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1972 Mercedes 350SLC 4-speed

I’ve always liked the SLC model Benzs more than their removable top SL brothers and when it comes to the R107 and C107 chassis the 350SLC is one of the rarest of the breeds outside of the 450SLC 5.0/500SLC, which are significantly more scarce and the most expensive Benz you could buy at the time outside of the 600.

Year: 1972
Model: 350SLC
Engine: 3.5 liter V8
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Mileage: 105,756 miles
Price: Dealer, $9,950

1972 Mercedes-Benz 350SLC at Beverly Hills Motor Cars via Hemmings

1972 Mercedes 350SLC 3.5

The 350SLC contains one of Mercedes lesser known engines, despite it being the first major, high production volume V8 in Mercedes line up. (Though the M100 engine predates the M116, it wasn’t exactly a high volume engine when the M116 came out, just high displacement)  The high revving 3.5 liter V8 is often over shadowed by the more common 4.5 liter V8 of the same era. The smaller engine though is the more desirable of the two with the 3.5 liter being a compact powerplant that generated power in part by having a near 10:1 compression ratio, higher than the 4.5. With the 3.5’s high compression combined with earlier, non-emissions strangled production, it generated more power than the 4.5 as well. The 3.5 could put down a bit over 200 horses and was generating power at very strong horsepower per displacement ratio, there weren’t a whole lot of other regular road cars squeezing so much out of so little back then.

What sets the SLC apart from the SL is not that the hard top is simply fixed as many people mistakenly believe. The SLC is actually a bigger car and was designed as a 2+2. Compare an SL next to an SLC and you’ll see that the space between the door and rear wheel is noticeably longer on the SLC. As such the SLC is actually slightly heavier than SL.

Distinguishing between the 3.5 and the 4.5 can be tricky at first look since they are pretty similar. The 3.5 is a M116 engine and the 4.5 an M117. These engines are so similar that a trick for extra jump in your 4.5 is to take heads from a 3.5 and bolt them right on. This swap takes the 4.5s lower compression ratio and turns it up to 11 as in 11:1. The identification is also complicated by Mercedes breaking with the normally accurate, for the time, tradition of putting the badge on the lid that corresponded with the engine size. I say this because some U.S. market 350SLCs retained the 350 badging, but to meet emissions requirements had the less rare 4.5 under the hood. If you purchased a North American bound 350 series coupe or sedan it would come loaded with the 4.5 and you could be given an envelope with the correct 450 badging for the dealer to install if you wished, many cars never had the badges corrected so buyer beware if looking at a stateside 350.

A look at the tachometer is one way to see what you have. The 3.5 liter engine had a pretty crazy RPM red line of just under 7,000, again like its power to liter ratio, this sort of revving wasn’t seen too often from street V8s. The 4,5 SLs and SLCs will have red mark south of 6,000, while you can see on this car it is above. The seller mentions the higher red line in the post. The way the seller words the listing they suggest that there is something special about the engine that gives the car the higher redline, but I suspect what is meant is simply that the car has the 3.5 under the hood so the engine internals are probably stock, but having the 3.5 in a “U.S. spec” 1972 is unique.

The seller says this car was delivered special for Pan-Pacific Rally. The SLCs had a great rally career in some serious rallying events. The rally prepped cars that competed in the dirt and mud looked a bit different then the car here. I would like to see the documentation about what the seller means, was this car intended to compete, was it a press car, etc.. This car has been for sale before and generated similar questions from aficionados. It is interesting that this car is not equipped with A/C as that was standard fare for the SLC. A car delivered for a rally in parts of Mexico would have to be somewhat serious to not be fitted with A/C.

Without seeing the car in person from what I can tell the only thing special about the car is that it is an early stateside 350SLC with the 3.5. Of course it does come with a manual transmission, a 4 speed mated to a rev happy V8 will be fun. The manual in the 350SLC was not rare in the rest of the world, the auto was actually the option, but seeing any Benz with a manual in the states is generally thought of as at least slightly special and desirable. Give this car a performance exhaust to open it up a bit and it would provide your ears enjoyment as well.

This car is listed at a dealer at just under $10,000 with 105,000 miles. Not a spectacular deal if you are looking to land a 70s SLC or SL, but with the rarity of the 3.5 and 4 speed combo that ask isn’t out of line for dealer pricing (there is another dealer currently listing a Euro spec model with 180,000 on the clock for $14,900). The car also hasn’t been saddled with later ugly safety bumpers.



  1. Raymond
    Raymond January 21, 2013

    Been looking for one of these for a while but the color change re-paint is a big negative. That should be more clearly disclosed.

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