Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - DRIVING -

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.

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