Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
Thoroughly more modern than the models it was replacing, it also featured the beautiful 3499cc V8 for added power and a faster top speed. Some 360mm longer than its SL twin, and weighing approximately 50 kilo's more, the SLC featured a "useable" rear passenger seat, and an even larger boot.
But even though it was larger than the 107 convertible, it was substantially shorter and lower to the ground that the outgoing 280SE model. The body rigidity offered by the 350SLC over the SL also saw it afforded the title "a drivers car", one it richly deserved. Today these cars offer a very affordable and driveable classic, with parts still plentiful and servicing costs reasonable.
A Successor To The SE Coupe
As the 350SL followed the SL and SSK series, so the 107 series SLC was the successor to Mercedes-Benz' famous SE coupe series. But despite many family resemblances the SLC was quite a different car from the SL. At launch, Mercedes even avoided making comparisons with the 350 SL
introduced just months before; then gave their 2 + 2 coupe every styling feature of the SL.
Anyone that drove the SLC would have agreed that the then new Coupe did not replace the SL. It was longer, roomier and arguably more practical. The SLC used the SL chassis with angled A-arm rear suspension
, four coils, vented disc front brakes, fuel tank above the rear axle line, self-cleaning windshield posts and tail lamps, hot/cold air in the doors - even the rechargeable pocket torch plugged into your glove box.
Mercedes even used the SL engine, unchanged. But that was no surprise, given the single-OHC injected (Bosch electronic) 200 DIN hp V8 was their then latest and best powerplant. The 3.5-litre mill met all then current European emissions standards. To meet Californina requirements, Daimler-Benz dropped in their 450 V8 version which held performance on a par despite the chokes. Many industry observers believed the 4.5-litre V8 would find its way into both the SL and SLC versions as a means of updating the range a few years after launch - and they were right.
Behind the Wheel
When you were in the cabin of the SLC, you would have been forgiven for thinking you were sitting in an SL. Just like the outside, Mercedes carried over most of the interior including the steering
wheel, seats, trim and dial layout. The view over the bonnet was identical too, because it was the same nose, just as tail trim and below-beltline side sculpturing were carried over. But MB stretched the wheelbase by a full 14 in. to achieve a rear seat. Lengthening the top to go with this actually made the car better looking in many peoples opinion - although we prefer the SL dimensions.
Unbelievably Mercedes-Benz claimed that they kept the rear bench flat so you could carry a fifth adult. But that was a real stretch, and the truth was that four could fit, but no more. Some careful engineering went into fore-aft balance so that the car carried equal weight on front and back wheels when driven either two-up with much luggage or with four aboard and very light cases. This is designed to provide very mild initial understeer which suited fast bends, changing to gentle oversteer if the driver knew how to use the throttle through the corner.
Like the SL, the SLC's brakes
were all disc with interior ventilation up front to handle 3500 pounds of automobile
. Compared to the old Coupe (available at the end with this same engine) a 350 SLC was 6.5 inches shorter overall, just over two inches narrower and somewhat lower. Yet passenger space remained the same. The boot was rated as 20 percent larger than that in the 350 SL
roadster. Like the SL, the forged alloy wheels
were an optional extra - and given how everyone seemed to switch to these eventually we would actually prefer to see an SLC with its original hubcaps.
Given the price of the car, however, it seemed a big ask to list the heated rear window and electric side window operation as optional extras. Then again, charging extra for items you would presume to be standard kit has always been the forte of German auto builders. ABS (not available at release, but in 1972
), Electric sliding roof, central locking system for the doors and boot lid, air-conditioning
, tinted glass for warm climes and headlamp washer were other options - although understandably these were extra cost options. The outstanding MB automatic gearbox was optional, too, and we think most ordered their SLC that way.
Faster Than The SL
Loading the machine with options was not as fey as it might seem. Even less than the SL - which was more a boulevard cruiser and never really a sports car - the SLC was no nippy terror of the stop light grands prix. It did a fine job of transporting people over long distances in total comfort. But what may have surprised many was that the Mercedes "long-chassis" 350 SLC was a faster car in many conditions than the 350 SL
two-seater. There were obviously times when a longer wheelbase and marginally higher weight did mean more speed. Admittedly, a factory test driver could probably have driven an SL around the given-radius test circle faster, but on point-to-point trips over winding roads, rippled surfaces and around unexpected bends the SLC was easier to punt, and in the hands of any lesser driver, that made it a faster car.
The 14 extra inches in the wheelbase made a notable difference in behavior through a set of bends. Where the SL tended to get a little sideways if you put the power on a hair too soon the SLC would instead continue to carve the stable line you started with. For very, very tight hairpins, the first-gear kind, you might be a tad quicker by SL. Any other bend and the SLC was your weapon. The longer car also travelled across rough going more easily, and thus a bit more rapidly, because it didn't need as many quick corrections.
Manual vs. Automatic
Having grappled with a 4-speed manual SL for many years, we can attest to the shift mechaniism not being a user-friendly device. The better option was definately the auto, Mercedes making what many believed to be the finest at the time - with four ratios matched directly to their manual, quick kickdown and unnoticed upshifts - and of course a manual override which allowed you to hold any gear as long as your consience would allow. Of course, the automatic box lowered the top speed from 130 to 127 and added perhaps 0.8 or 0.9 seconds to your less-than-nine 0-60 time, but theže figures applied only to cars shifted by thoroughly trained works mechanics anyway. Day in, and day out, we doubt if the automatic owner would have been any slower anywhere but the drag strip.