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Mercedes-Benz Published: 8th Oct 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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That’s the attraction of owning a Mercedes SL but you don’t need your numbers to come up – you can now buy a good one for less than the price of a second-hand Fiesta. Here’s how!

Contrary to popular belief SL doesn’t stand for ‘Super Luxury’ – that was Vauxhall’s idea. No in Mercedes-speak it means Sportlich (Sporty) Leicht (Light) but that SL badge means ‘So Lovely’ for many enthusiasts.

Arguably the SL came to our attention thanks to the TV soap Dallas where mega rich oil dealers, the Ewing family, had a fleet of them. Lucky them but for a number of years envy has been replaced by empathy as second-hand SLs became more accessible and affordable.

In this special Classic Motoring buying guide, we look at SLs over the past half century, majoring on the Pagoda, R107, R129 and the R230 plus we’ve also included the shrunken SL, the SLK in there as well for good measure.

Apart from their looks, image, reliability and value what also makes an SL so appealing is their easy ownership thanks to them being based upon contemporary saloons and so enjoy similar running costs. Another is the support SLs enjoy via an army of Mercedes specialists. Even the factory still helps because spares for all models can be obtained through dealers.


The best way to savour the SL experience is to buy the best you can from the outset, even if it means busting the budget short term because in the long run it will pay dividends. It’s easy to become swayed by the reputation of Mercedes’ legendary build quality and longevity and assume you can buy with your eyes closed.

Don’t! Like all cars SLs rust and wear out if neglected. Buying a cheap mega miler may seem a bargain but usually won’t be.

We’d also advocate purchasing from a Mercedes specialist against a normal high street dealer because they know the cars much better; it may mean slightly higher screen prices as a result but again, will probably pay for itself later.

Many specialists can help by offering an examination service, so if you see a car you like privately you can have it inspected by experts who know SLs and their many foibles, something mainstream alternatives – and this includes the AA and RAC – may not.

A service history, particularly on newer SLs such as the R129, is critical, and we’d be happier seeing the booklet stamped by main dealers or specialists rather than ‘Freds in Sheds’ as later models are quite complex bits of kit. And always use genuine M-B parts or at least Original Equipment alternatives rather than cheaper pattern parts.


Due to their sheer popularity, SLs for rental use are usually to be found at classic car hire companies and specialists such as The SL Shop who is based in the Midlands. And it’s a great way of taking an extended test drive – perhaps for a week – to see what model you prefer most or indeed if you actually like one at all.

Kevin James of Stuttgart Garage ( is an SL expert and says their main problems lie with enthusiasts not appreciating just how expensive they were new and think there’s bargains abound when most need a fair bit of time and money to make half decent again – suspension bushes and door seals being prime examples – and buyers should really have any potential buy professionally vetted beforehand.

According to James, the W113 is already a blue chip investment, the replacement R107 is fast getting there and the R129 will follow in time although due to their newness that’s quite a way off. Kevin has just purchased an R129 for personal use, but specifically a pre-cat example and warns of later models with their bio-degradable wiring looms. Like other moderns, electronics will become an issue on later SLs he warns.

The R230 is a “abomination” in his view! “They leaked water at the factory,” and is not an SL he champions, but Kevin does think that good ‘270’ series SLKs are becoming pretty collectible.


After the R129 came the R230 for 2002 and in common with its predecessor appears incredible value for money as you can pick one up for £8000 or less. However, you need to take extreme care when buying (more so than any other SL we reckon) as it’s not the best SL Mercedes ever turned out, in terms of durability at least…

In 2011, this model was voted one of the least trustworthy cars with a myriad of faults ranging from engines to defective fuel tanks, the latter alone costing up to £2000 to put right. Other common faults include failed roof seals which can result in £2500 bills simply to stop leaks into the cabin and boot. There’s also been two recalls (2004/2005) with one affecting the brakes.

While this latter day SL certainly has the looks, image and performance you’d expect to go with the badge, the general trade says the car only really came good in 2006 and earlier models should be viewed with extreme caution unless they come with cast iron service histories and backed by worthy warranties.

A shame, because a good R230 is all you’d expect from an SL.

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