Mercedes W107107 Good Reasons Published: 12th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!
- Best model: 350
- Worst model: Anything tatty
- Budget buy: 280
- OK for unleaded?: Yes
- Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L 4380x W 1790
- Spares situation: Good
- DIY ease?: Generally good
- Club support: Strong
- Appreciating asset?: Yes, rising by the week
- Good buy or good-bye?: A great cultured classic
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The Mercedes W107 is one of the best classical sportsters around, so it’s not surprising that SL prices are soaring
Pros & Cons
Think Merc SL and chances are you’ll conjour up of the 1960s Pagoda roof model, or perhaps the earlier ground-breaking Gullwing 300SL. But by far the best value of the strain is the W107 series, built from 1971- 89. It’s one of those understated, timeless pieces of automotive design that has quietly got on with being a top notch classic without any fuss or fanfare. These days, the W107 has stepped out of the shadows of the Pagoda and morphed into a real classic Mercedes in its own right. It has already found a niche in the market and spawned a growing number of specialist dealers. Naturally values are on the rise, so now is the best time to buy a good one.
Coupe SLC roomier, rarer and cheaper
Launched in 1971, the new Mercedes SL sat on a 97-inch wheel-base fl oor pan featuring S Class suspension and a variety of six-cylinder and V8 engines. The square-cut body still looks good to this day and was sold in drophead convertible guise (which was always offered with a factory hardtop) or as a longer, heavier (to the tune of 110lb) fi xedhead 2+2 coupe known as the SLC. Original V8 engines, badged as 350s, were all-iron designs with manually adjusted tappets, although later on hydraulic lifters were used on the unit. The 280-badged cars were powered by a twin-cam 2.8-litre six-cylinder unit with manually adjustable tappets and a reputation for refi nement and durability. Nine years into the car’s life and the 280 mutated in to the single cam 300 SL, featuring a different six. The 350’s hefty i ron uni t had also been cast out in favour of a much lighter and meatier alloy V8 and badged as the 380 or 420. Two different 5.0-litre V8s were also used in the 500 and the 560 – the latter is the rarer, left-hand-drive American spec model with gaudier US styling touches and a welter of unique parts relating to emission control equipment, and so on. In contrast, the 450 SLC was a homologation special, built by Mercedes to boost its success in rallying, where the German fi rm was enjoying strong results. Introduced in 1977, it featured a 5.0-litre alloy V8, good for 240bhp, while alloy body panels trimmed 250lb off the kerb weight. This car became the 500 SLC before the ultimate range was launched in 1980. SLCs weren’t offi cially imported into the UK so most models were left-hand-drive.
Forget that ‘Mercedes Sports’ tag that the W107 gained in the 1970s – these cars are better suited to graceful touring rather than hard driving. Handling is tidy if antiquated these days with that big low-set steering wheel – but that’s just part of the considerable charm. That said, this heavyweight doesn’t disgrace itself, and straight line speed is still respectable.Expect just under 190bhp from the smaller six-cylinders and up to 240bhp from the V8s. Normal driving will coax around 21-22mpg from either engine, but this can seriously dip to the mid-teens on hard driven V8s. A 280 will now match your average repmobile from a standing sart, while the V8s offer GTi-like pace, particularly the 420, 500 and 560s. While four and fi ve-speed manuals were available, the automatic transmission suits the touring characteristics of the car much better – which is no surprise for a Merc – and the ride is fi rm but a tad fl oaty. Trim levels are typically Teutonic and almost stark in today’s terms, but what it lacks in style the Mercedes makes up for in sheer stamina and sensibility. Despite their size, the SL and the SLC (wheelbase lengthened by 14inches) are really two-seaters and acceptable 2+2s respectively, but luggage space is generous on all. Incidentally, optional rear seats were available on the SL but even toddlers will complain about the lack of space in the back! Compared to a rival Triumph Stag, the Merc feels tougher and better engineered but the Stag is roomier and perhaps the more distinctive. The Triumph had already established itself – mostly for all the wrong reasons – by the time the SL arrived in the UK. Autocar’s test of the V8 350 Merc concluded that it was more touring than sporting but praised the handling “The tendency to tail swing and transition to oversteer which used to be experienced with previous SLs, has been eliminated.” 200bhp ensured that the car hit 60mph in under ten seconds and, at the time, import duties hiked up the price of foreign cars, so at £5457 this SL was much dearer than a £2979 E-type, a few hundred more than a Jensen Interceptor (£5874) and just under £500 more could have secured the well heeled buyer an Aston DBS6.
The SL is starting to ascend in value and the days of grabbing a bargain are fast diminishing. Decent cars cost around £9000 with mint examples commanding £18-25,000 plus depending upon spec and condition, although many specialists reckon this is just a guide and cars nudging £30,000 will become more common. Many believe that the SLC is set to become particularly collectable, because it has more rear room than the SL and is more exclusive. They can be cheaper than their roofl ess relations as well. Reckon on paying around £6500 for a fair SLC and perhaps double this for a peach. Left-hand-drive SLs used to be common and had a cheapskate stigma about them, but poor exchange rates have put a stop to this so the days of a bargain SL are over. In fact, left hookers may well begin to exceed right-hand-drive values.
The difficulty is improving this SL without spoiling it. For example, if the dampers have t i r e d o u t t h e n replacements are a logical solution yet some reckon Koni replacements don’t work half as well on this Merc as they do on other makes. Likewise, the brakes can be spoiled by aftermarket pads and discs as opposed to Mercedes spec ones. The best fi rst steps are to ensure that the car is in good condition – it’s surprising how much a transformation this can bring, especially if the steering is adjusted correctly and the wheel alignment is spot on – many Sls are slightly out of sync if aftermarket rims are fi tted. With all engines, an uprated radiator can relive the tension of a hot traffi c jam and prevent you popping a head gasket . Engine tuning parts are available but it’s up to you to decide whether you need any extra power.
What To Look For
- No doubt about it, these Mercs are as tough as old boots and good buys - if you know what to look for. Don’t be swayed by gleaming bodywork, you need to get underneath to check the car out properly.
- Even though it’s now a classic, the SL is still a Mercedes, which means that some level of service history is critical. Good cars will still have a fairly up to date record either from main dealer or independent specialist.
- Many examples are occasional playthings and left to stand, perhaps in dank garages, for lengthy periods. Rot can affl ict unusual and also hard-to-spot places like jacking points, bulkheads as well as the fl oorpan in general.
- Another sign of buying trouble is the number of owners the car has suffered and frequency of changes. Is there an expensive fault lurking that nobody wants to take on?
- First impressions are important. A quality car will look and smell right. Anything over shiny suggests a tart up. Clean alloy wheels are a good sign as are quality tyres – cheap unknown rubber points to penny pinching.
- Rear wheel arches are common rot spots (beware of cars fi tted with those dreadful bling chrome covers), along with the doors and the double-skinned sills. Many cars feature alloy bonnets, which can suffer from electrolytic corrosion where metal and alloy meet. But generally speaking, well maintained cars will last for years and years.
- Check the wings and doors for the usual rot – the fl uted lower fl anks are diffi cult to properly emulate. Rear light clusters can promote leaks and the big chrome bumpers can hold water and rot. Check window rubber surrounds while you’re at and the central locking reservoir (it’s a vacuum set up) which can rot away.
- Another little known corrosion area is at the base of the windscreen where the heater’s air intakes lurk. Blocked drainage holes can cause the footwell to take the brunt and rot the fl oors as a consequence. The proper way to repair this is to remove the wings and dashboard – time and money consuming.
- On really badly maintained cars you may well fi nd chassis rot, especially at the cross member and underneath the headlamps. Also, the steering box mounting to the chassis can corrode but the car will probably be so bad elsewhere that you had already rejected it! Hadn’t you?
- Mechanically SLs are typical old school Mercedes, which means starship mileages with ease as long as it’s been properly serviced along the way. Many aren’t!
- On V8s, when started from cold, a rattle from the nearside rocker box indicates a stretched cam chain and/or tired chain tensioner. Both should be replaced pretty pronto because if the chain lets go it means very expensive valve and piston damage. Exhaust manifolds can seize to the heads, which is unfortunate as their gaskets can let go.
- Six-pot engines aren’t the quietest or smoothest around but go on and on. Excessive tappet noise isn’t unknown and check for weeping cylinder head gaskets. Look for oil smoke on the over-run caused by tired valve stem oil seals on both engine types.
- Watch out for engine oil leaks, as Merc units are known for these. It may well protect the chassis, but any lubricant coating rubber front suspension parts like wishbone bushes can lead to perishing. The big German lumps like to sup the stuff, too, but anything less than 200 miles per pint suggests that something amiss.
- Automatic boxes can last the life of the car if serviced properly. See that the ratios change smoothly and that there’s no shunt in the drivetrain. Check the fl uid level as well as its state: does it look dark and smell burnt? If so then the ‘box is on its way out. Manual ‘boxes are rock solid but clutch replacements are an expensive job.
- The car’s huge steering wheel works old school recirculating ball steering gear and this wears with age. A quality re-con box is £300 or more, and it takes about three hours to fi t. Less dear is a new idler at around £60 but some slop at the wheel can be sucessfully adjusted out by those in the know for a few quid.
- If the hardtop is in place, remove it to examine the hood. Merc replacements are expensive, but there are cheaper proprietary items on the market. Forest Fine Automotive sells quality replacements. Vendors often forget that the fi xed-roof substitute is still hanging up in their garages, and new owners forget to ask about them as well!
- Hood/hard top seals can deteriorate and lead to damp cabins with musty smells. They aren’t dear, though. SL hood seal sets cost £59, hood cover seals cost around £40 and hard top seals are £30. SLC rear screen seals are around £70 for the side items and £45 for rear screen seals. New carpets start from under £400.
- Mercedes supplies spares for obsolete models way after most rivals have forgotten them. Most parts – mechanical or body – are still readily available. However we’re told that certain SLC parts may become scarce sooner rather than later, due to a lack of demand in the market.
- There’s a still good selection of these elegant cars around, so don’t feel pressed to buy the first one that comes along. There are numerous specialists dealing in classics likethis so shop around and don’t be surprised to see some examples turn up on main dealer forecourts either. At the other end of the scale, don’t be tempted by a basket case. Even if cheap, it’s unlikely that you’ll get your money back on the deal. It’s better and cheaper to buy the best car you can for your money.
Three Of A Kind
Triumph StagIt’s now being hailed as the British SL, but that’s only because all the bugbears have been eradicated from the Triumph ‘Snag’. A good one is a delightful tourer and, just like the SL, it’s ideal for sauntering around. Prices are generally trailing the SL and bear in mind that you can also buy a much later German offering. Avoid alien-engined Stags – the smart money now goes on originality.
Jaguar XJ-SThe UK’s only other real alternative to the SL, the XJ-S only became a true convertiblein the 1990s. Previously there was an ungainly-looking SC,which still featured framed doors (although they’re nowquite sought after). It became a much more affordable and useable car once the AJ straight six engines arrived. Values are rising but only on good ones – there’s plenty of trash about.
BMW 3 SeriesThe E30 range had a surprising amount in common with the Merc, chiefl y style, solid feel, usability and good image. There’s a wide choice of engines to suit all pockets – six-cylinders are the best – and they all drive classically too with fun-fi lled rwd handling. A good convertible is worth preserving as we reckon values willfollow SL curves over the coming years.
Classical rather than classic best describes the SL. In many ways it delivers you the best of both worlds – it’s aged enough to be considered collectable yet boasts modern road manners. If you can stomach the fuel bills, they make reliable, fulfi lling daily drivers and all for the price of a new supermini. If anything, SLCs are the best buys of all. These coupés always lived in the shadows of the roadster SL and prices refl ect this – but they’re just as agreeable to drive and own, plus can take a family with ease. If you’re in the market for a 107 SL then snap one up sooner rather than later as they’re not going down in value.
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