Mercedes-Benz 500 SL: Spotted


Mercedes has been making V8-powered SLs since 1971, when the 350 SL arrived with a 3.5-litre delivering a then respectable 200hp, but it took a further nine years for the daddy of the SL line-up, the 500, to go on sale. Even with its late arrival, the bigger brute has arguably had a more profound effect on what we expect from a Mercedes luxury drop-top than any other model.

Using a thumping great 5.0-litre engine, the 1980 SL was an effortless, muscular convertible with a soundtrack to match. It set a precedence for V8 SLs that has been passed down through the decades without interruption, and its influence can still be seen today in the current 500 - even if that car uses a 4.7 twin-turbocharged eight. It's a tried and tested formula - expect the character of the 4.0-litre 'hot-vee' to be adjusted to match when it goes into the 2021 SL 500.


Since the original model, we've had five generations of SLs, but predictably, of the old ones it's the first that garners the most affection. Now, however, with prices for good first-gen 500 SLs nudging past the £50k mark and the designs of the '80s and '90s coming of age, the second generation 5.0-litre SL is fast becoming the one to watch. Or so the pundits say.

First off, it took such an almighty step up in performance from its comparably lazy predecessor that even today it seems quick - 320hp without turbocharging is nothing to be sniffed at, nor is a 6.3 second 0-60mph time for something weighing 1.9 tonnes.

Much of the R129-generation SL's weight came from its extensive list of safety features. It was properly ahead of its time, with standard-fit rollover protection that fired out of the rear deck in an accident and strengthened A-pillars ready to bear serious load. It also came with all the latest mod-cons for the day, including electric heated memory seats and electronic stability control. In some ways, it's an infotainment touchscreen away from the kit list of today's equivalents.


It's likely that its comparative usability is doing its resurgent appeal no harm. Sure, you'll need a long descent, tailwind and anti-gravity technology to see anything above 15mpg from the V8, which also puts out about as much CO2 as a small forest fire. But as a set of weekend wheels you can leave waiting in the garage to deploy only on sunny weekends, this era of 500 should demand precious few sacrifices (hydrocarbons aside).

That alone makes it rather easy to argue a case for today's pick from the classifieds, a 36k-old Japanese import with Pearly Grey paintwork and a set of colour-coded wheels to match. It looks utterly spotless both inside and out in the pictures, and is available for just shy of 14 big ones. Cushdy.


SPECIFICATIONS - MERCEDES-BENZ 500 SL

Engine: 4,973cc V8
Transmission: 4-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 320@5,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 346@3,900rpm
MPG: 23 (est.)
CO2: 300g/km (est.)
First registered: 1991
Recorded mileage: 63,000
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £13,950

See the original advert here

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (50) Join the discussion on the forum

  • paulyv 02 May 2019

    Yes, love these. Often wondered if I would trade my 107 for a 129...have not done so yet, but you never know. It's just that little bit more modern than the SL I am used to, not to mention safe.

    By the way, which is it - 36k or 63k miles? I suspect the former given the price. Personally I'd be tempted to find a high mileage one at 6k, if those can still be found.

  • mrclav 02 May 2019

    paulyv said:
    Yes, love these. Often wondered if I would trade my 107 for a 129...have not done so yet, but you never know. It's just that little bit more modern than the SL I am used to, not to mention safe.

    By the way, which is it - 36k or 63k miles? I suspect the former given the price. Personally I'd be tempted to find a high mileage one at 6k, if those can still be found.
    The ad itself says 36k miles.

  • Numeric 02 May 2019

    Yesterday a BMW from what I think of as the high water mark for them and today a Merc from the time when they could do seemingly little wrong from a 'built to last' standpoint.

    What summarises this for me is the incredible over engineering that went into these cars, they were built by people who seemed to really care rather than just watched the cost. I know the W140 was beaten up by the Lexus, but I have to say that I far preferred the 140, it was just expensive because it was so very good.

    Just a shame that now we see Mercs as Brave Pill fodder at 10 years old!!

  • cerb4.5lee 02 May 2019

    I've always really liked these, very nice. cool

  • LaurasOtherHalf 02 May 2019

    God that looks good smile

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