1983 Mercedes 380SL

Advance, NC

1983 Mercedes 380SL           

der Panzerwagen - the "armored car"

My 1983 Mercedes 380SL.  Light Ivory with Dark Brown Leather interior.  Approximately 38,000 miles.
I purchased this SL in July 1983 - it took several months of looking before I decided on this color combination and placed an order.  It was a hard decision for me to buy a vehicle this expensive but I was convinced that it was pricey because it was a quality vehicle.  My SL is so pampered that it rarely gets rained on, it rarely gets dirty, it is never driven in the snow; in fact it rarely gets driven which is a shame as it is a really fun car to drive.  My 380SL gets over 20mpg while the 450SL/560SL's probably get about 12mpg.  There is only one nick in the paint and that occurred when I raised the hood while I had the windscreen wipers pulled out.  The only other flaws is that there are two minor cuts in the canvas top (repaired this way), and the stitching in the seats has pulled away somewhat.  

Some folks put down the 380 SL series because of timing chain issues.  Click Here to find out what Mercedes has told me about their single timing chain, and what independent experts say about this.  

My 1983 380SL is 100% original.

More Pictures of my 380SL

Links to other websites


Neat SL Mods

Maintenance History

Best Practices

German License Plate

Detailing How To

The Mercedes Myth

Some Mercedes Benz jokes ....

"There are a number of mechanical devices which increase sexual arousal, particularly in women. Chief among these is the Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible."  --   P.J. O'Rourke

"You have chosen to drive a MERCEDES-BENZ, a car in whose construction and production we have taken great pains because we believe that quality is not a matter of chance."  --  page 3, Owners Manual 380SL

"Engineered Like No Other Car in the World"

I need the following repairs performed on my 380SL:

  1. Engine timing chain converted to dual timing chain ~$2,500
  2. Air conditioner converted to R134:  ~$300
  3. Replacement 15 inch 15 hole Wheels (15" diameter, 7" Width, offset is 25mm, 7Jx15H2 ET25):  ~$450
  4. New tires (Sumitomo HR200): ~$300
  5. New soft top:  ~$800
  6. Front seat bottoms re-stitched:  ~$500

"Engineered Like No Other Car in the World" -- fact or fiction?
Why do you buy a Mercedes?  I've started asking myself that question ever since I found out about the bicycle chain/ticking time bomb/single timing chain in my 1983 380SL.  Hey, I still love the car but its like your wife suddenly telling you something unpleasant about her past :-)   What really sucks is that I paid major money for  my 380SL perceiving that a Mercedes virtually guarantees a well built and designed vehicle, and my 380SL would be reliable for a long time if I took care if it.  Well, Mr. Mercedes, I did my part and pampered my 380SL - you failed me by slipping me that cursed single timing chain.   Now every morning I crank the engine, I hold my breath hoping the engine doesn't blow up and listening intently for the sound of  'timing chain slap' that everyone is warning me about.  Everybody now knows about this single timing chain debacle and the 380SL's resale value is severely hurt.  Is this what you mean when I read in the owners manual:  "we have taken great pains because we believe that quality is not a matter of chance"?German License Plate

I know that the next time that I think I like that brand new Mercedes, I'm going to run as fast as I can to the nearest Lexus dealership to shake off those thoughts.  One thing that I will never do again is buy a new Mercedes - instead if I purchase a Mercedes it will be one several years old so I can feel assured that there is nothing 'queer' about it.   By the way, why is it that only we Americans got stuck with the single timing chain?
The owners manual for my 380SL states "we have taken great pains because we believe that quality is not a matter of chance".  Heck, I believe I can have a better chance with a pre-owned Mercedes than a new Mercedes.
Owning my 380SL has now turned into a love and hate affair.  I hate that Mercedes single timing chain but still love the car.  There is something pleasant about driving a Mercedes and my SL is a lot of fun to drive.  Its unusual, it handles well, it attracts attention, there are some neat attributes about it, and there is that big star on the front.  The 380SL is not technologically sophisticated nor does it have all the bells and whistles like electric seats or tilt steering wheel that do exist on most any car today and did exist on many high-end autos in 1983.  Only the right hand mirror is electric - the left hand mirror is manual.  The convertible top is not electric but instead a simple manual procedure to put down and put up.  It is neat the way the convertible top folds down behind a metal cover.  The removable hardtop takes two pretty strong men to lift off or put back on.  Just because it is a Mercedes does not mean that everything is the highest quality - take a look at most any 380, 450, or 560 SL and you are likely to note flattened or split seats, cracked dashes, rust in certain areas, power antenna no longer works, and wrinkled door panels.  The AC climate control is problematic and the interior has often been described as "weak" because other vehicles have better appointed and better designed interiors.  The 380SL was a very very expensive vehicle in 1983 and I paid in excess of $40,000 for it, and for $40K I did not expect anything cheap or "queer" like a single timing chain that to correct requires a major engine conversion.  The picture at the right shows how the engine would have to be disassembled to convert to dual timing chain.

What quality items you will likely notice is the heavy doors that close like a bank vault, the way the metal on the door edges are folded in, solid thick metal in fenders, and a big European-style steering wheel.  As a classic, a fun convertible, or a show car, many Mercedes are hard to beat.  Mercedes does build some unique automobiles that are hard to quantify - is it merely styling versus substance?  Is it like trying to choose between that glitzy Chrysler LXi Town & Country van versus a Toyota LXi Sienna van were the former is what you really 'like' but the later is what you will eventually hate the least because it is more reliable and will cause you less trouble?  I had this actual decision to make between that Chrysler van and the Toyota van and I chose the Toyota van.  As a daily driver, I think I would rather have some dependable Japanese model like a Honda, Toyota, Lexus, or Isuzu rather than some problematic Mercedes - except, that is, for those occasions like a moon light cruise with your wife or a ride to the beach or the mountains, a Mercedes SL is very hard to beat as an enjoyable way to get there.

Mercedes automobiles sounds a lot like Chrysler automobiles I've owned - great visual design, but problematic and unreliable because of poor engineering.  Perhaps it is fitting that Mercedes and Chrysler did become one company - a merger of equals.

These are my ramblings about Mercedes - what are yours?


Mercedes in the news...