As seen by a member of the Baby Boom generation, no sports car satisfied the needs of the status-seeking individual more than the R107 Chassis Mercedes. This car's production run was from 1971 through 1989. During this period, the basic formula to make this car desirable did not change: the hood, grille, fenders, doors, deck lid, headlights, taillights, seat, and body trim from a 1971 model were the same as on a 1989 model.
The basic formula of great styling, V-8 engine (U. S. market), independent suspension, automatic transmission, removable hardtop, and mechanical soft top did not change. None of the components that went into the car and into subsequent models were designed specifically for the 107 chassis. The parts that went into the 107 chassis all came from earlier model Mercedes.
The first model planned to be marketed in the U. S. was the 350SL. However, because of U. S. emission constraints on the 3.5 engine, it was replaced by the 4.5 litre engine. 1972 and 1973 models were basically the same: V-8's with electronic fuel injection coupled with a 3-speed automatic transmission that would power this stylish gentleman's luxury sports car. (The phrase sports car was meant to be used in the styling sense, rather than pertaining to performance.)
The interior of these models was designed ergonomically in the true Teutonic fashion, with electric windows (in most cases), manual climate control, comfortable adjustable seating, topped off with the well designed, no nonsense, easy to use convertible top. Of course, this U. S. version would come with an additional "hard top" for winter use. However, many owners in the Southern climates would only occasionally, if ever, use the hard top.
The 1974 model was basically the same as its predecessors, except for a couple of "improvements." Actually, these were not improvements, but modifications resulting from Big Brother mandating changes. The first and most obvious was the legislation requiring that bumpers withstand a 5 mph collision without damage. The sleek and elegantly profiled bumper was replaced with an obnoxious, gaudy, and heavy device which featured two large shocks and protruding rubber bumper ends. Of course the rest of the world did not suffer from this styling fiasco. The other major change resulted from the growth of pollution in California. Mercedes had to meet the EPA restrictions in all 50 states (including California) so the resulting emissions had to meet the California requirements. This resulted in Mercedes adding catalytic converters to their cars. The result for the SL was that the catalyst was placed under the exhaust manifold. The increased heat from these ill-conceived devices played havoc with engine management and run-ability. This engineering concept continued until 1977, when the catalysts were moved from underneath the car to about where the driver's position is.
The next major change occurred in 1976 with the implementation of the CIS (continuous injection system). This fuel delivery system was more reliable and continued in modified forms through 1989.
In 1978, there were no mechanical or styling changes, but a new climate control system was introduced. This system was "borrowed" from Chrysler and was problematic to say the least.
The last year of the 450SL was 1980, and this is a model to avoid because of extra emission requirements and the continuation of the Chrysler AC system.
The 380SL was made from 1981 - 1985. In the years 1981 - 1983, MB engineers installed a single row timing chain, which MBNA agreed to change as warranty. In 1982 a much better and more reliable climate control system was added and remained unchanged through 1989.