Only a few automakers are capable of truly combining elegance and power in cars. Mercedes-Benz, when it created its SL Series in 1954 to address long driving needs, was able to manufacture a vehicle two and a half decades later that was lavish and powerful enough that it equally competed with the Jaguar and the BMW 6 Series. Five years was all that the Mercedes-Benz 380SL had, but it definitely ushered the German automaker toward creating cars that were safer, more potent, and more stylish.
1980 – 1982: Being elegant in being square
Labeled as the fourth generation of the Mercedes-Benz SL Series, the 380SL was a sport lightweight vehicle that could tear through a 100-meter distance at approximately nine seconds. With its conventional, watercooled engine that could produce 218-horsepower and 224-pound-feet of torque, it was even able to surpass its nine-second record by 0.8 seconds. Easy handling was provided by the independent front and rear suspension, which had a double wishbone configuration and a diagonal pivot swing axle. It had a 4-speed automatic transmission, and the model had an overall top speed of 127-mph. A vehicle this powerful needed to appropriately look great, which was the reason why it was a convertible with doors that could open upwards like a bird. The styling was elegant and just right for drivers who wanted to look cool on the road whether with the soft top or hard top on.
1983 – 1985: Adding more power and ensuring safety
During this three-year duration, the evolution of the 380SL focused on performance and safety. The vehicles were equipped with the first electronic type of antilock braking system available in America. Also, the engine was made all aluminum and had a displacement capacity of 3.8 liters; this V8 was rated at 155-horsepower, a downgrading that resulted to the models losing some of their appeal to enthusiasts. Despite this power reduction, the units had driver-side front airbags for added security. The units could still assault curves with surprising sharpness, which was a good sign of performance despite their squarer look.
Through the five years of the reign of the 380SL, some of its greatness was never lost. It was equipped with 14-inch alloy wheels and four-wheel disc brakes, and the model still had a reputable size: a 96.9-inch wheelbase, a length of 172.8 inches, a height of 51.2 inches, and a width of 70.5 inches. The 19.8 gallons of fuel tank capacity was big enough to drive for several miles, which was what the model was originally made for.