe that was introduced in fall of 1970 as a 1971 model.

Yet when this new Roadster, the "350SL," went through final EPA emissions testing, it had to run extremely lean in order to pass. To avoid issues along the line, Mercedes' management quickly pulled the plug and decided to use a 4.5-liter engine instead, featuring lower compression but larger displacement. However, there was no time to change the badging for the 1972 model year cars. What was from the get-go a 450SL, was badged a 350SL until autumn of 1972, when the 1973 models got the 450SL badge.
. . . and the rest is history.

These early R107s with the elegant "small" bumpers that hug the body tightly are almost identical to their European counterparts. Devoid of emission-controls that emasculated later models, they are more powerful, receptive of the slightest throttle input, and embody the purity of the concept.

The Mercedes-Benz 350SL (4.5) presented here, VIN *107.044-12-001059*, was built in September of 1971. It is one of the earliest US-market cars made. In fact, we haven't seen an earlier one, nor heard of an earlier one offered for sale, ever. It is titled as a 1971 model.

The heart of the beast, the 4.5-liter V8, lives in a toothbrush clean engine compartment. It features overhead camshafts and the updated BOSCH mechanical fuel injection. The 'big' V-8 churns out over 200 horsepower with ease. It is designed to cruise effortlessly on the Autobahn at 120mph, all day long.

The motor always starts on the first turn of the key and runs magnificently. Made from cast iron, it is arguably the most dependable Mercedes V-8 ever made. Without black boxes and oodles of electronic emission controls that give nothing but headaches, this solid engine behaves very much like a 'good old' V-8 from Detroit, but it is, of course, much more refined.

There are no fluid leaks, nor are there any other issues to report.

Star cruiser's body is solid as a bank vault, with perfect body lines and gaps. Doors close with the characteristic "thunk" sound.

All R107 models came factory-equipped with two tops. The steel hardtop, with its heated rear window, permits year-round driving, even during inclement weather. It can be removed within minutes, transforming the car into a true Roadster. Of course, a folding convertible top is waiting to be raised in the event of a surprise rain shower.

This Mercedes has been repainted once, many moons ago, in its factory original dark brown color. While utmost presentable, there are quite a few small signs of age, such as tiny rock ships, etc. All 4 Bundt aluminum wheels, which were an expensive option back in '71, are in excellent, near N.O.S. condition.

Often rusty due to trapped humidity, this SL's top storage box is absolutely corrosion free.

Moving on to the car's inside, we marvel at the beautifully preserved cockpit. There's really not much you could do to improve things here.

122,851 miles shown on the odometer is believed to be the original mileage of the car. It translates to about 2,560 miles driven per year, on average. Burled walnut wood panel adds a touch of luxury.

Driver and passenger enjoy genuine leather seats.

Plenty of space for man's best friend or additional luggage here.

This photo looks like it might be lifted from a factory brochure, circa 1971 -- rest assured, it is a pic of the actual car for sale, taken in 2019!

All the lights work as they should.
Ready for a test drive? So are we, but before take off, let's take a look at the trunk.

Beautifully preserved velour carpeting covers the inside of the trunk. Factory tool rool looks complete.

Near perfect, bone dry trunk floor.


There are no signs of corrosion or damage on the unmolested undercarriage.

After 48 years in sunny Southern California, there's still some of the factory Cosmoline wax evident on the floors!

Tuesday, October 2, turned out to be another lovely day in our old Mission town San Buenaventura, and we were excited about exercising the 350SL.

There were few luxury sport convertibles in the early 1970s, namely the Jaguar E-Type Roadster, the Aston Martin Volante, and some offerings from Maserati and Ferrari. All of these cars are now out of the financial reach for us working folks, making this 48 year-old classic an amazing bargain in its class.

The car starts, runs, drives, shifts, handles, and brakes great. There's no rattling or shaking, nor are there any untoward noises emanating from its drivetrain. It is more solid than any of its competitiors, the Bentley T1 Convertible included.

Returning home, we are very impressed, indeed. The inherent qualities of a Mercedes-Benz Roadster are based on a long tradition of hand-built automobiles. You are looking at a car that despite its age of 48 years looks still contemporary in its timeless design.

Buy the first or the last one made -- that's common advice when it comes to classic cars. If there's an older R107 in the United States, we've not been able to find it. Opportunity knocks; are you ready to answer?


RETURN TO THE SHOWROOM


You are most welcome to inspect this fine automobile at our location in Ventura, by appointment, or have someone inspect it for you.
Please, direct all inquiries to bill@californiaclassix.com or call us at 805-653-5551.