By the time the R107 Mercedes hit the 1980’s it had established itself as a dependable and successful Mercedes institution. While it's sporting ability was often questioned, Mercedes found that the majority of buyers investing in the top of the range 500SL were not motivated by outright sporting ability but appreciated the car as a comfortable cruiser. The strength in the car lay in its badge and what it stood for. The mechanical durability, combined with power was more than what most people need. This is true especially in the States, where the majority of cars ended up.
The 500 SL didn’t have many comparable rivals at the time, very few if any cars sold by major manufacturers offered the combination of three roof options, open, canvas or hardtop. You could also fit 2 adults and 2 kids into it, with enough boot space for luggage - a useful selling point but one that may have fuelled the description that it was just an open-topped saloon car, not a proper sports car. However, the V8 engine also gave it a unique selling point as a halo model for the brand. It was a model that encompassed Mercedes’ past, present and potential future.
The dependability went beyond the build and engineering. The 500 SL was introduced into the range 9 years after the original R107 models were launched, which gifted buyers with a sense that Mercedes were investing in this SL for the long term. That premise was indeed correct, and the R107 series continued production right until the end of the ‘80s.
This is a UK registered 1982 500 SL with the top of the range V8 engine fitted. A highly prized and expensive car in its day, the image of success and decadence oozes from every angle. In today's market, the R107 models represent a lot of top-notch engineering and dependability for the money, especially when you consider its closest British and Italian rivals often come with a considerable amount of mechanical baggage and headaches. By choosing a well-sorted R107, you can expect the qualities of a modern car with an element of panache and style.
There are some very recent developments under the current owner's care. Previously, it is believed to have spent some time in Ireland and has had 8 documented owners prior to the current guardian. It is a UK registered car and originally sold by a dealer in London. It was owned by the same owner for 13 years before it was put up for auction in 2018. The current owner has spent around £7,000 on repairs, maintenance and recommissioning. What also adds to the credibility of this work, is that it was carried out by Mercedes SL specialists, the SL Shop.
Work includes a new timing chain within the last 2,000 miles, replaced injector seals, new fuel dampener as well as work carried out on the body. Some fairly extensive welding on the car has also been carried out recently, including suspension mounts and sills. The car benefits from being stored in a garage overnight too. So let us ask the age-old question, why is this car being sold? Again, the realities of life kick in and in this case, the owner are looking to buy a house so needs to free up cash. He mentioned that it’s a difficult decision as his father owned a similar car to this, as the connection and passion for the R107 were there from an early age.
There's plenty of evidence of recent work carried out by the SL Shop, as well as photographic evidence of the areas that have been restored. Prior to the current owners' acquisition, there's not much evidence of the car's past ownership but it is solid enough to inspire confidence that it has been looked after. It holds a current MOT.
As it benefits a brand that maintains a reputation for quality, the cabin is in great shape. The most important elements such as the seats, dashboard and the function of the switchgear are as to be expected and look great for a car of this vintage. The dashboard presentation is typically SL, the huge wheel dominates the facia - a legacy of the old generation SL models that didn't have power steering (although this car does, with cruise control and ABS as standard) The wood console breaks up the sea of black and adds a little period charm to the cabin, suffering from a little wear in places. The seats are in excellent condition, with the black leather being well cared for.
A quick glance under the mats and carpet reveals no problems with the floor pan. It is largely stock from the factory, although the current owner has installed new speakers throughout and a new head unit with an undeniably useful Bluetooth.
The doors are also worthy of a mention, these are heavy items, so are subject to wear but they close perfectly and have that nice weighted feel and reassuring sound when you close them. The door cards, bins and armrests are good too.
The boot is carpeted and in good order. The rear panels are single skinned, which can often mean that boot content that gets flung around may damage the panel from the inside, but this car has been spared this - a good sign of a thoughtful owner. The hood operation is fully functional, including the tools needed to detach and attach the roof and raise the canvas roof.
The colour is original which can be confirmed by the just about legible 040 code on the chassis plate under the bonnet. It looks like it has received a professional respray at some point of its life but there is no evidence of overspray or mismatched colour. The panel gaps are true and even, with no panel ripples or dings. The combination of a black hardtop and paintwork is a rare combination and gives the car a sense of menace adding to the positive presentation of the car. It's finished off in standard alloys, which happen to be in good condition with a little sign of age. The Michelin tyres are well above legal.
One of the good things about later post 1980 R107s is the improved rust proofing, while this model benefits from wax cavity injections, it falls short of the 1985-onwards galvanised body. Luckily there are no signs that the car has major rust issues, the odd blemish has appeared in some sections but not to a degree where it is a major issue. The sills were replaced shortly after the current owner bought the car. As we inspected the sills, the floor pan, jacking points and inner wings proved to be in excellent order too.
Rear and front valances look good, with the areas around the bumpers also clean. Wheel arches, door bottoms and windscreen surround flag this example as a nice solid car, as these are common areas for things to awry. Parts availability for these cars have always been good, with Mercedes actively supplying heritage parts, so between them and the numerous specialists, the majority of parts are obtainable which gives you extra confidence when buying a car like this.
What sneaks up on you, is the volume of chrome used on the car. It has been subtly deployed and is another example of clever design psychology used to adorn the car with ‘jewellery’ without it appearing to be overbearing. That said, all of the chrome is in good condition and when new was said to be one of the best in the business. Items such as rubber seals and exterior trim are good with minor signs of age, the glass is good with no hazing or damage although the hardtop glass has some signs of frosting.
Both the hardtop and the canvas roof are in good condition, both from the outside and underneath.
The bigger V8 engines were considered the better options for the R107 models, with 8 engines available for the car over its lifetime, the 500 SL used the preferred 4973cc V8 engine - considered to be the best large capacity engine made for the car. As an exclusive engine fitted to non-US markets, it wasn’t subjected to power-sapping emission gear and therefore the use of the 237bhp was relatively unstrained to enjoy. It has to be said the V8 is no joy to look at when you pop open the bonnet, but the execution and delivery of the engine certainly make up for it.
The car starts up instantly without fail, with no smoke at all. The engine runs nicely over tick over, and the temperature gauge moves up to temperature and never threatens to go beyond. The gear shift is slick and the brakes... oh the brakes are superb. The R107 has an excellent reputation for its direct and firm braking, combined with ABS means that the R107 has brakes that would shame a modern car.
It is a softly sprung car amplified by the soft seats but the suspension superbly smooths the bumps - a useful aspect when driving over damaged roads. The other mechanical aspects, such as steering, exhaust and suspension are sound. There are no untoward noises that would be out of place on a well-maintained car of this age.
The long production run of these cars ensured that Mercedes tended to update and upgrade the car on a regular basis. The under the skin improvements are often under-rated and it helps to present the R107 as one of the finest open-top cars of the '70s and '80s. They still convey a message of refinement and respectability, with many owners marvelling on the car's confidence and mechanical durability. It successfully does what only German cars of this period can do - combine the romance and feel of a classic car, with the usability and manners of a modern car.
As a result, these cars are very easy to drive and make effortless cruisers. However, its appeal might just be too civil for those who like to push the car into bends at speed - adrenaline junkies may need to look elsewhere for their thrills. However, If your criteria for a quality classic car is something that will start up on the button, offering no stress driving with safety, reliability and comfort, then the SL is going to be perfect for you. Just go easy on the gas.
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