RESERVE LOWERED - 1981 Mercedes-Benz 380 SL

***Pictures provided by seller***


・Largely original car
・Rare factory rear seat option
・Will attain historic vehicle status this year

The Background

Perhaps the most enduring badge in the Mercedes-Benz range, the “SL” - or “Super Leicht” (super light) - has been in production for more than six decades, and the name has appeared on many of the marque's flagship cars.

This model of SL, the R107 third-generation, is among the longest-serving cars Mercedes has ever produced, with its 18-year run bettered only by the G-Class.

The History

This SL, a V8-powered 380SL, first hit the UK's roads in November 1981. As new it would have come in at close to £25,000, which is equivalent to £90,000 today, so hardly small change!

That means it's coming up on 40 years old this November, which would grant it historic vehicle status, and both zero-rate VED and an MOT exemption.

Across its close-to-40-year history the SL has run up some 126,000 miles, or about 3,000 miles a year, though much of that was early in its life. In recent years it's been in storage, returning to road use in 2014, but even so it hasn't piled on the miles with barely 200 miles in the last three years.

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The Paperwork

Along with the current MOT, which runs through to November, the SL's paperwork folder includes copies of older MOTs; there is a gap in the early 00s, which corresponds to a period when the car was in storage.

In addition to this, there's invoices and receipts for work and servicing carried out, some of which is from Mercedes main dealers. There's some refurbishment work reflected in the paperwork too, with a previous owner effectively recommissioning the car for road use. That covers items like brake calipers, roof catch, and thermostat.

You'll also find an original sales booklet, and some other general material regarding this generation of SL.

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The Interior

Unusually, this SL is a full four-seat model. While all R107 SLs were sold as two-seater cars, buyers could specify rear seats too; it wasn't a particularly cheap option – close to £1,200 in 2021 money, and the seats are best described as “occasional”, so it's less common to find cars with this box ticked.

All four seats come in the same dark blue vinyl/blue checked fabric finish, and they're largely in excellent condition. The front passenger seats does have a couple of small nicks in the fabric and the vinyl bolster on the seat cushion, but otherwise they're standing up well to the test of time. This pattern extends onto the door cards too, and is just as well-kept there.

There's blue carpeting throughout, and this is in similarly good condition – protected by mats in the front footwells – with a little wear on the foot rest. The wood finish on the dash and centre console is also standing up well, though the seller advises the console veneer is a replacement item which is close to but doesn't quite match the dashboard grain.

There's a couple of other aftermarket items too, though largely in-keeping with the original. The wooden gear knob and stainless steel sill protectors are newer pieces, and the radio is, despite appearances, a modern unit designed to look like a period piece. Two original items though are the tool bag/roll and first aid kit.

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The Exterior

The Astral Silver metallic bodywork is in remarkable condition, age notwithstanding, and it should pass even the closest scrutiny. It's hard to find anything to draw any attention to, even down on the sills, and that extends to the original hard top too.

There's a blue mohair roof matching the interior trim, and this is in largely good condition too. The seller advises of a couple of areas where the soft top has been pinched in the frame mechanism – something that can happen on these cars when the roof is raised or lowered in a hurry – causing minor surface damage, but nothing more severe.

The 14-inch wheels are original Fuchs Baroque items, and all four are in good condition. All the chrome brightwork is keeping its lustre despite the advancing years, including the windscreen surround, door handles, and door mirrors.

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The Mechanics

While we haven't had a chance to drive the SL, the seller hasn't noted any particular issues with the car. At nearly two tonnes it's a grand tourer rather than a sports car, and the 380SL is the smaller of the V8 options, so it's not quite as quick.

That said, it's also markedly more reliable; the five-litre models could go through gearboxes for fun, but the 380's four-speed auto should have plenty of life left in it yet!

The Appeal

The late 1970s and early 1980s is a somewhat forgotten era for classic cars, but thanks to the DVLA's rolling 40-year historic vehicle classification – bringing MOT exemption and zero-rate VED – it's a period that's rapidly gaining interest.

Add in the fact it's a convertible V8 Mercedes-Benz, and it's easy to see why you should buy it while there's still plenty of summer left to enjoy.

Notice to bidders

Although every care is taken to ensure this listing is as factual and transparent as possible, all details within the listing are subject to the information provided to us by the seller. Car & Classic does not take responsibility for any information missing from the listing. Please ensure you are satisfied with the vehicle description and all information provided before placing a bid.

As is normal for most auctions, this vehicle is sold as seen, and therefore the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. All bids are legally binding once placed. Any winning bidder who withdraws from a sale, is subject to our bidders fee charge. Please see our FAQs and T&C's for further information. Viewings of vehicles are encouraged, but entirely at the seller's discretion.

See our Terms & Conditions here.

Vehicle specification
  • Year 1981
  • Make Mercedes
  • Model 380SL
  • Colour Silver
  • Odometer 126,100 Miles
  • Engine size 3818
  • Location Dorset
  • Country United Kingdom
Bidding history
5 bids from 4 bidders
  • sa•••• £12,257 27/07/21
  • jo•••• £12,007 25/07/21
  • jo•••• £11,007 25/07/21
  • Me•••• £10,000 20/07/21
  • ja•••• £500 20/07/21

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