Under $20k: Euro 1983 Mercedes-Benz 500SL

I love the R107 SL-Class.

I just don't like the hundreds of thousands of North American versions imported here.

One of the more unfortunate chapters in auto history is when European automakers were forced to comply with inane U.S. government vehicle regulations in order to sell their cars here. One of them required cars to be able to withstand 5-mph impacts, so automakers were forced to slap on large, heavy and unsightly bumpers over their original designs. On the otherwise graceful Mercedes R107, the bumpers basically ruined the car.

There were also rules pertaining to headlights, so Mercedes had to ditch the progressive and handsome small square units they debuted with the car and instead install these sealed-beam quad round lights that made the car look ancient, not to mention make visibility at night worse. The sad irony of the American regulations is that European cars were and remain far safer in general than American cars.

So when your comfortable elderly neighbors are selling their low mileage American-spec SL for some outrageous price, don't budge. You don't want it. During the Reagan Era, loosened restrictions on importing created a vibrant grey market culture, so European versions filtered through in surprising numbers. On any given day on ebay, you'll find a handful of European versions in varying quality.

This is one such example, and it's absolutely gorgeous in gunmetal grey over black, a very rare and desirable color combo. The 500SL was never offered here. Sure, we got the larger-engined 560SL, but the 500 is faster, pumping out a very impressive 245 horsepower with 0-60 mph times around 7.4 seconds and more torque at 296 lb·ft (401 N·m) at 3200 rpm.

The small square Euro headlamps are a revelation, showing us how truly modern and fresh Mercedes made the R107. It gives the car and utterly devilish and charming front end. The slim chrome bumpers are beautiful, and when combined with the later '92 R129 alloys, make this car look startlingly current. I could do without the black plastic rear spoiler, but it's factory and still looks fine.

Another great thing is the size. These cars are so small, yet they're comfortable inside and pack so much power under the hood. Just another German wonder.

The seller lists the odometer as reading 138,945, which must be in kilometers and equals about 86k miles, low for an R107. Inside and out, the car looks immaculate. They say that a whopping $15,000 in service work was recently done, and they have the receipts to prove it. I would check for accident damage and rust. Beyond that, there's not much you can argue with after $15k of work done.

If you are a serious collector looking for the right SL in Euro-spec and a great color combo, this could easily be the one. It also includes the removable hardtop. Awesome, awesome, awesome car. The next owner will be a lucky.

Available here on ebay in Dallas, Texas for $19,995.

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