A 1980 Mercedes-Benz 450SL convertible sold for $27,000 at Mecum’s “Summer Special” auction in August 2020. I’ve previously written about the other two eighties SL versions: the 380SL and the 560SL. Perhaps it’s time to write about the 450SL.
In production since the 1972 model year, the Mercedes-Benz 450SL changed little in its final year, with a few new exterior colors and some new stereo choices. There were also multiple emissions-related changes to the powertrain, with horsepower ratings dropping from 180 bhp to 160 bhp and torque ratings increasing.
The sole powertrain for the 450SL remained a 4.5 liter/276 ci V8 with Bosch Jetronic fuel injection paired to a three-speed automatic. Car and Driver tested a 1980 450SL and recorded an 11.6-second 0-60 time, but raw acceleration likely wasn’t that important to SL buyers. Mileage also wasn’t great in a vehicle with a 3,730-pound curb weight—this SL was no longer anything resembling Sport Light. The 1980 EPA fuel economy rating was 16 mpg, and most owners report that number as somewhat hopeful. At least the sizeable 23.8-gallon gas tank allowed a range of close to 345 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.
For 1980, the 450SL’s base price was a substantial $35,839—about $123,500 in today’s dollars, which is about 35% more than today’s SL 450 goes for. Standard exterior and mechanical equipment for this expensive car included tinted glass, variable-ratio power steering, power four-wheel disc brakes, and 205/70HR14 tires (a size still available thanks to Vredestein) mounted on 14 x 6 inch light-alloy wheels. Inside, air conditioning, adjustable MB-Tex bucket seats, cruise control, electric windows, and central locking were all included.
Options included a limited-slip differential, 15-inch wheels, leather bucket seats, and an array of Becker stereos. Like many other European cars of the early eighties, the 450SL did not have a standard stereo, though a power antenna was included.
The 450SL was a cultural icon, finding fans among various executives, celebrities, professional athletes, and rock stars when new. It was also a film and television star—famously driven by Richard Gere in American Gigolo, by Stephanie Powers and Robert Wagner on Hart to Hart, and by Patrick Duffy on Dallas.
450SLs have many adherents to this day, and there is much club support. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1980 450SL in #1/Concours condition is $36,000, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $11,500. These SLs are always available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, and often at auction. As I write this post, there are eleven 1980 450SLs available for sale in Hemmings. An example with Champagne Metallic paint, brown leather bucket seats, and 45,000 miles is asking $20,000.
Make mine Astral Silver Metallic, please. Sometimes the cliché is correct.