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Kim's Mercedes 380 SL

Gorgeous 1981 Mercedes Benz 380 SL. Kim Trowbridge has an extensive car collection ranging from 1940’s classics, Porsches, hot rods, Jaguars and even modern Mercedes dream cars. This episode is about his 1981 showroom condition Mercedes Benz 380 SL. This car is a true survivor with all original finishes and parts and only 83,000 original kms on the odometer. This car is a European spec, Canadian model and it has been babied its whole life.


Hi folks and welcome to Center Lane I'm Bruce Hitchen and today I'm back at the home of Kim Trowbridge and I was here a little while ago doing a segment on his collection of Jaguars but today we're going to take a look at this beautiful 1981 Mercedes 380sl. This is an unrestored survivor it is, it really does it looks like it's just come off the showroom floor. So like all of Kim's cars, it has a great story to it. Kim, can you tell me a little bit about this car and how you came across, how you came to own it? Yeah, I can. A very close friend of mine, old friend...we're both old actually, owned this car and he came by it in a really interesting way. It's when he lived in Calgary and there was a lottery and the lottery was for car and prizes and so on. And the gentleman that won this car uh had no use for the car and at the time, back then they didn't offer the choice of cash or the car. You had to take the car and my buddy Bill was there at the time and knew this individual and said, "well I'll give you cash for the car. Take the car, win the car, and I'll give you the cash." So they cut a deal and this fellow was, back in the early 80's, was doing in-car phones and Bill said, put a phone in the car, I'll give you the money and I keep the car and that's what happened. So he's had the car since brand new. It has the vintage phone still in it which we left in the car and then approximately seven or eight years ago Bill called me and said I'm getting rid of...he had a beautiful Rolls Royce Corniche and a couple of other things. He said, getting rid of that and the SL. And I went, no no no no no. I've been asking you to buy that thing for over 30 years and he said well, you want it? I said yeah, I want it. That's how I got the car.

So you've been acquainted with this car ever since it was brand new?

Virtually new. I wasn't there when he purchased it. I was, I was not in Calgary at that time, so I didn't see that moment, so to speak, but yes I've known the car since it was born.

And it's just in remarkable condition. I mean, it's a true survivor. I mentioned at the beginning, it's like it just came out of the showroom but this is all original right? Original top, original paint? Is there anything that you've upgraded on the car?

The only thing I upgraded on the car was I did some work on the brakes, I put new tires on it, and I put in an accumulator that that feeds fuel to the fuel system which had, over the years, just deteriorated and it was hard starting and now, you started it earlier you it's instant start the way it should be but other than that no. Even the plastic rear window is the original and it's not yellowed, it's still clear it's it's just a time, time-capsule. The the real, the real excitement of the car is inside the car quite frankly. The comfort it's really...people think of them as sports cars or did in the day. They're not a sports car, never were. It's a grand touring car so the level of comfort that you get in this car is astonishing. The level of technology you get in the car is astonishing, the the fit and finish you know complete with chrome trim where it doesn't really necessarily need to be, all of those kinds of features. Chrome plates on the back of the door that that just tells you there's a certain bespoke character to the car and that they've taken the time to put it together properly and why a car like this with just really maintenance items has survived all of these years and drives perfectly. I mean this car, I would get in it and drive to New York. Wouldn't frighten me at all.

I see it's got some nice chrome accents here. Is that original detail or is that something that has been added?

It's a dealer added option and and it is original but it but it's dealer installed so you'll see a lot of them that way. Some of them, this one had it since it was new but some of them they put this on because the wheel arches on the r107 are notorious for rotting out. So they, because it was a dealer installed option when the car was young, people who have these cars after market and they're older and they're not doing so well they put those on rather than doing the restoration and the body work.

I know it's got some of the original little details in the trunk as well that are kind of unique to Mercedes they always had a a kit. Now I guess that was that was a European required option. Yes. yeah and and there is on behind the passenger seat there's a little little bracket that holds this. I don't keep it there because when I drive the car in the summer with the top down, these are so rare that people tend to want to acquire them for free and so I want to keep it intact. But this one is is completely intact with all the elements the way...I doubt that anything any of the adhesives work or anything like that but it is the original kit that the car was born with.

And speaking about it being a European option, I noticed this car is a European model because the headlights are a little bit different.

Yeah, they are. Instead of, instead of four round lights, it has two trapezoidal or over oval lights.

And and why was that? This was like a car that was given away through a raffle, is there a reason why it's a European model?

Well some of the Canadian spec cars came as the European model but in the U.S. they were not legal. They had to have the the two sets of two lights on them. In Canada, we allowed that European model in.

So it's a 3.8 liter aluminum v8. In the early 80s there was a 500 as well as the 380.

And how much horsepower did this car put out? I mean you said that there was a difference between the North American and the European model.

Yeah, pretty significant difference. North American model is only 155 horsepower and the European model is 215 horsepower so it's pretty significant difference. That's, that's the release latch tool.

So you have, there's a there's a cam a little rotary cam sitting right up above right about there. And you have to slot that tool in it.

Yeah, this is not original. I had that made for the car just to get the wind buffeting down.

Just give me an overview of the inside of this car. It is, it's actually quite modern for its age isn't it?

It is, it is. I mean, I've never learned how to use the radio because it has functions that I just don't even know what they're for.

Right. And and they're sort of in code too aren't they?

They kind of are in code. Some of the abbreviations stand for German words. It's still pretty cool, it's an automatic tuning radio. It does take the antenna, which is over my back shoulder, my left shoulder here. And when you turn it on it'll raise that antenna. The air conditioning controls are, you know pretty rudimentary and pretty simple.

But but climate control, which is very unusual for 1981.

For the age, yeah absolutely.

And push buttons and yeah it's quite modern actually. Yeah.

Yeah it's very nice and I love the phone. The vintage phone.

Yes. It's not, it's wired in, not connected, no antenna anymore but it stays. Right. It stays with the car.

Yeah, because it's so, it's such a an indication of the era isn't it? Exactly.

The car does everything it was intended to do extremely well. To be a grand touring, a personalized grand touring vehicle, two-seat grand tourer and it does that admirably. It's it's spacious for two people, comfortable for two people. The ride is absolutely extraordinary as I think you'll see as we go along. And it has ample power. Definitely not excess but certainly enough to get out of its own way.

And it does, it rides very beautifully. I noticed that right away. It's a nice smooth comfortable ride without being too soft.

Yeah. It's not too soft and you'll see that that it takes the corners pretty, pretty flat, relatively flat. It's composed, it it feels, it feels like it's under control and and connected to the road. So I'm completely off the brake and in-fact, accelerating.

And quiet. Very, like engine it's very quiet.

You can't really hear the engine and it's smooth you can't feel it. You know and it it's, we're on, we're on neighborhood streets so I can't really accelerate vigorously but you can you can feel that it'll go. If you can, you can keep up with traffic and keep it keep ahead of traffic and and cruise along any way that you choose to cruise along.

You know when when I was a young guy, that was, that was a pretty unique looking vehicle so I always coveted these cars. I just never thought I would get the opportunity to buy one and when I finally had the opportunity and was at an age where I could buy one, I couldn't find a good one so that's why I pursued this one for all those years.

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