eighties classic car

Mercedes-Benz SL (1980 – 1989)

If we look back at the 1980’s, Mercedes-Benz stood for wealth, power and taste, in the guise of the formidable SL range. Mention Gullwing or Pagoda, and any enthusiast will know you were talking about a classic Mercedes SL.

The Mercedes SL was given a makeover in 1980. Under the skin, the roadster received more power, with an increase from 3.0 litres up to 5.6 litres mid-way through the decade in the Flagship model.

These powerful tourers are now a rare sight, with prices as high as £50,000 for the right model. The Mercedes SL has been with us since the fifties and is still going strong today. The reputation for these roadsters has always been exemplary, which is one of the reasons why the Mercedes SL has stood the test of time.

Buyers Guide

Mercedes longest living model has great appeal and can still be bought for reasonable money. The trick is finding a good one, and one not hiding any big problems. Here are a few tips to help you make the right choice.

The first thing you should look for is a good documented history of the car to make sure you are buying with confidence. Early eighties models were provided with wax injected cavities to help with rust, and any SL built 1986 and onwards would have featured a galvanised body shell. Air intakes at the base of the windscreen can get clogged up, so check for corrosion here as it can spread to the bulkhead. Wet mats or foot wells are a dead giveaway.

Jacking points, wheel arches, door bottoms and sills can all rot so check the car thoroughly. We know it’s an old method, but taking a magnet with you isn’t a bad idea. All panels are available from Mercedes, but you can buy cheaper, although original are best. Make sure the bumpers are in good shape as they can be complicated and expensive to repair.

The Mercedes SL came with a factory hard top as standard, make sure there is one and check it’s the original by finding the cars chassis number stamped on it.

Whether you choose a six or eight cylinder engine, both are incredibly strong and will run for 250,000 miles before a rebuild, providing they are serviced regularly.  Oil changes should be around 6000 miles. All SL models come with power steering. They have a box rather than a rack, but can show signs of wear after 90,000 miles.

Mercedes used forged parts, not cast, so make sure your brake pads are original Mercedes otherwise you’ll might lose feel when braking. The roof can shrink slightly if stored for a long period of time, so make sure it fits ok.

If you go for a 500SL then due to the higher torque, the gear box will probably need work after 150,000 miles. The rest of the transmission is tough, although back axles and prop couplings will get ravaged by mega miles.

eighties classic car


Years Produced 1980 - 1989
Performance 0-60 mph 9.0 sec / Top Speed 125 mph
Power & Torque 185 bhp / 177 lb ft
Engine2746 cc/ straight six /12 valves
Drive-trainFront engine RWD
TransmissionFive speed manual / Four speed auto
Weight 1500 kg

Interesting Fact

In 1886, Karl Benz was awarded a German patent for the invention of “the first automobile” known as the Motor-Wagen. Karl’s endeavour was actually financed by his wife, Bertha, but because she was a married woman, she was not allowed to apply for the patent.

Mark Wilkinson, Managing Director Says:

“These beautifully designed roadsters have been gracing our roads since the 1950’s. Not sports cars but more luxury touring car the Mercedes SL is one of the most iconic roadsters ever produced.”

mark says

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