∙c.£35,000 spent on restoration ∙Massive history file ∙Excellent hard-top and soft-top ∙Superb runner
The R107-generation Mercedes-Benz SL is, quite simply, a motoring icon. A car that was so enormously popular that its production run spanned almost two full decades with very few revisions, and it’s something that’s very much sought after today. The model debuted in 1971, and remained in production right up until 1989. Its enduring appeal is down to two key things: firstly, the design was absolutely spot-on – crisp, clean and near-timeless. There are few cars that would still look at home in the showroom after eighteen years, but this pretty form carried it off with aplomb. And secondly, the mechanicals were bulletproof: taking chassis components from the rugged W114 saloon and easing in the brawny but cultured V8s from the sizeable S-Class flagships, the SL roadster served up vivid performance in a solid and playful package, with class and reliability fused with effortless style.
A great many variants were offered over the R107’s lifetime, from the lowly six-cylinder models to those top-tier V8s, and whichever one the buyer chose the fundamental package remained the same: quite simply, an SL is an SL. It speaks for itself as a marker of quality. And naturally if you’re shooting for quality, as charming as the six-pots are, you can’t really argue with the brawny might of the 4.5-litre V8 in the 450 SL, can you?
History is everything with a car like this, and it’s pleasing to note that this SL comes with a great big box full. The previous owner kept the car for an impressive twenty-six years, and it has evidently been looked after with exacting care and a money-no-object approach; indeed, a full and thorough restoration was carried out in the early 2000s, and the Mercedes has clearly been carefully curated since as it still looks extremely fresh. With much of the restoration work carried out by a specialist in Northern Ireland, the cherished 450 SL has now done what so many R107s do and gravitated to London, where it awaits its next owner to enjoy the fruits of all of those labours.
The original manuals are present in the file, along with the V5 that shows the car’s date of first registration as 01/08/1974. A number of other books are also here, including the hallowed Haynes manual, and of course there’s a huge amount of paperwork – two ring-binders full, in fact. All of the servicing, maintenance and repairs over the decades can be traced here, and the really meaty stuff refers to that fastidious restoration. A lengthy four-page itemised invoice from March 2002 details the full extent of the works carried out by T&D Heaney Motor Company of Co Derry, NI – this covers everything from brakes and window glass to pedals, badges, weather strips, lights, engine components, cables, seals, you name it – the bill came to a robust €12,295. The car has also received a full body restoration, and there’s a receipt from Aldridge Trimming showing that the interior was re-trimmed in early 2002. The total cost of the restoration was in the region of £35,000, and the paperwork makes for intriguing reading.
The cabin of the SL is beautifully finished – the leather re-trim is superbly executed, giving the car a feel of having been very well looked after and not over-restored. The front seats recline as they should to give access to the rear bench, an expensive factory option which is here accompanied by later-type seatbelts. The dash is in great condition, with no cracks to the dashtop and the glovebox opening properly and closing evenly. The dials work correctly, and all of the right switchgear is in place. An aftermarket CD player with a removable fascia has been fitted. The carpets are in good order, as are the doorcards with just some natural patination to the door pulls. (The marks you can see in the photos on the driver door pocket are just from muddy shoes, and will easily wipe off.) The inside of the boot is all solid and dry, with the original jack in place. The boot carpet could do with straightening out at the top edge, but that’s a quick and easy job and the carpet itself is in good condition.
The crisp silver paintwork has recently been machine-polished to rejuvenate it and restore its shine, and it really does gleam in the sunlight. The bodywork of this SL is remarkably straight and true, having received a full body restoration; all the panels sit just as they should, and everything opens and closes with satisfying precision. The light lenses are in good order, all of the correct chrome and badging is in place, and the bumpers are free from corrosion with no scuffs on the corners – not always a given with a London car!
The 17” AMG wheels are a bold upgrade which do much to contemporise the aesthetic; they’re shod in quality 215-section BFGoodrich rubber, and the footwork gives the SL a truly purposeful stance. The soft-top has been replaced and is in excellent condition, and raises, lowers and fastens with ease. The original factory hard-top is also present, and this is in great condition too. And as you’d expect of a car that’s received so much specialist attention over the years, the underside appears to be incredibly straight and solid.
The drivetrain package on this model is a thing of great joy; the 4.5-litre V8 serves up a silky 222bhp which, with just 1,600kg-odd to shove down the road, provides vivid performance combined with exemplary smoothness. The three-speed auto ’box is the perfect companion to the V8, shifting cleanly and smartly. This is a drivetrain which has evidently been looked after throughout its life, and the Mercedes drives like a dream today – the engine has an even idle, even temperature, good pressure, no troubling noises, and everything working as it should.
The chassis of this car is equally impressive, boasting a double-wishbone front end and large-diameter disc brakes (interestingly on these early models, the rear discs are actually slightly larger than the fronts), and everything on this 450 has been gone over with a fine-tooth comb. Peer between those wheel spokes and you’ll see calipers that shine like new. A lot of money has been spent here, and the seller reports no issues whatsoever with the mechanicals of this car. A real jump-in-and-drive proposition.
The R107 is the evergreen classic, that’s been true for some time and it’s not a position that’s likely to shift any time soon. The appeal is obvious: these are proper, bona fide, desirable classic cars, but they’re also – and this is the key point – sufficiently sophisticated, reliable and well-engineered to be usable on a daily basis today. And we’d suggest that the 450 SL is more entertaining than most – after all, who wants to simply keep up with the modern traffic when you could be sailing past it with the top down?
This particular 450 SL is a very attractive thing indeed, thanks to the huge amount of time, effort, expert care and (of course) money that’s been lavished upon it. The exterior is glorious to behold, the fundamentals are solid, the interior is just as you’d want it, and the oily bits are in tip-top nick. This is an SL that you could jump into tomorrow and simply enjoy – no to-do list, no project planning, it’ll just slot right into your lifestyle.
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