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Mercedes Benz 500SLC, 450 SLC 5.0 and E36 AMG – Elusive Limited Edition Coupes

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This is an article from the SL Market Letter Archives covering some of the rarest Mercedes-Benz coupes of the modern era. These low production cars will, no doubt, will be some of the most collectible cars of the modern era as time marches on. The article was written by Daniel Stahl, contributing writer in the book “The SL Experience” available for purchase in the SL Market Market Place.

Covered in this article are the 500SLC AND 450SLC 5.0 as well as the E36 AMG Coupe, Cabriolet and Station Wagon.

1.) 107.026 Series – 2,769 FIA Homologated Rally Racers made Street Legal and sold to the public. Most MB enthusiasts know there were two versions of the 5.0 SLC built between 1977 and 1981, but fewer know the engine change was not concurrent with the switch from 3 speed to 4 speed automatic transmissions.

Impetus for the engine change was to achieve compliance with a desired FIA Rally classification. The displacement of the original 5.0-liter, aluminum V8 used in the 450 SLC 5.0 was reduced slightly (from 5025 cc to 4973 cc). I always thought that that change in displacement, and corresponding lower bore (87 mm and later 86.5 mm), coincided with the change in designation of 450 SLC 5.0 to 500 SLC and with the change in transmission from 3-speed auto to 4-speed auto. This is certainly what one would conclude from Werner Oswald’s book. He has the 450 SLC 5.0 with the 5025 cc engine and 3-speed auto tranny and the 500 SLC with the 4973 cc engine and 4-speed auto tranny.


Mercedes Benz 450SLC 5.0 Rally car tribute at the Hilton Head Island Worldwide Auction, Fall 2007.

After further research, especially when I got the Engelen books on the SL models, I learned that the 3-speed to 4-speed auto tranny change is the real demarcation between the 450 SLC 5.0 and the 500 SLC, and not the lowered displacement. In fact the displacement was lowered in May 1979 in order to be able to homologate that 5-liter engine into a class that must be under 5000 cc. The change to the 4-speed auto tranny came later, in March 1980 when the 380 SLC and 500 SLC were introduced and the 450 SLC 5.0 ended.

Now as far as power is concerned, both the 450 SLC 5.0 and the 500 SLC were always rated at 240 PS DIN. The lower power rating of 231 PS DIN only came out later after production of the 500 SLC had ended. Thus there was never a 450 SLC 5.0 or 500 SLC with 231 PS DIN. The 500 SL started with the same 240 PS DIN that the 450 SLC 5.0, 500 SLC, and also the early 500 SE/SEL. Power was lowered to 231 PS DIN in October 1981. By that time, production of the 500 SLC had ceased. That’s why there was never a 231-HP 500 SLC.

Still, it’s not surprising that even the 450 SLC 5.0 with the 3-speed auto tranny should feel faster than an ordinary 4.5-liter 450 SLC since the 5.0 was more powerful (240 PS vs 225 PS both in Euro version) and lighter (1515 kg vs 1630 kg of the Euro versions, respectively). This difference is even more pronounced when you compare the U.S. version 450 SLC (180 HP SAE Net) with the Euro 450 SLC 5.0 (240 PS DIN = 238 HP SAE Net). The horsepower difference is much greater (58 HP) and the weight is also greater for the U.S. model.

2.) C36 Coupe …and Cabriolet and Station Wagon, E43, E50, E55 – in collaboration with AMG and Porsche


Early 90s E36 AMG Coupe.

During the first half of the 1990s MB together with AMG made a highly desirable E-Body Coupé with the AMG 3.6 liter straight six that was sold in the UK and perhaps elsewhere but not the USA. To have some more interesting versions, MB also made an E 36 AMG Cabriolet, and E 36 AMG Station Wagon. All of these E 36 models are 124-bodied cars. Curiously the 5.0 liter E-Class was never offered in the 2 dr. (coupé or cabriolet) or wagon, and the 3.6 was never offered in the E-Class sedan (either the Porsche built E500 or the AMG built E 50). They were also only available as 4-door sedans. It was only with the E 55 AMG and C 43 AMG that MB made them available both as a sedan and a station wagon. These cars occasionally find their way to the USA as conversion for the DOT/EPA compliance is not difficult.

Production quantities for the various E 36 AMG body types are not shown in the CD-ROM M-B Encyclopedia. They state for all of them that their production figures were not documented separately. I assume that means separately from the production numbers of the original cars these E 36 AMG models were derived from, i.e., the (W 124) E 320.

Finally, since the C 43 and E 55 were in production at the time of publication of the CD-ROM Encyclopedia used as a reference for this article, total quantity was not available.

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