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Way back at the beginning of the 21st century, Hagerty completed a 3-year study that gathered data on the most stolen collector cars in the U.S. The study showed that thieves most often lift collector cars out of parking lots, but according to Hagerty’s data, just under 20-percent of thefts happened from peoples’ driveways. Among American classics like the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Thunderbird, one particular vehicle stuck out. It was the Mercedes-Benz 450SL/SLC from 1975-1979. What on Earth makes this car such a target for car thieves?

The 1975-1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SL looks amazing

Mercedes-Benz 450SL driving in Germany
Mercedes-Benz 450SL in Germany | Rust/ullstein bild via Getty Images

The Mercedes-Benz 450 looked amazing but otherwise wasn’t too special or revolutionary. Aside from being the star of Beverly Hills Cop, it was a sports car Mercedes built between 1971 and 1989. It used a 4.5-liter V8 producing 222 horsepower with mechanical fuel injection, mated to either a 4 or 5-speed manual, though customers could also opt for the 3-speed automatic. All that aside, the car had reciprocating ball steering and was horrifically inefficient. Beyond those quirks, the 450SL had other problems.

Hopefully, the Mercedes-Benz 450SL thieves got what was coming to them

Mercedes-Benz 450s from the mid-70s, in other words, the exact cars that were being stolen, suffered from major problems. They faced detrimental rust of the undercarriage, which got bad enough to disintegrate various mounting points around the car. If the rust got bad enough, the owner wouldn’t be able to drive the car safely. 1975-1976 models had problems with the vapor lock as well, according to Notorious Luxury. Those model years had the catalytic converters inside the engine bay and would vaporize the fuel. The next model year saw the catalytic converters relocated.

Why would thieves go after such a lemon?

Mercedes-Benz 450SL racing in Kenya
Mercedes-Benz 450SL racing in Kenya | SIMON MAINA/AFP via Getty Images

If the Mercedes-Benz 450SL thieves were more Nicholas Cage-savvy, they could pick the correct years to steal and not face any of these problems. Then the car might be a decent choice. However, the years 1975-1979 were some of the most problematic. The 450SL didn’t work out most of its issues until the mid-80s. Why the 450SL was stolen so often remains a mystery. It could have been thieves targeted convertibles because they’re so easy to break into, or it could have been because they could stick a screwdriver into the ignition. 

How to prevent theft?

If you own a Mercedes-Benz 450SL and are worried about it getting stolen, there are a few precautions you can take to mitigate the chances of it happening. First off, there are a few companies that make alarm systems for older cars. A Mercedes-Benz 450SL from the 1970s is also primitive in its design, so it wouldn’t be hard to locate the fuel pump and rig up a kill switch. Otherwise, just make sure you have good classic insurance like Hagerty offers and enjoy the ride.