Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC R107 test-drive. Is it an SL with a hardtop? Or is it something different? I do a double-take when I see the SLC. It’s not just the lack of a join between waistline and roof. There’s that extra 13in of wheelbase between the rear edges of the doors and the rear wheelarches, and what looks like a partially closed, pleated curtain towards the back of the rear side windows. Never mind the bigger rear window, gracefully curving into what could be called the C-pillar if only there were a B.
Mercedes-Benz R107s interior has an understated feeling of solidity.
Meet the Mercedes-Benz SLC, the only Benz fixed-head four-seater coupe to be based not on a saloon but a roadster. It’s an intriguing design hybrid, an idea almost without precedent apart, arguably, from Jaguar’s E-type 2+2.
In those far-off days, Mercedes-Benz model numbers really did, with a few exceptions, reflect a car’s engine capacity. So an SLC could be had as a 280, a 350, a 380 or – as here – a full-fat 450. There was also a 450 SLC 5.0 with a different, aluminium-block V8, but that’s a rare beast indeed. So our 1980 450 R107 has a 4520cc engine with an extraordinarily lazy 225bhp and a could-try-harder 279lb ft of torque. A highly-strung racer this is not. Nor, really, is the Mercedes even a sports car.
In comes a lazy surge of effort and an exquisitely unflustered, leave- this-to-me demeanour
It goes further down the road of relaxed boulevardier travelled by the R107 SL, and there’s nothing wrong with that judging by the R107’s popularity over an extraordinary 17-year production run. So the transmission is a three-speed automatic, the steering wheel is vast and the broad seats with their stripy velour trim feel as though I’m sitting on a single piece of lightly padded, coil- sprung plywood. That’s how Mercedes of this era are. They were also beautifully built, with luscious attention to detail and an air of indestructibility. The dashboard has shades of a Mercedes saloon’s, sportified only by recessing the three dials deep into separate tunnels in the binnacle beyond the padded- boss steering wheel, and setting a trio of round vents into the centre of the dash under individually shaped cowlings.
Before we waft off down the road, we’ll take in some of the SLC’s many design niceties. First off, those rear side windows. What looks at first like a pleated blind is in fact a series of angled slats able to let some light slip through. The slats are sandwiched between sheets of glass, the whole ensemble about an inch thick, a sealed unit seemingly impossible to renovate should the worst happen. They are there so the main rear side window can be shorter, and thus wind fully down into the rear wing without tangling with the wheelarch. Thus retracted, along with the frameless door windows, the SLC becomes a fully pillarless coupe.
Then there are those rear lights and front indicators, the first to use the ridged theme later universal on Mercedes-Benz. The idea is that even when covered in road dirt, they can still emit a useful amount of light. More striations adorn the lower flanks. The wide front grille is attached to the bonnet, so I have to be careful not to bang my head on it when administering to the densely packed engine bay.
It may share its nationality with the BMW but the driving experience could hardly be more different. In place of the crisp-edged, eager revvability and high-definition dynamics comes a lazy surge of effort and an exquisitely unflustered, leave- this-to-me demeanour.
The SLC is usefully fast but it’s chill rather than thrill, guiding the prow smoothly through the bends, insulated from the bumps, feeling that prow rise up when I goad the engine into vocalising its distant V8 beat. As a tourer it’s pretty grand, and it leaves my mind to think about other things as I whisk along serenely.
This is modernity and capability of a different sort, crushingly competent and very Mercedes-Benz; of all the frameless- door coupes here, it has by far the least wind noise. This car shrugs off its 24 years as though time barely matters, but it does have a more organic feel than I’d get in a modern, microprocessed SL. It is, in short, utterly charming. And so, so cheap now for what you get.
From the era when what was on the bootlid actually referred to the engine size M117 4.5-litre V8 puts out 225bhp in a silky smooth manner. Luxury cruiser it may be, but it proved to be a useful (but flawed) rally machine in the Seventies.
Howard Miller ‘I’ve owned it for two-and-a-half years. I spent six months looking for a good one and eventually found this at Roger Edwards, a Mercedes specialist in Amersham. The worst thing is that water goes through the grilles in the scuttle, leaks on to the floor and into the front of the sills, and it all rots out. If it’s bad. the car’s scrap. What a car looks like is important to me, but the mechanicals matter too. You’re so much more in contact with the road in an old car.’ The SLC is on sale for £8000. Call 07043 243129.
|Car||Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC R107
M117 4520cc V8, sohc per bank, 16 valves, Bosch fuel injection
225bhp @ 5000rpm
279lb ft @ 3000rpm
|Transmission||3-speed automatic gearbox|
|Drive||driving rear wheels|
independent double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar, telescopic dampers
independent semi-trailing arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers
|Steering||Recirculating ball steering box|
|Brakes||dual-circuit all discs with servo|