Mercedes SLC revisited

Earlier this week Mercedes revealed the new SLC roadster. And we completely forgot that this is not the first time the German carmaker has used that particular designation.

That original Mercedes SLC is the car you see here. It was a long-wheelbase, coupe version of the iconic R107 SL roadster, built from 1971 to ’81. It served as substitute for the discontinued S-Class coupe (Mercedes never produced a two-door version of ’72’s new W116 S-Class) and it was indeed a fine, stylish luxury express.

Later in its life, the SLC became an unlikely but successful competition car. The V8-engined 450SLC 5.0 homologation special was introduced in ’78, allowing Mercedes to compete in both racing and rallying.

Mercedes put together an all-star cast of drivers for its World Rally Championship campaign, including Hannu Mikkola and Bjorn Waldegard. Measuring 4.7-metres long and weighing nearly 1.5 tons, the Group 4 SLC wasn’t the most nimble of cars, but it was very powerful and incredibly tough. The car was at its best on ultra-tough marathon events; at WRC level the team secured two wins and numerous podiums, and there was more success in non-championship events.

In 1980, AMG mounted a factory-backed tilt at the European Touring Car Championship with a Group 2-spec SLC. Up against the might of BMW, the big Merc only took a single – impressive – win on the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Incidentally, we believe both the race and rally versions of the SLC are the only cars to win an FIA championship event with a torque converter automatic gearbox.

The SLC was dropped in ’81 to make way for the new, W126 S-Class based SEC. Just over 60,000 were built.

That we forgot about the original SLC rather reflects its position in the car world. It was always in the shadow of the more stylish, arguably better-driving SL it was based on, which lived longer and sold considerably better. Most led hard lives, too; abuse, neglect and rampaging rust consigned most to the scrapyard within 15 years. The SL became an iron-clad collectible in its own lifetime, while the SLC still hasn’t really caught on. Values are rising though, and a good one makes a great everyday classic.

By Only Motors

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