﹒2.8-litre, chain-driven double overhead cam inline six engine
The S-class might be the world’s greatest luxury car, but no Mercedes-Benz is more blue-blooded than the SL line. The SL badge, or “Super Leicht” in the Mercedes lexicon, first adorned the beautiful W198 300 SL of 1954, but the SL-class arguably began with the W113 SL in 1963 - less racy than the 300 SL perhaps, but closer to what we’d associate the badge with today.
Following one of the 1950s’ greatest sports cars and one of the 1960s’ most beautiful must have been no easy task, but Mercedes-Benz was in its pomp in the 1970s and threw absolutely everything at its third-generation SL, with the R107 chassis code. They did so to such an extent that a full coupe version, the C107 SLC, was introduced alongside the roadster.
The SLC might not have offered the SL’s wind-in-the-hair feeling, but with a pillar-less design it was equally elegant, featuring a slatted rear quarter window and, conveniently for those deterred by the soft-top’s vestigial rear seats, a proper rear bench suitable for human occupation.
While it sold in little more than a quarter the numbers of the SL roadster and ended production eight years earlier than the astonishingly long-lived soft top, the SLC still enjoyed the same mechanicals from inline-six and V8 power-plants, manual and automatic transmissions and smooth recirculating ball steering, with a long-legged gait and easy-going practicality that positively encouraged buyers to embark upon long trips. And, thanks to a high standard of build, there are plenty around allowing buyers to do the same today.
The 280 SLC you see here was built in 1975, but first registered in the UK on the 20th August 1981. It’s painted in Classic White, colour 737G, a shade actually introduced the year this car was built.
As you can probably guess from a car that has remained in storage for several years now, the seller’s motivation for moving the car on is simply lack of use. Nice though it is to own a classic Mercedes-Benz coupe, lack of time means it isn’t being enjoyed as often as it could or should be – hopefully something the new owner will be able to rectify.
This SLC comes with a small folder of paperwork including the V5, plenty of old MOT certificates and a selection of previous service invoices and bills from the car’s previous history. The seller also tells us the car has had a long service history with Mercedes Benz dealerships and subsequent services have been by Mercedes-Benz specialists.
The vehicle is currently untaxed, having been kept in storage for several years, and shows a tax expiry date of 26 March 2016.The MOT recently expired on 11th October 2020, but with so little distance covered since the previous MOT at 57,587 miles and storage in a controlled environment, it should have little difficulty replicating its previous record – it has passed first time with no advisories since November 2015.
Mercedes-Benz invested good money into the SLC’s continent-crossing ability and this car’s cabin would be a particularly fine place from which to command such a trip. It wears its 39 years very well indeed, though with only 57,000 miles under its wheels it’s perhaps not had the hardest of lives in that time.
Even so, the characteristic navy leather upholstery could be half its four decades – it’s worn very well, the seats are still plump and comfortable (including those in the rear), and their navy blue colour (echoed throughout the interior) contrasts nicely with the white exterior paintwork. There’s some cracking to the dashboard just behind the instrument binnacle, a common failure of cars of this age, but the rest of the dashboard and doorcard trim feels particularly solid and the doors themselves close with a satisfyingly substantial thunk.
Buyers had a different idea of luxury in the 1970s and 1980s so the plastic steering wheel rim and gearknob may be a surprise, but both have also worn well, the gearknob being a little shiny but otherwise in good condition. There’s some damage to the plastic around the base of the handbrake and most of the dashboard trim could do with a good clean, but the carpets and headlining have both largely escaped the ravages of time. Those classic Mercedes-Benz VDO dials still look great too – clarity never goes out of fashion.
This SLC has clearly benefited from the care Mercedes put into its construction back in 1981. The bodywork is by no means perfect, but it’s looking pretty good for a 39-year old.
The car’s coachwork is in good shape, with thick white paintwork, liberal use of chrome trim (all present and correct), and the famously ribbed tail lights and front indicator lenses (apparently designed to help water clear in bad weather), as well as the headlights and spotlights below the front bumper, are all in very good condition. The glass is also good and there’s a lovely action to everything you interact with on the outside – the slim chrome door handles are a particular highlight (almost literally), but the boot lid and even the enormous bonnet operate with an action that justifies the SLC’s reputation.
The imperfections we noted above come in the form of some surface corrosion along many of the lower edges, including the sills, lower edges of the front and rear valances, and wheel arches. There are also small bubbles here and there near some badges and trim pieces like the fuel filler door and kick plates, plus a hint of brown where the front wings attach to the A-pillars inside the door shuts. Some cosmetic attention would be nice, but none appear problematic, backed up by several years of clean MOT records.
The classic bottletop 14-inch alloy wheels look smart and there’s still plenty of tread left on the tall-sidewalled 205/70 R14 rubber, though we’d be tempted to fit tyres of a more prominent brand if the car is to be used regularly and in all weathers. You’ll never have any problem remembering tyre pressures though, thanks to the original sticker on the inside of the fuel filler door!
Built at a time when the number on the boot lid had some correlation with engine capacity, the 280 SLC uses a 2.8-litre, chain-driven double overhead cam inline six. This particular car, quite unconventionally for a Mercedes (but more common on smaller-engined variants like this) features a four-speed manual transmission rather than the expected automatic.
On visual inspection the 2.8 looks very good indeed. The visible components are clean with little hint of fouling by substances like oil or coolant. Hoses and vacuum lines are all in good condition, and the HT leads appear relatively new.
The car starts quickly and settles to a smooth idle. It’s surprisingly quiet too, if you’re used to more modern cars and expect older ones to clatter or grumble – that inline six was clearly used by Mercedes for good reason, and 57,000 miles down the line still ticks over quietly, barely raising its voice while the car is in motion.
With the car in storage and currently untaxed it wasn’t possible to experience the car going through the gears or at anything greater than car park speeds, so interested parties may wish to contact the seller to discuss further inspection for peace of mind, but the seller says the car always starts first time, runs and drives smoothly and has proved very reliable. As the car is stored on trickle charge it’s essentially ready to go once taxed.
Driving these days can be a bit of a bind, more often than not. Speed cameras, traffic, deteriorating road surfaces… all can chip away at the enjoyment of driving a sports car down a twisty road, and particularly with more modern sports cars the chance of feeling like you’ve really explored the car’s abilities is even further away.
That might be why cars like this 280 SLC are looking increasingly appealing. While it’s a sports car on face value, there are clearly cars that will out-handle or out-perform it, even from within Mercedes’ own stable. But for getting from place to place in style and comfort, the list of preferable cars is much, much smaller.
The 280 SLC is therefore an opportunity to enjoy a different kind of driving – one that focuses on covering large distances in comfort, taking the scenic route, and enjoying low-revs torque rather than hunting for the red line. Quiet and comfortable, it’s not difficult to imagine dropping a couple of large suitcases in the boot, pointing the nose towards the south of France alongside your significant other (and thanks to the SLC’s space, even those with kids can enjoy it), and wafting down the autoroute with the pillar-less windows down. Buying now gives you time for the world to sort itself out before a proper trip in the summer...
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