Auction Favorite: 1985 Mercedes-Benz 380SL

The Mercedes-Benz 380SL is a common vehicle at the auctions I follow—since starting this blog in late 2013, I’ve seen almost 40 of these convertibles go across the block, mostly at the Barrett-Jackson and Mecum events. I chose to go with 1985 as the model year to write about because it and 1982 have been the two most common years I have seen.

“What do you get when you blend a Mercedes-Benz with a sports car? The incomparable 380SL.”

1985 was the final year for the 380SL—from 1986 on, the heavier and more powerful 560SL would be the only option in North America. There wasn’t much change for 1985; all cars got anti-lock brakes, and later cars got a drivers-side airbag. About 11,100 buyers took home this last of the line example.

Motive power was provided by a 155 bhp 3.8 liter/234 cubic inch V8 with Bosch Jetronic fuel injection, connected to a four-speed automatic transmission. As with all R107 models, mileage for the 3,600-pound car wasn’t very good—the ratings of the day were 16 city mpg/18 highway (14/17 by today’s standards). With the 22.5-gallon fuel tank, a 380SL driver could expect a range of between 310 and 350 miles with a 10% fuel reserve. 0-60 came in about 10.5 seconds; the 380SL was closer to a grand touring car than to a sports car.

The 380SL’s base price for 1985 was $43,820 (about $102,200 in today’s dollars—neatly spaced between what an SL 450 and an SL 550 cost in 2017). For the money, exterior and mechanical standard features included the aforementioned ABS controlling power disk brakes, power steering, a steel hardtop, and 205/70VR14 tires (now a rare size) on 14-inch forged light-alloy wheels. Inside, power windows, power door locks via a vacuum locking system, cruise control, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player were standard. Air conditioning was also included in the electronic automatic climate control system, though most say it wasn’t that effective. Heated leather seats were optional.

1980 Mercedes-Benz 380SL Roadster

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 380SL in #1/Concours condition is $28,200, with a more typical #3/Good car going for $13,600. There is decent club support for the 380SL, as there is for almost all Mercedes-Benz’s. 380SLs maintain a substantial presence in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this in September 2017, there are 66 advertised on Hemmings, including 14 of the 1985 models.

Make mine Astral Silver Metallic, please. Dealer advertising image courtesy of Alden Jewell, linked from Flickr.

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1985 Mercedes-Benz 300CD Turbo

For some reason, one of my local supermarkets often has interesting eighties cars. Today, there was a Mercedes-Benz 300CD Turbo casually parked among the crossovers—good enough reason for this blog entry.

A 1985 Mercedes-Benz 300D Turbo Coupe in Radnor, PA
An (I think) Champagne Metallic 1985 Mercedes-Benz 300CD Turbo in Radnor, PA

“A singular new achievement”

1985 was the last year for Mercedes-Benz’s mid-size W123 models—they would be followed by the substantially revised and very different looking W124 models in 1986.

For 1985, the 300CD Turbo powertrain continued to be the fuel-injected 125 bhp 3.0 liter five cylinder turbodiesel connected to a four-speed automatic transmission. At about 3,360 pounds, these were not fast cars—0-60 mph took about 15 seconds. Fuel economy was 22 city/25 highway by the standards of the day—19/23 by today’s standards. With the 21.1 gallon fuel tank, the driver of a 300CD could expect almost 450 miles of range with a 10% reserve.

Base price for the 300CD Turbo was a non-trivial $35,220—about $81,700 in today’s dollars. You did get a lot of standard equipment: power steering, power brakes, halogen headlamps, halogen fog lamps, and light alloy wheels were all included. Inside, power windows, power door locks, cruise control, intermittent windshield wipers, eight-way power front bucket seats, electronic climate control, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player and power antenna were standard.

There were few options on the 300CD Turbo: leather upholstery and a power sunroof (optional at no extra cost) were available.

W123 models definitely have a following, especially the relatively rare coupes and the 300TD wagons. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 300CD in #1/Concours condition is $16,900, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $8,400. 300CDs sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, often with mileage well over 200,000.

I like these coupes, with their smooth hardtop lines and their reasonable size. Make mine Astral Silver Metallic, I think.

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1986 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC

Only a couple of blocks from my house, I walked by a black 560SEC with a tan interior in really good condition earlier this week—a good enough reason as any to write this post.

“Bold lines which reflect the latest in motoring refinement.”

For 1986, Mercedes-Benz’s big W126 S-Class coupe gained an upgraded 238 bhp M117 5.5 liter Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injected V8 engine paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. The mid-cycle refresh also differed cosmetically from previous years with the addition of flush-face halogen headlamps and integral headlight wipers.

0-60 came in a sprightly 7.5 seconds in the 3,900 pound car while mileage was a predictably bad 14 city/16 highway by the standards of the day (12/15 by modern standards). With the large 23.8 gallon fuel tank, range was about 320 miles with a 10% reserve.

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Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $58,700 560SEC (about $129,700 in today’s dollars—a modern S550 4MATIC coupe starts at $119,900) included four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and 215/65VR15 tires on 15-inch “fifteen slot” alloy wheels.

Interior equipment included electronic automatic climate control (said to be less effective than you’d expect), an electronically adjustable steering column, cruise control, driver’s side airbag, dual-stage heated front seats, leather steering-wheel and shift-lever trim, and a Becker Grand Prix AM/FM stereo radio with cassette player and power antenna.

Optional equipment included sun roof, power rear sun shade, front passenger air bag, and California emissions.

There is decent club support for the 560SEC, as there is for almost all Mercedes-Benz’s. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1986 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC in #1 condition is $15,500, with a more normal #3 condition car going for $7,700. 560SECs frequently show up for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors: as I write this in July 2015, there’s a black 560SEC with a beige interior and 97,000 miles listed on Hemmings for $14,000.

Make mine Black Pearl, please.

1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SL

560SLs were a notable presence in the January 2014 auctions at Scottsdale and Kissimmee, so I decided to finally post this short entry on the last of third-generation SLs.

“Engineered like no other car in the world”

The 1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SL marked the end of the R107 generation that had begun way back in 1972 with the 450SL. There had been a moderate restyling for 1986, but the basic bones were definitely aged.

The base price for 1989 was $64,230 (about $121,000 in today’s dollars). For your money, you got a plethora of standard features including ABS, a driver’s side air bag, cruise control, power steering and brakes, power locks and windows, leather upholstery, and (of course) a first aid kit. About 8,300 buyers took home this last of the line example.

Motive power was provided by a Bosch fuel injected 227 bhp 5.5 liter V8 connected to a four speed automatic transmission. Mileage wasn’t exactly great for the 3,700 pound car—the ratings of the day were 14 city mpg/17 highway (adding a $1,300 gas guzzler tax to every car). 0-60 did come in about 7 seconds, but the 560SL was closer to a muscle car than to a sports car.

There is decent club support for the 560SL, as there is for almost all Mercedes-Benz’s.  560SLs maintain a substantial presence in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this in January 2014, there are 56 available, including 10 of the 1989 models. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for an 1989 560SL in #1 condition is $31,100. Make mine Astral Silver Metallic, please.