The Next Collectible Mercedes SL Roadster
Now that the 230/250/280SL's have become priced out of sight, here comes the 560SL.
As recently as the mid 1990's, you could pick up a nice condition 1971 280SL Pagoda Roadster for around $20,000. Almost in the blink of an eye, that's what a basket case now goes for - with good condition examples regularly selling north of $75k and more.
There are good reasons for this: scarcity, limited production, and a demographic generational shift that shows the 50's and 60's muscle car prices have peaked and the next generation is after the desirable cars they remember - which mostly came from Germany in the 70's, 80's and early 1990's.
By all rights, the R107 SL's ( for Sport Light ) should be appreciating even more than they have, but the lengthy production cycle from 1973 through 1989 insured plenty were built, and the quality of the build insured most survived.
Collectors are zeroing in on the final muscle car series with the 5.6Litre V8's, produced for North America as The 560SL, specifically targeting the 1987, 1988 and 1989 production. Of this group, mileage and originality are playing a HUGE role in price appreciation, for as of early 2015:
Under 30,000 miles: $45,000+
Under 50,000 miles: $27,500+
Under 75,000 miles: $20,000+
Color is obviously subjective, but it stands to reason that after condition, the rarity of a color combination
also plays a role. Oddly, Black, Blue, Turquoise and Light Beige are the rarest colors - with
White, Red and Silver being the most common.
An original 1987 Mercedes Benz 560SL in Diamond Blue Metallic. These cars came with a meticulously fitted manually-removable hardtop and german canvas manual soft top- in this case, Navy.
|The wide grille and prominent three-pointed star carried over from the previous generation.|
The traditional hood ornament is replaced with a coin-type emblem. The fit and finish was beyond reproach.
|For almost $70k, you got manual seats, a manual driver's mirror and manual top.|
Electric creature comforts were limited to one zone climate control, electric windows, electric rear defroster and electric passenger mirror. The interior was all business: sparse by today's standards.
|An original 1988 560Sl MSRP Window Sticker. With California being the largest market - add 8% sales tax and 2% registration and these were over $70k out the door.|
Here's what CarAndDriver Magazine had to say in a recent article about the R107 Roadsters: ( A year later- prices had increased by 10%+ )
The archetypal Mercedes-Benz SL has got to be the granite-sided and chamfered R107, a classically styled Benz roadster that came to embody filthy richness during its seemingly endless and unchallenged U.S. sales streak (1972 through 1989 model years). The R107 evolved in many ways over the course of its long life span, generating a list of both must-have features and better-avoid issues for the prospective owner to ponder. Though well-preserved and -fettled versions still fetch big dollars, some homework can land you a reasonably priced example that will keep your maintenance-induced headaches to a minimum.
The things to look for in R107s are rust and any signs of damage that may otherwise go unmentioned or of which a seller may be unaware. The SL is known for impeccable bodywork and high-quality paint. Any unmolested version you look at should have tight, uniform panel gaps all around, and the doors should close with a solid thunk. Be sure to inspect the bolts that mount some body panels to the car: R107s were painted after the panels were mounted, so a broken paint seal on these bolts is a quick indicator that they’ve been removed or replaced, possibly to repair collision damage.
The U.S. R107s were fitted with 3.8-, 4.5-, and 5.5-liter V-8 engines over the course of their production run. Horsepower ranged from 230 in the 1972 350SL 4.5, down to 155 in the 3.8-liter 1981–85 380SL, and back up to 238 horsepower from 5.5 liters in the final years of the 560SL. We’d avoid the 380SL. Not only is it underpowered, but the 3.8-liter V-8 has timing-chain issues that are expensive to resolve.
OTHER PROBLEM AREAS
Meeting federal standards required new emissions equipment in the 1975 450SL. The catalytic converter was under the hood, and a lack of ventilation caused overheating (Mercedes addressed this for the 1976 model). Also, 450SLs may have issues with the valves, controls, and other equipment in their climate-control system. Not only is the system a pain to operate, but it’s complex. The 380SL and subsequent 560SL have a push-button, vacuum-operated system, which has its own problems, including vacuum accumulators that go bad with regularity.
ESTIMATED USED VALUE RANGES*:
(Assumes excellent condition):
|APPROXIMATE REPAIR COSTS:|
|Front brake pads and rotors||$200||$150|
|Rear brake pads and rotors||$180||$150|
|Valve job (560SL)||$80||$2400–$2500|
|Tuneup (plugs, points, air filter, fuel filter)||$265||$250|
|Traditional Short Deck and Long Hood. Tail lights for the SL were similar to the S Class except the backup lights were moved inboard instead of centered. US regulations required the 3rd brake light add-on from 1986 through 1988 as shown; The 1989 was smaller and placed near the edge above the chrome star.|
As the owner of the car pictured, I can attest to the quality of these collectibles. Great power provides 0-60 acceleration in about 7 seconds and comes with expected below average gas mileage; As with most Mercedes, parts are easily available but never cheap - all the reason to buy the best example you can find.
Our best estimate is that these cars are now appreciating at 10% per year and will rapidly accelerate in price as we reach 2019 and 30 years out of production.