Seller Unaware: 1978 Mercedes 450SLC

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Every now and again, I wonder if sellers truly know what kind of car they have on their hands. Now, my spider sense tends to get tingly whenever I spot a potential Euro-market car, and I think this 1978 Mercedes 450SLC here on eBay is such an example. It’s always possible with these vehicles that the non-U.S. parts have been swapped in to give it the look of a car that hasn’t been tarnished by the DOT, but the presence of a manual transmission makes me suspect that this particular Benz is a genuine gray market car that deserves to be saved. 

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If I recall correctly, Mercedes never brought its R107 cars with a V8 and manual transmission stateside. Some Mercedes pundits even go so far to say that the 450SL model designation is incorrect, since even European-market 450SL’s couldn’t be had with a manual. My guess is this is a 350SLC that was re-badged as a 450SLC when it arrived in the U.S., but who knows. When it came to the importation of gray market cars in the 1980’s, it was practically the Wild West of oddball European cars with all sorts of complicated paperwork and parts-swapping to make them DOT and EPA compliant. This car does have U.S. bumpers and a MPH speedometer, but retains its Euro-market glass headlights.

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Regardless of the exact model number, pairing a V8 Mercedes convertible with a manual transmission is a sure-fire way to enhance the driving experience. So many of these cars came saddled with automatics that this one should be a desirable project car, even with its tattered interior and rust holes in the body. Although it looks rough, I suspect the visible corrosion is still easier to deal than if it were spread throughout the floorpan which the seller says is in decent shape. The car does some minor rust holes in the spare tire well and battery box, which are problem areas for most any vehicle that’s been sitting outside for long periods of time.

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The opening bid for this manual Mercedes is only $800 and there is no reserve. At the very least, it would make an ideal parts car for someone who wants to row their own gears in a standard U.S. car with the automatic. The seller says he has misplaced the keys, otherwise he would have it up and running for the buyer. I’m not sure if that’s a true story or a convenient excuse, but regardless, you’ll need to tow it from Stephenson, Virginia if you want it. In my opinion, it’s cheap enough to keep your exposure fairly low, but it’s nowhere near as good of a deal as a free Porsche 914!  Would you buy this one to restore or pillage it for parts?

 

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Comments

  1. cj32769

    Euro headlights but the leather seats are not typical of gray market cars, and it’s not a convertible.

    • Ken B

      no….. .. .. .it is not a convertible – it is an SLC!!

      • Capt Doug

        It looks to have a sunroof

      • tirefriar

        Its a C107, not R107. C was the fixed top coupe, the R was the roadster…

  2. cj32769

    This is confusing no wipers for the headlights and no shot of the rear to see if it had a rear fog light. You could always look behind the door panels and see if the crash bars are installed by the federallies. It’s strange they would go to such extremes as change the instruments and maybe the seats but leave the euro headlights. I remember some folks would keep the euro parts then convert back but it got to be such a racket around 1986-1987 with the exchange rate that a lot of shops were just canning the parts to roll converted cars out the door. It also has three later model wheels and enough rust to be a donor.

    • alan

      The rear fog is incorporated into the existing lamp assembly and one cannot tell by looking at the lamp whether it installed. You need to pull the bulb carrier or if operational just pull the h/l switch out two clicks.

  3. Jeff, Classic Sportscar Centre

    107 024 is definitely a 450slc.
    Engine a 450 k-jetronic.
    Heaterblock on right inner fender indicates
    US model but not for a fact.
    Vacuum hoses on engine and the fuel vapor cannister indicates original US model but -again- not a fact.
    VIN or chassisnumber will say it all.
    Manual gear could be ordered in europe though.

  4. Terry

    Sure look like ugly DOT bumpers

  5. DrinkinGasoline

    Sorry….being of pure German heritage, born Des Deutschen Vaterland, this one is gone. Sometimes it is best to let sleeping dogs lie.

  6. Dolphin Member

    The transmission / clutch / driveshaft / pedal box should be worth it to someone who wants to use them in their SL, but.….

    – “ran and drove when parked 8 or so years ago”
    – “the rest of the floor pans look good”
    – “I have missplaced the keys or i would have it up n runnig for buyer”

    No bids at $800 to open.
    Maybe people are noticing the seller’s Ebay handle: “trustnoone7935”

  7. Jack Quintrall

    I had a gray market 1977 280SLC. Six cyl inline with auto. Had it for 3 yrs and couldn’t sell it. Had to donate it for tax deduction. A fun car, but everyone wanted a roadster. The six was too unusual.

  8. brakeservo

    Parts donor for manual conversion only – not a desirable car then nor now other than the stick shift

  9. jeff, Classic Sportscar Centre

    This one is beyond saving,
    all in all, total value for scrap for somenoe seriously doing in W107 either Sl or SLC is no more than 500 usd IF you are located in no more than 1hr drive away

  10. Mike

    It has the 5 MPH bumper and the American Leather interior, Euro version had a textured velour interior or a Mercedes Benz Textured leather that was perforated. less than 5% of the European cars had leather. this is a US version retrofitted with a manual transmission. and euro headlights

  11. HeadMaster1

    My guess is that it’s a Canadian model. The 5mph bumpers make it a North American car for sure, the headlights are an easy change, the manual being the only real unusual part here, thus I’m guessing Canada as a possible source. I’m a Jag guy, and Jag continued to sell the classic XJ6/XJ1 series 3 cars into the 90’s even though they last sold in the US in 87

  12. brakeservo

    I had heard back in the day, it was due to compliance with US emission regulations that caused Mercedes to drop gasoline powered manual transmission cars in America, at least until 1984 when the new 190 series was introduced and it became legal to shift gears in a new gasoline powered Mercedes again. Was Canada a big enough market to make NON-USA cars for by Mercedes??

  13. hhaleblian

    Junk then….Junk now

  14. Lex

    107.024 12 . the 12 indicates automatic . if it was a factory manual it would be a 10 . someone converted it . no big deal

  15. Dan

    I don’t see anything in this car that looks like a European model except for the headlights, but many U.S. models had Euro headlights installed by their owners. This is clearly a 450 SLC as indicated by the VIN 107.024. In addition, this car came originally with an automatic transmission as did all 450 models. No 450 model (108, 109, 107, 116) was ever abailable from the factory with a manual transmission. They were only available with the 3-speed, torque converter auto transmission. The two middle digits of the VIN, 12, mean 1 – left hand drive; 2 – automatic transmission. Finding a U.S. model 450 SLC with Euro headlights is not that uncommon, but finding a manual transmission is very unusual as it definitely did not leave the factory that way.

  16. MBNut

    I don’t see anything in this car that looks like a European model except for the headlights, but many U.S. models had Euro headlights installed by their owners. This is clearly a 450 SLC as indicated by the VIN 107.024. In addition, this car came originally with an automatic transmission as did all 450 models. No 450 model (108, 109, 107, 116) was ever available from the factory with a manual transmission for any country. They were only available with the 3-speed, torque converter auto transmission. The two middle digits of the VIN, 12, mean 1 – left hand drive; 2 – automatic transmission. Finding a U.S. model 450 SLC with Euro headlights is not that uncommon, but finding a manual transmission is very unusual as it definitely did not leave the factory that way.

  17. alan

    Euro 350SLCs had the 4 speed available from the factory which should be a straight swap into a 450SLC.

  18. MBNut

    One more thing. This car has option code 494 which is California version, so it is definitely a U.S. version with swapped in Euro headlights, and, unbelievably, also a manual transmission.

  19. tirefriar

    It used to be that you couldn’t give away a C107 when everyone was looking for a drop top. These are relatively harder to find now in very good condition and the prices for the C107 are rebounding. I would prefer a C107 with a manual over the R107 car (had 2, thank you very much). Love those louvers inside the quarter glass. Now, that’s class.

  20. Stewart

    The manual gear box is actually bad news, the shifter is prone to breaking off in your hand, even in Europe manual V8 Mercedes are avoided, when you see the design of the gear stick its immediately apparent why it snaps

  21. Tirefriar

    I can’t imagine there’s no aftermarket remedy available for the gear shift design flaw..

  22. billy de Hulst

    About 20 years ago I bought a couple of these SLC’s at the Pamona Swap Meet. The first one had only 12,000 miles on it. After doing the deal the seller asked me if I wanted the disassembled Volkswagen Beetle engine which he had brought to the swap meet in the trunk of the Merc. My neighbour was a Beetlenut, so I bought the engine for $25, with the idea of giving it to him. Once I had the car and VW bits home I began to look at the “VW” engine and found that it was a Porsche Super 90! It had all the machining necessary for a rebuild, including an align bore, (checked by the late Harry Pellow up near San Jose) 4 new Maule pistons and barrels and a new set of the oddball Super 90 main bearings for the reground crankshaft. Harry wanted to buy the engine from me, but I kept it, put it together with a pair of Solex carbs and stuck into the tail of my old 356 T5 bodied, B Notchback. What a deal, eh?

    Except that one day coming home to my place in the cheap seats near Desert Hot Springs, the old Notch caught fire, dropped about 50 pounds of lead filler onto the desert sand and perished forever.

  23. jimbosidecar

    I think a lot of your readers and maybe you too, would not want the Mercedes with a manual transmission once you drove it a while. I imported a grey market M-B in 1985 and the manual transmission was not complimentary to the rest of the drive trail. I always thought it had too much flywheel for the manual tranny.

  24. Roger

    Looks like Dan AND MBnut had their exact same idears about this one lol!

  25. Peter Atherton

    Back in the day,the fix for the fragile MB gearshift lever was to swap it for an early Porsche 912,or 911stick ;easy swap,and solved the problem!

  26. Jason F Birch

    Haha!! I just searched “450slc crashed” looking for a pic of one on its roof I saw once upon a time, and lo and behold my car pops up! I bought this car for 800$ In 2016. Sold the euro lights for 800$ 😁 it is infact a US spec car with euro lights and a 350slc manual trans conversion. It is now a drift car. I replaced some rear framework as a practice for some sheet metal Fab project and replaced the bent rear subframe and some sheet metal. I then decided the 2.65 open rear wasn’t going to cut it so I welded a 3.69 from a 280slc and it snowballed from there. Custom poly bushings, dual caliper hydraulic hand brake, increased angle steering. It’s a rough car but it’s mechanically awesome and more fun than anything I own. Shockingly all the CIS components are still operating as they were when I got it. It’s reliable and takes a beating very well. I love this pile like no other. Her name is Madeline, after Madeline Kahn. Not the most beautiful girl in any room but a hell of alot more fun that the supermodel!!. Also refered to as the “C-bomb”. Check out Birchs Garage FB page or search 450slc 4 speed drift to see some action. Also peachparts 450slc super beater lemons project should pop up. I sell vintage Mercedes parts and she wears parts from 13 different cars and at least 3 different chassis.

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