There is little doubt that the Mercedes SL R129 is on its way to become a true classic. When it came out in 1989, it clearly pushed technological boundaries, it was born with a classic design and, last not least, it simply is a Mercedes SL. Legendary designer Bruno Sacco, head of Mercedes-Benz design from 1975 until 1999 (over 20 years, can you imagine this in today’s short-lived times?), referred to the R129 as “the most perfect car in my career”.
The most perfect car of my career!Bruno Sacco, former head of Mercedes-Benz design, about the R129
However, as is often the case, not all family members are the same. Mercedes offered a wide range of flavors and options to customize an SL: This story is about a meet-up of five Mercedes SL that belong to the same family, but differ when it comes to their character, as you will see in a few seconds.
Firstly, meet our protagonist: My black 1992 Mercedes 500 SL; let’s call him Rocky. Rocky is factory-equipped with 17″ AMG alloys with 235 wheels in front and 255 wheels in the back. This option even included a factory modification of the fenders so the wide wheels don’t touch the chassis.
These wheels change the character of the car in a subtle way; they make the SL look just a little more sporty and maybe even brutal, just a little less elegant. They weren’t cheap though: Back in 1992, this option was priced at 11,001 DM – increasing the value of the car by more than 7% (the 500 SL base price was 152,931 DM).
What else did the first owner order? He surely wasn’t stingy – the car also came with heated seats in black leather, passenger airbag, infrared remote door locks, Becker Europa stereo system, automatic air conditioning, a preparation for a car telephone (pretty fancy back in 1992), and a parking heater which was also quite rare in a Mercedes SL.
But this SL wouldn’t be Rocky if it was only for the wide AMG wheels. The owners improved the sportiness further by adding the contemporary BRABUS sport exhaust. If you wanted a sport exhaust for the SL, BRABUS was probably the best (and most expensive) after-market option around. And it just adds a nice layer of additional sound to the incredibly bullish 5 liter-V8 that powers the 500 SL! (There is a sound comparison video further down on this page.)
And what’s more, they painted the originally two-tone colored bumpers so the whole car appears in a consistent and shiny black.
But Rocky’s family members have exclusive specialities to offer as well. Let’s start introducing the round with the eldest of the bunch: A 1989 Mercedes-Benz 500 SL in black pearl metallic (color code 199). It is actually one of the very first R129 ever produced, being car number 1,107.
This is as classy as the R129 gets: It was ordered with the elegant 16″ 15-hole alloy wheels, black leather, memory seats, Becker Mexico radio (the top-notch stereo system), and other options.
This 500 SL is a remarkable car: It can be really fast if needed, but generally it feels like driving a two-seated open-roof S-Class Mercedes. Only a Mercedes feels this way.
In fact, this SL is so elegant it was owned and driven by an elderly German lady for many years who had her primary residence in an exclusive hotel in St. Moritz in the Swiss alps. It doesn’t get any fancier…
Back when the R129 500 SL was launched in 1989, it’s brand new 5-liter V8 made it one of the fastest roadsters available in the market. It did 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds – just about the same as a 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera 2.
However, Mercedes didn’t stop there. In 1993, they added another highlight by adding a 6.0 liter-V12 engine to the line-up and introduced the Mercedes 600 SL.
Four years after Mercedes introduced the R129, the 600 SL added yet another level of excitement to the family: A two-seated V12 roadster with every piece of luxury and technology that was thinkable in a series car back in 1993!
But this kind of luxury had a price tag: At 220,000 Deutsche Mark, it was the most expensive Mercedes (together with the equally expensive S 600 Coupé) – 60,000 Mark more than the 500 SL which wasn’t too bad either…
The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive.Coco Chanel (who, of course, never knew the R129 but apparently could have owned a 600 SL)
This 600 SL was painted in almadine red metallic and has the black “leather exclusive” option inside. Leather exclusive cost you an additional 8,000 Mark so that the factory would cover the whole dashboard and the door panels with real lather. If you look closely, you can spot this option with all the white stitches around dashboard and door panels.
This particularly 600 SL is a 1993 model that was in the first owner’s hand just until 2019. After the elderly owner passed away, it sat in the garage for a few years and was now brought back to life by its new owner.
It’s hard to convey how different the 5.0 liter-V8 500 SL and the 6.0 liter-V12 feel. They are both really powerful, but apart from that, they sound differently, they rev differently, they feel differently.
This little video gives a comparison of the motor start sounds of our three family members (600 SL vs. 500 SL vs. 500 SL with BRABUS exhaust):
But our line-up of different characters within the family doesn’t stop here. Meet the two youngest ones of the bunch, a 1996 SL 500 and a 1997 SL 280. They are facelifted models, so they came with modified bumpers in body color, a new climate control panel, side airbags, optional Xenon headlights and other improvements.
The first one is the SL 280 in brilliant silver.
The SL 280 is by no means as powerful as the 500 or 600 SL. But then again, it doesn’t feel underpowered at all either. It is such a smooth and elegant straight six-cylinder that you just tend to feel really pleased with. Remember, this is a comfortable luxury car and not a racer, and as such the SL 280 is just a well-composed car.
Talking about Xenon headlights, this 1996 SL 500 is the only one in the family with this feature. It was ordered in the beautiful color combination Azure Blue Pearl Metallic with blue leather inside, making it the only family member in this group without the common black interior. What you don’t see in these pictures: It also has a blue soft-top!
This completes our little family introduction; no question, they are all beautiful, luxurious and special in their own way, and Rocky enjoyed being out with his family a lot!
So, which one would be your favorite R129? Feel free to leave a comment or email me 🙂