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Mercedes-Benz R107

Mercedes-Benz R107 Published: 6th Feb 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mercedes-Benz R107
Mercedes-Benz R107
Mercedes-Benz R107
Mercedes-Benz R107
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The SL that mixes prestige with pragmatism and practicality, it’s a classic that you can justify with your head as much as your heart

Made how a Mercedes-Benz used to be and still should be, they are almost unbreakable if looked after. So if you after a high quality cultured GT that’s safe, solid and can even be used as a daily driver, then few cars tick all the boxes quite like the cultured Mercedes R107 SL.

What makes them so special

The name SL may be short for Sport Light, but this is another old generation Mercedes that’s better suited to touring than playing sports cars. Softly sprung and equipped with an antiquated steering box, the handling is typically 1970s that hardly improved over the decades but as a GT few can match this majestic Merc. Performance isn’t at all bad for such a heavyweight to be fair with the V8s matching most GTis for pace, particularly the 420, 500 and 560s ifnot economy when used in such a manner.

The vast majority come as autos as only a select line up of manuals, four-and five-speed, were available. But manual Mercs of that era aren’t favoured (despite a conventional handbrake) and this SL is always best as an easy going automatic. As one road test remarked:

“If you’re being polite about this Mercedes SL, you’d call it a traditional car; it feels like an old one… but doesn’t make it a bad one.” We heartily agree.

Right choice

While the 280SL is absolutely fine for gentle cruising, the 380 and 500SL V8s come far more recommended, not least because the added grunt improves the car’s performance and character but not at the cost of economy although the post (six-cylinder) 1985 300SL is a good compromise, as are later 420SLs. Don’t overlook the coupé SLC that’s a stretched and proper 2+2 and still undercuts SL prices.

Affordability

Prices can be all over the place but there’s a world of difference in their values. Most SL specialists now say that £25,000 is the benchmark for a remotely decent, rust free example and you can double this for the best V8s while unearthing the truly great cars will require a budget nudging six figures. A big jump – but as The SL Shop once told us, “If you buy a tired SL it’ll probably still be reliable and okay to drive. But buy one that’s properly sorted, with smooth gearshifts, taut suspension, precise steering and strong brakes and you’ll get the genuine R107 experience. All those small differences add up, so while an average SL is a nice car, a top-calibre example is on another planet”. Left-hand drive doesn’t seem to effect a car’s worth as long as it’s to European spec, but US spec, with their ugly big bumpers and emissions-strangled engines, are worth less than equivalent UK cars.

Significant dates

Launched in 1971 to replace the wonderful Pagoda, few realised that this SL would become Mercedes’ longest-lived model ever, lasting a whopping 18 years. Initially there was just a 3.5-litre V8, although American buyers got a 4.5-litre V8, but both models were badged 350SL. However, from 1973 European buyers were also able to buy that larger engine in the 450SL. Come 1977, the 450SLC 5.0 was launched;this is a stretched 2+2 SL fixedhead coupé. 1980 brought a range of tweaks, the most significant was the arrival of the 380SL and 500SL, with the all-alloy V8 that featured in the SLC. A further facelift in 1986 brought a front airdam for all models and a new six-cylinder model, the 300SL. The mid-range car was now the 420SL while for US buyers there was a 560SL available. The range is finally replaced after a run covering two decades by the svelte and sophisticated R129.

Don’t get caught out…

  • Best buy from a SL specialist and drive a few to set a datum.
  • With 237,287 made there’s enough around but avoid ‘pimped-up’ cars or those lacking a good history.
  • Make sure the hard top is supplied and fit it to ensure the colour match is decent – also check its condition.
  • Rust is a major issue. Cars built after ’76 benefited from improved rustproofing while those made after 1980 featured wax injection. From 1986 wheelarch liners were fitted and the bodyshell was galvanised.
  • Biggest worry are the bulkheads; air intakes at the base of the windscreen, get clogged, leading to corrosion. Repairs are tricky, which is why cars are bodged; to do the work properly will easily cost £1500+.
  • Jacking points let go and on pre-1980 cars take a look at the subframe, which rots badly.
  • The valve stem seals need to be replaced every 75,000 miles or so. On V8s, also expect to have to fit a new set of tappets by this time.
  • Six-cylinder engines were all-alloy, and as a result can corrode internally if anti-freeze levels and strength aren’t maintained.
  • Gearboxes rarely worry, but because of the 5-litre’s torque, they wear faster. Pre-’75 autos more likely to give trouble as they featured a fluid flywheel.


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