Among the most renowned letters in Mercedes history is “SL.” For decades, Mercedes SL (Sport Leicht) vehicles have set the bar for Silver Arrow performance, and SL models are still the foundation for the company’s most awe-inspiring sports cars today. Although the 1985 380 wasn’t the quickest of the kind, there’s no doubt that it carried the flame for rear-drive, open-air, V-8 roadsters when they were few.
The first Mercedes SL sports vehicle, the Gullwing 300 SL, was introduced in 1954. It was given the name Gullwing because of its upward-opening doors, which resembled a bird spreading its wings. The 1985 380 SL was the third generation of the SL-series sports vehicles, which were built from 1972 through 1989 in five iterations. Engine displacements of the SL-series varied from 3 liters in 1954 to 6 liters in 2010.
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The 380SL was introduced in 1980, revamping Mercedes-SL Benz’s convertible series. The 380 was based on the R107 chassis, originally utilized in 1972 by the 350SL, and subsequently by the 450SL. The 380SL, like its predecessors, was a popular model in the US, combining V-8 power, refined elegance, and athletic underpinnings.
The 380 SL was a stylish two-seater convertible that could be ordered with either a soft or hardtop. The 380 SL’s handling around bends was excellent, but it was slow off the line. The 380 SL was bigger and squarer than the preceding SL-Series models from 1963 to 1971, and it may have clung to its style for 17 years too long. It was equipped with 14-inch alloy wheels and four-wheel disc brakes. It competed with BMW’s 6 Series and Jaguar’s XJ. The coupe variant of the 380 SEC was also available. Browse through this style of SL on our website.
The 380 SL had a 172.8-inch wheelbase and a 96.9-inch wheelbase. It had a height of 51.2 inches and a width of 70.5 inches. It had a curb weight of 3,638 pounds without a driver. It had a gasoline tank with a capacity of 19.8 gallons. With a 0.44 coefficient of drag, it was also roughly as aerodynamic as a Hummer H2. The driver’s seat was quite comfortable with 42.2 inches of legroom.
The 380 SL’s 16-valve fuel-injected V-8 engine had a 3.62-inch bore and 2.83-inch stroke and displaced 3,839 cc or 233 cubic inches. It had a 9.0-to-1 compression ratio and produced 155 horsepower at 4,750 rpm and 196 foot-pounds of torque at 2,750 rpm. The 380SL’s 3.8-liter V-8 engine made it 120 pounds lighter than the 450SL.
The 380SL also got a new four-speed automatic gearbox, which improved long-distance travel. The suspension remained completely independent, and four-wheel disc brakes were standard.
The 560SL succeeded the 380SL in 1985. Contrary to popular belief, the power differential between the 450SL and 380SL isn’t as great as the pricing difference suggests. So the Mercedes-Benz 380SL is a great 1980s convertible collectible.
Straightaway acceleration was modest, but performance over long distances was excellent. With the manual gearbox, the 380 SL could accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 9.8 to 10.2 seconds and reach a high speed of 134 mph; automated transmission vehicles could only reach 127 mph. Its SL-Series siblings were equipped with a 5-liter V-8 and had 0-to-62 mph times of less than 7.5 seconds.
Between 1980 and 1985, 53,200 380 SLs were built. With 11,198 units sold in 1983, production peaked, but by 1985, sales had plummeted to 8,144 vehicles. Despite this, the 380 SL was the third-generation model’s second-best seller. Over a nine-year span, 66,300 450 SLs were produced.
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