When summer comes around, convertibles are hard to beat. Being exposed to the elements is something that can’t be replicated, and Mercedes-Benz knows this well. The German marque has been producing them since the 1920s, with its iconic SL-class first introduced in 1954.
The SL series has been one of Mercedes-Benz’s most popular, and a number of cars released with the moniker have taken on iconic status over the years. From the 1950s all the way through to the ‘90s, here a four generations of Mercedes convertibles, spanning over half a century of open-top motoring.
Made between 1955 and 1963, the 190SL (W121) was essentially created as a more affordable, less performance-focussed alternative to the more expensive 300SL Gullwing. While it didn’t share the latter’s high-tech tubular spaceframe, the two cars shared many details, including the same stunning looks, and a fully independent suspension system.
Taking over from the previous generation 300SL and 190SL, the second-gen Mercedes SL (W113) took things in a slightly different, more laid back direction. Aimed more at the American market, the Pagoda (named as such for its distinctive hard top), was less performance focussed and more of a cruiser. That said, it handled very well for its time thanks to its light weight and wide chassis.
One of the longest running chassis series Mercedes ever produced, the third-gen SL (R107) replaced the Pagoda in 1972. Boasting a design ahead of its time, and one that would somehow still look relevant all the way up until the end of its production run in 1989, the R107 came in a wide range of engine sizes and configurations. This one, a 300SL, boasts a 3.0-litre straight six and 185bhp, making it perfectly quick even by today’s standards.
With the fourth generation SL, there’s no denying much of the charm and elegance of previous models is lost. The R129 was far larger, in more ways than one, than previous models. It took on a more luxurious direction, with smooth body panels, swathes of leather and large wheels befitting of premium cars of the ‘90s. This particular model, the SL60 AMG, is very rare, boasting a 6.0-litre V8 and 375bhp, propelling it to a top speed of 185mph, a far cry from the original SL.
For more on Mercedes convertibles, check out this 1957 300SL.
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