A Tale of Two Mercedes. U.S. Spec vs Euro Spec.

In the early 1980s, it was the worst of times to buy a new car. A combination of safety and emissions regulations, insurance company pressure and consumer trends created an atmosphere that birthed some of the worst cars ever. A prime example of a car that was nearly ruined by what's become known as the "Malaise Era" is the Mercedes-Benz 380SL -- but for enthusiasts at the time, there was hope from something called the grey market. There were plenty of crippling regulations for cars built for use in the United States, but few rules stopped people from importing just about anything. This meant anyone with a dealer's license could contact a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Germany, purchase whatever new car they wanted and ship it to a port of their choice. From there, they could "Federalize" the car and resell it to American customers. Federalizing Euro-spec cars was enforced inconsistently, if at all, with rules varying from state to state. This meant most cars were sold without emissions requirements, big bumpers or antique headlights. For the SL, it meant you could import something like a fantastic 280SL with a peppy inline 6-cylinder engine and 5-speed manual transmission -- or you could bring in the Autobahn burner of the day, the 500SL. Check out the video below. (Source Autotrader Oversteer - Tyler Hoover)





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