By Laurent Pennequin

I’m going to tell you about a rare and little-known version of the Mercedes-Benz R107 SL, the 560SL. This model was reserved for the North American, Japanese and Australian markets and was not sold in Europe.


The 560SL was the final version of the R107 series. It made its début in September 1985, when the model was given a facelift for the 1986 model year. The 560SL, which went by the name 107.048, was equipped with the M117E56 engine from the 126 series, but was of the specific type 117.967. It was, of course, fitted with a catalytic converter. It developed 230bhp ECE – 170kW/227bhp SAE net – in the United States, Canada and Japan, but 238bhp (175kW) in Australia. This was less than the 5.6-litre V8 in the W126, which produced 242bhp (178kW) with a catalytic converter. Nor was the 560SL the most powerful R107 model. That privilege was reserved for the 500SL without a catalytic converter, sold between 1985 and 1989, which developed 245bhp (180kW) from its 117.964 engine.

In the Japanese and Australian markets, the 560SL had the same external appearance as the European 500SL, including the black boot lid spoiler. In both these countries, traffic drives on the left. While the Australian 560SL came in right-hand drive, this was not the case for the Japanese version, which had left-hand drive, the height of elegance in that country.

From the MB 560SL catalogue in Japan

Mercedes SL 560SL R107

Press photo of the 560SL from MB USA

Mercedes SL 560SL R107

In the North American and Canadian markets, the 560SL had to meet the specific legislation in those countries. It was therefore fitted with dual round headlamps, side marker lights (orange at the front and red at the rear) and orange front indicators located below the bumper. It lost the boot lid spoiler, but gained a third central brakelight, which was a legal requirement in North America from the 1986 model year onwards. Lastly, it inherited the heavy, energy-absorbing bumpers which had been fitted to the R107 SL in North America since the 1974 model year. The bumpers were slightly restyled for the facelift, which reduced the length of the American version of the 560SL to 180.3in, vs. 182.3in for the 450SL and 380SL. By way of comparison, the R107 SL with European bumpers measured 172.8in.

The 560SL was the third most produced version of the R107, with 49,347 cars built, behind the 450SL (66,928 cars) and the 380SL (53,200 cars). It should be noted that these were the three models available in the USA. The US market took 156,441 of the 237,287 R107 SLs built, or 65.9% of the total.

One fifth of the R107 SLs produced were therefore 560SLs. Seen in this light, the model is much less rare. Here are the production figures for the model by year. Of the 49,347 560SLs built, 46,263 were supplied to the United States. The remaining 3084 cars were divided up among Australia, Canada and Japan.

From the MB 560SL catalogue in Japan

Mercedes SL 560SL R107
Year 560SL production
1985 3907
1986 13,788
1987 14,770
1988 11,531
1989 5351
TOTAL 49,347

Two-door two-seat roadster with hardtop – type 107.048

All-steel unitary body with subframes – aluminium bonnet

All-round independent suspension with wishbones and coil springs – front and rear anti-roll bars – anti-squat device at rear

L 180.3in x W 70.5in x H 51.2in – wheelbase 96.7in – Weight 3704lb

Light-alloy engine – code M117E56 – type 117.967KE – 90° V8 with chain-driven SOHC per bank – valves with hydraulic lifters – crankshaft with five main bearings

5547cc 227bhp SAE at 4750rpm – 380Nm at 3250rpm – Compression ratio 9:1 – Max. engine speed 6000rpm

Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection – Minimum 91 octane unleaded fuel – Catalytic converter – Oil cooler

Engine oil 14.1 pints (Imp)/8.5 quarts (US); Coolant 22.9 pints (Imp)/13.7 quarts (US); Battery 12V 92Ah; Alternator 980W

Rear-wheel drive – 4-speed automatic transmission – limited-slip differential

Recirculating ball steering with power assistance – Braking: ventilated discs at front and rear; servo assistance; ABS

Fuel tank capacity: 18.7gal (Imp)/22.5gal (US)

Tyres: 205/65VR15 – 7J wheels

Top speed:139mph – Acceleration 0–62mph: 7.7sec

Average fuel consumption (EPA standard): 18.5mpg (Imp)/15.4mpg (US)

Standard equipment (all model years):

  • Technical equipment:
    • Anti-lock braking (ABS);
    • SRS driver’s airbag;
    • Cruise control;
  • Exterior:
    • 15In alloy wheels (chrome finish as an accessory);
    • Electrical aerial;
    • Long-range driving lamps and foglamps with halogen bulbs;
    • Tinted glass;
    • Third central brakelight (two versions, the first for the 1986-1987 model years, the second for the 1988-1989 model years);
  • Interior:
    • Leather interior (seats and steering wheel);
    • Alarm;
    • Door and centre armrests;
    • Central locking;
    • Front courtesy light with delayed switch-off;
    • Two-speed windscreen wipers with intermittent wipe facility;
    • Heated rear window (with hardtop);
    • Electric front windows;
    • Becker AM/FM radio with cassette player;
    • First-aid kit (on the right, behind the passenger seat);
    • Oddments tray in front;
    • Economy gauge;
    • Oil pressure gauge;
    • Front seats with head rests and manual adjustment (electric adjustment, lumbar support and heated seats optional);
    • Automatic climate control
    • Heated door mirrors with manual adjustment from inside car on driver’s side and electric adjustment on passenger side;
    • Outside temperature gauge (with dial display);
    • Grab handles (with hardtop);
    • Three-point seat belts with pre-tensioners;
    • Analogue clock;
    • Velour carpet in front footwells, behind the seats and in the boot;
    • Illuminated vanity mirrors for driver and passenger;
    • Warning lights for bulb failure, front brake pad wear, low engine oil level, low coolant level, low screenwash level, ABS and SRS.