Wednesday 6th February 2013


Rare V8 SL bridges the gap twixt old- and new-school AMG

With a budget of £25K, an array of Mercedes AMG lunacy is on offer. For those with practical considerations, an E63 wagon should fit the bill nicely, with £5,000 spare for tyres, bail money and other such consumables. Any aspiring oligarchs might be tempted by 620hp-worth of V12 S65 AMG, again with 20 per cent of the budget left, which should at least pay for a fortnight's V-Power.

Silver paint over red leather - a classic Merc combo
Silver paint over red leather - a classic Merc combo
Why then, with a feast of monstrously powerful Mercedes available (the C63 is not far off this price threshold), would anybody entertain spending £25,000 on a 15-year-old SL? Of course, this isn't a common-or-garden R129 that's on offer. It's an SL60 AMG, one of only 49 right-hand drive British cars and a model with a fascinating history.

After being absorbed into Mercedes in the early 1990s, the SL60 AMG was launched in 1993. But whereas now any AMG derivative immediately becomes the Mercedes range flagship, Mercedes was keen that its V12 SL600 remained top dog; this meant 381hp for the AMG SL (against 389hp for the SL600), and a claimed 0-60mph time of 5.6 seconds.

But that was the official line. If the rumours are true, AMG didn't like playing second fiddle in the power stakes. Many argue the true power figure for an SL60 was actually somewhere in the region of 410hp and the benchmark sprint time was nearer five seconds.

A lot of crimson leather for your lolly
A lot of crimson leather for your lolly
So what is an early Mercedes AMG like? Well, according to our esteemed editor (former editorial seat: Mercedes Enthusiast magazine), a rather different prospect to any other contemporary SL. The four-valve M119 V8 - the same as used in the E500 - is more charismatic than the later three-valve M113 that briefly appeared in the non-supercharged R129 SL55 and lived on in later AMGs. As such the SL60 is the most engaging 129-series SL, akin to a convertible muscle car.

Which is why we're talking here about the SL60 and not the SL73 AMG also lurking in the PH classifieds. And that isn't a model designation mismatch in the modern Mercedes way. That's an SL with a 573hp 7.3-litre V12, the same V12 that powered the Pagani Zonda. But the 60 is the more competent all-round package says our in-house Mercedes geek.

Zonda made better use of the 7.3-litre V12
Zonda made better use of the 7.3-litre V12
Given the Zonda-engined car is three times more expensive than the V8, the SL60 therefore appears something of a steal. Although this is of course relatively speaking, as there is no escaping that £25,000 is a huge price for an R129 SL. Not only are lesser V8 SLs available for nearly half this amount, later R230 AMG SL55s are also well within budget.

So, as ever, it's a case of pay your money, take your choice. How far improved the SL60 is over a standard R129 could only be truly established in a direct comparison, and the lure of a supercharged SL55 can't be ignored. Either way, let's just hope the AMG blood and thunder remains undiluted in Mercedes' flagships, and leave us with many more potential dilemmas like this in future!

Mercedes-Benz SL60 AMG (R129)
: 5,956cc V8
Transmission: Five-speed automatic, RWD
Power (hp): 381@5600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 428@3750rpm
CO2: N/A
MPG: Very few!
First registered: 1998
Recorded mileage: 53,000
Price new: £110,000
Yours for: £24,950

See the original advert here


Author: Matt Bird
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