The Mercedes-Benz SL series – for ‘Super-Leicht’ or ‘Super-light’ - is the marque’s ubiquitous grand touring roadster and its life stretches from its launch in 1954 to the six-generation model on sale today. The fourth-generation model, code-named the R129, replaced the R107 version in 1989 and was based on a shortened version of the then E-Class (W124) platform. A two-plus-two roadster, the SL of the day featured numerous innovations, including extensive and almost-exclusive electronic control of key functions, including optional adjustable suspension damping and it was also the first passenger car to feature front-seat belts integral to the seats themselves.
The car was typically offered with an electrically-controlled hydraulic folding fabric roof under a solid hard-top and offered surprising storage space. The boot was capable of housing a full-sized spare wheel and tools, as well as a full set of gold clubs. The two rear seat-backs also folded flat to the seat base to form an additional cargo area as needed.
The model received a mid-life facelift in 1995 for the 1996 model year, with the addition of a fifth speed in the automatic transmission, changes to the design of the front-wing air vents and optional Xenon headlights. A further two updates came, one for MY 1997 and included the optional Sport package and another in 1998 with a change of V8 engine type and a host of other minor changes.
The SL was offered with a variety of engines, including the 2.8-litre and 3.2-litre straight-six engines and the SL500 using the five-litre V8 petrol engine. A six-litre V12 engine was also offered and the R129 used a far more modern chassis that its predecessor, with independent suspension front and rear.
This example of the breed has had 12 owners prior to the current owner, who is something of a Mercedes fan, having owned several examples of the marque, including a C43 AMG saloon and a 230 SL Pagoda. He purchased this vehicle a year ago, as he was taken with the 2+2 bodywork and the soft top styling. He also appreciated the everyday practicality of the model, capable of housing a full set of golf clubs in the boot as well as his young son on days out with the roof down.
He opted for the R129 model as the V8 engine has a reputation for excellent reliability and performance and has enjoyed both pleasure drives and used the car as a daily driver during this 12-months’ stewardship. He is now placing the vehicle for sale as he wishes to fund the purchase of a proceeding an R107 model from America.
The car is presented with an MoT until January 2021.
There is extensive paperwork with the vehicle but there appears to be a significant gap in its service history. The pages of the original service book are stuck together but the last entry is dated April 2001 with a mileage of 71,195 miles. A replacement book then picks up the work in July 2019 at 105,147 miles. The current owner does not know any of the history in the interim period but the government MoT history checker suggests an average annual mileage of approximately 2000 miles and a history of minor work required, including replacing worn tyres and broken suspension components.
There is, however, a series of invoices conforming some work in the interim, including a service by the previous owner and a host of minor parts. The vehicle comes with its original manuals and owners’ handbook in the Mercedes folder as well as the current V5 document in the owner’s name.
There is also paperwork to verify the work done by the current owner, including replacing the radiator as it was leaking when he purchased the vehicle, a complete overhaul of the front suspension including springs, lower arms and bushes and he also overhauled the ASR/ABS pump and the high-pressure hose. He purchased a new battery to ensure the vehicle’s extensive electrical and electronic systems worked perfectly.
The interior seems to mark Mercedes’ blue period, with extensive use of blue leather and plastic for hard surfaces. Or a car that has been through more than a dozen owners, the interior is in surprisingly good shape. The rooflining of both the hard-top and the fabric roof are in excellent condition and both work perfectly. The dashboard is also in reasonable shape, with some evidence of wear and tear but no significant damage. The gauges all work, according to the owner, as does the air conditioning and the electrically powered seats.
The seats remain sumptuous and comfortable but are showing some signs of wear; the driver’s seat has split leather on one of the seams, wear holes on the base of the neighbouring panel and scratches on the seat back bolster. Both door panels are in good condition with wear on the drivers’ electric window switch, the centre console is missing part of the roller cover and the top storage compartment is also missing its catch.
The walnut trim is in good condition, with what appears to be a small burn just rear of the gear-lever and there is a small hole under the mat in the drivers’ footwell. The folding rear-seat backs work well, providing a hard storage area though the seat back is marked slightly from what would appear to be extended period folded down against the rear-seat-belt buckles.
With a good detailing session, the interior would be a very inviting and enjoyable place to spend any journey, whether a short pleasure drive or a longer grand tour.
Externally, this vehicle is in generally very good condition. There is no apparent evidence of damage in its past and the silver/blue metallic paint sparkles in the sunlight. The hard-top roof fits and releases perfectly and is in good condition with no apparent damage and removing it reveals the folding fabric roof. This too operates perfectly, folding away behind the rear seats promptly and with no untoward noises or catching. The plastic windows are undamaged though there are several creases apparent and there are three areas of damage to the beading on the edges of the roof, though they should not appear to allow water to enter.
There are various stone chips and scratches around the body, none of which appear to be too significant and the lower front bumper valence is cracked, with one of the fog-lamp lenses broken. There are very slight dents in the rear around where the hard-top fixings would fit behind the rear seats, possibly the result of poor handling in the vehicle’s past and there are also very slight beginnings of rust bubbles forming on one of the door tops.
There are also marks in the lacquer on the top of one rear wing and on the boot lid, though these do not appear to be particularly deep and may well polish out. The doors, boot lid and bonnet open and close solidly and with the reassuring ‘clunk’ one would expect from a Mercedes.
The wheels appear in reasonable condition, though all four road wheels (a full-size spare is included though it is a different design from the road wheels) are showing signs of the beginning of corrosion around the centre caps and mounting holes. The vehicle is fitted with four mis-matching tyres, one of which is showing signs of cracking and will need replacing in the very near future.
In a similar vein to the interior, a solid detailing session and a good polish would reap huge benefits to the overall appearance of this already-nice condition vehicle.
The five-litre V8 engine turns over well and starts promptly, settling down to an even idle with a characteristic burble immediately. This is also apparent when the vehicle pulls away, the torque of the engine apparent from its exhaust note. The gearbox, with its Economy and Sports mode, works perfectly, according to the owner and the suspension deals with British roads with no noises evident.
The under-bonnet insulation in the engine bay appears to have degraded over time with parts of it falling into the engine bay, though the engine appears to be in good condition, with clear and golden oil evident – the car received a full service, oil change and cabin filter replacement in January of 2020.
The underside of the vehicle appears to be in good condition, with some surface rust to suspension components and to the exhaust center silencer. There is also come evidence of historic fluid leaks under the car, though power-steering fluid leak was noted on a previous MoT sheet but no mention of this was made on the most recent test.
While this example of the Mercedes SL500 is not in concours condition, neither a project car. It sits somewhere in between, as a completely useable grand tourer that should offer the new owner enjoyable and luxurious motoring from the off. It would suit an enthusiast perfectly, as there are several minor jobs to be carried out with a little TLC which would make what is, fundamentally, a nice example into an excellent one There would appear to be plenty of life left in this SL500 which should give the next owner plenty of pleasurable miles. Notice to bidders
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.
As is normal for most auctions, this vehicle is sold as seen, and therefore the Sales of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. All bids are legally binding once placed. Any winning bidder who withdraws from a sale, is subject to our bidders fee charge. Please see our FAQs and T&C's for further information. Viewings of vehicles are encouraged, but entirely at the sellers discretion.
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