It’s not often we come across cars that have been in production for over 60 years, in fact there really aren’t that many models that last over 30, but the Mercedes SL is one of the few. There are now six generations of the SL which started with the iconic Gullwing 300 SL in 1954, but today we’re focusing on the Fourth Generation, the R129.
Production of the R129, a two-door roadster, spanned from 1989 to 2002, initially with three different engines to choose from; two 3-litre straight sixes and a 5-litre V8, the latter kicking out 322 horsepower, all joined by the 6-litre V12 in 1992 with 389hp. Mercedes refreshed the line-up in 1993 by bringing out the SL 280 and the SL 320 to replace the original three engines, and facelifted models were introduced in 1995 and 1998.
Initial reception to the car was good with many complementing the alluring styling which, 27 years later, doesn’t look out of place today. But that wasn’t all; the SL was a technological masterpiece with a wealth of new features previously unheard of, and it catapulted Mercedes well and truly towards the 21st Century. And the cost for all this back in the 90s? Upwards of £70,000.
Whenever a new Mercedes is launched we never have to wait long for AMG, their tuning division, to come out with a beefed up version. The R129 was no different, and AMG got their hands on it in 1991 initially producing the AMG 500 SL. Later in 1993, and once AMG had been acquired by Daimler-Benz, there were several more models produced by the company. The SL 55 and the SL 60 are the most common, but the incredibly elusive SL 70 AMG and SL 73 AMG were also produced, the latter containing an engine which Italian manufacturer Pagani would one day make use of in their outrageous hypercar, the Zonda.
So would we consider this GT roadster a decent investment today? If the continually rising prices of previous SL generations are anything to go by, definitely! But let’s take a closer look.
Over 200,000 of these were built with a fair few left on the road today, so you can afford to be picky when buying. It’s worth aiming for a 500 if you can, there are certainly still some good examples around at a decent price and there’s a world of difference in performance when compared to the lower end models.
The nineties was all about boxy sports cars, and this one is no different. A lengthy bonnet, big alloy wheels and a delightful interior all add up to make this the perfectly stereotypical German sports car of that decade. Facelifted models are generally more sought after, which come with a number of higher quality fixtures, fittings and parts.
You’ll need to be prepared to shell out on preventative work when required, and we all know how expensive Mercedes repairs can get. The V8 can be thrashed and is pretty much bulletproof but if it does go wrong you’re looking at a big bill to get it back on the road. As with any exclusive car of this era you’ll need to keep an eye on the complex electrics too. Choose one that has been cherished though, and you shouldn’t be too much out of pocket.
Price When New
The SL certainly had a Mercedes sports car price-tag – generally over £70,000 back in the nineties. A lot of money but the grateful recipients received a lot of car. Prices have come down very sharply since and you’ve been able to pick one up for under £10,000 for some time, even more reason to check the one you’re looking at hasn’t been run on a shoestring budget over the last few years!
There were a number of advances on the innovative R129 which propelled the Mercedes brand forward into the technology revolution. New safety standards were set, and for the first time in any convertible an automatic rollover bar was introduced; in the event of an emergency the bar would raise itself into position to protect the occupants, and we now see similar features on convertibles worldwide. The designers’ meticulous attention to detail in styling, efficiency and safety means that this car takes a worthy position in the Mercedes-Benz hall of fame.
The SL came with a fully automatic fabric folding roof, but every one was also shipped with a detachable solid metal roof. Make sure the one you’re looking at still has it!
Time to Buy?
We think so, collectors worldwide are now starting to pick up the very best examples. You can still buy a clean example with low mileage for under £10,000, with the best examples upwards of £20,000. As long as it’s kept up to scratch you shouldn’t lose any money, and prices should start rising in the long run.
Over 200,000 of these cars were produced so there are bound to be many poor examples out there. If you happen to come across one of these it’s unlikely to be worth your while paying to put it right, it’s much more financially savvy to take your time and find a treasured example. History dictates that decent examples of these models will start appreciating, with the very best rising to many times their initial value. A solid choice for investment, and a fantastic car to have fun with in the summer.