1981 Mercedes-Benz SL 380 SLC from North America - Comments

2nd Jun 2004, 21:55

Just purchased a 1976 SLC, with just over 44,000 miles. Unlike any car I've ever owned. A combination of modern design and traditional craftsmanship. Elegant, powerful, responsive -- it recalls a time when cars were not appliances. It actually has a usable back seat, but is every inch a "sport leicht" -- an inspired design on the part of Mercedes.

The leather seats, now freshened with a standard conditioner, have a soft glow. The Becker radio, once the retractable antenna is up, is clear and deep. The engine seems to rumble: "We can go a LOT faster, if you like."

Sometimes the interior lights blink -- they're not used to being on. The moon roof needs adjusting. The first aid box behind the back seat is empty -- maybe I'll put refreshments in there.

My intention is to keep on good terms with a skilled mechanic, and my hope is that with routine maintenance, this will be the last car I ever buy -- there just aren't any others available for the price I paid for this one.

9th Sep 2004, 11:02

I recently inherited an 81 380SLC with 150,000 miles on the car. It's absolutely impeccable and drives beautifully.I'm located in Sacramento, California, and would appreciate any suggestions on how best to market the vehicle.

20th Dec 2005, 17:09

Couple comments that hopefully people will find helpful...

What oil weight you should use depends on the condition of the engine and the kind of temperatures it's going to be driven in. I run 20w50 in my 560SEL, but it rarely gets below freezing here (SF Bay Area). Heavier oils can reduce oil consumption and help limp the car along until it absolutely NEEDS a valve job, and they do provide better protection than lighter weight oils.

As for the timing chain, it is possible to retrofit earlier (pre-1984/1985) 380s with double-row timing chains, and I recommend that anybody having the chain on theirs replaced do so. And the chain should be replaced every 100,000 miles regardless of whether it's broken or not as preventative maintenance. It's not cheap to do... my mechanic quoted me $1200 for my 560, iirc, but it's a lot cheaper than fixing the damage it'll cause or replacing the engine.

With regard to putting a 350 Chevy in it... you could, but IMO it would really ruin the car. I believe it's a much heavier engine than the 3.8, which would have a detrimental impact on the car's handling. It's also not really in keeping with the car's 'personality'. PERSONALLY, if it were me, I'd find a 500 or a 560 and pull the engine, ECU, etc. out of that and put it in.

17th Oct 2006, 22:27

I’m so excited! I’ve just bought a 1981 380SLC. I’ve long wanted an older Mercedes convertible, but this opportunity came out of the blue after I was rear-ended and received an insurance settlement.

This site came up while I was researching pricing and availability before the purchase, but I intend to keep up with the discussions.

We’ll travel from Birmingham to Indianapolis this weekend to pick up my car.

I'll let you know how things go; I realize from your postings what a SPECIAL car I’ve acquired.

25th Dec 2006, 10:40

I purchased 2 owner 1981 380slc one year ago. The odometer read 21,525 and presently reads 24,109. The car is 100% original and is new condition having been stored by Mercedes for some 11 years in a climate controlled environment. Many people have offered to purchase it and I intend to keep it until I retire. I have never driven a 25 year old car that feels brand new. I am waiting for the car to appreciate.

26th May 2007, 12:07

Blonde needs help!!! I am attempting to sell a 1981 380SL and it seems the last two local people to preview the car are inquiring about a timing chain / valve replacement. This car was obtained from an Estate Sale 11 years ago, we have not even put an additional 5,500 miles on this car. It always has been a good performer when it is driven. My question, how big of issue is this timing chain/ valve? Absent getting it into a mechanic what should I look for or listen for to even remotely educate myself on the potential problems.

9th Aug 2007, 21:18

I just bought a 1981 SL...91,400 miles and in great shape.. well cared for and always garaged... a great car and a lot of fun...

I have seen the comments about the timing chain. Is there any "simple" way I can tell if it has been replaced or should be replaced?? I do not have any records on the maintenance.

Thanks

Bob.

24th Sep 2007, 23:18

I believe the reason the 380SLC is lighter than its counterpart is the special lightweight alloy used in the engine. I bought my SLC in 1981, and love it 26 years later. Sure there's some rust, and I had to install a new windshield, but all in all for the money and the years, the car was the best bargain I ever got.

I have oil leaks between the trans and engine, which annoys every parking lot I use. The climate controls are snafu now, the new heating core I had installed didn't work. I plan to bring the car to a local expert in Long Island City for evaluation. I have faith. and I love this car.

The gas pedal fights back, but every mechanic tells me that's the way Mercedes designed it, so who are we mere mortals to argue <wink>

4th Oct 2007, 19:43

Does anyone have an idea what the 380-SLC mileage per gallon is supposed to be?

Also, is it worth it to replace the rear windshield to make the de-icer heater inside the glass start to work again? That was one cool feature, but the years somehow stopped it from working.

16th Oct 2007, 06:35

I recently purchased a 1981 380SLC. (just 2 Wks. ago).

The radio goes on, stations come in, everything seems normal, but no sound comes from speakers. I moved balance knob both bk & frt & ctr. Am I missing something simple?

Also will be having a mechanic check timing belt to see if if has been replaced. In the 80's did many owners take care of this or is it more likely that it will need to be done?

17th Oct 2007, 21:28

I have searched the web for a repair manual for my 1981 380 SLC to no avail. Can anybody help.

9th Nov 2007, 16:28

Regarding the Radio Comment on 380 SLC: I removed my radio myself and sent it to "BECKER" radio of Saddle river NJ. They exchanged it for a refurbished one for $135.00 plus $10.00 shipping; all is well now. Removal is easy; just remove ashtray, then two screws facing upwards holding the wood-grain panel. Be gentle or it can crack, as it is real wood you know. Pull radio forward aprox. 1/3 the way and rotate it to the right (to clear support post) and that's it. Good luck.

17th Nov 2007, 16:56

I am looking at a 1981 380slc with 34k miles, silver with black leather in excellent original condition with updated double timing chain. All works and presents excellent. How do you all feel about a $21,000 for this??? I am crazy to think it is high, but may be worth it?

19th Nov 2007, 19:55

I have a 1981 SLC with 52000 miles on it and would CONSIDER?

Selling it for less than $21. As clean a car as you will find anywhere. It was a one owner before I got it. Also timing belt is upgraded. However I don't think I should place my e-mail on this site. only because I'm not very savvy as to how computer correspondence works. do you have any idea how we can make contact?