From Childhood To Marriage, The Mercedes-Benz SLC Has Always Been In My Life
Photography by Sebastien D’Amour
A few years ago I fulfilled a small dream of mine and purchased a Euro-spec 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC. I had been looking for the right modern classic “youngtimer” for about two years before I found the car I’d eventually buy, and though I wasn’t specifically targeting the one I ended up with, my heart was always set on it being a Mercedes.
I looked at various models—560 SLC, E 500, etc.—but nothing was meant to be until one evening I found a new posting showing an all-original Euro-spec 450 SLC in good shape. Now, living in Montreal (Quebec) and being a car enthusiast I recognized very quickly that I might have found a unicorn if it wasn’t shot through with rust—around me it’s mostly muscle cars filling out the “classic scene,” so a Euro car with its original metal likely wouldn’t come up again soon.
Within 15 minutes of the seller’s posting I was asking him when I could come over to see the car. After a few hours’ driver a few days later, I walked up to it for the first time, mesmerized by looks and feeling a more than a bit nostalgic. It brought back some childhood memories I’m very fond of that I will explain a little later. After a quick test-drive and inspection, I was shaking the man’s hand and I was the new owner of the beautiful SLC.
I purchased my car from a man who had bought it from an estate sale, the subject of which had imported the car to Canada from the south of France 10 years prior. The sun had taken its toll so it needed a repaint and the interior needed a refreshing, but it only had 115,000km on it and was running really well on the mechanical front. Other than the repaint it already had, the car was completely original; I even found the original and untouched spare tire, medical kit and emergency flares. It needed some minor bodywork, the interior needed a bit of work, and some basic refreshing like the typical fluids and a rubber piece here and there. I had done my homework and knew the work that had to be done, so I decided to turn this into a project for myself to not restore but “refurbish” the car.
When I was young, my Dad had been a truck driver and any truck driver’s son will tell you that from an early age you’ll likely get introduced to mechanical work. With this background being a familiar one, I had a good amount of skills to take on the challenge of fixing up my car, and during and afterwards found it to be a very rewarding experience, beyond the simple knowledge that some hack didn’t over-tighten everything and forget a bolt or two because he was hungover.
My career is in software engineering so I do not often get a chance to do this kind of work, and more than a hobby, fixing the car became a bit of a religion to me. In a similar but not identical way to the way people describe driving their favorite cars, working on mine allowed me to forget about work and other issues for a few hours while I put my hands to good use. Throughout all the work I did though the car was always drivable, so I never had to park it for an extended period of time. This definitively helped with the motivation of completing the project—a project that you can take to the parts shop is easier to finish than one that starts as a shell after all.
After working out the brakes, suspension, taming the rough idle, and carrying out minor bodywork like I mentioned, the car was running like a charm. It is still unbelievable to me how at 40-plus years old the car works this well without having a major rebuild. All options still function as intended, and though the engine and transmission did not undergo any overhauling, I am still confident in pushing the car like it’s a much younger one—it has been the most reliable car I’ve owned to date.
I haven’t seen any around me, and I think we can call the SLC a kind of rare car without really being one. Based on the legendary and widely popular ’80s R107 SL, the SLC (coupe) was produced between 1971 and 1981, while the convertible SL went on to be produced until 1989. The SLC was the only Mercedes-Benz coupe to be based on a convertible rather than the other way around, so the engineers had to stretch the body about 20cm to allow enough room for the back seats. The SLC did not have the same success as the SL as you can guess by their production timelines, and this was mainly due to the price one would imagine, given this was the most expensive Merc model at the time (except for the still on-demand 600 Pullman, of course!).
Not as strong a seller as the SL then, but a better base for a competition car, the SLC earned some motorsport heritage when it was used in the South-American & African rallies in the late ‘70s and went on to claim the victory in Africa. Its robustness and reliability made it a good platform for the rally stages of the world, where build quality and an ability to take a rock on the chin count for more than they do on a smooth tarmac circuit.
Getting back to my SL though, its significance in my life has little to do with its impressive rallying career, and more to do with my family. Like many of you reading this, my passion for cars started when I was just a kid, and I still remember playing with my Matchbox cars on the kitchen floor whenever my mom was cooking. I was his only son, so for my mechanically inclined car enthusiast father it was only normal for him to influence my interests. He used to bring me on trips all over the country for car and truck events, and he spent the time explaining me how to drive his truck, how to operate the machinery, how the pieces of a car worked, etc. I loved it; the sounds, the highways, the vast swaths of nature we’d drive through, and of course the act of just spending some time with my dad. My love affair with Benzes came from a different place though.
My godfather was this older wealthy Italian man with, perhaps unsurprisingly, great taste in food, clothes, and cars. He owned a late-model Mercedes 560 SL in white with a tan interior. I remember going to his house every summer and rushing to see that car—I had never come across anything else like it at that point. I come from a very small town, so the chance to see cars that weren’t four-door American sedans was a slim one. I found it so beautiful, the engine bay was always kept immaculate, and I think I can still smell the leather interior. They say that’s the strongest sense linked to memory. Everything about that car made me fall in love with the brand though, and ever since, I’ve loved the design and presence carried by a Mercedes-Benz.
As much as I like my car, about two years ago I found something, someone, much better. After meeting the woman whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I asked Joy to marry me in 2017 and we had the wedding in May of this year. I had just two requests for our wedding: an open bar, and to drive my old car on the day of. Of course, she understood and gladly agreed.
The car has a special place in our relationship, as I went to get her for dates early on in it when we’d just started dating. We later did road trips to the wine countryside and shared many beautiful moments elsewhere thanks to the car providing more than just the bare essential transportation.
We drove to the wedding in it, and then her dad took her to the ceremony where afterwards it was a big attraction among my friends and family who’d heard about the car but had never seen it until now. It was the best day of my life, for other reasons of course, and I’m truly happy I got the share it with the woman I love and the car that is so special to me.
Right now I’m just looking forward to making more memories with my wife and my car. I hope to keep it until I’m old enough to pass it down to one of my own.