Mercedes-Benz 450SLC 1973-1980
In Benz speak there is no more revered model than the ‘SL’. Loosely translated ‘SL’ means ‘lightweight sports’ and it has been attached to the mightiest Mercedes sports cars since 1954 when the legendary 300SL was shown to the world for the first time.
The 300SL, specifically the great ‘Gullwing’ coupe, re-established Mercedes’ sports car credentials after World War 2 by winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1954, and began the company’s triumphant march through to domination of world motor racing in the 1950s.
Since the 300SL there have been a series of high performance SL sports cars, and most are now popular classics.
Among them is the 450SLC, a coupe version of the 1970s 450SL, which is both affordable and practical while at the same time possessing all of the things that make a Mercedes special.
The SLC was a coupe version of the SL roadster. It was essentially the same except for the wheelbase, which was extended by 360 mm to accommodate the two rear seats, and the fixed steel roof with the slightly higher roofline that gave those in rear seat quite reasonable headroom.
They were the essential differences. In all other respects the SLC was the same as the SL roadster.
Power was delivered by a smooth and powerful fuel-injected 4.5-litre single overhead camshaft V8, which boasted peak power of 147 kW and top torque of 345 Nm.
There was just one transmission on offer, a three-speed floorshift auto. It wasn’t as sporty as a manual gearbox would be, but the sporty ’Benz was set-up for the German autobahns where it could comfortably extend its very long legs.
The longer wheelbase of the coupe gave it a more comfortable ride than its shorter wheelbase soft-top cousin.
Like all Mercedes-Benz models the 450SLC came with everything you could want in 1973. Air-con came standard, as did power steering, power windows, leather trim, and there was a sunroof.
Form 1974 there was also a heated rear window, followed in 1978 by a woodgrain centre console.
ON THE LOT
When buying an older car like the 450SLC it’s a good idea to search the classifieds of the specialist publications, and visit the classic car dealers who are most likely to stock them.
Unlike modern cars of the more common variety older cars usually vary widely in condition and mileage, and their values will vary accordingly.
Generally the trade values the 450SLC between $10,000 and $22,000, but a car with low mileage and in good condition will attract a premium. For peace of mind it might be worth spending a little more to get a car that will be more enjoyable in the long term rather than one with a million miles under its belt that could mean a big spend down the road.
IN THE SHOP
It’s best to seek expert advice before setting out on the buying trail. Understand what it is you’re about to buy, the strengths and weaknesses, and the likely cost of repairs in the event of a breakdown.
The 450SLC, while quite reliable, is an old car with the oldest now more than 30 years old, the youngest in excess of 20. Any car, no matter how well engineered and built it might have been, will be more prone to breakdown than one that left the factory last year.
Against that Mercedes-Benz is renowned for its engineering integrity and build quality so the 450SLC is going to be less likely to fail than a car of a similar age from another carmaker.
Rust isn’t a major problem, but look for signs of rust around the rear and side windows, the guards and doors, and particularly look for evidence of dampness in and under the carpet in the front passenger side. The 450SLC is known to rust under the guards on the passenger side and the clearest sign that it is rusted there are damp carpets or floor. Don’t buy a car if the carpet is wet in this area, you could be in for some expensive repairs.
It’s not unusual to find the leather trim worn, and splits in the driver’s seat, but it’s not too expensive to repair. Of more concern are cracks in the dash pad from exposure to the sun as these can be expensive to repair and they look ugly if not repaired.
Have the front suspension checked for cracking around the lower control arm rear mounting points, which are a known problem. If it’s bad enough you can actually hear a cracking noise under braking
The V8 is a tough unit with a strong bottom-end, and the auto generally gives little trouble.
IN A CRASH
Mercedes-Benz was one of the pioneers of crumple zone technology when it designed its body shells to collapse progressively in a controlled manner back in the 1960s.
That means the 450SLC is a lot safer than many cars of its era, which of course was well before the advent of airbags.
Consider replacing the seat belts, which will be showing their age with the possibility that the webbing will be frayed at the edges.
Responsive handling and powerful brakes are valuable aids in avoiding a crash.
A number of cars were imported from England in the 1980s, and these should be carefully checked prior to purchase as they can be subject to severe rust.
Paul Sabine looks on in amazement as people stroll past the tidy blue 450SLC in his Brooklands Motors classic car showroom to the line-up of MGBs he also has in stock.
As he says, the 450SLC is a classy high performance sports car that is practical enough to be used as a daily driver, and it can be had for the same money – $15,990 – as an MGB, which isn’t even close to being in the same class.
Sabine’s 450SLC is tidy and mechanically sound with just 181,000 km on the odo. There is no visible rust in the body, but the interior trim is showing its age with a split in the drivers seat cushion and the carpets need replacing.
With those things attended to the blue coupe would make a lovely everyday cruiser.