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  •   Chris Hrabalek reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    CAR: #Mercedes-Benz-500SL-R107 / #Mercedes-Benz-500SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL / #Mercedes-Benz-R107 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-SL-R107 / #Mercedes /

    Run by Graeme Hurst
    Owned since August 2015
    Total mileage 125,722
    Miles since acquisition 2622
    Latest costs £826

    Expertly fettled R107 Merc is now a regular for jaunts out in the country, here in the West Coast National Park. Inset: wornout parts, including tie-rod.

    PANZERWAGEN TOURS THE CAPE

    South Africa has long had an affinity for the three-pointed star, mainly because the cars have been made here over the past 60 years in what was, for a long time, the only Mercedes plant outside Stuttgart. The East London facility churned out most models from the 1950s onwards, but hit its heyday with the W123 and W126 series. We also built R107s and SLCs. About 1900 were assembled here and a further 530 were imported from ’1971 to ’1987, so they were rare and pricey, which made them hugely aspirational.

    Even more so when the TV series Dallas featured a red 450SL as the everyday wheels for Bobby Ewing (played by Patrick Duffy). By the early ’80s, no golf club car park or five-star hotel forecourt was complete without one.

    Fast-forward 30-plus years and, after a dip in values following the success of the R129, the R107 SL is becoming more sought-after. That was the impetus for a late-night trip across Johannesburg by partner Rob to clinch the deal on this Lapis Blue 500SL which, fortuitously, appeared on Gumtree the day that he was up there for work.

    Purchasing a car at night is best avoided, but Rob had been sent plenty of high-res photos and was able to view it in a well-lit garage. Just as well because the seller – an older gent who had cherished the Merc for 10 years – was inundated with calls while Rob test-drove the SL and later leafed through the extensive history. A deal was done and the vendor was trusting enough to release the car while the cash was still winging its way via electronic transfer into his bank account. A few weeks later I was in Jo’burg for work and could take stock of the new purchase before transporting it by train down to Cape Town.

    Any concerns we may have had about the night-time deal quickly evaporated because the R107 is in lovely condition, having had a full respray and retrim 10 years ago. An original car might have been preferable, but our harsh climate takes its toll on paint and leather, plus this SL was priced keenly – partly because the hardtop wasn’t finished (it’s in primer). There were some niggles, such as doors that didn’t lock because they’d been tampered with, but a local locksmith sorted those before cutting some new keys. I also had to source a second-hand ‘Mexican hat’ 6.5J Mercedes alloy to replace the missing spare.

    Where it doesn’t niggle at all is on the road. The 4973cc #V8 boasts plenty of effortless oomph with a turbine-like power delivery that’s rewarding to explore on clear roads. As a 500, our SL is an import – only the earlier ones were made here. Confusingly, the paperwork says it was a CKD model but the speedo is in miles, so it’s likely to have been a UK-bound order that was diverted.

    Back home after a 26-hour train ride – which, at R3000 (c£170), cost less than the fuel bill for the 1000- mile journey – the first task was a set of 205/70R14 tyres because the rubber was from 1991! Then it was off for a roadworthiness test, which threw up a few advisories – the most serious of which was a worn out tie-rod end.

    Wanting that sorted and the car given a ‘once over’ service, I booked it into JFT Motors. This is my new favourite garage mainly because owner Allan Ketterer is a classic fan but also because he has an oldschool, hands-on approach that includes hand-written invoices.

    Allan was complimentary about the car, but did add a few items to the list, including new front brake pads and hoses. He also changed the pinion seal on the diff to cure a small leak and replaced the thermostat, which was opening sluggishly.

    More alarming was the need to weld a crack in the front subframe where it connects with the nearside lower control arm. The suspension had to be partially stripped to get access, but it was a chance to confirm that the fault wasn’t down to accident damage, which it wasn’t.

    Subframe cracks are apparently common, which Allan says is due to the 500 engine being too heavy for the chassis. The rest of the R11,000 (c£600) bill was for a tune-up and headlight adjustment. That was last May and the SL has been on the button ever since, with regular trips through the winelands to enjoy the performance while pretending that we’ve travelled back in time to an oil-financed Texan lifestyle!

    THANKS TO JFT Motors: 0027 21 696 2600; www.jftmotors.co.za

    ‘The R107 is becoming more sought-after, which was the main impetus for Rob’s latenight trip to clinch the deal’

    Offloading 500SL from the rail container. Car was retrimmed for its previous owner. The Merc’s 5-litre V8 is in rudest of health. Lapis Blue paint is a top-quality respray.
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  • BOLDER BENZ: A 450 SL BECOMES A 140-MPH SUPERCAR

    True To Its Roots
    With double the power of a stock Mercedes-Benz 380SL R107, and restyled using factory pieces, the R 107-based #DMS 4.7 is a glimpse into the ’80s that could have been. Words And Photography By Jeff Koch / Illustrations Courtesy #Neil-DeAtley

    Original concept illustrations showing the front, rear and side of the proposed DMS 4.7. The stunning finished product strays little from the illustrations, down to the color and wheel style.

    Neil DeAtley had issues with the Mercedes-Benz-380SL-R107. Considering Mercedes’ great motorsport history, much of it achieved with cars called SL — the race-winning and technologically advanced 300 SL gullwing, the W198 roadster models, the delightfully chuckable W113 series — the 380SL R107 of the early 1980s stood firmly at odds with that history. With just 155 emissions- strangled horses under the hood, and pushing two tons at the curb, the SL managed to be neither Sport nor Leicht (Light) as its name suggested.

    Neil himself was working on making some of his own history with the machine dubbed by wags as the panzerwagen. Racing historians among our readers may recall that DeAtley Motorsports won the 1983 SCCA Trans-Am championship in a pair of Camaros driven by David Hobbs and a young Willy T. Ribbs. What fewer will recall is that, for two arduous seasons before championship glory showered laurels and champagne and sweetmeats upon him, Neil ran a single-car Trans-Am effort using the R107 Mercedes SL as his steed, the number 45 on its doors and the late Loren St. Lawrence as his driver. It was an entirely independent effort, with no factory backing for what was then a not terribly high-visibility series.

    The ’1981 and ’1982 seasons were rough going for DeAtley Motorsports, and there wasn’t much glory in it. The team’s best start was second at Road America, though they only completed eight laps. Its best finish in 1981 was at Trois Rivieres, starting 15th and finishing in 8th, taking home a cool $1,000 in prize money. The ’1982 season was stronger, perhaps thanks in part to an influx of sponsorship cash (see sidebar), finishing half of the eight races under its own power: as high as 7th at Sears Point and a career-best 6th at Road America. If nothing else, the DeAtley Motorsports crew back at the Salem, Oregon, works had learned what it took to make an R107 perform at or near the front of a pack of much newer cars that were, in the main, lighter and better suited for on-track derring-do.

    But there was another issue at play. Neil owned Columbia Motors of Kennewick, Washington, in the early 1980s, one of the Pacific Northwest’s larger Mercedes dealers. He had a vested interest in moving metal; anything that prevented him from doing that was a concern. The 380 SL’s sitting in his showroom did not reflect even a whiff of his race team’s efforts. While hot five-liter versions of the SL stayed home in Europe (and occasionally strayed stateside, thanks to gray-market importation loopholes), the light-duty 380 SL became the unofficial cars of Ladies Who Lunch in America’s swankier metropolitan power centers.

    Also, by the mid-’80s, the R 107’s early ’70s style looked positively fossilized. Today, we can natter on about the SL’s style, throwing terms like classic and enduring, but they’re just euphemisms. The R 107’s shape had not significantly changed, beyond bumpers, since its early ’70s introduction; aerodynamic efficiency was an ’80s buzzword, and the SL was designed in an era when such things were not taken into consideration. Many wondered why Mercedes was taking so damned long to update its hearty perennial, the SL. Neil DeAtley was one of those people.

    Unlike the contemplative many who stroked their chins and pooh-poohed the reality before them, Neil did something about it. That something is the machine you see here: the DMS 4.7. A fully functional prototype for a low-production SL meant to be sold through his dealership and beyond, the DMS 4.7 was a clean update, using Stuttgart parts; it made you wonder why Mercedes couldn’t execute its own facelift with such aplomb.

    Neil started with a 1975 450SL off his dealership lot. The blunt face of the R 107 was smoothed back to something far more in keeping with the style of early ’80s Mercedes. Out went the four round sealed-beam lamps and bumper jutting out nearly a foot in front of the body; in came a more aero-friendly vision, utilizing a contemporary Mercedes SEC grille and headlamp/turn signal units. The hood and front fenders were based on Mercedes originals, but had extensions that were seamlessly hand-formed in steel. New fiberglass front and rear bumper covers were carried down the side of the car visually with new rocker panels. Trim was largely either blackened or painted body color (grille and wheels aside), in keeping with the then-fashionable ’80s monochrome vibe. Slather it in hooker-lipstick red, and you can’t help but look.

    With looks like that, there had better be the guts to back it up, and luckily there were. The four-and-a-half liter iron-block V-8 was bored out to 4.7 liters, and was given the usual array of hot rodding tricks: a port-and-polish job on the factory aluminum cylinder heads, forged Arias pistons that (in combination with the worked heads) bumped compression to 10.5:1, a set of high-lift cams, and tubular headers. These items alone were said to nearly double the power of a stock 380SL — 297 horsepower. Away went the mandatory automatic transmission, and in came a slick-shifting Getrag five-speed. Noted racing photographer Pete Lyons saw 138 MPH behind the wheel, and (in his Car and Driver story) claimed there was more left when he had to back out of it. Put up against a contemporary 380 SL, with its terminal velocity of 115 MPH, the promise of 140 sounded pretty good.

    The suspension was sharpened up as well. Bilstein gas shocks and adjustable anti-roll bars front and rear joined with higher-rate coils (420 pounders in front, 320 pounders in back) to help lower the ride height three-quarters of an inch and to prevent acceleration squat, brake dive and rolling in the turns. The rear suspension arms were altered at their pickup points, so that camber change would be minimized. Brakes were fourwheel Lockheed discs: 13 inches in front, 11 inches in the rear, although production models would have used standard calipers and more aggressive brake pads. Sixteen-inch V-rated Goodyear Eagle tires (sized 225/245) were fitted to Centra wheels, seven inches in front and eight inches wide in back.

    The cockpit was also massaged to contemporary standards: power Recaro buckets, leather-trimmed to match the rest of the interior; new door panels featuring accents made of Zebrano wood; Wilton wool carpeting; the finest Alpine stereo system the mid-’80s had available; a leather boot for the five-speed’s closethrow shifter. What price exclusivity?


    Well, about $75,000 in 1985 dollars, which sounds slightly less mad when a new 380 SL was in the $43,000 range and the engine work alone ran to $15,000. Alas, as is often the case with such flights of fancy, the DMS 4.7 didn’t sell. Two were made, and Neil himself retains this example in his extensive personal collection of Mercedes models (roughly two dozen postwar three-pointed stars light up his garage).

    It’s clearly Mercedes, clearly ’80s, and has more than a whiff of AMG about it, even though the famed tuning house had nothing to do with its creation. It still wasn’t light, pushing 3,800 pounds at the curb, but there was no doubt that the Sport part of the SL’s moniker had returned to the equation. A legacy of the DeAtley Motorsports contribution to the Trans-Am wars? Absolutely, although we suspect that the race car was more famous, and got more visibility, than the DMS 4.7. Today, with three decades of hindsight at our disposal, the DMS 4.7 looks like the missing link between the R107 and the 1990 R129 — a high-performance ’80s Mercedes SL that never was. It makes us wonder what might have been.

    Weekends were made for… Trans-Am racing?

    With its privateer 450SL R107 effort, DeAtley Motorsports ushered in an innovation that didn’t get a lot of credit at the time: bringing big-name sponsorship to a Trans-Am car.

    Recall that the factory Trans-Am teams of the ’60s didn’t sticker their cars up like a NASCAR racer, rather using only contingency sponsors and manufacturer graphics. This clean-flanked approach remained through the Trans-Am series’ privateer ’70s. In 1981, DeAtley Motorsports entered SCCA Trans- Am in its privateer Mercedes-Benz 450SL. The late Loren St. Lawrence drove that car for the entirety of the 1981 and ’82 seasons.

    But something changed toward the end of 1981: For the last three races of the 1981 season, the formerly white SL was now black, and sported foot-high lettering for Michelob beer across each door, and the hood. The livery remained in 1982.

    Now, who can say which came first, but according to St. Lawrence’s obituary (he died in 2014), he was hired as the director of motorsports marketing and sponsorship for Anheuser-Busch in 1982. It cannot be a coincidence that a Michelob beer sponsorship appeared on the side of the DeAtley SL starting in late 1981, and running clear through to the end of the 1982 season. Can it?

    There’s no mistaking the cabin for a Mercedes, although it looks a bit more welcoming to the serious driver, thanks to the leather-covered power Recaro chairs and the manual shifter poking up through the console. Real Zebrano wood inlays added an extra touch of class.

    The engine looks stock enough, but the usual hot-rod tricks—an overbore, hotter cams, porting and polishing the heads— brought the DMS to within spitting distance of 300 hp.

    TECHNICAL DATA / #1975 #Mercedes-Benz-450SL-DMS-4.7-R107 / #Mercedes-Benz-450SL-DMS-4.7 / #Mercedes-Benz-450SL-R107 / #Mercedes-Benz-R107 / #Mercedes / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL-R107 R107 / #Mercedes-Benz-R107 /

    Engine SOHC #V8 , iron block and aluminum cylinder heads
    Displacement 4,679 cc (286- cu.in.)
    Horsepower 297 @ 5,500 RPM
    Torque N/A
    Compression ratio 10.5:1
    Induction #Bosch-K-Jetronic fuel injection
    Gearbox #Getrag five-speed manual
    0 to 60MPH N/A
    Top speed 138+MPH*
    Overall length 178.4 inches
    Overall width 70.5 inches
    Overall height 50.5 inches
    Wheelbase 96.9 inches
    Curb weight 3,800 lb.
    *Source: Car and Driver, February 1985
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  •   Jeff Koch reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    Cool cruise. The ultimate version of the R107 roadster, the 5.5-litre 560SL launched in #1986 , was never sold in European markets, and most went to the US. Rich Truesdell tried a lovely example in California Images Rich Truesdell.

    Classic roadster 560SL

    “One of just 5,351 produced for the 1989 calendar year, the 560SL was in exceptional condition, nicely broken in with just 87,000 miles”

    The R107 #Mercedes-Benz roadster enjoyed the longest production run of any passenger car in the history of the marque, from 1971 to 1989, assuming of course we discount the utility G-Wagen. With the frantic pace of change in today’s automotive world, it is impossible to imagine a single car, from a major manufacturer, being produced fundamentally unchanged, for 18 years. But to put things into perspective, the handsome R107 was built from the height of the Cold War to the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is a remarkable story.

    And the R107, along with its longer companion, the C107 coupe, was produced in more than a dozen different variants to satisfy markets around the world, in six- and eight-cylinder versions. And of course it should come as no surprise that the United States was one, if not the most important overseas market for this, the most sporting model in the Mercedes- Benz line up.

    In the late 1960s, when the car was conceived as a replacement for the W113 Pagoda, the influence of the all important US market affected its design. At the time it was thought that impending roll over regulations would legislate the traditional convertible out of the marketplace. This was not lost on the product planners at Stuttgart, even as far back as 1968 when the replacement for the much loved W113 SL was first deliberated over.

    The discussion centred on if what would become the R107 should have a targa style top, or a cloth top and removable hardtop. In the end, the decision was made to go the traditional route, the US market be damned. This is attributed to the staunch support of Hans Scherenberg, then the Head of Development who said at the time, “The SL gave me great pleasure, but also caused me great trouble. This was no easy decision for us.”

    At the same time, the board discussed offering a companion four-seat coupe, a decision that would be initially postponed. One group within Mercedes-Benz management supported building a sporting coupe based on the upcoming W116 S-Class platform, but this was ruled out because such a model would take several years to design and develop. According to the official Mercedes- Benz history it was Karl Wilfert, then the head of body design in Sindelfingen, who developed on his own, a coupe proposal based on the R107. At first it was rejected by the board of management but the determined Wilfert managed to push through his idea of a sporty coupe.


    Ultimately the R107 based tin top was introduced as the C107 SLC and built from 1972 until 1981 – just half the SL’s lifespan and, with 62,888 examples manufactured, a mere quarter of the roadster’s production.

    Beyond the consideration of the US market, safety was a major goal of the R107 programme. While it can be said that the R107 would combine the mechanical components of the mid sized W114 with the larger engines offered from the W116, the R107 programme offered safety innovations of its own especially with regard to further development of front and rear crumple zones.

    The backbone of the R107 series featured an independent frame floor unit with a closed transmission tunnel and box shaped cross and longitudinal members, which used sheet metal of different thicknesses, further improving performance should the car become involved in an accident.

    The fuel tank was moved to a position above the rear axle, to minimise the possibility of it being ruptured in a rear end collision. The R107 was not simply a shortened and reinforced saloon floor assembly, as in the W113, but was in essence a unique platform. Once the decision was made to go the soft top route, the determination was made to reinforce the A-pillar surrounding the windscreen, to a degree not previously attained. In the end the A-pillar was designed with 50 per cent more strength than before to provide occupants with some protection in a roll over accident.

    The interior also benefited from many passive safety innovations, a hallmark of the cars developed under the direction of the legendary engineer, Béla Barényi. The father of modern passive safety, Barényi saw to it that the interior of the R107 bristled with innovation. The previous hard dashboard made way for an innovative sheet steel design that was designed to yield on impact. In addition to generous padding for the instrument panel the knee area was also foam padded.

    The polyurethane foam padded, four-spoke steering wheel absorbed crash energy more efficiently than previously. With a fresh look that owed little to previous interiors, the R107’s cockpit was Mercedes’ first modern passenger compartment and served as a precursor to those that would follow, especially for the upcoming S-Class. At the time of its launch in 1971, the R107 was an immediate hit worldwide.

    But back then few people would have predicted that its production run would last almost two decades. Over that time, the US would see five presidents occupy the White House: Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and finally – for a short time – the first President Bush.

    In the US the first R107 launched was the 350SL but this was a little confusing, as under the hood was found a 4.5-litre V8, the smaller engined version deemed insufficient for the US market. This was due in part to the 1970 US Clean Air Act that strangled all engines in the effort to reduce tailpipe emissions.

    What also distinguished the US SLs from their European counterparts were their round headlights, as a result of the US mandates in place at the time the R107 was introduced. This didn’t stop many US owners from installing Euro style single headlights to give their SLs a distinctive look over the years, and even though the headlight laws changed in 1975, SLs destined for North America sported round head lights to the end of production in 1989.


    In the 1970s and 1980s, the R107 SL defined the marque in the US, establishing Mercedes-Benz as the car that was engineered like no other in the world, its benchmark advertising tag line of the era. In its day the R107 was the choice of many A-list celebrities, especially in Hollywood and became a pop culture icon, appearing in dozens of movies. The 560SL appeared in autumn 1985 for the 1986 model year, for sale in the US, Japan and Australia, coinciding with a minor facelift for the R107. Its 5.5-litre V8 came with a standard fit catalyst (three years before this became mandatory in Europe), hence power was 227bhp compared to the 238 and later 296bhp that the non cat, European spec version of this engine gave in the S-Class saloon and coupe. Its derestricted potential is one reason many R107 fans in Europe feel cheated that it was never sold there.

    That it spanned the transition of cars like the almost delicate W113 Pagoda to the tank like R129 that followed is a testimony to the inherent excellence of the original design, conceived at the end of the 1960s. But as the R107 departed the scene in 1989, in the US, Mercedes- Benz faced new challengers, first from BMW, then from Lexus. But it’s impossible to imagine either marque, no matter how successful, producing a car that could match its longevity.

    Owner’s view

    California resident Michael Mendonca already owned an R107 450SL when he bought his 560SL
    To track down a late example of the 560SL, one of 49,347 built over a four-year production run, Classic Mercedes looked west, all the way to sunny southern California to find this car, a final year 1989 model owned by financial planner Michael Mendonca. But this 560SL is neither his first nor his only Mercedes-Benz SL.

    “I waited until relatively late in life to own my first classic car,” says Michael who at one time worked in the marketing department of the famed Ford Mustang tuner, Saleen. “It was a 1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SL, which I still own. I enjoy the 560SL quite a bit, but still use both these cars as second and third vehicles. I liked the car ever since having seen the movie American Gigolo with Richard Gere back in high school.”

    One of just 5,351 produced for the 1989 calendar year, the 560SL was in exceptional condition, nicely broken in with just 87,000 miles, and talking with Michael about how he acquired the car illustrates how easy it is to find such a good example in the US. “I actually wasn’t looking for another SL since I owned the 450, but the 560 was in such great shape and the price was right that I could not pass up the deal. I enjoy also that the cars are considered classics and I can get classic car insurance on the cars, which keeps my overhead down.”

    “I attend the Cars and Coffee show in Irvine, California on a regular basis and saw the car for sale,” relates Michael. (Cars and Coffee is the legendary yet informal car show held every Saturday morning at the former headquarters of Ford’s Premier Auto Group that once included Aston Martin Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln and Volvo). “A friend of mine wanted the car but could not come up with the cash so I grabbed the car from who turned out to be a really nice guy. The owner happened to live in the same city I reside in, which made the purchase quite easy.”

    “I’ve owned the 560 about a year and a half now and usually take it out for a drive once or twice a week,” says Michael in a follow up interview when we photographed the car several weeks later. “I especially enjoy the car in the spring and summer.”

    Michael Mendonca drives his SL for pleasure, on classic insurance.

    “The United States was one, if not the most important overseas markets for this, the most sporting model in the Mercedes-Benz line up”

    TECHNICAL DATA SPECIFICATIONS #Mercedes-Benz-560SL-R107 / #Mercedes-Benz-560SL / #Mercedes-R107 / #Mercedes-Benz-R107 / #Mercedes-Benz-SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL-R107 / #Mercedes-Benz-M117 / #Mercedes-Benz-560SL-USA / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes /

    Engine #M117 5,547cc #V8
    Power 227bhp @ 4,750rpm
    Torque 275b f t @ 3,250rpm
    Transmission 4-speed automatic, RWD
    Weight 1,715kg
    0-62mph 7.7sec
    Top speed 139mph
    Years produced #1986 / #1987 / #1988 / #1989
    Number built 49,347
    All figures from Mercedes-Benz

    Above. SL’s cabin is a neat fit, but is beautifully finished and with lovely tan leather.
    ABOVE LEFT. The warm, sunny climate in southern California suits the R107 perfectly.
    Twin headlamps and rubber edged bumpers mark out the North American R107s.
    Chromed wheels more more popular in the US than in European markets.
    Above. SL’s dash is a masterpiece; outside temp gauge is in place of the middle vent.
    ABOVE right. US emissions tuned V8 had 227bhp, way down on European spec 5.5-litre.
    ABOVE far right. This 560SL was a great find, barely run in having covered just 89,330 miles.
    The boot, or should that be trunk, looks quite small but you can pack a lot into it.
    ABOVE LEFT. Original Becker Grand Prix radio/cassette is still in place and looks fantastic.
    ABOVE right. In reality the R107’s rear seat is a very luxurious fold down parcel shelf.

    “In the US, the first R107 launched was the 350SL but this was confusing, as under the hood was found a 4.5-litre V8”
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  •   Richard Truesdell reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    Trevor Sutton - TWO FOR THE ROAD #1976 #Honda-Gold-Wing vs. #Mercedes-Benz-450SL-R107

    LJK Setright on the comparative delights of fast car and big bike - #Mercedes-Benz-450SL R107 and #Honda 's 1000cc Gold Wing.

    If you already have a 450SEL 6.9 W116, the 450SL #Mercedes-Benz-R107 would serve as an excellent second car. If you already have a serviceable car, a motorcycle offers a very attractive alternative to a second car. So what do you do? It depends....

    Why do you want a second vehicle, anyway? Because there is no car, not even the best of Mercedes-Benz, that has no shortcomings, no limitations, no evidence of compromise in its design. Either it is too big and cumbersome for fun in narrow lanes, up winding mountain tracks, and in and out of the traffic lanes: or it is too small and cramped for family and possessions, for long relaxed cross-country motorway driving. The usual solution to this perennial problem is to have a comfy saloon and a nippy sportscar; but as I have been telling you since 1969, there Is little that a sports car can offer in this context that a motorcycle cannot provide in more satisfying measure. It is inherently — assuming a proper motorcycle, not one of those offensively humble little commuter-killers — a high performance vehicle, inherently fun to drive and it is the supreme liberator.

    It liberates the rider from the tyranny of people, for the motorcyclist is on his own, and he travels fastest who travels that way. It liberates him from the tyranny of traffic, for with the freedom to pass in a space that no car could hope to penetrate there is no need to feel committed to queues — and if no time is lost in them, there is likewise no dangerous compulsion to make up for lost time The rider goes at whatever pace suits him.

    If he is used to fast cars, he will demand a fast pace when riding. If he is used to cars that are also smooth and luxurious and physically undemanding, there will be very few motorcycles that will not leave him feeling a sense of dissatisfaction with his mount. The man who goes about his business in a big V8 may well go about his pleasure on a little pipsqueak if all he wants is a change of emphasis; but if what he seeks is a different means to the same end, he will want a big and luxurious and unburstable two-wheeler, one that appeals to the same sort of roadgoing maturity as does his car even if it be not an SEL W116, but perhaps an Jaguar XJ or a Fiat 130 or a Opel Commodore.

    Maturity? In this context I think it means having passed the age when one rejoices in skill, and having reached that in which one is content to exercise judgment. It means never being in the wrong place at the wrong time or at the wrong speed, never missing an opportunity because it will have been foreseen, never reaching or transgressing the vehicle's limits but being able to come tantalisingly close to them without fear of overstepping the mark. When you reach that stage, when handling and roadholding become servants instead of masters, you are ready to ride the kind of motorcycles that most motorcyclists deride as being different from what they believe motorcycles to be; and in particular you are ready to be happy with the 1.0-litre Honda Gold Wing.

    You may relish its manifold engineering delights, the superb die-castings and intricate transmission, the lovely alloy rims and the water cooling and the alternator that rotates in the opposite sense to the flat-four crankshaft so that no torque precessions ever intrude upon the incredible smoothness of its running; but more probably you will just accept that it is a very fully engineered machine that is it blissfully quiet and perfectly smooth, just as all others should be though they fail miserably. You may take for granted the things that you likewise take for granted in the R107 450SL, which is also a very comprehensively engineered machine that is every bit as quiet and as smooth and as potent as you could reasonably wish. You will not, having evolved to such a judicious and responsible level, wish for (anything unreasonable...

    So you will be content that the 450SL R107 does not jink like a Lotus. It has more than enough alacrity for the man who can avoid ever having to dodge: with a cornering capability approaching 0.85g and 4.5-litres of instant dismissal at your command, you can cope well with alarums and excursions, and treat those two imposters just the same. You can reach 60mph in less than 9secs, as assuredly and with as little deployment of special skills as you can eventually reach 135mph and you can do it in exemplary quiet and comfort.

    You can do all those things on the GL1000. You will need a little skill for the sweet gearbox and clutch, because the motorcycling equivalent of the super #Daimler-Benz automatic transmission does not yet exist; but in exchange you have the boon of even more peremptory performance than that of the mighty Mercedes. Although the Honda weighs 630lb on the road, there is something about its gearing and its torque that make it a stunning performer, whether between hairpins or sprinting through gaps in a motorway’s huffing-lane. The topspeed is little more than 120, a little less if you are big and bulky, but the acceleration up to 100 is such as to make the 450 or almost any other car look ridiculous. Like the car, the Honda will stop at about 1g can be cornered as hard, and is possibly even quieter.

    If the 450SL has a fault, it is that it is too big and heavy to be a true sports car and therefore is perhaps less than ideal as a foil to the everyday saloon. Some people also dislike its steering, though I have learned how to use it and am now thoroughly happy with it. The Honda GL is also too heavy, but it offers more than enough contrast to any saloon; and I do not like its steering. There is a peculiarly edgy feel to it, as though the centres of effort of the two very different tyres were moving without correspondence, and it has to be held positively to the chosen line. Yet I must admit that I never fell off it, despite sundry wriggles and wheelspinnings on the iced hills and greased dales of frosted February.

    The weather was no kinder to the #Mercedes-Benz , which could also summon a modicum of slip and spin if asked, though it is in its nature to avoid such unseemly behaviour. In heavy snow I was happy and secure and warm, and nothing would have induced me to ride a motorcycle then. Come the spring, when the blood begins to reach as far as my fingers and most of winter’s salted slime has been washed away, it will be very different. Then 80bhp will be more useful than 225 unless I am going a very long way.

    Then a 3.50-19 and a 4.50-17 will seemingly bite the road as greedily as a 205/70VR14 quartet, and the queues of cars will grow longer, and £1600 will seem a lot less than £9660.

    Then the unbolting and craning of the SL #Mercedes-Benz-R107 (C107 body type) hardtop will seem a crazily laborious prelude to enjoying the fresh air, and my fingers will not be too frozen to find money for refilling the Honda's underseat fuel tank every 100-120 miles, and instead of telling myself that I can break the 70 limit in second gear I will remind myself that I can do it with another three gears in hand.

    Then every road will beckon, and Milady can follow — or, better still, start off earlier — in the SEL with the picnic hamper and the maps… and my rubber boots and wet-weather oversuit and mitts and neck towels, confound it.

    Rich man’s choice, or is the Gold Wing a viable after native to Mercedes-type class tor those of us with no money? Evidence of the Honda's sophistication — everything that opens and shuts (below left); the fuel tank is under the seat. The 80bhp flat four is an engineering masterpiece (below right). #Mercedes ' V8 is hardly lacking in appeal either (bottom)!
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