Mercedes-Benz SL (1980 – 1989)

If we look back at the 1980’s Mercedes-Benz stood for wealth, power and taste in the guise of the formidable SL range. Mention Gullwing or Pagoda and any enthusiast will know you were talking about a classic Mercedes SL.

The Mercedes SL was given a makeover in 1980 not to say the body was altered too much but under the skin the roadster received more power with an increase to 3.0 litres up to a 5.6 litres mid way through the decade in the Flagship model.

These powerful tourer’s are now a rare sight with prices as high as £50,000 for the right model. The Mercedes SL has been with us since the fifties and is still going strong today. The reputation for these roadsters has always been exemplary which is one of the reasons why the Mercedes SL has stood the test of time and with cars of the eighties in such demand what better example of the era than a Mercedes Benz.

Buyers Guide

Mercedes longest living model has great appeal and can still be bought for reasonable money. The trick is finding a good one, unmolested and not hiding any big problems. Here are a few tips to help you make the right choice.

The first thing you should look for is a good documented history of the car to make sure you are buying with confidence. Early eighties models were provided with wax injected cavities to help with rust and any SL built 1986 and onwards would have featured a galvanised body shell. Air intakes at the base of the windscreen can get clogged up so check for corrosion here as it can spread to the bulkhead. Wet mats or foot wells are a dead giveaway.

Jacking points, wheel arches, door bottoms and sills can all rot so check the car thoroughly. We know it’s an old method but taking a magnet with you isn’t a bad idea. All panels are available from Mercedes but you can buy cheaper although original are best. Make sure the bumpers are in good shape as they can be complicated and expensive to repair.

The Mercedes SL came with a factory hard top as standard, make sure there is one and check it’s the original by finding the cars chassis number stamped on it.

Whether you choose a six or eight cylinder engine both are incredibly strong and will run for 250,000 miles before a rebuild providing they are serviced regularly.  Oil changes should be around 6000 miles. All SL models come with power steering. They have a box rather than a rack but can show signs of wear after 90,000 miles.

Mercedes used forged parts not cast so make sure your brake pads are original Mercedes otherwise you’ll lose feel when breaking. The roof can shrink slightly if stored for a long period of time so make sure it fits ok.

If you go for a 500SL then due to the higher torque the gear box will probably need work after 150,000 miles. The rest of the transmission is tough although back axles and prop couplings will get ravaged by mega miles.

eighties classic car


Years Produced 1980 - 1989
Performance 0-60 mph 9.0 sec / Top Speed 125 mph
Power & Torque 185 bhp / 177 lb ft
Engine2746 cc/ straight six /12 valves
Drive-trainFront engine RWD
TransmissionFive speed manual / Four speed auto
Weight 1500 kg



Interesting Fact

In 1886, Karl Benz was awarded a German patent for the invention of “the first automobile” known as the Motor-Wagen. Karl’s endeavour was actually financed by his wife, Bertha, but because she was a married woman, she was not allowed to apply for the patent.

Mark Wilkinson, Managing Director Says:

“These beautifully designed roadsters have been gracing our roads since the 1950’s. Not sports cars but more luxury touring car the Mercedes SL is one of the most iconic roadsters ever produced.”

mark says

Request an insurance quote


October 4th, 2016

Triumph TR7 (1975-1981)

The much maligned wedge has had more than its fair share of critics over the last 40 years and up until more recent times had fallen down the route of most humdrum seventies British cars. However the tide has most definitely turned, with a greater appreciation for these iconic little sports cars now becoming more evident as values start to rise.


January 31st, 2017

Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 (1987)

It’s been 30 years since Ford introduced its homologation special. Virtually unbeatable in Touring car racing Ford’s pinnacle fast road car was every young man’s dream.


December 1st, 2016

Morris Marina Coupe (1971-1980)

British Leyland had decided to continue using the Morris name for their more standard range of vehicles and use the Austin name for the new innovative designs. From around 1968 there were great plans for the Marina Coupe, however due to poor project and cost management, things didn’t quite go to plan.