At $11,500, Is This LT1-Powered 1982 Mercedes 380SL a Deal?



Today’s Nice Price or No Dice 380SL carries an unassuming surprise under its hood; an LT1 out of a Corvette. Let’s see if its price tag leaves us just as surprised.

When Tina Turner’s Aunty Entity first encounters Mad Max in Bartertown prior to his bout in the Thunderdome she scoffs at his appearance. After looking him up and down, Aunty summarily dismisses Max, declaring “he’s just a raggedy man.” Many of you had a similar impression upon seeing yesterday’s 1984 Honda Civic CRX. Its sun-worn appearance and non-operational registration status proved cautionary and called the seller’s $7,500 asking price into question. Ultimately, that resulted in an 80 percent No Dice loss.

This past weekend I attended an Octoberfest event at our local cidery. It was a wild mix of lagers and lederhosen, but I have to say that the highlight was the wiener dog races. That’s the kind of sausage fest that’s fun for the whole family. At least as long as they are all of drinking age.

Along with dachshunds, shorts with suspenders, and beer, Germany is known for its car companies. In fact, the country’s carmakers are generally considered to build some of the best-engineered vehicles in the world. But that doesn’t mean those cars can’t be made even better.

This 1982 Mercedes-Benz R107 began life as a 380SL, powered by a 155 horsepower 3839 cc edition of the M116 V8. Mercedes offered the all-alloy SOHC engine in U.S. market cars from 1981 through 1985 as a way to make them more fuel-efficient and emissions-compliant as was the need at the time, but the engine’s performance proved mediocre.

The company replaced the small V8 with the larger 5.6 liter beginning with the 1986 model year, but that only managed to bump power to 227 horses. Our two-seat Benz has a 350 CID LT1 V8 taken from a 1994 Chevy Corvette which, if nothing has been lost in translation, should be able to muster about 300 ponies. As Homer Simpson might say: woo-hoo, hee-hee, ho-ho, oh my.

According to the ad, the engine swap brought along the Corvette’s 4L80E four-speed automatic transmission and Chevy ECU. The seller says the latter was “reprogrammed to accommodate the weight and gearing differences of the Mercedes.” A custom oil pan was welded up for the V8 to clear the R107’s front cross member and still allow the hood to be fully shut.

Along with the engine swap, the car is claimed to have had a professional respray. That appears to be the factory red if the door jambs and engine bay are to be believed. It all looks pretty decent, aside from the black eyelashes painted on the cornering lamp lenses. The manhole cover wheels also look to be in great shape and happily aren’t chrome-plated. The car comes with its hard and soft tops, but we only see the former in use. The diving platforms disguised as bumpers also appear to have decent rubber.

The cabin shows a bit more wear and tear, with noticeable crazing on the seat upholstery, a dash toupee, and some mismatched wood on the console being the most egregious offenders. Remarkably, the transmission is able to be operated via the original Mercedes shifter.

The seller says the car runs and drives great, despite having been in storage for the past 10 years. Now it’s claimed to need a good home with someone who will actually exercise it. Per the seller, it comes with a clean title and a suspiciously-low 14,700 miles on the clock. That mileage is kind of a puzzler but the odometer is six barrels and it’s hard to believe it’s gone all the way around the horn. Either way, the Corvette mill breathes new (or at least a little more) life into the old Benz.

What should something like this reasonably cost? The seller is asking $11,500, and that amount is apparently a recent price reduction. What do you think? Is it a deal at that asking? Or, should the seller keep on dropping?

You decide!

Kalispell, Montana, Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

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