The history of the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

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The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class sports cars – introduction

  • The tradition of these extraordinary sports cars begins in 1952
  • The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class has its roots in racing history
  • Every SL generation is an innovation platform for the Mercedes-Benz brand

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

Stuttgart – In the 1950s, a very special star rose in Stuttgart: the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class was born. It all began with motor racing sports. With its successes in international competitions, in 1952 the 300 SL competition sports car (W 194 series, “SL” stands for “Super-Light”), became the initial spark for the start of two fascinating production sports cars – the “Gullwing” coupé and the roadster: the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL and 190 SL laid the foundation for the tradition of this legendary sports car family in the year 1954.

Mercedes-Benz caused a sensation with the presentation of these two vehicles at the 1954 International Motor Sports Show in New York. Specialists and the general public alike were enthusiastic. The 300 SL was presented for the first time as a series-production sports car (W 198 series), the famous “Gullwing” coupé. The totally newly-designed 190 SL (W 121 series) presented by the company as a roadster, created just as powerful an impact. This first-generation SL sports cars already allowed one to envisage the brilliant future that lay ahead of these attractive and innovative production vehicles with motor sport abbreviations in their designation.

Based on the legendary Gullwing coupé, the open 300 SL Roadster (W 198 II), which was built in parallel with the 190 SL, was launched in 1957. The body form of the two-seater open car was thus defined as the typical characteristic of the SL family. The 300 SL and the 190 SL together prefigured numerous features of later SL generations and both were thus the forerunners of all the SL series that followed.

In 1963 the SL, W 113 series arrived on the scene; it was dubbed the “Pagoda SL” because of the characteristic shape of its hardtop roof. It was followed in 1971 by the R 107 series that achieved the highest production volume of all SL series to date because of its long production life of 18 years. In March 1989 Mercedes-Benz introduced the R 129 series. Featuring numerous technical innovations, this car carried the SL-Class over into the new millennium.

After a production period of twelve years and two facelifts it was replaced in 2001 by the R 230 series – the first one with a steel folding top. Finally, in the spring of 2012 the R 231 series is due to be launched as the next generation of the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class.

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