Throughout the 70s and early 80s, compact, lightweight machinery like Ford’s world-beating RS Escort, the Lancia Stratos, and the Fiat 131 Abarth dominated the World Rally Championship. In the late 1970s, Mercedes-Benz announced their entry into the world of international rallying, but with a somewhat different approach, aiming for glory in the highly specialized, grueling, long-distance marathon events such as the East African Safari and Ivory Coast Rallies, where bulletproof reliability and outright speed counted more than nimble handling. Following the unexpected success of a 280 E in the 1977 London-Sydney Marathon, the German team decided that the powerful and robust C107 (the stretched, four-seat cousin to the R107 SL roadster) would be the perfect tool for tackling the stages. To transform the luxurious grand touring 450 SLC into the 450 SLC 5.0 homologation special, they fitted an enlarged, all-aluminum 5-liter version of the venerable M117 V8 engine, which made 20hp more and weighed 88lb less than the iron block equivalent. Additional weight savings came through the fitment of light aluminum doors, boot, and bonnet lids, and other improvements included wider Bundt wheels, a more aggressive rear-axle ratio, and a distinctive rubber boot-lid spoiler. Despite its competition raison d'être, the SLC 5.0 was still a highly-capable grand tourer, with all the luxury trimmings expected of a four-seat car costing more than a Ferrari 308. The formula worked, and while its rallying career was short, the SLC 5.0 won the Ivory Coast event twice (sweeping the top four positions in 1979) and became the first car with a V8 and automatic gearbox to win a World Rally Championship event. Unfortunately, outside of the long-distance marathons, the SLC struggled to keep up with lighter, more compact machinery on more traditional Continental rallies, and Mercedes-Benz shifted focus to sports car racing later in the decade.
This gorgeous example is one of 2,769 5.0-liter SLCs built and was first delivered to a buyer in Amsterdam, later spending many years in an extensive private collection based in Switzerland. Handsomely presented in its factory-correct shade of Grey Blue Metallic (906) over a dark blue velour interior (code 902), the car appears remarkably well-preserved, with fewer than 70,000 kilometers shown. The body is crisp, beautifully straight, and exhibits the precision quality that defines Mercedes-Benz cars of the era. The subtly purposeful looks are enhanced with correct European headlamps, proper wide Bundt alloys, and a discreet boot lid spoiler. This car is well-documented with the original books/manuals, Swiss homologation papers, partial service records, and a factory data card.
While “homologation special” typically conjures images of stripped-out, bare-bones hot hatches with just enough to qualify them as road legal, the 450 SLC 5.0 is quite the opposite. The interior is richly appointed in high-quality velour upholstery, deep pile carpets, and wood trim. This car features manual windows, an original Becker Mexico Stereo Cassette player, automatic climate control, cruise control, and even a sunroof! The materials appear original throughout the cabin and are in superb condition, reflecting this car’s cherished existence. Controls, instruments, and switches are all in good order with minimal wear and typical Mercedes-Benz build quality.
Thanks to the lightweight all-alloy V8, performance is punchy yet very well suited to high-speed touring. Records show that the car received regular annual services and maintenance while in the care of the previous owner, and it is in excellent mechanical health, appearing well-maintained and authentically detailed under the alloy bonnet.
Easily one of the most fascinating and remarkable production Mercedes-Benz of the period, the SLC 5.0 is significant not only for its specification but for the fact that it marked the legendary German company’s return to factory-backed motorsports. None were officially imported to the USA, making this a rare opportunity for any Mercedes-Benz or motorsport enthusiast to acquire for their collection.
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Stock number 7451
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