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Car Tales: Sport Light With Maximum Power, Mercedes-Benz 560SL

‘As the saying goes, what’s in a name?
‘In the world of automobiles this question would appear to arise disproportionately, especially in the seductive mystery surrounding the add-on identifying letters on certain prestigious overseas cars.
1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SL for sale
‘But when broken down and deciphered these rubrics often signify that any intrigue is imagined, non-existent really, a consequence of being lost in translation.

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‘So it is with the always top-notch Mercedes-Benz SL-Class, a style of grand touring sports car manufactured in assorted incarnations by Mercedes-Benz since 1954. And what is the provenance of that glamorously mysterious and quite sexy ‘SL’ designation? Quite simple really: it derives from an abbreviation of the German term Sport-Leicht, the English translation being the far less evocative ‘Sport Light’.
1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SL side view
‘The SL class, essentially a two-seat car with a detachable roof, reached its 1980s’ zenith with the Mercedes-Benz 560SL, sold in the United States, Canada, Japan, and Australia only.
‘The Mercedes-Benz 560SL was the top-of-the-line variant for this Mercedes-Benz R107SL-Class. Introduced in 1986, the 560SL was powered by a 5.5L V8 engine which was paired to manual and automatic transmissions. The larger displacement was meant to compensate for the reduced output of the 500 SL 5.0-liter engine due to the stricter emission laws in the markets where it was sold. Production of the 560SL lasted until 1989, when the model series was discontinued.
‘The larger displacement was meant to compensate for the reduced output of the 500 SL 5.0-liter engine due to the stricter emission laws in the markets where it was sold. Production of the 560SL lasted until 1989, when the model series was discontinued.
‘At the moment at Beverly Hills Car Club we have just such a Sport-Leicht, a low-mileage 1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SL featured with 2 tops and 26,416 miles on the odometer. This classic car is available in its factory color code #147 Arctic White with a blue interior.
1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SL rear view
‘The R107 comes with a clean Carfax and is equipped with an automatic transmission, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, power steering, 4-wheel disc brakes, and spare tire. It is a beautiful and well-taken care of 560SL and mechanically sound.
‘The mid to late 1980s was a tricky time for the automobile. New regulations in many markets could seem almost punitive. Even the luxury car market was not immune to the effects. In an effort to overcome this newly restrictive era in automotive history, Mercedes-Benz specifically expanded its line of SL-Class cars for the American market. The result was the 5.6-liter V8-powered 560SL.
1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SL interior
‘Since its 1986 introduction, the 560SL has been considered an archetypal vehicle among enthusiasts right up to the present day. Its understated elegance, combined with the then most powerful V8 option for the SL-Class, made it one of the most commercially successful Mercedes vehicles up to that point.
‘The most desirable of the four-year model was its final year, the one we have at Beverly Hills Car Club. In 1989, although with less than 6,000 examples produced, the 560SL stood for the best that Mercedes-Benz had to offer and for many aficionados, this is a sentiment that still rings true today.
‘And, by the way, that even more arcane sobriquet? The R107? The ‘R’ simply stands for Roadster – another way of saying Grand Touring, of course, but sounding even more throaty. In one form or another the R107 SL Roadster was produced from spring 1971 through to August 1989, the longest production run of any Mercedes vehicle.
‘The initial intention of the arrival of the R107 SL had been to replace the hugely successful – and very beautiful – SL Pagoda, which had launched in March 1963 and ended in March 1971, with 48,912 units produced.
‘The R107 SL took the chassis components of the mid size W114 saloon and mated them to V8 engines derived from that in the W111 280SE 3.5, the result a chassis with double-wishbone front suspension and a semi-trailing arm rear axle, plus recirculating ball steering – and a lot of power.
1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SL engine
‘It’s common knowledge that those super-strong A pillars, were beefy enough to take the weight of the car in a roll. What’s less commonly known is that they were designed with computer assistance. They were also half as strong again as the Pagoda SL’s.
‘A common belief is that the decision to fit a V8 engine was taken purely to appeal to the American market. While it’s certainly true that eight-cylinders sell better in the USA, there was more to it than that. The march of Mercedes-Benz safety innovation led to a new frontal impact crumple zone for the R107. If engineers had simply fitted an enlarged six-cylinder engine, its overall length would have compromised this pivotal safety measure.
‘Would this have mattered to one of the 560SL’s most celebrated owners, however? Very probably, as a matter of fact: for Madonna – for it is she – is a highly intelligent and achieved woman in touch with herself and the universe.And therefore, one believes, the entire notion of pivotal safety measures…
‘You could bet your Mercedes-Benz 560SL on it!
-Alex Manos, Owner
1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SL Buyer Alex Manos

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