Although it's now faced almost a quarter of a century of derisory comments - and bowed out of production - the Mercedes-Benz SLK was a significant little car. While the market has since moved back to fabric roofs for most convertibles thanks to technology advances, the SLK kick-started that convertible era offering the best of both worlds: drop-top, wind-in-the-hair thrills, with metal roof security. You only need look at the amount of cars that adopted the coupe-convertible configuration to see what a clever idea it was.
The SLK's problem - at least according to contemporary reports - is that rather too much time seemed to be dedicated to the roof and not to the rest of the car. Its engines weren't as nice as a Z3, and its handling not nearly as good as a Boxster's.
But, as is often the way, priorities and attitudes change over time. This is an example of the range-topping SLK32 AMG a car introduced in 2001 with a supercharged version of Merc's 3.2 V6 making 354hp and 332lb ft. If that still seems a lot now, that's because it is - a 718 Boxster S only makes 350hp and 310lb ft, by way of comparison. This was when superchargers dominated at AMG, with this engine also in the C32 AMG, followed by the blown 5.4 V8 in the contemporary SL and E55s. Believe it or not, the SLK32, with a five-speed automatic gearbox, was capable of 0-100mph in 11.2 seconds. Now you're more interested, right?
Moreover, the 32 wasn't a complete duffer. Sure, those who really loved driving would sacrifice the speed and buy a Boxster instead - you knew that was coming - but the SLK got a four-star rating from evo, it beat a Z3 M Roadster in an Autocar twin-test and, when Classic & Sports Car brought the pair together again just two months ago the SLK was described as having a "driving experience vastly more modern" than its BMW adversary.
Those after a 21st century Z3 M - when the S54 engine was introduced - in 2019 will pay handsomely for the privilege: this 81,000-mile car is for sale at £16,950. Our spotted, by contrast, is newer, has fewer miles and is less than half the price, at £7,995.
For a car this fast and this rare - fewer than 300 were ever registered in the UK - that doesn't seem bad. The advert is short on detail, and this era of Mercedes was of course notorious for their rustiness, but it's certainly easy to see the temptation in an old-school AMG hot rod roadster. Especially so when the other (fairly uninspiring) options at this money are considered: various old BMWs, the odd 350Z, TTs and A4s...For those people that don't want a Porsche, and are willing to accept some compromises, the SLK looks an interesting alternative. Just be prepared for those well-versed jokes...
SPECIFICATION - MERCEDES-BENZ SLK32 AMG
Engine: 3,199cc, supercharged V6
Transmission: 5-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 354@6,100rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@4,400rpm
First registered: 2002
Recorded mileage: 79,000
Price new: £43,000
Yours for: £7,995