If you want to buy what is thought by many to be the greatest roadster/GT ever built as far as quality of construction is concerned, look no further than the Mercedes-Benz R107, referring to the 2-seat SL models build from 1971 through 1989. These cars, called internally Der Panzerwagen, are not only the best-built roadsters in the world, but among the best-built cars ever.
I say this as a former owner of one and if you doubt me, find a really poorly maintained example and see how well even it has held up. The sound the door makes when closed is enough to convince most people that these Mercedes roadsters are simply amazing in their build quality. Yet they are still relatively affordable.
The Pick of the Day is one of the bargains out there, a 1982 Mercedes Benz 380SL finished in stunning Silberblau over a blue-leather interior.
Within the market there is a pecking order for these Mercedes cars, with the first two-year euro bumper examples and the final 560SL cars near the top and the 380SLs at the bottom. This has a lot to do with performance, as the 380SL was the car with the lowest horsepower of the V8-equipped models.
That being said, none of these cars are really fast and none of them should be considered a true sports car as they are quite heavy. But they are excellent GT cars in roadster form. The Mercedes R107 SL was made to drive to the country club, out to a nice dinner or to cross the country in complete comfort at a decent speed. Any model will cruise all day at 90 to 100 mph and not miss a beat while maintaining a great ride and decent handling.
In the past 2 years, the market for these cars has move upwards, but it is still fairly easy to find a 380SL for an affordable price. Keep in mind that when new, the Mercedes 380SL in its final year of production cost $43,820 dollars, which at the time could buy you a decent home in many places.
The Fairfield, California, dealer advertising this Mercedes 380SL on ClassicCars.com states that it is a 2-owner car, with the most recent owner acquiring the car in 2005 because, the dealer notes, it was an original example with low miles and in tremendous condition. The current mileage is still only 85,000 and the pictures show that the car backs up that claim.
There are a few things to know about the 380SL, especially an earlier example. The main one is that in the first few years, Mercedes built the 3.8-liter V8 in these cars with a single-row timing chain. These are known to stretch a bit, so much that in the last few years of production, Mercedes converted the engines to a dual-row timing chain.
Being that the V8 in the car is an interference engine, meaning that it could be damaged by piston-to-valve contact if the chain ever slipped, it is a good idea to either verify that the chain has been replaced at some point in the past few years, or even better, upgraded to the later dual-row chain. If it has not, you should probably budget around $1,200 to $1,600 to take care of that.
The other thing to check is that the climate-control system works. Be sure to know that both the heat and the AC work as they are supposed to as this can be expensive to repair and get right.
With those two caveats in mind, this generation Mercedes SL make for one of the highest-highest quality cars you can get for the money. This 380SL is being offered for only $17,990, which is less than many people are asking for the best Triumph Spitfires. Be assured that the Mercedes R107 roadsters truly live up to, if not exceed, their legendary reputation.
To view this vehicle on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.