It’s 1982 and you’re tuned-in to the Trans-Am race series, gawking over a grid packed with competitors all vying for a chance to take home the win and the manufacturer versus manufacturer bragging rights that come with it. Within that lineup of highly recognizable domestic muscle, your eyes are pulled to a unique coupe dressed in black with a three-pointed star emblem shining in its front grill.
This Mercedes-Benz 450 SL was built from the ground-up in 1982 specifically for the Trans-Am series and was a project commissioned by Neat DeAtley, a Mercedes-Benz dealership owner with the wild idea of promoting the brand’s performance image through the formerly strictly domestic series. For the last 30 years the car has remained under the ownership of a close friend to DeAtley in Minnesota, and it’s up for grabs through Mecum Auctions right now.
What began in 1966 as the Trans American Sedan Championship was restructured under the SCCA’s fastest production car classes in 1975. By 1980, a handicapping system to level the playing field came into play based on engine-size-to-weight ratios. In addition, tube frame chassis cars came into play and became the standard. This ’82 SL uses the same sort of monkey bars underneath its Mercedes paneling to look the part. In fact, the only factory Mercedes parts on the car’s exterior are the OEM taillights and trunk emblem—everything else is custom formed in fiberglass in silhouette racer tradition.
Wider, Lower, Lighter
The svelte 450 SL body style has been lengthened and widened dramatically to meet the needs of the competition build. Boxed front and rear fenders, a low-slung front air dam, deck lid spoiler, and tented hood—much of it quickly removed with DZUS fasteners—all play a part in the car’s track performance. Modular BBS wheels wrapped in series-compliant Goodyear Eagle tires join a four-wheel disc brake layout and the original paint is adorned in hand-painted Michelob sponsorship graphics.
The cabin is as bare bones as you might expect from a purpose-built racer, without a cigarette lighter or cup holder in sight. The makeshift dash is packed with gauges and a single fixed-back bucket seat with harness replaces the original leathers. A complete fire suppression system is also on board in case of the unthinkable, and every bit of the interior has been covered in custom fitted aluminum panels that match those under-hood.
Powering the SL is a Mercedes cast-iron block-based 5.0-liter V-8 that was de-stroked to 4.5 liters and gave up its Bosch fuel injection in lieu of a Holley four-barrel carburetor to meet Trans-Am series rules of that era. The lucky buyer will also receive an array of spare parts to accompany the sale, including an extra block and heads, pistons, rods, camshaft molds, and additional body panels including those awesome extended fenders, as well as documented owner history and essential Crew Chief log book.
Looking For A Home
The DeAtley Mercedes really shook things up by picking a fight with a series that most felt it had no business competing in, but compete it did, finishing in a very respectable sixth place overall at Road America in 1982. Recently serviced and ready for action, it’s currently available through Mecum Auctions with estimated pricing starting at $450,000.
When it does sell, we hope to see it back in its natural habitat on the race track.
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