Remarqed

Entries tagged as ‘SL500’

throwback classic roadster: mercedes sl500

April 6, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Mercedes SL R129 headlamp, via trystanox on Flickr

Mercedes SL R129 headlamp, via trystanox on Flickr

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)

Mercedes SL500 in Heartbreakers, driven by Sigourney Weaver

Mercedes SL500 in Heartbreakers, driven by Sigourney Weaver

Addams Family Values (Joan Cusack, Christina Ricci)

Mercedes 500SL in Addams Family Values, driven by Joan Cusack

Mercedes 500SL (license plate “Debbie 2″) in Addams Family Values, driven by Joan Cusack

Death Becomes Her (Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis)

Mercedes 500SL in Death Becomes Her

Mercedes 500SL in Death Becomes Her

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, $20,000 (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.

Categories: Automobiles
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fifty eight years of sport leicht

May 17, 2012 · 1 Comment

photo credit Tier10 Marketing via Flickr

I grew up assuming I was the only gay car nut. Other buffs I knew were certifiable man cave inhabitants, who enjoyed a cold beer and a fine female specimen. My working knowledge of a car’s engine only went as far as the hood release, but my encyclopedic memorization of models, colors, and options was vast. And I loved sophisticated style and clever details.

To further alienate myself, I obsessed over the exotic austerity of current and historic Mercedes-Benz models, an interest fueled by stories of my father’s adolescence in a Fintail 220S model. And, hanging around South Tampa meant there were plenty of freshly purchased models to gaze at from the seat of my parent’s Volvo.

The Mercedes class I idolized was, I realized later, the most iconic two-seater in German automaking history. The SL, abbreviated “sport leicht”, was introduced in 1954, never ceasing in its diverse and worldly appeal. This year the model is 58 years old, making it one of the longest-running nameplates in all automotive history. 2012 also brings the excitement of a new SL iteration, replacing the nearly decade-old current model. It promises continued tradition, building on bountiful laurels, decorated history, and a loyal following of both those with the means, and those humbly without.

Part of the SL magic is each model’s longevity and singularity. The R107 SL was produced from 1972 to 1989, the following R129 from 1990 to 2002, and the most recent R230 from 2003 to 2012. Each grew mature year after year but never old, and never senile or overshadowed by younger models. That was, in part, due to a lack of consistent and direct competition. At nearly $100 thou, who is really comparing features and prices? At different times and prices, the SL would compete with the Porsche 911, BMW 6-series, Jaguar XK, various Aston Martin models, and for V-12 models, the Bentley Continental GTC. Still, it has never lost its edge.

In the 1980s, the 380SL was a teen’s dream. A veritable object of desire for the Ferris Beulers of the world. And picture-perfect in Beverly Hills Cop. In the 90s, the SL500 evoked the femme fatale, playing the vixen Debbie’s widowmaker in Addams Family Values and the getaway car for the mom-daughter con team in Heartbreakers. And in the 2000s, the SL was in every rap and hip-hop video and any film set in Miami. Never has a single model car been so healthily featured on screen and in plot.

The freshest SL550 comes amid understandably high expectations. Technology must wow, style must stir, and price of entry must remain exclusive. The R231 must also reclaim honors for quality, following questionable reliability, underwhelming interior construction, and the occasional technological blunder over the past 10 years. In a global economy still bruised by massive losses, even those with their eyes on these kinds of vehicles care about getting their money’s worth.

Since splitting from Chrysler, the Stuttgart marque has made measurable strides in improving quality and reestablishing trump cards of past models – like rock solid construction, sumptuous materials, and a laundry list of space-age technology options. And, the Mercedes magic is slowly returning. Idol-worthy models (SL), along with accessible models that embody many of the same elements (C), are making it a hard lineup to topple.

Categories: Automobiles
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