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Gallery: the legend of Merc’s SL

  1. Since Mercedes has just given us what’s arguably the sportiest and lightweightiest of its Sport Lightweight (or SL) family, we’re charting the legendary model’s history over its six glorious generations.

    WARNING: contains a dangerously high density of awesome.

  2. Based loosely on MB’s circa-1952 racer, the 300SL was the fastest production car of its day. It got a tubular spaceframe and aluminum bonnet, doors and boot lid. If you had the readies, an all-aluminium panel option was available, which shaved off 80kg.

  3. It looked a lot (but not exactly) like its 3-litre brother, but under the bonnet lurked a gently miserable 1.9-litre four-pot engine. When it first launched, you could buy a special sporty variant with a small perspex windscreen, leather buckets and aluminum doors. It was still pretty slow…

  4. Designed by Paul Bracq - him who penned the French TGV high-speed trains - the W113 model was nicknamed pagoda on account of its detachable hard top. Which looked like a pagoda…

    The six-cylinder engines all had multi-port injection and came in three sizes - 2.3, 2.5 and 2.8-litre. In 1965, MB shoehorned in a 6.3-litre V8 but it was too front heavy, so the project was abandoned and the car was destroyed. Philistines.

  5. This is the second longest series of cars ever produced by Mercedes (the G Wagen wins, unsurprisingly) - its iconic outline lasted 18 years and 237,000 were built.

    In September 1977 MB gave us the 450 SLC 5.0 - a sexed-up version with a 5.0-litre V8, light alloy body panels and a black plastic rear spoiler. Fear it at the lights.

  6. Based on the W124 E-class underneath, the R129 brimmed with tech - electronically controlled damping, automatically extending roll bar, multi-link rear suspension and an electric roof.

    It was also the first SL AMG got its hands on after it was taken over by Daimler-Benz - it built a special SL 73 version, which got the same 7.3-litre V12 that Pagani used in the Zonda. It’d do 60mph in 4.8 seconds and carry on till 186mph. We would like one please.

  7. Launched wearing MB’s old faithful 5.0-litre V8, the R230 eventually fell into AMG’s hands in 2002. It added a bloody great big supercharger and increased displacement to 5.5-litres, which got it from 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds.

    But that wasn’t quite enough. In 2005, AMG fitted a twin-turbo 36-valve V12, which made 738lb ft of torque. SEVEN HUNDRED AND THIRTY EIGHT. Its 0-62mph time was also whittled down to 4.2 seconds.

  8. After five years on the line, the R230 SL got a facelift, which included something Mercedes called POWERDOMES (couple of lumps on the bonnet).

    There was also an SL 65 AMG Black Series built, which Jeremy is rather fond of. Its turbos are 12 per cent larger than the SL 65 AMG and it was 250kg lighter thanks to some nice carbony bits.

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