Isn't it interesting how popular culture has done a full circle in these past few years? Vinyl sales are up, flares are back and film cameras are the in thing. Even if you're not interested in all of that, you'll almost certainly have noticed that cars have experienced a similar paradigm shift, with certain machines from the eighties, nineties and early noughties having received a surge of interest in the classifieds. The R129 Mercedes SL is one of the latest models to ride this wave of resurrected demand.
Good examples of its predecessor, the third-gen SL, are now priced at around £30k in the used market, so it seems more buyers wanting a retro German drop-top are being forced to take notice of the later car. With its cleaner, more swept back design, the fourth SL model doesn't quite have the classic cabriolet looks of its elder, but it more than makes up for that with usability and luxury that can still put modern premium cars to shame.
It was a big step forward for Mercedes when it arrived in 1989, so much so that its design and technology influenced what went into lower ranking models for years after its arrival. The use of adaptive suspension that would lower itself at high speed for better stability and aerodynamics was impressive, but it was the car's inclusion of the very latest safety systems that helped set it apart from the rest of the field.
The SL was right at the forefront of electronic stability technology back in '89, being one of the very first cars to use ESP and traction control. The drop-top also introduced roll-over protection hardware that thrust hidden hoops out of its body in milliseconds when it sensed things going awry, plus, the car was kitted out with airbags and used a structure well ahead of its time. Today, then, you might be drawn to this SL for of its mix of '90s style and modern safety.
Still, these days came long before electrification and stop/start tech were a focus, so the powertrains under the long bonnet of the SL were comparably traditional. They came in six-, eight- and twelve-cylinder forms, with the SL 73 AMG the most extreme example of the latter - so much so that its 525hp engine was later adopted for use in the Pagani Zonda. This ensured the SL line-up was promoted from the ranks of luxury cruiser to proper performance machine for the first time.
Which brings us nicely to today's Spotted. Since we're talking about affordable SLs here, we've selected a mid-range SL 320, although it still uses a 3.2-litre six that has 224hp. That gives it enough power to sprint from zero to 62mph in 8.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 148mph - plenty fast for a car that provides its passengers with such thick leather and swathes of wood. This car's interior looks to be in great condition too, with only an aftermarket stereo spoiling its originality.
You could, of course, bag yourself a later fifth-generation SL for less - see this 2004 SL 350 that's up for £4,250 as an example. But for those wanting something closer to a classic German convertible, one that was worthy of the likes of a Biggie Smalls, Tupac and even Princess Di back in the day, this 24-year-old SL 320 should do quite nicely.
SPECIFICATIONS - MERCEDES SL 320 (R129)
Engine: 3,199cc, six-cylinder
Transmission: 5-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 224@5,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 232@3,000rpm
Year registered: 1995
Recorded mileage: 85,000
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £8,995
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