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Old 10-08-2003, 03:13 AM
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Location: Indianapolis
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Hardtop= better handling

I live in Indiana, and put my hardtop on my 560SL this past weekend because I figured there aren't too many nice days left. I usually drive the car pretty hard, as I have a lead foot that seems to be gaining weight. Anyway, I am always amazed at how much better the car handles with the hard top compared to the soft. Does anyone else notice this?

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Old 10-08-2003, 08:07 AM
KenSilver's Avatar
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Location: New Zealand
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I agree. With my old 350SL which had a heavy top like yours, and even my new '93 SL500, the difference is noticeable.

Wouldn't go as far to say it's better handling, but I think the weight of the tops certainly gives better stability, and possibly helps with the body rigidity too.

Ken Silver
~1993 SL500, glistening green-black on black leather, xenons, no headlight wipers (from choice).
~1991 Daimler, shiny grey on grey leather, best in country!
~1992 Miata MX5, sparkling BRG on tan leather, wife's (but my polishing)
ex 350SL, 230E, 280E (and a lot of other makes not nearly as nice)
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Old 10-08-2003, 08:10 AM
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Location: South East England
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Yep, only I noticed it the other way around. I bought my car in April this year when it still had the hard top fitted. When I test drove it I was impressed by the solidity and lack of rattles and shakes for a twenty year old car and a thirty year old design.

When I removed the hard top it was like driving a different car. There definitely seemed to be more scuttle shake and flex in the shell. I've got used to it over the summer. I'm just about to refit the hardtop for the winter. It'll be interesting to note how much different the car feels again.

1983 380SL
1991 BMW 735iSE
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Old 10-08-2003, 11:45 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Kingsburg, Ca.
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Interesting! I just put my hard top back on last night, also figuring that the nice days are numbered. I didn't take it out for a drive though, now I can't wait to take it out on a test drive and see if I can tell the difference as well.
Chris Meyer
1980 450 SL (99k miles)
2003 Honda Odyssey (Family Hauler)
2006 BMW 330i (daily driver)
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Old 10-08-2003, 12:06 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Liberty, Missouri USA
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The body stiffness increase is significant and noticeable when a hardtop is added to any convertible.

Getting the body stiff enough to avoid real bad shake is one of the primary problems when designing and developing a convertible. You will always see significant reinforcements and often add-on braces, and it usually adds up to a LOT of weight. Ever notice the boilerplate underneath the trans on the 107s? Added for stiffness.


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Old 10-08-2003, 12:46 PM
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Location: Deerfield, Illinois
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I have the hard top on now too -- and have noticed the added stiffness and the quiet ride (not only from less shake, but due to the sound insulating properties of the top -- less road noise)

This is part of the joy of these cars -- its really almost like having 3 cars. My favorite, though, is the top down roadster (shakes, rattles and all).

1986 560SL (52.5k miles) sold 11/24/04

1987 560sl (55.6k miles)
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Old 10-08-2003, 11:21 PM
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Location: Grand Rapids, MI
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Just to pile on--I use the hardtop a fair amount but also use the soft top up and down. The hardtop definitely adds rigidity, and is very close to the character of a fully closed car. The soft top up is definitely the creakiest, and I think the noise influences my perception of the ride and handling. Somehow, when the soft top is down and not creaking away, the car seem much more stable and solid, and that's got to be perception more than reality; I don't think the hardtop-on case is purely perceptual.
Craig Bethune

'97 SL500, 40th anniversary edition

'04 Olds Bravada (SWMBO's)
'06 Lexus ES330
'89 560SL (sold)

SL--Anything else is just a Mercedes.
(Kudos to whoever said it first)
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Old 10-09-2003, 01:51 AM
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I think the rigidity has alot more to do with the better handling than the weight difference.
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Old 10-09-2003, 02:43 PM
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Location: Northumberland, UK
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There is definitely a difference between hardtop on and hardtop off. It seems better with the top on. However, I think any improvement will be minor and it is more a question of perception. Maybe the hardtop dampens the scuttle shake somewhat; it must do, surely? But I can't believe it adds significant rigidity. I don't know...
JJ Rodger
1999 SL 500
1993 320 TE
1986 500 SEC
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Old 10-09-2003, 06:58 PM
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Posts: 133
Hmmm, I notice no real difference and don't notice any lack of rigidity or flexibility with the top off on my '91. One of the reasons the SL is so heavy was all of the effort put into making the car solid with the top off. Most magazines consider the SL the tightest convertible and the prototype for convertibles.

Quieter, no question, which may make the car seem tighter.

Just can't see the ht making such a obvious improvement....a minor amount I can see.
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Old 10-10-2003, 02:22 AM
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I actually feel that my '91 handles better without the hard top. I always thought it was because the weight of the top, carried so high, negatively affected the cars CG. I sure like the look of the hardtop, though.
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Old 10-12-2003, 01:06 AM
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Location: Liberty, Missouri USA
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I can't speak to the feel of the newer cars, but the ride and handling of the 107 is very noticeably improved by the hardtop. The top also has a reasonably solid attachment to the structure of the vehicle - how do the newer models' hardtops attach?

Structural stiffness of convertibles is laughable compared to sedans/coupes - as I mentioned, the main problem is shake, noticeable when you hit a pothole, etc. Clever (and expensive) tuning can cover a lot if sins, tho.

That being said, one of the reasons we all enjoy our MBs is because they are so stiff! Structural integrity can be felt by everyone...

...if only there was a bit more headroom in the hardtop...


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Old 10-12-2003, 11:09 AM
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Location: Chicago Il.
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Thumbs up Hardtop

I had said this once and I could not get allot of people to see it my way but...there really is a difference in a 107 going around a tight corner with the top on it adds some stability somehow... you get less "wheel skip" and over and under steer changes... I said this once and some people thought i was nuts. I am glad someone else can feel the difference. Might be that I am not the only leadfoot gaining weight around here!
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I love low mileage cars!
1972 350SL 23,000 miles
Now 1969 280SL
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