Country Club Staple: 1974 Mercedes 450 SL

Many years ago, right after dinosaurs gave up their reign on Earth, the Mercedes name was synonymous with quality.  That may sound like a catch phrase or advertising line today, but it was true for a long time.  People purchased Mercedes Benz automobiles because they knew they were safe, handled well, never broke down, and held their value extremely well.  So well, in fact, that many traded their cars in after one or two years to take advantage of the unheard of lack of major depreciation.  Of course, all of that changed when Mercedes purchased Chrysler.  Benzes were still good cars, but it seemed like the company lost focus and quality suffered.  Unlike the dinosaurs, many of the Mercedes from this era are still out there, like this 1974 Mercedes 450 SL convertible for sale on Craigslist for just $6,000.  Located in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, this amazingly well kept Mercedes is just waiting to class up your garage.

Mercedes began production on these convertibles in 1971, replacing the “pagoda” models that have developed such a following today.  Amazingly, production continued until 1989, and Mercedes punched out over a quarter million of them.  This was done right through the period where it looked like the United States government was going to outlaw convertibles for safety reasons.  In anticipation of even more stringent requirements by the safety brigade, Mercedes over engineered these cars from the start.  So much so that the engineers took to calling the car “der Panzerwagen.”  For those of you who are rusty on your German, this means armored car.  Given German skills in building war machines, I think it turned out to be a good nickname.  I would have made it the model name, but that’s one of the reasons why I don’t get let out in public too often.

I worked for a guy whose wife had a later 300 Diesel, and, after driving the 300, told him what a great car I thought it was.  He laughed, and then said that it was nothing compared to her 450 SL convertible.  Comparing the convertible’s doors to the door on a bank vault, he claimed that it was the most solid car he had ever driven.  Looking at this example, which is 43 years old, you can see why he was such a fan.  If taken care of, these cars will last for a long time.  They were made of top quality materials and the engineering was superb.  This particular car looks well taken car of as well.  The odometer reads just 90,00 miles, and the condition of the car bears that out.  The leather interior has a few areas of fading, but nothing to be alarmed over.  The only thing wrong with it, according to the owner, is that it will need a new soft top.  A replacement can be had for under $400, but I am unsure as to whether that is a part an average guy can replace, or if it would require a trip to the upholstery shop.

The exterior condition of the car is, to quote Ted Knight in Caddyshack, is top notch.  In fact, this Mercedes would still look right at home in any country club parking lot.  These cars were the ride of choice for lawyers, dentists, doctors, and the tennis playing spouses of such town luminaries.  I remember seeing some of the most beautiful women imaginable tooling around in these little convertibles, as there were a few golf courses and country clubs around my high school.  Of course, they would have run me down with one if they could have, given my looks and social status, and I would have been honored for the privilege.  They were, in my addled eyes, one of the classiest vehicles around town, and that hasn’t changed one bit.  They haven’t taken off yet in popularity and price, but their predecessors sure have.  Given the fact that there just aren’t that many seventies cars of this caliber to collect, especially with the build quality of these cruisers, they should start to rise in value soon.  The “pagoda” Mercedes models have gained in value so much over the last few years, that a rise in prices similar to the early Porsche 911 phenomenon may happen here as well.

If the prices stay the same, who cares?  The cost of entry is low, but the reward comes when you put it in gear and take hold of that enormous Mercedes emblem embossed steering wheel.  These convertibles provided owners with one of the best driving experiences the seventies had to offer.  They are still an amazing car, and now they can be had by us commoners!

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. sparkster

    Walked out of high school in 1971 and my eyes became fixed on this beautiful car. As I walked up to it I notice it was a Mercedes 350SL. A high school teachers new purchase. So 46 yrs later I still want one. Ageless design even after all of these years. I did but a lotto ticket so who knows. Stay tuned.

  2. Olddavid

    I have a 76 that is the perfect burger cruiser. I believe the Shuttle would still be in use had they used M-B Tex on the shield.

  3. Alfie

    Oh god those 5 mph bumpers. I’d swap them out for euro bumpers and get rid of chrome wheel lip moulding. I’ll never understand Americans and their chrome???

    • RS

      The bumpers aren’t because we love chrome, they were a misguided law requiring bumpers to hopefully absorb low speed impacts without damage. Made for some very ugly cars.

    • Rodney

      You will learn to love those 5mph bumpers when sphincter in the parking lot backs his Prius into you and drives off…….

  4. Jake

    Definitely not a convertible top for the average back yard mechanic to replace!!!!! Best to take to a shop that has done convertible top replacements before and know what they are doing!!!!!!

  5. RS

    You’d have to be a cardboard cutout to ride in the back seat with 1″ of legroom. Still a Mercedes convert for $6000 is tempting.

  6. Mark-A

    Has anyone else been UNSUBSCRIBED without being asked? I usually get a Weekly update on a Monday @ 3pm (British Summer Time) but STILL haven’t received anything this week an hour & a half after my USUAL time? I have re-subbed so hopefully it’ll be sorted out now. Odd?

    • Mark-A

      Finally got my Subscription Email even though it went to my Junk folder (which is probably due to signing up again as if it was the usual Email it would go straight to the Inbox as I moved it across from Junk so ALL go to my Inbox now). Thanx anyways. I’ll enjoy getting up to date again. Thanx Guys & keep up the Good Work

      • Mountainwoodie

        Happens to me all the time. When I notice that I’m not getting my minute by minute fix, I just go in and sign up again. Too many other things (cough, cough) to worry about!

      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        I get the daily updates, but for some reason, no subscribe without commenting posts for a couple of weeks. Nothing in my junk box either. I have asked on other posts about this problem with no answer from the writer or anyone else on the staff. Hard to believe the author does not follow his story.

      • Jesse Mortensen Staff

        @leiniedude – It’s a problem with your email provider. I just checked the response code on our side and it looks like they are marking the comment notifications as spam and dropping them. You might check with them to see if there is a way to white list our email address.

      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        Thanks a ton Jesse !!!!! I’m on it!

  7. 86 Vette Convertible

    Good thing the wife hasn’t seen this one or she’d be nagging to go get it. I don’t have garage space and I’m guessing replacing the soft top would not be cheap.

    • Slick

      Hopefully it runs and drives and shifts good (no mention, why?)or the soft top will be the least of the $$$ worries this car may have , although it looks good in the pictures. cut my teeth and fingers on many just like this back in the day. nowadays if you can find someone who knows these cars and will work on it , $$$$$$ my 2 cents

  8. Fred W.

    HMMM, the wife loves these (hasn’t quite forgiven me for selling her ’77 420SEL she had in the 90’s) and it happens to be 20 minutes away…

  9. Paul

    I have a friend who owned one of these until recently. His only “complaints” were that parts were expensive and needed frequently, and that it got 12 mpg on a good day.

  10. DETROIT LAND YACHT

    Shave the bumpers…fresh paint…fresh mechanicals…new (but tasteful) sporty rims. In other words a modest restomod.

    • RC46

      No, just no.

  11. Sam

    This model would have been a fixture on “Dallas” and “Hart to Hart”. The ultimate smack-down between Victoria Principal and Stephany Powers.

    German over-engineering does not always equal reliability and longevity. Frustration sets in even if you have money to burn.

  12. Joe Haska

    Several years ago I was looking at these cars for a customer, I had in Alaska. I found what I thought was a fairly nice example, and I took it to a very reputable Mercedes shop for an evaluation. I told him I was concerned about the mileage, it was near 100,000, he laughed and said look at the speedometer, I said “I did!”. He said look again, I finally figured it out, the speedometer goes to 500,000 before it turns over. He said 100,000, its barely broke in. for a Mercedes! I am not sure he was right, but I bought the car, and my customer loved it.

  13. Rodney

    The 450SL was produced between March 1971 to November 1980. A total of 66,298 cars. For 1974, a total of 6,093 cars produced. Every part available through Mercedes Benz Classic and many, many after market companies. I like to think that every car guy/girl should own at least one SL in his or her life.
    Truely amazing and fun cars. Many in the market place to choose from so buy the best example you can afford and play autobahn on the way to pickup the kids or market.

  14. Dolphin Member

    Other than the bumpers and the chrome wheel well trim, this looks like a terrific SL, and maybe a good buy. IIRC I heard once that these have single row timing chains that can break. Anyone know?

    I haven’t driven a 450SL, but a friend owned a 560SL and I drove that a lot.

    – Built like a bank vault. Most solid feeling convertible I have ever been in, like it was carved out of a giant block of steel

    – Beautiful construction with finely crafted details like the shiny trim

    – Almost silent going down the road, even bumpy ones. Smoooth shifting transmission. Everything works smoothly and inspires confidence.

    – Every time I see one parked I find myself walking over to it to admire it. Often there’s a classy driver involved, half the time a very classy woman.

    But…..every time I see one for sale and start to get the itch, it just doesn’t happen.

    Performance cars win out instead. As beautiful as the various SLs are, maybe they are just too smooth……

  15. AMXSTEVE

    Love the Caddyshack reference. These were all over every TV show in the 70’s and 80’s right. Always will be a chicks car to me.

    • Rodney

      Interesting observation with SL’s. Light colored cars (white, ivory, tan, pale blue, etc.) seem to always be driven by women. While the darker colors (black, navy blue, grey, maroon, etc.) driven by men. Odd but true.

  16. Steve McCarron

    The German engineers (who know a thing or two about tanks) who designed this car, called it the one and a half ton Panzer Vagen it was so well built, and here is an interesting fact for you.

    The windscreen surround is so strong it act’s like a roll-over bar should the car get flipped.

    Regardless of what mpg it can do and all of the other queries, this is a model that has been a sleeper for some time and will not be this cheap for ever.. In the UK bare fire wrecked shells are commanding £3-4000 for full restoration.

    These are some of the last true Mercedes cars and at last they are starting to get that recognition

  17. Peter R

    I bought my fist one – a 1982 380SL – in 1984. I’ve owned them on and off since then. They are great, solid cars that, with proper maintenance, will last for a very long time. If the air works and there are maintenance records, this is a bargain. Right now I own two of them a 1987 560SL with 40k miles and a 1989 560SL with only 30k miles. I really should sell one but…. If you can find a Euro 500SL they are the best of all. I know – I’ve owned several over the last 35 years
    BTW the last time I replaced a convertible top it cost about $2k installed – this is not a job for the average person

    • Terry C.

      I know the feeling of “should I sell one?”. Currently have a ’77 450 with 70k miles and a ’88 560 also 30k on it. Honestly, I prefer driving the’77 so if one were to go it would be the 560. Enjoy yours!

      • Axel Caravias

        Hey, I have the sister car to yours : )))

  18. Paul

    Great buy!

  19. Dt 1

    Really nice car

  20. John D.

    Mercedes didn’t ‘buy’ Chrysler, it was a hostile take-over. Considering the large cash reserve Chrysler had accumulated. So after my experience of what the Germans did to our 90 year old, 3 generation dealership, I would only spend the 6000 to get this car, if the trunk was lined with gold bars.

    • AMXSTEVE

      Oh, just like CHRYSLER did to AMC eh? What comes around goes around. Karma’s a motha

  21. OA5599

    What no Mitsubishi Eclipses today?

  22. John

    My Dad owned two Mercedes Benz sedans. One was a squared off 1962 model (24 I think). He drove it nearly a half million miles. He sold it and bought a 300D sedan. He sold it a couple of years before he died. He owned two cars in 60 years. Both cars were in perfect condition when he let go of them. These are very good cars. Just thought you might want to know that.

  23. Bob Gressard

    I had a 1974 450 for 25 years. In a weak moment I sold the old girl to a friend. Years later it was hit by a dump truck head on with two on board. Both walked away shaken but unhurt. It did it’s job and died in combat. I trust my SEL will do the same if called upon. Great car.

  24. JC Gates

    If a qualified MB mechanic (not a dealer parts jockey) looks over the car and blesses it, go for it. Properly maintained, these are terrific cars.
    I have a 1986 560sl as my daily driver (my collection of one) and have put over 120,000 miles on it in just under 10 years – road trips, I don’t commute.
    Go for it!

  25. David Miraglia

    always like the 1970’s SL series. Understated elegance

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