The evolution of the Mercedes convertible
Nowadays, the Mercedes convertible are seen as icons. The extensive history of these models rightfully gives it this classification. With a 2020 model SL class convertible rumored to be revealed soon, let’s take a look at the past to see where it all started.
The first SL class convertible was based on the 300 SL from 1954. SL stands for Super Leicht (super light in English). The car was designed to be fast and light, and for the time considered a real supercar. In 1957 the roadster version of the 300SL was announced. It was available with either a removable hardtop or soft top. One noticeable difference from the coupe version was the removal of the infamous Gullwing doors, as these couldn’t be attached to the roof of the convertible.
After the production of this performance focussed car came a more convenient car. The Mercedes W111 went in production in 1960. This was first released as the 220SE and later as the 280SE (as seen in the picture). The 280SE 3.5 was particularly powerful for its time, with 200 hp and a top speed of 210 km/h. Its noticeable shape and front grill make it immediately recognizable.
The success continues
As a successor to the Mercedes 300SL and 190SL, the Merceds W113 230SL was introduced in 1963. It also featured an optional hard or soft top. Originally produced as a 2-door 2-seater car, later the 250SL and 280SL also introduced a 4 seat variant of the car. The car proved to be a major success in the USA. It was praised for its power while also being much more affordable compared to the 300SL.
In 1971 Mercedes started building another successor in the SL series, starting with the SLC and later being extended by multiple SL vehicles. While sharing the name with the previous SL models, it was more of a replacement for the old SE models (namely the 280SE). The SLC also holds a successful history in rally racing. Specifically for this, Mercedes built the 450SLC 5.0. The SLC was built until 1981, with the SL models being built all the way up to 1989.
Moving into the modern era
A leap forward in time brings us to 1995. This is the year that Mercedes introduced the very rare SL73 AMG convertible. It featured a 7.3 litre V12 engine, the most powerful in any Mercedes at that time. Later, even Pagani used the engine to power the Pagani Zonda with. Some variants of the SL73, like the SL60 and SL55 were also in production up until 2001. Not many were made, actually less han 300 within the timeframe. This shows how rare the car is, and nowadays it’s a true collector’s item.
In 2004 Mercedes developed the Mercedes McLaren SLR in cooperation with the British sportscar manufacturer McLaren. It was first released as a closed top car, but in 2007 the SLR Roadster was introduced with a soft top convertible roof. In 2009 the roadster edition of the rarer, more powerful SLR 722 went into production. The SLR is heavily inspired by Mercedes past and F1 racing. This is especially apparent by the release of the Limited SLR Stirling Moss, which was a homage to the legendary F1 driver with that name.
After the success of the SLR, Mercedes started selling the SLS AMG in 2010. The year after that the roadster version with convertible roof was revealed. It was announced as the most powerful naturally aspirated car ever to be allowed on the road. The original model had 563 hp and could reach a top speed of 315km/h. It reached 0-100km/h in under 3.8 seconds. The car was loaded with technical features, both to increase performance and safety. At the time of its release and even now it can be considered a true supercar.
Looking at the present and future
Currently, Mercedes sells the successor to the SLS, called the AMG GT. This car was revealed in 2014 and showed big improvements over the previous SLS. A roadster didn’t show up until 2016, with production and sales starting in 2017. The AMG GT is currently Mercedes’ fastest road legal car in production, with models like the AMG GTR giving it even more power. Within a few years we can be sure to see the successor to the AMG GT, and personally I can’t wait to see what it looks like!