By on June 4, 2012

The Mercedes-Benz R107/C107 is one of those cars that tends to be valued according to a binary system: a near-perfect example sells for a healthy five-figure sum, while one that’s even slightly beat is worth about as much as an ’86 Nissan Sentra with an alarming rod knock and a glovebox full of used syringes. That means that examples of Mercedes-Benz’s SL-Class machine of the 1970s and 1980s are not at all uncommon in self-service wrecking yards.
At the same time, most car freaks who never set foot in wrecking yards just can’t believe that you can get running 107s for pretty close to scrap value. The outcry of “that ain’t no $500 car!” that I heard when Rally Baby Racing‘s 1975 450SL showed up to to the Real Hoopties of New Jersey 24 Hours of LeMons was just deafening. Rally Baby applied the large economy size bucket of Bondo to their car, than shot a looks-great-from-100-feet coat of silver paint onto it while in a dirt field at New Jersey Motorsports Park on the night before the race. Bugs in the paint and all, this (street-registered) race car looks so good that I’ve been trying to buy it ever since.
Most of the junkyard R107s I’ve seen have been the 80s-coke-dealer-motor-pool 560SL, and they’re much more common in California yards than here in Denver. Still, I know that if Rally Baby Racing ever retires their race car and sells it to me (or if I build one myself) I’ll have no problem finding parts.
It’s hard to beat a red leather interior if you want to be King of the Malaise Era.
From the finger-bustingly cramped engine compartment stuffed full of 4.5 liters of overhead-cam V8 to the bewildering electrical system to the über-upscale interior pieces, these cars are challenging for the backyard mechanic and utter nightmares to restore if you want a really nice one.
They’re also shockingly heavy for their size and not particularly quick; the ’78 450SLC had 180 horsepower to move 3,715 pounds.
What was the original price tag on this totally-used-up Benz? $27,090, or about $95,500 in 2012 dollars.

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47 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC...”


  • avatar
    Gannet

    Lo, how the mighty have fallen.

    ‘Tis a shame, those are great cars.

    But they rust like all the rest. R.I.P.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Well well, even the best wind up here, don’t they? It USED to be a great car. Should have been red, though.

  • avatar

    Not quick, but they handle VERY well right up to, and beyond the limit. I’ve enjoyed some track time in an R107, and while it will never provide a podium finish it did provide laps and laps of smiles as it gracefully oversteered through every corner.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    my neighbor has one of those for sale. paint’s faded on the hood and the rockers are tinged with rust and she wants $18k. I liked the car, but that’s a lot of green.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Used SL pricing is usually a bit out there because people think they are worth money which they are not, if its a convertible all the more so. The funny thing is when I’ve seen them (and I’m mean the 75K+ plus mileage territory variety) they tend to be priced on par with similar vintage Corvettes. Excluding malaise-era Vettes which is the better buy for your classic car dollars?

      • 0 avatar
        mechimike

        I have a ’86 560SL that I’ve got for sale for 9500. People are nibbling around the edges, and hopefully one will bite, soon. And its a damn near pristine car.

        Also have a 450SL that’s my nice day cruiser. This weekend it got pressed into auto-x duty, and did surprisingly well:

        http://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/my-mercedes-450sl-at-the-corvair-autocross-this-past-saturday/50389/page1/

  • avatar
    skor

    I’m always surprised by people who are surprised to discover that high dollar luxury cars end up in junkyards. I once had an elderly neighbor who needed some small interior parts for his Cadillac. I suggested that he make the trip out to the local U-Pull-It yard. He looked at me as if I had just made some unflattering comments about his dead mother’s virtue and said, “Junkyard? I don’t think you understand. This is a Cadillac.” I replied, “Yeah, you’re probably right, I doubt there are any Cadillacs in the junkyard, the yard owner probably doesn’t want them to contaminate his good junk.”

    With the exception of exotic stuff, everything eventually ends up in the bone yard.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Has too for the circle of life is complete.

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      Actually, it happens to the exotics too. There are a few specialist Rolls-Royce and Bentley salvage yards around, and cars like Ferraris and Porsches usually wind up at a dismantler to be completely dissasembled professionally before the frame gets crushed. No car is immune from the wheel of life and death.

  • avatar
    david42

    I’m a New Englander, and I just came back from a trip to sunny CA. I was blown away by how many R107s are still cruising around. Back home, I’ll cross the street just to take a closer look at one. But out there, they’re as common as Lexuses.

    I didn’t spot any SLC models in CA, though. They’re strange creatures: unless that back seat is truly adult-friendly, I would have a hard time picking one over an SL. I’m sure the roof helps stiffness, but a malaise-y V8 and 3AT suggest that buyers had priorities that didn’t include corner-carving.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    My wife wanted one of these so badly back in the day. Not that we could ever afford one (well, maybe NOW, if I got it from the boneyard), but she loved those things. She would see them at the country club she worked for at the time, and thought they were so much nicer than her B-body Oldsmobile…

    I’d still rather have the Olds back… :)

  • avatar

    As a California resident, these are still background to me. Any parking lot with more than 50 spaces will contain at least one.

    Being all auto-only and powered by unimpressive V8s, they’ve never been of much interest to me…until I saw that race car. Damn you, Murilee.

    Now I’m imagining a glass-packed, gutted, slammed 560sl drop top…god, it would be so easy…

  • avatar
    GS650G

    First comes the romance of it being a Benz and the stored fame of driving one 500K miles. But the reality is repair and replace on these cars adds up so quickly that they are just not worth anything any longer.

    • 0 avatar
      cfclark

      One of my wife’s co-workers fell in love with the idea of having and driving one of these, and bought a 560SL (my have been her idea or her husband’s, not sure) for not too much, as a weekend toy, etc. After about a year, reality set in and it went back on the market. This is in LA, so they were able to get rid of it (after first approaching me–I passed).

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    It always makes me chortle reading BHP figures for malaise era cars. 180 from 4.5 liters? Wow. We’ve come a long way.

    • 0 avatar

      Has a lot to do with them hurting on the high end.

      If you look at the torque curves of a motor from 5 years ago Vs 35 years ago, old iron still makes a lot more from idle->3700rpm. Newer motors make 250hp from 3.0L by revving to 6700rpm. Through the range where most people drive, they’re not much more powerful.

      That said, the new stuff is obviously smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient.

      • 0 avatar
        Sinistermisterman

        I guess so. Both Ford Sierra’s I once owned in the UK had the 2.0 Pinto which was a mid 70′s design. You were only getting just under 100bhp out of that, and as you say, it was in the lower end. You couldn’t really get it to rev much past 5500rpm. Then again, your average Sierra is 1,300 pounds lighter than this barge, so they nearly moved as quickly.

  • avatar
    msquare

    How about 190 from 8.2 liters (500 cubic inches)? That’s what the last Caddy 500 put out in 1976.

    I love the big old V8′s, but what’s the point of them when you can get more power out of a V6 or turbo four a fraction of their size?

    • 0 avatar
      GoesLikeStink

      I had a 76 Caddy I got for a hundred bucks. Was one of the best cars I ever owned. It sure felt like a lot more than 190 HP. That thing would burn rubber no problem. And it weighed so damn much it had to have some serious torqe.

      Now you got me missing my sky blue DeVille

  • avatar
    blowfish

    180 was a lot of power then, now one can get 180 out of a small 4 banger.
    The sad part is going to get more young kids or innocent bystanders killed in a hurry!

  • avatar
    threeer

    Ironic in that I just saw a R107 Sunday morning on my way to chapel. I thought to myself how rare it was to see one actually out on the road (here in North Alabama, no less)…

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    I had a gray market 500SL in the early 1980. Had a lot of engine performance issues due to poor EPA/DOT conversion. I do recall it was built like a brick s**t house in the classic Mercedes way.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I have a 74 450SL and it is a blast to drive. It only makes 220 HP, but has a lot of low end torque. One forgets that domestic V8 smog engines were all low on HP in the mid to late 70s. Even some 350 Corvettes were only 150 HP. This was due to early attempts to reduce smog formation through lower compression and exhaust gas recirculation with carbureators.
    Mercedes was way ahead of the pack in this repect as they used Bosch electronic fuel injection that was a decade ahead of everyone else with the possible exception of BMW. The EFI allowed them to pass Federal smog rultes without EGR or a cat in 74.
    These cars were heavy for their size because the body is heavy duty for safety and comfort. My BILs brother was T boned in a 450SL in the early 70s and he walked away from it. The car that hit him in the drivers side door was totaled, but the 450SL was repaired. Also, you can ride all day in one of these and not feel fatigued due to seat construction and seating position.
    The cast iron engines are heavy, but are very duragle and easily go 300K miles before a major overhaul is needed. My only complaint is that they only shipped the 3 speed auto versions to the US. The Euro Spec four speed manual would have been awesome back in the day.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      All cars in 1974 were catless. Cats were on many cars starting in 1975. Those old Malaise era Detroit V8 were very low on HP for their displacement, but still produced a prodigious amount of torque right down low. This came at the expense of high end operation though. Also, for those in the know, they were easily awakened with pretty basic hot rodding techniques. While those early emission controls pretty much sucked, they did force Detroit to adapt electronic fuel injection. As for your Benz, if I recall correctly it had mechanical injection, no?

      • 0 avatar
        Felix Hoenikker

        Golden2husky,

        Definitely Bosch electronic fuel injection. I removed the intake manifold to replace the gaskets so I know of what I speak. I believe that the 73 model had mechanical fuel imjection. That would have een the last year for mechanoca; FI.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        The only cars that were cat less in 1975-76 were Subaru’s, Honda and Volvo’s with the oddly named Landa Sod system.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      I seem to recall when GM was the first maker to introduce catalytic converters in the 1975 model year. No one used them in 1974.
      The Benz was awesome, very expensive and rare in the day.

      http://caddyinfo.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=19617

  • avatar
    SuperACG

    Hey! You can see the old Datsun pickup from the last Junkyard Find!

    Man, Murilee, you just keep posting cars my parents had! That picture of the red backseat brought back forgotten memories! My dad had a 1978 450 SLC very briefly in the mid-80s. Silver with red interior. I thought the power sunroof was pretty cool. We sold it to our neighbors whose daughter was friends with my sister, and we all went to the same school. The father died a few years later, and they moved away. In the mid 90s, I drove by the school we all went to and I saw the car in the parking lot! Apparently it was sold to another parent or teacher with the school. I still remember the California blue plate: 674 VXE

    My younger brother also had one of these in the early 2000s when he started driving. Also in Silver, but he smashed it within a month.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    how did they get it to 3,700lb? that’s about the same a GT500!

    weren’t these the ‘bobby ewing’? if you had a complete driveable model you’d be tempted to go the classic LS1/T56/4L60 wouldn’t you?

  • avatar
    mccall52

    Ok, let’s try and remember all the cars that had influence from the louvers on the rear quarter windows.

    Early fox bodied Mustangs come to mind.

    Looking at the 1986 Cadillac Coupe de Ville Touring on oldcarbrochures reveals removable louvers on the rear quarter windows. They are probably all non existent now, both the cars and the louvers, but I’d love to see one in person.

    I’ve worked at a large Mercedes-Benz dealer for over seven years, and the only SLC I’ve seen there was a foreman’s project car back when I first started there. It hung around for a year and then it disappeared, I never actually saw it run. Now that I think of it, the motor was disassembled in one of the side rooms in the shop.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I still see plenty of these on the road in the metro NYC area. For some reason the rot gets to them especially in the lower fender area. I always wondered why Benz never did a SLC version of the 560 but instead we got the W126 Coupe.

    • 0 avatar
      svenmeier

      The R107 SL and SLC are still a very common sight in Europe because they’re easy to maintain, reliable and there are abundant spare parts available.

      There was a performance version of the SLC: the 450SLC 5.0. This car featured a new light-weight 5.0 V8 engine. To my knowledge it was never offered in the United States and if it had been it would probably have been detuned because of your stringent emission laws at the time.

      The European models made more horsepower than the American versions, which were heavily detuned due to the emission regulations of the periods.

      Also, I believe the 450SL and 450SLC came with a 4-speed automatic, not a 3-speed automatic.

      • 0 avatar
        SuperACG

        I saw a 500 SLC in the neighborhood I grew up in. It was dark blue. This was about the same time my dad had his 450 SLC…

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I saw a 500 SLC in the neighborhood I grew up in. It was dark blue. This was about the same time my dad had his 450 SLC…

        Most likely it was a gray market model. Every S-Class I have seen in the states with 500 badging on it has had the euro bumpers and lights.

  • avatar
    and003

    If I had disposable income and used part of it to buy this 450SLC, I’d give it a custom chassis, a new wiring harness, and a 3G Hemi. It’s too bad I don’t know if these salvage yards will allow people to buy the whole car. :-(

  • avatar
    davew833

    The self-service yards in my neck of the woods (Utah) don’t sell cars once they’ve been processed and hit the yard. I’ve looked into doing it a couple of times (including once for a 1977 450SEL 6.9) and have either been told flat-out “no” or been hit with ridiculous pricing, or conditions like a $100 charge to move each car that would have to be moved to get out the one that I wanted.

  • avatar
    stereorobb

    I had a 73 450slc that was a tired rust bucket some years back. Traded it even for my 82 300d, fun little cars they are! Somewhat obscure and forgotten though. It’s a weird I’m a SL roadster that wants to be a full size car type of deal. Love the styling of it. The cat ear headrests and when you’re behind the wheel the dash and controls feel like you’re sitting in a old fighter jet. Mine had a 5 speed Manual tranny but idk if it was stock or if someone modded it. Very fast little car that just oozed nostalgia and soul but it was a project I got way over my head on. Mine was silver with blue leather. Wish I still had it,

  • avatar
    -Nate

    That one has the mechanical CIS K-Jet F.I. , 1974 & earlier had the Bosch electronic D-Jetronic F.I. , more power but it could be troublesome if you played with or neglected it .

    If you ever get to try an SL/SLC , be _SURE_ to jack it up and check the front suspension ‘K’ member *very* closely as they crack and the front wheels literally _fall_off_ , driving or parked .

    Heavy yes but the Euro Spec. D-Jet versions had 118 HP and all of it was on tap from 1,000 rpm to the crash .

    They handled far better than you can imagine unless you’ve driven one .

    One neat thing : they’re designed to run 24/7 @ 125 MPH as long as you can take it .

    The U.S. versions only had a four speed slushbox , , Euro. Spec. versions could come with a four speed manual and there’s a stock Mercedes 5 speed that’s an easy up grade .

    Too bad I’ll be busy planting Moms this weekend (she died) else I’d love to watch & see how it goes .

    I miss my ’74 350SLC Euro terribly but it was a rusty P.O.C. and only got 15 MPG’s maximum no matter what and if required high octane gas , ran terribly on pump regular so off it went .

    -Nate


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