Rare Color Combo: 1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL

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When it comes to the R107-chassis Mercedes-Benz models, you’d be forgiven if you don’t get particularly excited when one comes up for grabs. However, there’s an important distinction that must be made, and here it is: because they are so prevalent in the marketplace, values are generally soft – so when a really good one comes along, you can likely get it for a fair price indeed, and these are still phenomenal cruisers that can provide years of enjoyment with robust parts and mechanical support to keep you on the road. That’s why a clean 1983 380SL like this one listed here on eBay is worthy of a look, with a very reasonably Buy-It-Now of $12,900 or best offer.

I follow a gentleman with a small vintage car consignment / servicing business called Greg Gear Head and he recently posted about a similar 380SL he’s been rehabbing after an extended hiatus from the roads. With some basic tune-up work done and a set of classic “Penta”-style wheels added, he has transformed what was otherwise a very basic R017 into a terrific vintage cruiser. The same concept could apply here, and I would go so far as to swap out the bumpers and headlights for the European-market parts, and add the Penta wheels a long with a modest lowering kit. That would be an instantaneous transformation and a car you would always gaze upon proudly.

Making this particular 380SL even more compelling for such upgrades is the interior. Now, this may not seem like a huge deal to most of you, but so many of these roadsters came to the U.S. with a tan interior (or “palomino” in Mercedes-speak.) The fact that this car has black upholstery is a big deal as white-on-black is a hard scheme to find despite the many thousands of R107s still on the road today. As mentioned above, most of the 380SLs and related models from this venerable roadster lineup have been abused and neglected over the years; there’s no such evidence of that with this car, as the interior is in remarkable condition for a vehicle that has covered just under 100,000 miles.

The seller notes he is just the third caretaker of this R107, which was purchased new in Kentucky and given the Zeibart treatment when new. The Mercedes remains rust-free today with paint that still shines like new. The seller lists a detailed accounting of the maintenance performed in his car, with big jobs like the timing chain and tensioner, shock absorbers, fuel tank, steering damper, fuel pump, and much, much more all replaced. There’s little doubt in my mind he spent more than the current asking price to get that work done, so the next owner is likely sitting on a turnkey roadster that will only need the most basic upkeep for years to come.

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  1. Greg J Dunn

    Hey, I’m Greg Gear Head! Thanks for the mention.

    I’ve owned a few 450SLs, and driven lots of the R107 cars. I always poo-pooed, due only to my ignorance, the 380’s. After buying and going through and driving this one a bunch, I realize how stupid that opinion was.

    The lighter weight, 4 speed vs. 3 speed transmission, and only a little less power make it a much better all around version of the car, in my opinion.

    That is a STEAL for $12,900. Someone is going to be very happy.

    Like 1
  2. alphasudMember

    Seems like a fair price considering all the work that has gone into it. I was going to mention 380’s had a single row timing chain which requires more frequent service/replacement if it hasn’t been updated to the dual row chain. But this has been replaced with the guides so no worries there. Yes white with black guts is not common with Mercedes. You see more white with grey guts. My 88 300CE has white with black guts and it’s a nice combination.
    Yes they look good in euro spec with the Ronal wheels. Problem with that is you will add another 8K to your purchase price to achieve that. Best to find one that already has the conversion or buy a euro example if that is the look you want.

    Like 5
    • Greg J Dunn

      The later 380s came with a dual row timing chain, FYI

      Like 0
    • On and On On and OnMember

      Your 300CE is an awesome model. Have an ex BIL who had one, spent lots of time in it. It was white over grey as I remember. A great road car. Had an old friend who was a veteran Benz mechanic, he said the 300E was the best and a pleasure to work on.

      Like 3
    • Mongoose

      1983-85 380SL’s have a double-row chain, it’s the 81/82’s that are of concern!

      Like 2
  3. Tiger66

    Underpowered and slow. Spend a bit more and get a 560 instead.

    Like 2
    • benica

      Gesh….of course underpowered and slow… it’s a 380.
      Same body though. Germans do well on car making.
      They seem to take a lot of pride.
      Fair price for this car…but.. allow an additional…Maybe $4K +- for items the seller is not forthcoming about in need of attention.
      Majority of sellers are not 100% forthcoming about any issues and get creative with words to justify otherwise.
      But once you have that SL sorted or 560, 450, 500, etc. sorted or any MB sorted…you have a good dependable car. Just keep up with the maintenance and don’t neglect even the small issues.
      Learn to do your own repairs or find a knowledgeable MB tech that is familiar with your particular year.

      Like 2
  4. Sam61

    Great find, Bundt wheels always look good! No disrespect, but someone please explain why German engineering doesn’t translate to long-term reliability. It seems like the first owner prevails.

    Like 1
    • benica

      I think…and my opinion means squat…but…I think…many issues are owner related…not maintaining and letting even smaller issues go..First time owner…. probably thinking…good car…big money.. it’s a Benz…or BMW or Rolls or Ferrari or…..I can skip a service or 2 or let this small issue go for latter…
      Seen it many a time over the years. Then 2nd owner aquires the car…seller not completely forthcoming about issues and gets creative with words…starts snowballing then with issues.
      Before buying ..get a PPP from a dealership. Pay a few hundred for the inspection…gesh… you’re spending $10K/$20K/$50K + for a car…few hundred for an inspection is cheap. Google is your friend…do your research on that particular year and the previous year or two for issues, repairs, etc of the car you’re looking to buy.
      Don’t trust CarFax either. I have nothing against them but their info is not verified and rely on shops submitting numbers and info.
      Seen often …often… discrepancies on mileage via Carfax or other info…and incorrect. And then the previous owners….how many. Not told is…car shows 5 previous owners, different States…and same owner just moving to another State and registering same car. Or spouse is listed as new owner….meaning….title is…and/or….and one spouse is busy doing whatever so the other spouse registeres the car and now that first spouse is now listed as the additional owner…
      Just…do your homework when buying…. anything…

      Like 3
      • wjtinfwb

        100%. Having owned Benz, BMW and VW products over the years, these cars demand routine maintenance from capable techs using OEM or better quality parts. Deferring maintenance results in cascading issues down the road that cost huge money. The old saw, “there’s nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes” is absolutely true. Look for lots of service records with appropriate mileage and date stamps and from reputable shops. There’s plenty of reputable independent techs out there, but be wary of the German hot-rod that got serviced at Jiffy Lube. If you’re on a tight budget, swallow your ego and get a Camry. But if you don’t mind spending a bit more, a used Autobahn burner can be a very rewarding and reliable car.

        Like 3
  5. KurtMember

    An updated timing chain sounds like a great idea. Kudos to MB for never using a belt with interference heads.

    Like 4
  6. Tim PearnMember

    I had a 380sel and had the timing chain go bad. $2700 in repairs and that was 30 years ago!

    Like 2

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