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Mercedes-Benz R129

Mercedes-Benz R129 Published: 30th Dec 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mercedes-Benz R129
Mercedes-Benz R129
Mercedes-Benz R129
Mercedes-Benz R129
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The term ‘modern classics’ is never more appropriate than for this magnificent Merc


Don’t complain – they won’t stay this way for ever! The R129 is a modern that’s crossing over to classic status and as a result, values are bumping along the bottom although really good cars are starting to appreciate.



It depends what you’re after. The R017 is one of the last of the old school Mercs that’s built like a brick outhouse. The R129 is quite a bit more sophisticated and smoother plus many will like its sleeker styling. But on the other hand they certainly aren’t as durable as its predecessor…



Mercedes-Benz spent a decade perfecting the R129 SL not simply as a replacement for the long-serving R107 but also as a technological tour de force to show the world. The R129 is based upon the then contemporary E Class saloon – one of the best cars in the world.



If by that you are seeking a sportier drive then the answer is yes. The R107 is a bit woolly to drive and the later SL is a significant improvement plus they are magnificent GTs to tour in. Tellingly, as the R129 is from a later generation it feels like much more modern to drive, which some may well prefer, plus is packed with the standards of safety kit, such as antilock brakes, (Acceleration Skid Control) traction control plus an automatic clever roll over protection system, that many will feel safer with, particularly if they are new to classics.



Just like the older SL, there’s a wide range of versions to, quite literally, suit all pockets from a smooth and perfectly adequate 2.8-litre six, right up to the fuller fat 5-litre V8 with its 326bhp, and a full fat 6-litre V12 pumping out a massive 409bhp. There’s even the SL60, 400bhp from 6-litres of AMG-tuned V8 to take on Ferrari’s best – and win.

However, for the majority the choice rests between a brace of 3-litre models (badged 300SL – or SL300 on later cars) because they go quite well enough and are surprisingly easy to run. There’s a choice of 12 or 24-valves and while the latter is sportier, care of a twin cam 231bhp tune, the earlier 190bhp car is easier to run and is widely regarded as being more reliable. Another good buy is the SL320, launched in 1998 with a new V6 engine. The pick of the pack however, many experts believe is a 1997 5-litre V8, not simply for its sheer grunt but also the fact that after this year the build quality strangely slipped.



Actually… rust isn’t generally a major problem on the SL of this period like it was on other models, such as the C and E-Classes. So long as the bulkheads are sound (and you do need to check thoroughly both from inside and under the bonnet) then all should be okay although if you smell damp or find wet carpet footwells, walk away and find another. There’s plenty of SLs on the open market so you can afford to be picky.



You may find cosmetic corrosion on the wheel arches and boot lids and sometimes this can be cunningly hidden with bling custom chrome add-ons. All things considered, mechanically the cars are durable – if serviced like they ought to be. No, the biggest worry has to be the electrics and electronics because they can cost thousands to put right. For example, on pre ’95 cars, the wring loom can often biodegrade and fail and new ones cost £1300. And Mercedes knew about this but there was no recall!

Gearboxes and rear axles are all electronically controlled and can play up, as can all the gizmos fitted. When vetting, ensure all the dashboard’s lights illuminate and extinguish when they should and be wary if any have been disconnected…



Well it goes without saying that you should check its operation and don’t buy the car if the seller refuses to oblige as being triple lined and fully automatic, it costs the thick end of £5000 to replace – as much as many SLs can sell for! Check the hardtop carefully, it is still with the car, isn’t it? Look for rust at the bottom rear sides and inspect for damage, as they usually spend a lot of time in the corner of garages. If the top is on, insist it’s removed and the hood duly inspected.



Get one because you like it rather than the price! SLs can sell for a pittance and look super attractive bargain buys – but a bad one will bankrupt you. A service history is paramount, thickly stamped by a main dealer or a Mercedes specialist, and if the booklet comes with a sheath of invoices and repair bills all the better.

Sometimes, the little things tell the most; are cheap make tyres fitted and is the sellers’ dwellings appropriate for this type of car as it can point to penny pinching maintenance. If the vendor hasn’t owned the car long you can bet that it is proving to be quite expensive to keep…



We’d go one better and look to one of the numerous Mercedes-Benz specialists that are liberally located throughout the land as they invariably have the best cars, know their faults and correct them, have workshops to carry out the work properly (many are run by ex-factory staff) and will try to look after you as they want repeat custom. It’s not to say a normal dealer won’t offer a similar service but we’ve found an SL expert worth the extra you may have to spend.



R129 SLs can be as cheap as chips but you get what you pay for. They can sell for less than £5000 but can cost that again if major repairs are needed. Given their great value for money, it’s best to spend closer to £7500 minimum at an independent Mercedes dealer offering a strong warranty. Mercedes sold special SL models such as the Mille Miglia and Silver Arrows of 2001 before the extremely unsatisfactory R230 took over and are worth paying a bit more for but in contrast avoid ‘pimped-up’ cars with big non-OE wheels and chrome accessories (and there’s plenty around!) as they usually spell trouble and won’t be easy to sell on. Finally, don’t dismiss a jaded interior as a trivial matter; the centre console alone can costing almost three grand to replace for instance!



And so you should be as these are magnificent Mercs that will be future classics over time – look how much R107s can sell for! Buy a good SL and have it maintained by a known specialist (many charge not much more than a normal garage) and you’ll find that an R129 can be quite affordable to keep them in the style they should be accustomed to. Slap on a posh plate and your neighbours and mates will think you’ve won the lottery; only you will know it’s a champagne lifestyle on beer money. By the way – it’s your round!

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