By on January 11, 2013

When I lived in California, I’d see R107s in self-service junkyards all the time; since moving to Denver a couple of years back, I see them only occasionally. There was this ’78 450SLC last summer and that was about it. Last week, though I found this screaming yellow Malaise Era kokainwagen.
This one entered the used-parts ecosystem in fairly beat/rusty condition (yes, Midwesterners, I know this is amateur-grade rust), and quite a few bits have already been picked from it.
I like these cars so much that I’ve been trying to buy the Rally Baby Racing ’75 450SL (which is street-licensed) for the last ten months. It’s a slow and heavy race car, but would look great on the street.
This engine would look great in a fenderless ’39 Opel, ja?

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41 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL...”


  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I have a ’74 450SL in classic 70s dark brown that I have been working on for the past 10 years. Laat year, I finally got the engine running like new according to our loal Indie MB garage. Now, I will switch over to exterior work such as replacing the awful aftermarket vinyl rag top with a OEM canvas one as well as having the car respayed or compounded. The previous owner had the seats and doors re-upholstered with MB tex but the carpets need to be replaced. Mine is rust free on the body except for some minor rust on the floorpan where the plastic undercoating peeled away.
    I still see a number of these cars around town in summer. Like me, everyone seems to put them away for the winter. That’s the only way to keep the tin worm at bay on the salty roads of the east coast.

    • 0 avatar

      Mine is ivory with blue interior, soft top and hardtop:

      http://www.fototime.com/C01ABF62A0640E0/orig.jpg

      I ditched the huge heavy OEM wheel (well, I saved it of course) for a 1980s Nardi classic.

      Having starter problems at the moment, but when running, runs strong. It’s a sled…a 3,600 pound cruiser, not a sports car…but solid and stylish. I see plenty of 560s around DE and PA …not so many 450s anymore. Although I saw one a few weeks ago–it was lovely until I got close enough to see what appeared to be new paint over body cancer. I’d love to get my hands on the bumpers from a pre-1974…

  • avatar
    tmkreutzer

    I remember my Matchbox version of this car well.

    These things seemed to have held their value pretty well as they aged. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in a junkyard before…

  • avatar
    Scout_Number_4

    No odometer shot!

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t bother with odometer shots on 5-digit odometers (which Detroit used until well into the 90s in some cases).

      • 0 avatar
        Felix Hoenikker

        The VDO odometer in this car is a six digit unit. The 4.5L cast iron engine is supposedly good for 300,000 miles between overhauls. I have 122K on mine. Last year I put a whopping 420 miles on it. At that rate, I will never reach 300K miles.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      It’s 104XXX, from what I can see.

      Which is suspiciously low…

      (Or maybe, re. poster above, I’m just used to the diesel Mercs, where one of that age that pretended to have that little on it would be Utterly Implausible.)

      • 0 avatar

        Those odometers are apparently notorious for ceasing to work if reset while the car is at higway speed. Something like that happened to mine.

        Just over 100K miles is pretty low for a ’74, but I’m frequently astounded by seeing FS adverts for ancient Benzes such as this with claims of mileage this low or lower!

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Actually the resetting while moving thing is an Urban Myth ~ if you’ve ever taken a VDO speedo apart you’d see why it’s not possible to damage it this way .

        The truth is : VDO gauges are wretchedly _CHEAP_ and have always been the bane of any German Vehicle Mechanic .

        Happily , the odometer is fairly easy to fix DIY style if you enjoy lots of tiny fiddly bits spead over a clean light colored towel .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    prndlol

    Check out that fancy tonneau cover, it looks surprisingly modern.

  • avatar

    Ah, the Dallas/Hart to Hart villain car of choice!

  • avatar
    markholli

    One of my close friends is helping his father sell his showroom condition 1973 450 SL. The car has under 60k original miles and has the more attractive euro bumpers. Beautiful sky blue exterior and tan interior, hard top and canvas.

    It kills me that I’m not at a stage of life where I can afford a third car. I would buy it in a heartbeat.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    One of my neighbors has one of these for sale down the street. It’s a 78 (I think) SL450 in worn-though silver with a blue interior and top. Nice looking car, some rot at the front fenders. I asked how much she wanted and she said “18″. I figured for $1800, I’d pay for it on the spot, but then she corrected me to $18,000. I wished her luck getting it. That was 6 months ago, the car still sits there burind in snow, reduced to $12,000.

    • 0 avatar

      Chrysler TC by Maserati sellers usually go through the same gradual introduction to car-value reality when they decide to sell.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Seems that all folks try the silly numbers game. Two weeks ago I stumbled upon a 88 K car with 36K on it and looks like it was assembled yesterday. Flawless as it’s mediocre assembly could be. I was going to buy it for memory’s sake and leave it in my garage as I owned one once. He wanted five thousand for it! At absolute best it is worth $1,800. With the seller not willing to accept reality I walked away. If people are unrealistic about pedestrian cars like this I can’t even imagine how they are with cars that are actually desirable…

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      A pristine one would go for a max of $12K around here. The one you described sounds more like $3500.

      • 0 avatar
        Micah

        My dad has at least five of these right now, including two fairly solid 450SL runners, two rusty parts cars, and a rough SLC. I’m confident that he didn’t pay more than $500 for any one of them. I think that for more than $5K, they should be FLAWLESS!

        After pondering, I think that my dad has at least one example of every model in the 1980s Mercedes lineup. Everything from the 190E to 300SD to L113 rollback truck (his daily driver)!

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Seven or eight years ago, I would still see these cars in places where real money parked. They held onto their status longer than the R129 that replaced them in Mercedes-Benz’s lineup. Many of the ones that I saw in still-detailed-to-perfection condition were later 380SLs or 560SLs, but all models seemed to be represented. Then one day it stopped being fashionable to drive an old Mercedes to the country club or shopping on Prospect St, and they were gone. I blame Bluetooth.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    These were and remain , very good drivers , faster and more nmble than you expect .

    Beware of the K Memeber ! they crack and fail without warning , often while the car is parked .

    The wretched Klima-I HVAC is the old Chryslet Air Temp II built underlicense , what a royal PIA , luckily parts (and you _WILL_ need parts) are all still available new rebuilt & used .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Having been through the HVAC blues with a ’79 300TD you are spot on. That system is madness in vacuum lines. There is a fully digital electric replacement available now, but it is spendy. I lucked out and got a newer rebuilt servo used on the cheap.

      I want one of these when I am too old and fat to get in and out of my Spitfire anymore, but I want a Euro-spec 300SL with the 5spd manual!

    • 0 avatar

      So true. I’ve had some track time in one and they do handle VERY well, and are very forgiving at their limits.

      You’re also right on the other issues, as I’ve had the member crack and fail in a parking lot, and experienced the bad AC system.

      Otherwise excellent cars.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Unwired Tools is the digital servo place IIRC .

        When you find it , they have the installation guide for FREE download ~ dowl load it then go through and repair _everything_ in the whole system but the Evil Klima I servo thing , then if you decide to take the plunge , the digital servo will actually work .

        Failure to take the time and effort to sort out the niggly bits first , will make you hate the car and rightly so .

        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          Allan850glt

          Thanks Nate! There’s a reasonably priced and solid local ’84 300 TD in ultra-vanilla tan that’s just screaming “take me home” and I think would make a cool-retro daily driver. The old 855 GLT Wagon I’m pushing now is really starting to succumb to the rust demons and salt gods of Western New York..poor old girl.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            If I were you I might Krown that Benz if you end up acquiring it.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            RE: the Evil Klima I Servo ~ you can easily get a Dodge Truck manual hot water valve from 196? ~ 1980 , it’ll have the correct hose fitting sizes and be cable operated , then simply work up a functioning servo to control the fan speeds and plenum doors .

            Me ? I passed on numerous *pristine* 1,000% rust free California TD’s , even one in China Blue for $700 , because they had this awful system .

            Of course , I knew to avoid this because my first Diesel Coupe had the (dead) Klima I system and everything in the entire cooling system was shot , rusted to bits .

            Look up ” Chrysler Airtemp II ” to see how terrible it is .

            Then , look really hard at the unibody where the high mounted sway bar bushings are mounted , especially the right side one underneath the battery tray ~ they tray is cheap , having the suspension rip out whilst you’re motorvating , is bad , very bad indeed .

            I just had to pass up a 1979 M-B Hearse because of this rot out , leaves and debris collect in the hinge pockets ~ test drive it to a gas station and blow those leaves out before paying over $500 for _ANY_ W-123 .

            -Nate

  • avatar

    Unusually vivid colour for one of these. I wonder if it is original.

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    I also vaguely remember these cars being built in some funky burnt orange shade.

    If you own or are restoring any vintage Benz, check out the Mercedes classic restoration shop in Newport Beach, Ca. They sell just about every part and component for an old Mercedes that you can think of, as well as offering complete rebuild and restoration services.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    Ah, the 450 SL.

    Combining (relatively) low power and horrible fuel economy.

    The R107s sure are handsome, though – better than all succeeding SLs, in my opinion.

    (Sane people get a 380SL if they want one; or at least with a 560SL you get some power to go with your crap fuel economy.)

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Only the American market got the bullbar bumpers,squinty headlights and low out put engines. I had a 450SLC (coupes are longer) which I had bought to perform a 6.9 swap. it went so well i left it alone and would cruise all day at 180KPH or go through 230KPH without a problem. It was on slightly wider tires and most of the ‘other market’ cars had the anti squat diff assembly. So,handling at high speed was brilliant. I sold it when anther project arose .last year i was at a Mercedes concour when I spotted the 450 resplendent in racing livery. A new owner is racing it historic races and hasn’t touched the engine .So…underpowered? bad handling? ,blame ralph nader and American legislation not Mercedes.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    You’re not kidding ~

    I had a 1974 European Spec. 450SLC with the manual tranny , the 116 DOHC engine made over 200 HP , not slow atall .

    I ralleyed the car and drove it hard , I miss it but it was rusty , very rusty so I made everything work then sold it at a dead loss .

    The 1980′s vintage SL’s & SLC’s were de tuned for smog , older ones much less so

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Joss

    450SL an icon in its day.. The first owner rolled around the summer of 74 with the unescapable news of a disgraced president playing out on the radio, In 74 British Leyland would have liked you believe their Triumph Stag a worthy contender. Build quality & brand duration not even close.

    I would have desired balloon whitewalls & color-coded hubs with that yellow more than euro-spec bumpers.

  • avatar
    StaysCrunchy

    Since I’m too lazy to search for the answer myself, do people ever do SBC swaps in these cars? I always liked this body style, but I can’t imagine 35+ year old Mercedes-Benz V8′s are easy to work on or find parts for.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Not unless they are stupid. The engine is the least of the problems with these cars, they are quite easy to work on, and Mercedes (and/or sundry aftermarket suppliers) will cheerfully sell you just about every single part on the entire car. You might want smelling salts handy when they tell you the price, but EVERYTHING is available. Mercedes will even restore one for you.

      MB does an absolutely AMAZING job of supporting their past production. BMW runs a close second. But as I said, the prices can be stiff.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Except for an occasional part, OEM parts are relatively cheap and avialble for vintage MBs. Some examples I bought include a rebuilt Bosch starter motor- $85. Don’t even ask about how difficult it was to swap; a rebuilt master brake cylinder – $45; Bosch spark plug wire set – $80; valve cover gaskets – $20 each, fuel injectors -$80ea, etc.
      Other parts can be very expensive. For example a rebuilt fuel injection computer will cost $1200, and an electronic ignition modulle is about $600.
      Overall, not an exepensive car to maintain if you stay away from the MB dealer


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