A Photo for Sunday: 1971-1981 Mercedes SLC

I don’t pretend to understand the byzantine model history of this car. Here is one, a mass of rust, held in place by thick, beautiful blue metallic paint.

1971-1981 Mercedes 450 SLC in Dublin. Immobile.
1971-1981 Mercedes 450 SLC in Dublin. Immobile.

Up until the point I looked at Wikipedia for clarification, I’d considered this as part of the Mercedes S-class family. It certainly looks grand and when you know it has a V8 engine, you know it means business. The underpinnings are derived from the W114 saloon while the replacement car, the SEC series was derived from the contemporary S-class. It’s a bit of an in between car then.

What’s more important here is that the car is one which looks good from afar but is far from good. Rust is chewing at the wheel arches on both sides and at the base of the C-pillar. The M116 or M117 V8 engine is an imperial device but thirsty and troublesome. This car wears a registration indicating it is in import from the UK.

Like so many older luxury cars, it has failed to thrive in Ireland’s damp climate and presumably there is not the same expertise available to help maintain it. The road tax disc expired last year, alongside the owner’s willingness to deal with the rust (think of a big number with a “€” attached) or find someone who has ever dealt with Mercedes’ tendency for blocked oil channels or timing chains difficulties. And so here is a car that despite its rust is somehow too good to throw away.

Does anyone understand the point of the window louvres?

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

10 thoughts on “A Photo for Sunday: 1971-1981 Mercedes SLC”

  1. As far as I understood, the louvres were there to make the window short enough to be completely wound down, yet having the illusion of a slim C-pillar. While I appreciate both of these goals, I think it could have been done in a more elegant way.

  2. It´s not that I think the design is inelegant (nor is it grear). It´s that´s an odd kind of thing to do. I can´t think of any other cars with these kinds of louvres. I don´t think Mercedes did them again. They are a real eccentricity.

  3. The same problem (allowing a wind-down window whilst avoiding a thick piece of sheet metal) is approached on the current E Class Coupe, but now Mercedes make no attempt to hide the compromise – except by generally taking photos where the window split is in shadow.

    1. This car came to my mind, too.
      Interestingly, I find the “non-hidden” solution much less obvious than the hidden one in the SLC. The louvres are just so wierd that they automatically attract the eye.

    2. Maybe I have to add that I still like the old car more (my comments so far may sound a bit too critical for how I really see the SLC). I largely prefer its sleek, rectilineal style over the E’s pronounced wedge shape and fake ’50s wing pressings. And actually, as a lover of odd details, I can even find the louvres charming.

    3. I think time has made them charming, but when new I remember the SLC was a bit confusing. It did rather look like they’d stretched an SL then found a rear side window from a completely different car to fill the gap. The upward curve doesn’t add anything.

  4. I’d really like to hear Daimler’s (as they were commonly referred to over here back in the day) decision to base its top model on the SL, rather than the S-class. Was the W116 deemed an inappropriate base car for some reason? Was the C107 an attempt to add a sporting edge to Mercedes’ product range, or maybe a flight of fancy, courtesy of the styling department?

    Thanks to another learned DTW contributor, I can report that Sir William Lyons was said to be rather fond of the C107, albeit maybe not for styling reasons.

    1. As far as I can ascertain, the C107 SLC was designed for America, where sales of ‘personal luxury coupé’s’ were booming. Mercedes-Benz sold a lot of W111 coupé’s during its lengthy production run and clearly the feeling was that a more low-slung sportier looking model would do even better – especially as its SL sibling was such a huge success amidst the Hollywood set. Basing its appearance on the styling themes of the shorter SL was an odd choice and one they never repeated, for although the SLC remained in production into the early ’80s, it tended to be viewed as a curiosity in the range. Although ever the contrarian, LJKS I recall, spoke fondly of it.

      It never really looked quite right to my eyes, suffering from a proportional mismatch between wheelbase and overhangs. The stance was a little prim as well. Having said that, I’ve always liked them, perhaps for that very reason.

      As Kris points out, Billy Lyons was known to be impressed by the SLC – it was exactly the sort of car he had been trying to create for the best part of a decade. Hence the XJ-S, which of course was aimed directly at the SLC’s jugular. Oddly, it too suffered from an insufficiently resolved rear quarter light treatment.

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