CC Capsule: Mercedes-Benz 450 SL – Classic Is Always Trendy

1973-80 MB 450 SL c

Late. I hate being late. My brother waited for me upstairs in the bar. I’m most comfortable in cozy, local places, especially those with far smaller prices than this chain steakhouse offered. But a gift had been given us: here’s enough to more than sate you, and please sober up before you drive home. The joint had just opened in this new, upper-end development. Many of the parked cars spoke of higher aspirations, if not higher realities – five-year-old Lexuses, new BMW 3s, and the high-trim trucks ubiquitous in the Midwest. Such is the look of those on the way up or wanting to appear on the way up. Fat car payments filled this lot. There I was in my paid-for, squeaky old Ford Focus, feeling out of place – and hustling to reach my brother. But still, I made a moment to take in this Mercedes.

1973-80 MB 450 SL e

I don’t know much about Mercedes-Benzes. In my childhood working-class reality, Buick was as high as anyone aspired, and always five years used. New cars were Chevys and sometimes Pontiacs. Thanks to engineering school and hard work, my adult reality far exceeded working class a long time ago – but orientations die hard, as my old Ford attests. Still, it’s easy for a low, lithe, red convertible, top down, to pause a man.

1973-80 MB 450 SL b

No pretense: I needed Wikipedia to learn a little about what I’m looking at. So these were sold in the US from 1973 to 1980. They packed a (probably thirsty) 4.5-liter V8 – and were prone to rust. A quick jag through eBay Motors, however, showed any number of rust-free examples just sold. There I learned the sly wisdom of modern 450 SL convertible ownership: most of them sold for around $15,000. This is how you look good at a trendy nightspot without enormous debt.

1973-80 MB 450 SL f

Classic low, long looks never lose luster, even though the burst headrest seams speak of a not-perfect car. I’m sure a few more minutes’ inspection would have found other signs of wear. Instead, I hurried upstairs to start pounding Manhattans and cutting choice beef with my brother.

1973-80 MB 450 SL d