The long-running SL model line has been a paragon of aspirational Mercedes-Benz quality for generations. The R107 roadster really captured buyers’ imaginations, remaining in production from the early 1970s to the late 1980s – but when the time came to replace it, what were Mercedes to do? The new model would have to encapsulate the ethos of the classic roadsters while at the same time moving the game forward, and in addition there was new safety legislation in the important US market to factor in. So ensued an almighty engineering effort, with five years of work and over £8m spent on developing the car’s rollover system: in essence, this features a host of sensors which can detect when the car’s rotated by more than a certain angle, at which point it deploys the rollover bar, locks the seatbelts and unlocks the doors. In addition, the windscreen surround is incredibly strong, and a driver’s airbag was standard-equipment with additional airbags optional.
So the R129 was a standard-bearer of safety, and it was also an impressively mature proposition – building on the reputation of SLs of yore, this new-for-1989 design elevated luxury and equipment to a whole new level, while a range of smooth engines offered impressive performance. Perhaps most significantly of all, the R129 represents outstanding value on the market today – and as the car we have here demonstrates, it’s still possible to find low-mileage gems.
Perhaps the biggest attraction of this gleaming white SL is the fact that in its twenty-nine year life it’s covered just 45,000 miles. It was clearly bought by a discerning enthusiast (after all, you don’t buy the more powerful 24-valve variant by accident), and has enjoyed gentle usage over its time. The car has spent some of its life in Spain – as evidenced by the paperwork in the file – and is now back in the UK in the possession of a private collector.
And today, given that he has a number of other automotive projects demanding his attention, he’s decided to offer this well-specced and well-kept R129 to market.
The V5 is in the history file, proving it to be a genuine 300 SL-24 rather than the lesser non-24v version. The original manuals and handbooks are here, including the service book which shows a pre-delivery inspection by Rivervale of Reading on May 22nd 1992, followed by service stamps from the same main dealer until 1995, then the car went to Spain in the late-’90s as the stamps indicate. By 2001 it was back in the UK, there are further regular stamps until 2006, and thereafter it’s been home-maintained. Also in the file we find lots of old MOT certificates, evidence of cherished plate transfers (its original plate is J933 XBL; it’s also worn PAM 55Y and D16 AUL before the current D130 OSL), and a sheaf of receipts for work and parts including an offside door lock mechanism, ignition switch, and radiator.
The R129’s interior is surprisingly spacious, yet cosy, and in this car it’s all trimmed in delightful blue leather with blue carpets and blue dash to match. The colour scheme works superbly against the ice-white exterior, and the seats are in very good condition save for the trim coming slightly loose on the base of the passenger seat. The steering wheel is a little worn around the rim, but the wood trim in the dash, centre console and doorcards is all in very good condition; the doorcards themselves are also generally in good order aside from a little tear on the driver door near the seat controls. The car’s fitted with a period aftermarket Kenwood radio-cassette with removable facia. The dashtop is in excellent condition with no cracks, and all of the dials are working as they should with no warning lights showing. The electric windows work properly, and the heater is excellent. Inside the boot it’s all dry and clean with the correct carpets – the warning triangle is in the bootlid, and under the floor is a spare pepperpot alloy wheel.
You don’t see a lot of R129s in Arctic White, which is a shame as it’s a fantastic choice that really suits the crisp lines of the car – particularly when set off by that vivid blue interior. The paintwork is in great condition throughout, with just a couple of very minor scuffs to the rear bumper on the driver’s side. Panel fit is good, and the factory hardtop is in excellent condition. The soft top also works, and the seller has provided pictures in the gallery below of this in operation. The SL is fitted with a set of staggered-width AMG wheels which really do add a frisson of glamour to the aesthetic, and the seller points out that the original pepperpot alloys will also come with the car.
The headlights have a little condensation inside them, but other than that the light lenses are all in good condition with no cracks or stone-chips. All of the correct trim is in place, and on the whole it’s a beautifully presented example of a nineties SL. The cherished registration number comes with the car, and there’s another set of number plates with legal spacing in the boot.
When it comes to specs, this is the 300 SL you want. You see, the regular 300 SL had a SOHC 12v engine offering 188bhp, but this one is the brawnier 300 SL-24 – it features the far superior DOHC 24v motor, good for 228bhp, which is much more like it. It’s a muscular motor, but also a supremely refined one that wholly suits the SL’s grand tourer character.
The R129 series was offered with a five-speed automatic in the six-cylinder cars, and it’s operating perfectly here with smooth and neat selections and no troubling noises. The car rides beautifully and the seller reports no issues with the suspension; the brakes are also nice and strong and pull the car up straight. The steering in the R129 is a variable-rate power-assisted recirculating ball system that offers an impressive level of precision and is well suited to the SL’s continent-crunching character, and this is all in good order here. It’s a very slick and pleasant thing to waft about in.
This SL has a lot going for it. First of all, there’s that colour. The R129s just look so good in Arctic White, don’t they? You don’t see a lot of them these days, and it really does help the car to stand out. The all-blue interior is also a massive plus point, as it’s so effortlessly stylish in the way only a 1990s luxury car can be. And, of course, there’s that super-low mileage. It’s not often you find an unrestored and original R129 with such low miles that’s in decent running and driving condition, so this is a rare find indeed. Finally, of course, let’s not forget the truly excellent engine: no humdrum 300 SL here, but a full-fat 300 SL-24 with all the extra power and refinement that brings. This ice-white grand-tourer is the complete package.
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Although every care is taken to ensure this listing is as factual and transparent as possible, all details within the listing are subject to the information provided to us by the seller. Car & Classic does not take responsibility for any information missing from the listing. Please ensure you are satisfied with the vehicle description and all information provided before placing a bid.
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