I missed the party on gold alloys back then in the seventies and eighties when they were the hottest thing north of the Sahara. Finally, the time has come for my retribution.
Regular ViaRETRO readers will probably recall that I bought my dream SLC last year. They might even recall that I then found myself somewhat undecided in deep-rooted considerations as to which direction I would take the project: Back to stock, rough rally look, or late-seventies tuner optics? You can re-visit all of those considerations here: My Big, Fat, Sexy Project Car: SLC. The big Mercedes had just come out of a three year hibernation, and was looking rather rough. Then there were those stickers from the last regularity rally it had competed in just before being parked up. They certainly only added to the rough look – but perhaps in a cool way? In some weird way, it actually worked. So I strongly considered enhancing the rally look even further with more stickers and maybe even a mattblack bonnet.
However, in the meantime my SLC has been improved vastly – both mechanically but also to look at as I’ve been busy polishing the tired old paint back to a decent shine. Suddenly I felt it was much too nice for the rally look. Yet it’s still sporting the notorious Lorinser bodykit comprising both frontspoiler, sideskirts and rearskirt, so it’s also not an original and elegant SLC. As such I found the factory Baroque alloys rather boring and unsuitable for the period and reasonably aggresive bodykit. To make matters even worse, there’s also those chrome wheel arches which were so popular back in the day – God knows why…? The white SLC, the Lorinser bodykit and the chromed wheel arches just didn’t complement each other. But the dilemma was of course: Which direction to take?
I thought long and hard before choosing my strategy, which was essentially a variation of; “If you can’t beat them; join them”. While the origin of that saying seems lost in time, it could almost stem from my SLC. Don’t fight what the car has become – rather work with it and maybe even enhance it further for the happiest result. With period modifications already on the car, it was screaming for a period aftermarket alloy wheel to complete the late-seventies tuning company image. Essentially, what previous owners had started, I simply finished by utilising the ultimate tuning weapon of the period: The gold-centered cross-spoke alloy wheel.
Now frankly, that should have read “BBS gold-centered cross-spoke alloy wheels”. Or even more specifically, the RS 3-piece split alloy. The King of all aftermarket alloy wheels! But being the king, means they’re also both (very) coveted and (very) expensive! They are the true and original designer wheel with real motorsport connections, which means everyone wants them. That in turn will always effect their marketprice.
Naturally, I was searching classifieds for secondhand alloys. One set of BBS’s were up for Euro 650 while another was Euro 750, and then there was a set requiring full refurbishment which could be mine at Euro 350. Of course, I was only looking for 15” alloys, as that would have been the preferable choice in period. They also have the added advantage of being 7” wide, which – for those who care about these kind of things – is an approved width by Mercedes-Benz, as later SLC’s could be optioned with 7” alloys from new. I thanked the stars above that I did not need a set in 16”. They appear to sell for about three times as much as the 15” versions!
But there is of course also a sea of cheaper alternatives if looking for period aftermarket alloy wheels: Ronal, ATS, Melber, Rial, and no doubt many others. And to my surprise, I found that many off them actually looked just as good. Not just that, but they were also gold-centered, which was of course an essential part of the plan.
To cut a long story short: I ended up buying a set of secondhand 7×15” gold-centered cross-spoke alloys from OZ Wheels. Okay, it’s not BBS, but it’s still a quality brand nonetheless. They’re also freshly restored and they cost me half of what a set of real BBS’s would have. Even the shipping was decidedly fair at Euro 60. Granted, when they arrived, they weren’t quite as pretty and shiny as they had appeared on the pictures and furthermore, the four center caps were not included. That’ll teach me to read the small print in the advert better next time… But all else aside, I like them! Cross-spoked, gold-centered and with polished lips – just what the doctor prescribed for a white SLC with a period Lorinser bodykit and chromed wheel arches. I was a happy man.
And I became even happier when I found that 205/65 – 15, which is the correct tyre size for 7×15” on a SLC, is a size which is still in normal production and available through any tyre shop. Several of my latest classics have required tyre sizes which only exist in low-production classic car sizes, making them rather expensive. In fact, had I stuck with the 14” Baroque alloys, this would also have been the case for my SLC, but the tyres for 15” are still readily available.
Not just that, but there were two different versions available of the Turanza from Bridgestone, who as I’m sure our readers already know, where the source of tyres for both Porsche 959, Jaguar XJ220 and Ferrari F40. If they’re good enough for such legends, they’re good enough for my SLC! Only I struggled to establish the difference between the two versions of the Turanza, so I contacted the Danish Bridgestone importer. I was advised that the latest version 005 would be the best option for me, so they were duly ordered and I waited anxiously for them to arrive. How would they drive? And how would they look on my nightclub-owner-SLC?
So to address the first question first: I was immediately surprised at just how much better the SLC rides on its new rubber. Admitted, I haven’t done huge miles on them yet, I’ve only been out in the dry, and I also haven’t pushed the big GT even close to its handling limits. But based on a mix of motorway runs and relaxed A- and B-road cruising, the new tyres are both much quieter, just as turn-in and feedback seems significantly sharper too. Can all of that really be achieved merely by reducing the profile from /70 to /65? Or is it more down to modern tyre technology? Your guess is as good as mine…
Regardless, the new tyres were really just a necessity as I was going from 14” to 15”, and I honestly wasn’t expecting much change other than visually. The old Yokohama 205/70 – 14 weren’t a bad tyre, but still, the new OZ Wheels and Bridgestone tyres made me want to turn south and immediately head off on a grand roadtrip to the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart.
Of course, the visual change is obviously open to discussion as that will always be a matter of opinion. Personally though, I’m quite excited! To my eyes, the cross-spoke wheels perfectly compliment the Lorinser bodykit, and as a further advantage, the gold-centers help break up the previous rather monochrome appearance. Now the gold wheels sparkle along with the deep glow from the orange indicators, while the polished lips of the wheels twinkle in unison with all the brightwork on the big coupé. Open the door and the brown leather ties it all up in a fabulous and funky seventies cocktail.
The whole character of the SLC has been transformed: The two top buttons of the shirt have been unbuttoned, there’s chest hair, sideburns and the trousers have become flared. But have I nailed the late seventies nightclub owner look? Or am I just being the outer suburb wannabe, who has arrived too late to the party trying to ape the fashions of the cool city boys?
What’s the verdict of our knowledgeable and discerning readers: have I struck gold or have I merely blinged it too far now?