1972 MERCEDES-BENZ 350 SL CONVERTIBLEView vehicle description
The history of the Mercedes R107 roadster is intimately linked to that of its sister model, the SLC coupé. Just six months after its première the SL was followed in October 1971 by a comfortable four-seater sports coupé, the 350 SLC. This is particularly pertinent in the case of this 350 SL, as it has been thoroughly prepared as a rally car, something its SLC stablemate was very successful as back in the 1970s.
In just a few short seasons and with Mercedes-Benz providing assistance to the UK importers running the team – rather than offering official factory support – the big SLC proved fiercely competitive in international rallying. Driven by rally greats Bjorn Waldegaard, Hannu Mikkola and Ingvar Carlsson these big, but immensely strong coupés chalked up a series of wins and podiums on some of the toughest endurance rallies on earth. The swansong for the SLC was the 1980 Bandama Rally, in which Bjorn Waldegaard took the car’s final victory.
When new, the R107 SL boasted many safety features – crumple zones and a padded steering wheel among them – but it wasn’t the safety aspects that motivated customers around the world to buy the new model. It was the promise of an open-top car that was a successful piece of engineering all round – and it was in fact the only one of its kind offered in the USA over a period of several years.
Its distinctive front end with the dominant SL face, the wide-band headlamps and grooved turn indicator covers had a powerful aura; the lines of the low silhouette were harmonious – soft top open or closed, or with hardtop. And the very slight inward curve of the boot lid, along with the concave hardtop, were reminiscent of Pagoda days.
The new soft top took just 30 seconds to open or close it. Folded, it disappeared underneath a steel cover. Creature comforts were served by an excellent heating system and wind-deflecting mouldings on the A-pillars, which also served to channel off mud-laden water in the rain, and dirt-repelling covers on the exterior mirrors enabled good visibility. They kept the side windows clean even in poor weather.
The inertia-reel seatbelt was developed for the R107. This new design automatically adjusted belt tension for different sized occupants and provided greater safety and comfort. It was so popular that it was quickly adopted by other manufacturers.
During its 18-year production time the R 107 was driven by a whole series of six- and eight-cylinder engines. Its model designations are accordingly quite varied. The eight-cylinder models were led by the 350 SL (1971 to 1980), whose 3.5-litre engine (M 116) was from the W 108, W 109 and W 111 saloons. The 200bhp V8 helped the sports car, which weighed 1600kg, to clock nine seconds for 0-60 and reach a top speed of 130mph.
Production of the R 107 series ended in August 1989, more than 18 years after the launch of the 350 SL. The car set an internal record that will probably never be broken: in the entire history of Mercedes no other passenger car series has ever been produced over such a long period, with the exception of the G-Class. R 107 sales were still strong even as Mercedes moved to replace it.
This car has been professionally prepared as an historic rally car. The current owner explains; ‘Ten years ago we did a lot of historic rallying, events ranging from a week to three months long – things like the Monte Carlo Challenge. In 2000 we did a one off event that took 80 days in a Merc 250 SL, and it was during this time that we realised a Mercedes was the best car for these type of events.
‘Then during the Covid lockdown I happened to spot this 350 SL for sale in Ireland. What particularly attracted me to it was that the preparation work had been done by Adams Autos in Norfolk. I know this firm well and they really know what they’re doing with classic Mercs.’
The work was very extensive and the bill was for many tens of thousands of pounds, as you’d expect for this level of expert rally preparation. The result is a car that you can jump in and drive around the world, should the fancy take you.
The 3.5-litre V8 engine was sent to Mercedes specialist Crewe engines for complete reconditioning. All the suspension has been upgraded and the car is designed to sit 50mm higher than standard with two100kg adults on board plus 100kg of spare parts. The track has also been widened for increased stability.
The current owner reports that the car is vastly different to the average R107. ‘There’s no sloppiness at all – the driving experience is chalk and cheese compared with a standard SL.’
The radiator has been re-cored and an insect screen fitted to it, and the Bosch K-jetronic fuel injection system has been upgraded. Obviously, as is vital for a car designed for serious use, there’s a full roll cage fitted, and it has the facility to have an additional spare wheel fixed to it.
Underneath the engine is a very strong skid pan to protect the sump from damage while covering rough ground. Inside, Sparco competition seats replace the usual Merc armchairs, and four point safety harnesses hug you into them.
The car comes with a FIVA registration card.
On the Outside
It’s a testament to both the build quality of this period of Mercedes, and the superb competition preparation work undertaken, that this car has survived in such great condition, considering the amount of rally action it’s seen (please see the History section).
The current owner spent £3000 on recommissioning work when he bought this SL, including new front springs and four tyres. As a result it drives perfectly. The engine pulls very strongly and the handling is in a different league to a standard car.
Both the soft and hardtops are in good condition, as is the bodywork in general. The engine purrs – as it has every right to, after a specialist rebuild. Obviously, this is a classic rally car, not a show and shine contestant, but all the same you could happily take it to any car show and it would receive admiring glances all day long.
The doors open and close smoothly with no sag at all, and all the panel gaps are excellent. The only area that looks slightly crusty is on the very top front of the nearside front wing, an area about 8-10mm in size. The car has recently been Waxoyled, so this is unlikely to get any worse, and is an easy area to repair in any case.
On the Inside
‘The inside looks a bit tired but it all works,’ says the current owner. Again, considering the miles it’s covered under arduous conditions we think it looks amazing. The competition seats look a little out of place at first, but when you spot the Brantz rally timer you realise this car has been built with one purpose in mind.
The wood rimmed MotoLita steering wheel adds to the competition car vibe and the roll cage makes ingress and disembarkation slightly more complicated that the average SL, but then the average SL would likely not take kindly to be thrashed along an unmade road in Mongolia, whereas this one’s done it and bought the T-shirt.
A glance at that skid pan under the engine shows this car has seen some serious action. But that’s what it’s there for, and it’s absorbed the impacts well and protected the engine perfectly.
The car’s underside is by no means concours, but it’s totally sound and everything works as it should. Lesser cars wouldn’t survive the kind of miles this one has seen, and brushed aside.
All invoices supporting the extensive preparation works are included with the car. These total more than £40,000.
Between 2004 and 2008 the then owner did endurance rallying, including a World Cup Rally, finishing fourth overall, The Sahara Challenge and the following:
2003 Welsh Challenge – finishing second overall.
2004 three Castles rally – finished first in class.
2004 Safari Challenge – finished fifth.
2004 HRCR Classic Trophy – finished second overall.
2004 The Rouen Classic Rally – finished third overall.
2005 HRCR Classic Trip – finished third overall.
Following this period of intense competition the car was entered in smaller HRCR rallies in France and Spain during 2006 and 2007.
The then owner sold the car in 2008, and it went to Ireland where, between 2008 and 2018, it did just 7000 miles going to classic car shows.
In 2018 the car was resprayed and wasn’t used again due to ill health. It was sold in 2020 to the current owner who fully intended to enter classic rallies in it, but sadly he struggles to get in and out of it, so has reluctantly decided to sell.
There are plenty of pictures of the car competing all over the world – a fascinating record that the new owner can enjoy.
What We Think
‘It does its job as a long distance rally car – it’s perfect for one or two day events. It might not always win them, but it will always get you there!’ says the current owner, which sums up this 350 SL well, although we think he’s underselling its potential slightly.
Remember, the SL’s fixed roof sibling, the SLC, was a very successful rally car back in the day, and we see no reason why this superbly prepared SL shouldn’t see podium glory all of its own.
Our estimate for this car is £15,000 to £23,000.
Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with the vendor in Mangotsfield, South Gloucestershire; to arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.
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- Location: Mangotsfield, South Glos., United Kingdom
- Seller Type: Private
- Odometer Reading: 108,489
- Chassis Number: 10704322007162
- Engine: 3499
- Gearbox: AUTO
- Steering position: RHD
- Colour: SILVER
- Interior: BLUE
- Estimated Price: £15,000 - £23,000