The Iconic Mercedes-Benz SL & SLC

These are two of the most admired cars in the world……….

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Mercedes-Benz released two iconic models in the early seventies. These cars were seen driven by stars, Doctors , Lawyers, Executives, and professionals all over the world. They were symbols of exclusivity, immediately identified by their uniquely robust styling. These two cars had quite a cult following then, and now they are sought after collectibles. The Mercedes-Benz SL roadster & the Mercedes-Benz SLC coupe were the consummate status symbols. With engine and cosmetic variants, they adapted to any country in the world. The SL roadster and the SLC coupe were the second longest running production model in Mercedes-Benz history. These automobiles are as luxurious as they are sporting in a refined manner that only Mercedes-Benz could present.

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They were sold as R107 for the SL roadster and C107 for the SLC coupe and manufactured from 1971 through 1989. They are considered one of the best looking designs from Mercedes-Benz to date. The SL variant is a two-seat roadster with standard soft top and hardtop with optional folding seats for the rear bench. The SLC derivative is a two-door hardtop coupe with regular rear seats and a longer wheelbase than the SL roadster. The SLC in reality was the S-Class coupe. With the exception of the SL65 AMG Black series, the SLC remains the only fixed-roof Mercedes-Benz coupe based on a roadster rather than a saloon. 

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The SL roadster’s production ran from 1971 through 1989. The SLC was replaced earlier than the SL in 1981 replaced by the Mercedes-Benz 380 SEC which was based upon the S-Class W116. Production began April 1971 for the SL R107 and the SLC C107 in October of 1971. Sales in North America began in 1972. A variety of engines powered these luxury sport cars:  a 2.8L in-line six (SL, SLC), a 3.0L (SL); and in the V8 engine series a 3.5L (SL, SLC), a 3.8L (SL, SLC), a 4.2L (SL), a 4.5L (SL, SLC), a 5.0L (SL, SLC), and a 5.6L (SL). All used mechanical fuel injection systems.

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Nomenclature on the deck lids identified model designations named as 280 SL, 280 SLC, 300 SL for the six cylinder and as the V8 350 SL & 350 SLC, 380 SL & 380 SLC, 420 SL, 450 SL & 450 SLC (the 450 SL & 450 SLC are featured in all of the photos in the following gallery), 500 SL & 500 SLC, and the 560 SL. As for the transmissions: 3-speed automatic (350/450 SL/SLC), a 4-speed automatic (280/350/380/420/500/560 SL & SLC), a 4-speed manual (280/350 SL/SLC), and a 5-speed manual (280/300 SL/SLC). All US models used the 4.5 litre V8 and were designated 450 SL & 450 SLC respectively. The early 350 series wore the 350 SL & 350 SLC badges but were fitted with the low compression 4.5 litre. They both were renamed for 1973 as 450 SL & 450 SLC.

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These two had issues, some model years worse than others. I couldn’t believe how many SL & SLC models were in junkyards all over until I went on a scavenger hunt for parts. These two, as powerful and luxuriously-sporting as they be were expensive to maintain. Rust was a HUGE problem with both. Corrosion in key areas of their undercarriage ate away at key mounting points rendering the vehicles inoperable for safety. The 4.5 litre V8 DRANK petrol, but back then, no one cared because it was cheap, but, these cars were so powerful and fast that they could pass anything….except a refueling station.

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 The 1975-1976 SL had problems with vapor lock and hard restarts because Mercedes-Benz mounted the catalytic converters under the hood. Starting in 1977 the catalytic converter was moved under the car replacing the resonator located just behind the transmission. Another problem for late 450 SL’s and 380 SL’s was the automatic climate control system’s servo was unreliable. This affected 450 SL’s made from 1978 through 1980 when production ceased, and the 1981 model year for the 380 SL. The 380 SL imported from 1981-1983 had a single row timing chain. The 1984 & 1985 model years had a double row timing chain from the factory. The early 380 models were prone to chain failure which Mercedes-Benz replaced at no cost to the owner. The powerful 500 SL with its 5.0 litre engine made from 1980-1989 was not available in the US through Mercedes-Benz dealers but was a popular “gray-market” import before the 560 SL made its way here.

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It was the beauty of the SL roadster and the SLC coupe that won the hearts of sports car fanatics around the world. These automobiles were symbols of power and prestige. They were always a perennial favorite immediately identified at any gathering of fine automobiles. The sporty two-seat Mercedes-Benz SL roadster and the sophisticated two-door Mercedes-Benz SLC coupe are rare enough to make them highly collectible, but the cost to restore and maintain them isn’t pretty…..

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