I’ve written before about the automotive royalty that is the Mercedes SL. It stands alone in within the Mercedes stable as imposing and impractical…all style and lavish frivolity. No other auto brand produces a model that has quite the everlasting cachet, worldwide appeal, or storied history. Even R107 (1972-1989) examples still fetch respectable used prices, and can be spotted in fantastic shape. In fact there’s a red one parked on my street right this moment!
The R129, built from 1990 to 2002, is still my favorite of the past and present SLs. Its boxy, boatish, teutonic looks appeared in quintessential films, over its 13 year lifetime, like…
Heartbreakers (Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Gene Hackman)
Addams Family Values (Joan Cusack, Christina Ricci)
Death Becomes Her (Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis)
I fell in love with it, along with most things made in the 90s, because it stood for opulence, germanic over-engineering, and was the choice of famous femme fatales. I associated more with lipstick and heels than cigars and slacks.
Today, you can find this still attractive model as a used buy, many with low miles relative to age. R129s were built with solidity and longevity in mind, so they age well, and command a premium.
1999 SL500, green over tan, 57k miles, $20,000Â (Bend, Oregon)
1999 SL500, silver over gray, 24k miles, $21,000 (Naples, Florida)
2001 SL500, white over tan, 55k miles, $19,000 (Bellevue, Washington)
2002 SL500 Silver Arrow Limited Edition, 65k miles, $20,000 (West Hollywood, California)
My perfect grown-up yuppie 90s garage would have an SL, and another consummate car of that era, the BMW 7-series long-wheelbase sedan. Here’s a 2001, silver over gray, with 48k miles, for $17,000.
Funny how cars of that time were so serious, so buttoned up and tightly wound. They had a multitude of buttons, and could answer any request you had, but the packaging wasn’t Apple slick.
Today’s versions are sportier, make better use of space, and are more of an art form than pure function. The angular, hard-lined look is quickly growing classic though, amid swoopy and free-form. I’d be happy driving something you don’t see everyday, and sometimes, you have to look back in time to find those.
[…] Purists will cry foul that the R107 (that was the previous SL, built from the early 70s to 1989) isn’t mentioned, but the R129 (built 1990 to 2002) existed all throughout my childhood and adolescence, and it was oh-so-90s. Joan Cusack drove one in Addams Family Values, as did Meryl Streep in Death Becomes Her, Jim Carrey in both I Love You Philip Morris and Liar Liar. It’s a still-gorgeous design that is dated, but in the best possible way. I wrote about the iconic “SL500” moniker in a blog post a couple of years back. […]