Hello, Carl here. So which model of Mercedes R129 SL should you buy? Allow me to wade in.
All 129ers respect their cars I'm sure and working out which model is best is so subjective. Every R129 is a superb flagship of engineering, the standard of which we will not see again.
Nevertheless here's my own rambling view based on the many different R129 SLs I have owned and how they compare.
1998 SL500 Special Edition
It's powerful, and has proved to be a great road and track day car. Tougher electronically and mechanically than pre-1996 cars and with good diagnostic feedback, especially for reading actual values of engine and hydraulic roof systems. This makes fault-finding pretty straightforward.
Keep the chain tensioner maintained as for some reason the chain is more likely to jump than on the earlier 119972 engine.
It's got a purist interior, with a bit more of classic feel.. and looks great with period AMG wheel options. The throttle body cable and engine wiring harness will need renewing if it hasn’t been done already.
The air mass sensor performance is critical, and you must keep the ignition system tip top.
It's a tough-looking rugged car.
A monster of an engine and full of character. It kicked the R107 into the ditch along with the other tractors and hit the 90’s with huge grunt.
But this car must be tuned well - and there’s the tricky bit. There are not many specialists on the KE Jetronic fuel systems and the engine vacuum systems need a care package of one full time carer and a state registered nurse on call.
300SL & 300-24 valve
These are torquey and gutsy cars. Fun to drive like a reasonable person as you don’t feel like squeezing the trigger every time you hit the straight!
SL320 straight 6
It does it all. A plenty fast tourer - and nice and reliable.
SL320 V6 & SL500 V8
The last generation. Slightly annoying colour schemes on this one, and it has some floppy and grubby door cards. But, no doubt, it still presents as a modern car.
The M113 and M112 engines are superb - unbreakable! - and the parts are cheaper. These are the most usable of the R129’s but the engine doesn’t quite seem to match the chassis in its noise and character.
Phew.. A piece of history - but unnecessary! Harder to keep running than the Zambezi.
A better choice for the SL600 in every way.
I hope that's useful for some of you. Once you've made your mind up, remember to come to The R129 Co for all your parts..