THE CCW VIEW
Autocar tested a Mercedes 350 SL in 1971 – listed as costing £5690 including taxes, or the cost of two Jaguar E-types. It concluded: ‘More touring than sporting. The Mercedes-Benz proved less exciting than expected. Instead the emphasis is on comfort, safety and functional efficiency.’
Mercedes-Benz itself didn’t seem to help matters by proclaiming: ‘It’s not just another sports car.’
So what is it then? Why did so many people pay so much money for one of these cars? Well, here we have a convertible grand tourer built to the highest standards of quality and engineering. The car had few rivals to speak of throughout most of its existence, apart from the Jaguar E-type S3 at the beginning of the 350 SL’s lifecycle, and the XJ-S drophead from 1983.
The SL offers safety and reliability, plus a pure feeling of indestructibility down to its smallest fibre. We find ourselves (fuel consumption aside) comparing a 40-year-old car favourably with its modern equivalent.
The longer you spend with a Mercedes 350 SL, the more you deeply appreciate its many talents. It’s small wonder that Mercedes-Benz engineers christened it ‘Der Panzerwagen’ (or ‘armoured car’) and no wonder that it has inspired so many automotive love affairs – some possibly with Wagner’s
Ride of the Valkyries booming out from the stereo as you drive relentlessly onwards.