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Old 11-06-2002, 06:23 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Tulsa, OK
Posts: 7
'77 450Sl Restore?

I currently have a 2001 C320, my daily driver.

I have the ability to get a 450Sl in sad shape. Not terrible, but bad, rust, hard starting, ripped interior, etc. The thing does run fair. I am very mechicanically inclined. I have "restored "other vehicles. What is anyones option on this as my next project. I do this more for enjoyment not profit. Red, 133,000 miles. What is the pros and cons of this model. Any info would be helpful, Thanks
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Old 11-06-2002, 07:20 PM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Southern California, U.S.A.
Posts: 8,538
None of the W107 chasis SL's will probably ever become really collectible because of the large numbers of cars that were sold.

The most collectible would be the '72 and '73 models because they had the most horsepower (no catalytic converters) and had the graceful original design bumpers, rather than the 'park bench' clumsy crash tested bumpers fitted to '74 and later cars.

Having said that, '77 is the first year that the catalytic converters were moved from the engine compartment to beneath the floor where they belong. '75 and '76 models had the cats in the engine compartment and thus suffered from vapor lock problems because air flow was restricted by the tight fitting engine underhood.

'76 was the first year of the CIS fuel injection, which replaced the earlier fuel injection system. '76 and later models also came with hydraulic lifters and breakerless electronic ignition. '77 also had the manual climate controls, which is a better and more reliable system than what '78 and later models got - automatic climate control - which was never known for durability.

'79 and earlier 450 SL's also have more horsepower than 1980 models (180 hp vs. 160 hp.).

If you enjoy doing this - bringing basket cases back to life - then I'd never persuade you not to do it.

It'll always be cheaper to buy as good a car as possible, but if you're not concerned about profit, and would prefer to spend your money a little at a time, then why not?
Paul S.

2001 E430, Bourdeaux Red, Oyster interior.
79,200 miles.

1973 280SE 4.5, 170,000 miles. 568 Signal Red, Black MB Tex. "The Red Baron".
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Old 11-06-2002, 07:31 PM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Southern California, U.S.A.
Posts: 8,538
Here is an article that ran in Road and Track Magazine in March 1994 about the entire run of the W107 chasis SL's.

ROAD & TRACK - March 1994

MERCEDES-BENZ 350/450/380/560 SLs
Status-symbol bargains for the not-so rich and famous


They called it der Panzerwagen. The "armored car", as it translated from the Teutonic tongue, wouldn't seem to be a very dignified name for an automobile that's become one of the most coveted status symbols of our times. But those in Mercedes-Benz engineering who coined the moniker for the new 350SL had a point. Compared with the lovely, svelte 280SL that it was to replace, the 350SL did indeed look brutishly impregnable.

Of course, given the regulatory climate at the dawn of the Seventies, that was the point, Mercedes engineers knew the new design would have to meet not only the desires of consumers, but also the safety (and emissions) standards of U.S. lawmakers.

Steve Marx, owner of Marx Mercedes Service, and Rod Curha, owner of Dan's Automotive Service, are two of the most knowledgeable Mercedes mechanics. We culled their wisdom regarding the purchase of an older SL. And we also turned to a nearby Costa Mesa resident for advise, Doug Rugg, proprietor of an independent used Mercedes dealership, DR imports.

Best among their attributes, these 1972-1989 V-8-powered SLs have engines that are just about unburstable.

"I've driven a number of early 4.5-liter SLs with 750,000 or more on their engines," said Rugg. "At a million miles they get a little edgy".

That may be stretching things just a bit, according to Cunha and Marx. But both agree the iron-block V-8s are exceptionally long-lived.

"Around 350,000 before a bottom-end overhaul isn;t unrealistic," said Cunha. "The top end is often good for 180,000-240,000 miles."

And from Marx, "I have some customers with at least 300,000 miles on their cars and the engines haven't even needed valve jobs."

So does this mean a high-mileage early SL, say, one with 150,000 or even 200,000 miles, might still be a good buy? You bet. "I wouldn't be afraid of it, as long as I knew its service history and it was a good car in other respects," said Cunha. (All of our experts recommend oil changes be done every 3000 miles.)

Still, all things being equal, it's best to avoid 1975-1976 models, and 1974 California cars as well. In the former, the cars carried catalytic converters inside the engine compartment. The heat generated by the converters tends to cook wiring and vacuum lines under the hood. Vapor lock was also a common malady. Mercedes engineers moved the catalysts farther downstream for 1977.

The 1974 California cars, according to Marx, were equipped with exhaust-gas-recirculation devices that cause stumbling problems.

For model year 1981, Mercedes substituted a lighter, more efficient all-alloy 3.8 liter V-8 for the old reliable iron-block 4.5-liter V-8. And along with it came trouble.

The engine has a single-row timing chain, which as the miles piles on, tend to stretch. Unchecked, the chain can jump its sprockets, causing pistons to collide with valves, leaving the 380SL owner facing a $6,000 repair bill. During 1984, Mercedes switched to a double-row chain and solved the problem.

Though it was not announced recall, Rugg says that at one time Mercedes did convert some of the early 380SLs, free of charge, to double row chain for some customers. "The only way to know if a car is converted is to take off the valve cover and look."

Converting one now is a $2500-$3000 proposition, said Marx. But Marx added that the conversion is unnecessary if the owner changes the chain and tensioner every 40,000 miles -- a $300 job.

Owners of 380Sls -- and later 560SLs, another SL with an all-alloy V-8 -- may also find that if their cylinders heads need to come off for any reason, they'll face an extra expense of several hundred dollars, in addition to a valve job or work needs to be done. Mercedes suggests that once the head bolts are removed, the aluminum block must be helicoiled to provide new threads. Otherwise, the bolts may pull out.

However, Marx said he's successfully replaced the head bolts on several 380 and 560 engines without helicoling. "You just have to torque them down very carefully, according to the book," he said. "But maybe I've just been lucky so far," he added.

Given regular service, the rest of the drivetrain, and most of the car for that matter, seems to be nearly as robust as the engine. Our panel of experts report no unusual problems with automatic transmissions (manual gearboxes were never an option on U.S.-spec cars), read ends, suspension or electrical components. Cunha said front brake rotors might need replacing every 40,000 miles, catalytic converters sometimes plug up after 100,000 miles, and water pumps, fan clutches and started may fail after 80,000 for 100,000 miles.

The 450SLs were subject to a formal recall, one still being honored by Mercedes-Benz, for cracking subframes. The dealer will replace or weld the subframe.

During the Seventies, German cars were not noted for their effective air conditioners, and these SLs are no exception. Except for the servo units in the automatic climate-control systems of the 1977-1980 450SLs, which seem to fail every three years, the air conditioners don't break particularly often. "They just don't cool well", said Marx.

SLs aren't given to rust. But any prospective buyer of a car that's lived much of its life in an area where salt is used on winter roads should check the steel lid that covers the hardtop, the front fenders, around the headlights, inside the trunk and the rear box section of the chassis.

Paint, chrome and upholstery hold up well. Even the dashboards aren't prone to cracking, except blue ones for some reason. The horsehair seat padding, however, does tend to collapse over time. But replacement pads are available.

Indeed, Hemming Motor New is chock-full of advertisements for Mercedes or SL specialists who can provide almost any body, trim or mechanical item. Mercedes-Benz dealers can also supply most parts for these SLs.

PRODUCTION HISTORY 1971 V-8-powered 350SL 4.5 (body style "W107" in Mercedes-Benz nomenclature) introduced to U.S. as as a 1972 model. Though introduced in Europe with a 3.5-liter engine, the W107 always carried a less efficient but detoxed 230-bhp, 4.5-liter, Iron-block V-8 here, coupled with a 3-speed automatic. Power-assisted steering, air conditioning, hard and soft-tops were standard.
1973 Name changed in American market to 450SL.
1974 Addition of 5-mph bumper. Horsepower declined to 190 bhp. California version acquired EGR and fuel injection.
1975 Addition of catalytic converters. Horsepower declined to 180 bhp.
1976 Addition of cruise control, transistorized ignition, hydraulic valve adjusters; switch from Bosch electronic to Bosch Jetronic fuel injection.
1977 Catalytic convertors moved downstream. Climate-control system introduced.
1980 3-way catalytic converter introduced, final drive ratio reduced. Horsepower declined to 160 bhp, but fuel economy increased.
1981 380SL with 3.8 liter, 155 bhp, all-alloy V-8 and 4-speed automatic introduced to U.S. market. Electric window lifts are standard.
1983 Recalibrated engine and transmission for improved performance and fuel economy.
1984 Switch from single-row to twin-row timing chain.
1985 ABS became standard; driver-side airbag was optional.
1986 560SL with with 5.6-litter, 227-bhp all-alloy V-8 and 4-speed transmission into U.S. market. Limited-slip differential, front air dam, leather upholstery, anti-theft alarm are standard.
1989 W107 production ended.

SL selection tips

Given the long model run and the various engine changes, there is a pecking order of desirability among the V-8 SLs. For guidance on this aspect of SL buying, we turned to John Olson, of the SL Market (2020 S. Girard, Minneapolis, Minn. 55405, $42 for nine issues).

Because it represents the pinnacle of the car's development, Olsin places the 560SL at the top of his SL list. Of course, as relative youngsters, they also command the highest prices.

Next in line come the models that generally cost the least: The earliest V-8 SLs, the 1972-1973 models. Horsepower steadily declined in subsequent years, reaching a low with the 380SL. Moreover, these earliest car don't have catalytic converters to worry about, and they have the esthetic advantage of smaller European bumpers.

Third on Olson's list are the 1979-1980 450SLs, which represent the pinnacle of development for the trusty 4.5-liter cars. All the other years would come next, except for the 1981-1983 380SLs with their cursed single-row timing chains. These 380SLs would be his last choice among the 1972-1989 SL variants.

And are any of these V-8-powered SLs likely to become valuable collectibles? You probably shouldn't plan to retire off the profits from one of these cars. Unlike their predecessors the 300SL or 230/250/280SL, the V-8 cars are just too numerous to become collector pieces any time soon. Instead, these are cars to buy, use and enjoy.
Paul S.

2001 E430, Bourdeaux Red, Oyster interior.
79,200 miles.

1973 280SE 4.5, 170,000 miles. 568 Signal Red, Black MB Tex. "The Red Baron".
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Old 11-07-2002, 01:58 AM
4NDELIT's Avatar
Registered User
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Dublin, CA
Posts: 887
I have a 78 450SL and I love it. Pros are it's power on the highway, con's being it's sluggishness off the line. And the loose springs. I put a set of billsteins that helped the handelling a lot, but it still has lots of roll. I also redid the stereo [I have boxed 6x9's on the bench and a cd player] and I would suggest doing the halogen light swap that I did. good luck with your project, and post pics!
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