Junkyard Gem: 1976 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL

Junkyard Gem: 1976 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL

If you wanted to celebrate the 200th birthday of the United States of America by buying a new 1976 car, you could be a patriot of the proletariat and get a Chevy with red-white-and-blue stripes and/or interior (option code 1776!), enjoy Gerald Ford’s peace with freedom by picking up a new Bicentennial Edition Ford F-150 or shake your fist at encroaching — and apparently Communist-inspired — safety regulations by purchasing one of the very last Cadillac Eldorado convertibles (Eldo ragtop production restarted eight years later). Or you could laugh cynically at those Detroit-centric rubes, brush the white-powder residue off a briefcase containing $19,359 in cash ($106,901 in 2023 dollars) and exchange it for a gleaming new 450 SL roadster. Nearly a half-century later, here’s one of those cars, found in a self-service car graveyard just south of the Denver city limits.

The Mercedes-Benz R107 first went on sale in 1971, and it set the record (which still stands) for longest production run of any Mercedes-Benz automobile by being built through 1989.

It was sold as a two-seat convertible with optional detachable roof (which remained with this car to the end), while a hardtop coupe version was available through the early 1980s.

These cars were built very, very well and held together for decades with proper maintenance. However, once one begins to look rough, the cost of restoration generally exceeds real-world resale value by quite a bit. This means that plenty of R107s languish for years in driveways and yards, then end up taking the inevitable final trip to the knacker’s yard. As long as I’ve been hanging out in junkyards, I’ve been finding discarded R107s with depressing regularity.

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This one was too far gone to have much chance of ever being put back into service. At some point, the decklid or at least the decklid badge from a late-1980s car was installed.

Junkyard shoppers glommed the gauge cluster and most of the dash components.

The engine in the U.S.-market SL/SLC for 1976 was a 4.5-liter SOHC V8 rated at 180 horsepower and 220 pound-feet. The optional fuel-injected V8 available in the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible made 200 horsepower and 400 pound-feet, but it needed 8.3 liters to do that.

A three-speed automatic was mandatory on the R107s sold here in 1976, though European Mercedes-Benz shoppers could get their SLs and SLCs with manual transmissions through 1979.

The appearance of U.S.-market R107s also suffered from our strict headlight and bumper requirements.

Will someone buy the roof before the crusher eats this car? I think not, based on the fact that nobody seems to buy Cadillac Allanté and Chrysler’s TC by Maserati roofs from the boneyards, despite endless anecdotal stories of their high resale value.

The 450 Sl and 450 SLC were so prestigious here that Ford used the SLC in its Granada commercials.