1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC C107

1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC C107

Having never driven a 107-series SLC before, William Terrington paid a visit to Kingdom Specialist Cars in Hampshire to sample a refreshed 450 model manufactured in 1979 – here’s how he got on...

The great unknown Modern classic – 450SLC

“With true rarity, surely the 107-series SLC is the thinking man’s SL?”

The C107 SLC was Mercedes’ temporary flirtation with an R107 SL-based, range-topping coupe before reverting to type with the 126-series S-Class. 62,888 were made during standard production which spanned 1972 to 1981. Generally overlooked thanks to its roadster counterpart and its unusual styling around the C-pillars, values of C107s have naturally remained below that of the R107 SLs. However, this situation doesn’t detract from the SLC being a wonderful, overlooked gem.

1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC C107

1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC C107

Remembering a 450SLC in the November 2008 issue, its Icon Gold paintwork flattered the extended wheelbase design, and contrasted tastefully with those rear side window blinds and a cream velour interior. It simply oozed class. With a 4.5-litre V8 engine producing 214bhp, (the 450SLC made 222bhp pre-November 1975) the two-door coupe was hardly a supercar chaser, but had a substantial amount of power for the time.

In short, it came across as a dynamic grand tourer, a quirky and intriguing alternative to its S-Class-based predecessors and successors. With true rarity, surely the 107-series SLC is the thinking man’s SL? This coupe has ample room for four and retains an open-air feeling with all the windows and sunroof open, without the inconvenience of removing a heavy hardtop.

1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC C107

Every now and then, a car comes along that’s like a Swiss Army Knife: many talents rolled into one. Smaller than an SEC, SL looks and a V8 engine, but with space for the family. That’s the SLC in a nutshell. One such car amongst modern Mercedes was the CLS63 AMG Shooting Brake, a supercar-beating estate that arguably looked better than the four-door coupe, boasted additional practicality and even had the option of a boot floor finished in American Cherry wood.

1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC C107

On taking the helm of this 1979 example, offered for sale by Kingdom Specialist Cars in Hampshire, the cabin is more spacious than expected, providing a touch more headroom than the SL. The velour driver’s seat – retrimmed in ‘new old stock’ material as part of a full cosmetic restoration in 2017 – is very comfortable and plush indeed, but perhaps lacking a little side support. However, this car is clearly meant to be a comfortable GT cruiser, so that’s hardly a problem. Sculpted seats packed with technology are all the rage now, but these softly sprung chairs still make the grade for a long journey.

A treat for the senses

As the owner of a W201 190E, the SLC’s simple cabin layout is familiar to me, however the build quality is far more old school than anticipated – in an entirely positive way. Plastics are kept to a minimum while walnut and chrome trim are in abundance. With excellent all-round visibility plus an electric sunroof, the cabin is remarkably accommodating of those who may never have driven an SLC before, or perhaps any car at all.

The four electric window switches located below the smart wooden gearlever still operate with precision, and the textured steering wheel reminds just how well this particular SLC has withstood the test of time. As for the C107’s controversial rear pillars, I found myself caring less about their design the more time I spent with this Astral Silver Mercedes.

1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC C107 - interior

Some will lament the replacement of the original radio with a modern Blaupunkt unit.

However, the Blaupunkt is pleasingly discreet with a superb fit, and offers Bluetooth and a CD player as well as a radio function, which will suit today’s more tech-savvy owners. For reference, a refurbished Becker Europa radio will cost from around £300 and a Becker Mexico unit with cassette player about £350 – if you can find one.

On the move, the SLC is surprisingly easy to drive, although the V8 continually makes its presence felt – and heard. The Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection system of this post-February 1976 car brings the 4.5-litre brute to life with an aggressive rumble and growl. Whilst Mercedes of this era do have a reputation for being staid, conservative cars, the 450SLC isn’t a slowcoach by any means. The fact that today’s four-cylinder engines produce similar figures to the M117 motor becomes irrelevant. The 450SLC’s performance is provided by a totally different breed of horses that are rich in torque, sound and character, and which thrive on being commanded with spirit. At low speeds, the SLC pulls at its reins, but with a clear road ahead and maximum thrust deployed, this Mercedes’ true nature is revealed amidst a mechanical symphony that resonates throughout the cabin. Thanks to the refreshingly simple three-speed automatic transmission and seemingly endless torque from low revs, the SLC speeds forwards without interruption.

When it comes to cornering, the 107-series SLC is hardly the last word in precision, and awareness of the long bonnet is needed as you begin turning that large steering wheel. Though sitting low down in the retrimmed seat, and with that nose stretching out in front of you does make for a very relaxed driving experience. There’s some body roll through fast bends but the sheer level of grip provided by the 14-inch tyres with period-correct tread pattern is surprising.

The SLC does a very reasonable job of hiding its 1,630kg kerb weight, and the anti-lock braking system is impressively strong and linear in its response to input through the pedal. As for the ride quality, this modern classic is very comfortable – its 360mm longer wheelbase than the R107 SL adding a touch more composure if you do get rough and ready with it. It’s pleasing to note a distinct lack of rattles or vibrations on this example, too. You really could drive the 450SLC all day long.

Back to the old school

Prior to experiencing this SLC, a 450-badged V8 Mercedes built in the 1970s was already under personal consideration. And now? Well, I’m not looking at anything else. The M117 engine exceeded all expectations and would make a fine fit for anything from an SL to 116-series S-Class. As for this 450SLC, it drives beautifully with charm and flair, as a classy GT should. It’s so much more exciting, analogue and special in feel than anticipated – a genuine treat to drive. It also shows how dull many cars of today really are.

What’s astounding is that the C107 SLC was only offered for around half the time of its (less expensive) SL counterpart. The succeeding SEC sold 74,060 times over, while the 140-series Coupes found just 26,022 homes – well under half the SLC’s total. And with a fixed roof, the SLC will naturally be stiffer than an SL, so the performance potential is greater, as proven by the SLC’s career in rallying.

The SLC is surely among the most charismatic Mercedes ever made, and is represented very well by Kingdom Specialist Cars’ 72,000-mile example, which could be yours for £39,000. A rumbling, 1970s V8 may not be the most clean or efficient of engines, but great appeal remains in its simplicity. The same can be said for the rest of the car, whose robustness and user-friendliness really stand out in the classic/modern classic marketplace. We’re led to believe that living ever more complicated, regulated and sanitised lives is the way forward. This old school V8 GT suggests otherwise.

Thank you to Kingdom Specialist Cars in Hampshire for the loan of the 450SLC Tel 07577 575770 Web www.kingdomspecialistcars.com

TECHNICAL DATA Mercedes-Benz 450SLC (C107)

  • ENGINE M117 4,520cc V8
  • Max POWER 214bhp @ 5,000rpm
  • Max TORQUE 265lb ft @ 3,250rpm
  • TRANSMISSION 3-speed auto, RWD
  • WEIGHT 1,630kg
  • 0-62MPH 9.3sec
  • TOP SPEED 130mph
  • YEARS PRODUCED 1972-1980

All figures from Mercedes-Benz for a 1979 car as pictured; fuel consumption determined at 3/4 of top speed (not more than 110km/h, 68mph) plus 10 per cent

“The 450SLC drives beautifully with charm and flair, gas a classy GT should”

At 72,000 miles, this SLC is just about run in… Distinctive styling found at the C-pillars. SLC with double wishbone front suspension. An extra pair of seats squeezed into C107 chassis. Anthracite velour under Astral Silver.

SLC production

  • Model 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 Total
  • 280SLC 300 1,312 1,508 1,624 1,553 1,741 1,510 1,118 10,666
  • 350SLC 6 5,562 3,750 864 589 671 822 807 775 79 13,925
  • 450SLC 700 5,594 2,961 2,993 3,802 4,569 4,382 4,510 2,228 31,739
  • 380SLC 1,737 2,052 3,789
  • 450SLC 5.0/500SLC 9 524 937 816 483 2,769

Figures supplied by Mercedes-Benz Classic

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