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Mercedes-Benz 380SL 1982 Review

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Autumn is a fine time for driving sports cars, not too hot, not too cold, not too much rain.

Doing it in a near classic European sports car simply adds to the experience.

It was an '82 Mercedes-Benz 380SL, a car that still has street cred nearly 25 years after rolling of the assembly line in Stuttgart.

People in ritzy suburbs still cruise the "better" streets in cars just like it they bought brand new.

The model ran from '71 through to '89 and was broadly based on the S-Class Benz but with a shorter wheelbase and of course, the drop top and two-door body.

I like to call it a "bling bling" car or a "pimp-mobile" because it goes so well with the concept of "conspicuous consumption" and too much gold jewellery.

The 380 was a replacement for the 450SL and apart from the reduction in engine capacity, the smaller V8 was all-alloy instead of cast-iron and much lighter as a result. This had benefits in performance and fuel economy. It also gained a four-speed automatic transmission – a much better thing all round.

The engine is a single overhead cam unit with two valves a cylinder and was good for around 130kW/300 Nm which in a car weighing 1540kg translates into respectable performance.

The 380SL has a limo feel to it due to its S-Class lineage and that means a comfortable ride and smooth running. It will hunt hard through bends but you know there's a beefy car underneath.

The recirculating ball steering is rather indirect and too light but great around town.

The entire car has a solid feel despite its age and displays minimal scuttle (windscreen frame) shake which is testament to the chassis strength.

It has a manually retractable vinyl roof and a hefty hard top is also available, complete with a pagoda style roof.

Fixing the hardtop is a two-person job, two strong people.

The interior features a massive steering wheel and compact "cockpit" style dash, tacky woodgrain console and chrome, chrome, chrome.

The test car had blond vinyl upholstery – totally in keeping with the fire engine red paintwork.

Pricing guides

Based on third party pricing data
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Range and Specs

SL 3.8L, Leaded, 4 SP AUTO $25,700 – 37,620 1982 Mercedes-Benz 380 1982 SL Pricing and Specs
SEC 3.8L, Leaded, 4 SP AUTO $9,900 – 14,960 1982 Mercedes-Benz 380 1982 SEC Pricing and Specs
SEL 3.8L, Leaded, 4 SP AUTO $3,800 – 6,160 1982 Mercedes-Benz 380 1982 SEL Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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