No one likes going to the dentist.
Whether 13 or 30, it’s a chore that instills dread in the hearts of all. The whirring, the grinding, that nasty rubber dam they clamp around your tooth when having a filling done; it all leads to a traumatic experience which causes us to postpone checkups to the very last possible minute. If all dentists were like Takahiro Higuchi though, maybe we wouldn’t be as hesitant to visit.
Dino put together a brief spotlight on this Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC back at Wekfest in 2017, but it was during a recent visit to Japan that Mark, Ryan, Ben and Saj got the chance to explore the car in more depth after meeting the owners of the SLC and the 190E above at RAUH-Welt Republik.
I bring this to you now as a matter of urgency, as regular exposure to builds like this Mercedes are certainly good for your health. Not so much for your eBay searches or financial stability.
Some quick history first. The C107 generation Mercedes SLC was not a sports car, despite being based on the same chassis as the R107 SL roadster. A longer wheelbase allowed for a pair of small rear seats at the expense of agility, and an older rear subframe design also detracted from the handling characteristics of the SL. On the other hand, the differences also made the SLC a more stable drive and an excellent grand tourer.
Engine wise, the choices were the standard Mercedes-Benz fare of the era: a selection of inline-six or V8 power plants, ranging from a basic 2.8 to a homologation special 5.0. This 450 SLC left the factory with a lazy, comfortable 4.5-litre V8, however what’s nestled behind that long, elegant nose today is a far cry from what originally drove the rear wheels.
The low-revving, 222 horsepower V8 has long since been replaced by a much younger, much smaller displacement, yet much more powerful 3.0-litre Toyota 2JZ-GTE.
The 2JZ, rather unsurprisingly, fits perfectly as the SLC was originally designed to contain inline-sixes from factory. The space where the right bank of the V8 used to rest is now taken up by a single, high-mount TD06 turbo, contributing to the power figure of 450hp.
With a near-50-year-old chassis I suppose it’s a good thing that this SLC features a longer wheelbase than its roadster sibling, otherwise it could be quite a handful with that much power pushing through the rear wheels.
With the bonnet closed, even from a distance it’s easy to see that this SLC is a beautifully clean car. It may not be the lowest or the most aggressively styled, yet the car has an incredibly well-judged presence that merely hints towards it not being a standard C107.
The AMG chin spoiler and fog lamps add more depth to the front of the car, whilst the rest of the bodywork is just as it left the factory. Those side strakes and side window louvres are oh-so-’70s. To the untrained eye it may appear as though the car is sitting on a set of OEM Penta wheels, however this isn’t the case.
In addition to his day job as a dentist, Higuchi-san runs a business called HWA Asteroid Wheels. HWA is a company dedicated to producing Penta-inspired wheels in a much wider range of sizes than those ever offered by Ronal or ATS.
These more aggressive 17-inch wheels, combined with a subtle drop on BILSTEIN dampers and a touch of rake, lend the car a purposeful, dynamic stance. The brake setup is a mix of Brembo Ferrari F50 and F430 calipers front and rear; an exotic touch providing plenty of stopping power.
This reserved yet well appointed theme continues inside the Benz. What is largely a stock interior is lifted by a choice selection of exquisite details which really improve the ambience compared to the some of the OEM features.
Details such as the period correct and achingly cool ATI AMG steering wheel. With its quirky offset centre piece and thin spokes, this steering wheel will certainly have improved the driving experience compared to the ghastly original plastic bus wheel, especially with its smaller diameter.
It’s not just about what you can see though. In keeping with the spirit of this car hiding its modern powerplant, the interior has a secret of its own. Peel back the passenger carpet and you’ll find the MoTeC M600 ECU keeping the engine and Toyota Aristo 4-speed automatic gearbox working in harmony with the rest of the car. What’s more, everything works exactly as it should.
Before I draw this article to a close, bear with me as I indulge in a little cliché and bring up the subject of ‘cars that reflect their owners’ personalities’. It’s an easy line to throw around, I know, as on all builds there’s bound to be at least one or two personal details. Rarely, however, does a car come across so in tune with its owner as this Mercedes.
Take it at face value and you have what appears to be a very nice, straightforward, presentable Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC – much in the same way the owner may come across as just a very pleasant, professional, courteous doctor.
Look past the surface though, and you have a 450hp bruiser seemingly betraying its appearance much in the same way that the owner is not just your regular dentist, but is seriously pursuing his automotive passion outside of his nine to five, way beyond the extent that most would expect.
This is a truly fascinating machine, yet even now, I’m struggling to think which has the stronger Jekyll and Hyde persona – the car, or the owner?