Mercedes W107 SL advice

6 replies [Last post]
marsh's picture
Joined: 2011-06-12

Hi everyone,

I've just reluctantly sold my Mk7 Jaguar and am looking for something a little more modern and family friendly as I have a wife who tolerates my obsession for old cars and a two year old who I'd like to introduce to the joys of older cars.  I've previously owned a Jensen C-V8, E type coupe, MGA roadster, Jaguar Mk1, Silver Shadow and a couple of Austin Atlantics for good measure.  Truth be told, I've not settled for long with anything for a while, so I'm hoping that my next purchase will be a long term.

I'm 90% sold on a W107 Series Mercedes SL from the mid to late eighties.  Have any of you personal experience of owning one that you'd like to share?  I can't help thinking that the right SL is a smart move and will tick a number of boxes...

I'm budgeting around £19k, which I hope will get me an exceptional one in a good colour.  I'm not too bothered about engine size as it's more about condition (though I'd prefer a 500 if I can get one)...

Look forward to hearing your views!

Best regards


Chris Martin
Joined: 2011-08-20

Hi Marsh,

As a serial Mercedes owner for the last twenty five years and apart from various sedans and wagons, now on my second 107 I can offer the following advice.

All versions from 1971 to '89 have their good and bad points. The later engines, the 300 six, and the all alloy V8s are more efficient than the early motors, but that is offset by more complicated electronics which could be a problem for future servicing. The 280 will probably feel a bit underpowered for a car with sporting pretensions, but my '76 model 450 certainly has enough grunt. One important service item on all motors is the timing chain, and if the history is not known budget to get those replaced immediately, failures can be catastrophic.

The appearance is also a matter of taste and I think the seventies versions with 14" 'Bundt' alloys, or even steel rims with traditional MB hubcaps look better than the later cars with bigger rims and front air-dams. While aerodynamics are today a selling point on most cars, how many of us really drive hard and fast enough to notice any benefit? And although I find the flatter 15" rims a bit oversize for the shape, by today's standards where many prefer the cartoon looks of 18" rims I guess that does not matter so much.

Of course colours that were fashionable in the '70s like mustard yellow, snot green and pooh brown are not now to everyone's taste either, but then the air-dam and bright red or brilliant white look in vogue in the eighties does rather scream 'yuppie' too. Again personal choices. Astral Silver and Icon Gold were always popular colours and still suit the car today.

As for what to check, first is obviously rust, and although some say the later ones were better rust-protected now that the youngest 107 is 22 years old all should be checked thoroughly. Jacking points, under carpets, boot floor, front chassis rails are all obvious points, but try to have a look at both front and back of the front bulkhead as blocked drains and condensation from the air-con condenser (where fitted) can attack here, and it is a bugger to get at if repair is needed. If it has rotted there, it is probably good for spares only.

Beware of the 'bling' chrome wheel arch trims too. Trendy in the '80s they were originally popular as a cheap way of hiding rust in the arches, and by trapping dirt and moisture they can even aggravate it.

Seat covers in either original MB-Tex are available quite reasonably, and even original pattern ones in leather are not too bad, so any typical tears or split seams in the drivers seat need not be a deal-breaker, but a good bargaining point. The hood should be a good quality padded one, there are cheap vinyl replacements around but they look just that - cheap.

If there is the optional hardtop too, hopefully it will have the MB spec gadget that makes lifting and storing it ( a two man job ) a lot easier.

Another problem to look for is if there is any vagueness about the front end, suspension, steering etc, it will probably need the front subframe bushes replacing. A common wear item on these, and for a couple hundred quid or so, new ones transform the feel.

Exhaust can be expensive, so look for bodged 'dual' systems, if there is no balance pipe between the front downpipes on V8s it will run rougher, some think that V8 'burble' is cool, but Mercedes used a different firing order to most American cars and the balance pipe helps tuning as well as smooth running. Stainless systems are a good idea, but due to the lighter gauge metal are usually a bit louder.

If back seat space is desireable, and a sunroof can satisfy the need for fresh air, look also at the SLC coupe models. rarer and still cheaper than the convertibles (but probably not for much longer, they are on the rise) they can be a good compromise. A good one may now be hard to find, which is why I am hanging on to mine, but having the choice of the all windows down coupe look, or on hotter days windows up and air-con on suits me.

The best book I have read on these if you can find a copy is Mercedes-Benz SL & SLC by L.J.K. Setright, published by Osprey, but there are others and C&SC back issues featuring 107s are available.

Whatever model you go for, the old cliche about buying the best you can afford applies, and a good one is well within your budget. I would suggest starting by trying a few cars from the specialist dealers so you know what a good one should be like, and then shop around.

I have both sets of wheels for mine, and change them according to mood, the alloys are more common and probably look more 'sports car' , but I also like the look of the more traditonal MB wheels sometimes. These photos are of the same car, but as you can see the wheels make a difference.


Hope you and the 107 come back on here soon!

Chris M.


marsh's picture
Joined: 2011-06-12


Thank you for your advice - much, much appreciated.

As a former owner of a poo brown 911 Carrera 3.0, my time with period colours is done!


GBt's picture
Joined: 2011-06-01

My dad had a MK 7 M in grey and rust, and it was the first car I drove, strictly off road of course. We went on holidays in two equally unsuitable Mercs, a Mercury Cyclone and a Mercedes 190, pre fin tail(well that wasnt too bad size wise down very narrow west country lanes)however i am in danger of a ramble here, so clearly Chris Martin is your man for Merc facts-I always liked the SLC incidentally and your one looks really sweet, especially with the preferable hub caps, well either way..

Joined: 2011-05-31

'85 928 S2

NPAF60's picture
Joined: 2011-11-10


07770476835 Nigel  

Mercedes 380 SL Sports convertible removeable hardtop. Gleaming bright red coachwork, luxury black leather interior, automatic gearbox, power assisted steering, electric windows, stereo, alloy wheels, superb condition throughout. Includes personalised number MBZ 9299 (Mercedes Benz).


Joined: 2011-11-20


W107 is a fantastic choice of vehicle and i'm sure you will not be dissapointed if you choose to own one.

I have for a number of years owned  a 1983 280SL auto which is in white with a black hard top. It looks great and gets much admiration from specialists and my local Mercedes dealership. It's been trouble free, a pleasure to drive and look at, almost all the parts are available from MB or other suppliers ( KK manufacturing in the US are very good and helpful). 

Chris M is spot on in saying that the 70's styling of the early models has a better look and line + the 14" wheels are much more suited to the body and the way that car sits when set up right. (Generally it is possible to get the original ride height set up from MB).  I would also add that the chrome work is of such good quality on SL's that it is great to have more of it as on the 70's spec models.It looks so good particuarly the door handles. It's very expensive to replace though so factor this in when offering for a car. Check rear bumper sub frame also. This often suffers from corrosion and is circa 500 pounds for the part!

It's also a point well made regarding the suspension. A subframe re-bush is circa 600-700 pounds if required. If doing this take the hit and get MB OEM parts though. I had mine replaced earlier this year along with adjusting the steering box. The vehicle drives close to a new car ride now. I would reccommend getting new good quality tyres if the ones fitted are old; and run on them on nitrogen to. Nitrogen improves the handling and has a marginal improvment on fuel efficiency as the tyre keeps it's shape better than with air.

The six cylinder (twin cam) has a lovely engine tone and is able to rev highly so it can get up and go when required. I've never tried a V8 though. Servicing a V8 is a little more expensive so i'm told, and some maintenance tasks are more time consuming due to the increased dimension of the V8 power unit when compared to the 6cyl.

Not much to add to the previously made comments relating to the body and rust. Common points are as previously mentioned. Take care to check the fluted panelling as these can corrode. Replacments are available though. (KK manufacturing parts are very accurate.dimensionally)

I'd  look to find an SL that hasn't been too molested with add ons, and in particular i would say pay attention to the interior. I personally would avoid an SL that has had extra speakers fitted to the rear and such. Mine has an unusual feature in that it has no radio and still has the original radio delete panel including it's SL280 aluminium insignia in the delate panel.

It's rumoured that the blue trimmed SL have an issue with the dash cracking due to exposure to UV so i might bear this in mind also. My own SL has a black interior which looks very good. Nylon carpets are better than wool as they don't suffer from wear as heavily as wool, or from the effects of damp.

Based on my experience of having an SL I prefer to have the sports check interior which is more comfortable in the heat if you have the roof off, and also getting it wet is a lot less of an issue than with a leather trim, if you get caught in the rain with the roof down when away from the car. If there is any wear to the sports check fabric(usually on the driver seat back to the lower right hand side) D class trimmers in London are very helpful and carry stock. It's about 120 pounds for enough to do a full seat. On the subject of seats, mine has a rear seat which although is not much good for passenger use it does give the cockpit a more finished and trimmed feel. The seat folds down and makes a useful luggage rack as it comes with stowage straps and so on.

There are a few sensible original extras to add the cockpit. Seat belt guides are very handy and fit around the head rest stays. These can still be purchased OEM from MB at around 100 pounds for two. If the seat belt shrouds are worn (they get shut in the door sometimes) these also can purchsed OEM for not much money.

I won't say anything about the mechanics, but watch out for faults on the ABS and check that the cruise control if fitted is working smoothly.....that's about it. Oh colour...if i was buying another one i'd go for silver or the darkish mettalic blue. Both are very nice discrete colours i would say. Of the two colours i think the blue would be my preference. 

Good luck and i'm sure you will find a great low mileage example for your budget of 19k. W107 are a great and practical vehicle to own and drive.

Hope you enjoy owning and driving one as much as I do. Avoid American spec models. They are De-tuned and fitted with un-sightly bumpers.


Best wishes. Michael C