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Old 06-07-2004, 08:17 PM
peterchurch peterchurch is offline
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Default Buying Advice for a 90's SL Class

I am looking for a convertable, and I am thinking about buying an SL class, probably around the 96/97 mark. can anyone give me any advice about them before I go and get myself fleeced?

or if any one recommends a different model I would be interested

Best regards,

Old 07-07-2004, 08:20 AM
Arnie Arnie is offline
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Location: London
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These, R129's are very nice cars and the 96/97 examples are still built with solid engineering (unlike the new, R230s), and better still, they may still have the indestructable solvent based painwork rather than the new water-based rubbish, which started to appear in 1997.

The 6-cyl SL-280 was described as Weedy
The V8, SL-500 was descrided as Plenty
The V12, SL-600 was described as Overkill
and the 6-Cyl SL-320, was described as the best compromise.

I say 6-cyl, because 1997 was the changeover date from the straight-six, 24-valve M104 engine to the V6, 18-valve engine still in use in other MB's. The former had variable valve-timing and a variable-length intake manifold. The new engine is a 3-valve/cyl, 2 spark design, with fixed valve timing.

>> Just check for a full MB service history;
>> Preferably no paint respray work (check for overspary on rubber trim and for rough edges); colour match, smooth panels, stone chips etc.
>> Check for signs of oil-leaks on engine (a dusty engine is a better indicator than a steam-cleaned one covered with that shiny spray coating.)
>> check for leaks under the car
>> check that all electrics work properly (seats, windows, phone- if fitted, radio (radio-code card) etc..) .
>> Check that the aircon works effectively and preferably find a car with the newer, ozone friendly, R143a refigerant system (1996 onwards).
>> If MB alarm is fitted (type MBSS1), make sure you get the two electronic disabling keys (Master-Red and User-black). Otherwise you will need to fit a new alarm.
>> Make sure the hood (both fabric and hartop) works properly;
>> Make sure there are no warning lights showing and that the roll-over protection bar is working.
>> Some cars had a panoramic hard top with a full glass panel. These are more desirable.
> Check that you have the sometimes-optional rear "seats"
>> Check that the door windows automatically lower and then raise by half an inch when you open and close the doors (to clear the roof rubbers)
>> Check that wheels are not kerbed (sign that previous owner was careful).
>> Check that brake discs and tyres are in good condition and preferably that tyres are all of the same make and model.
>> Drive the car and make sure that the auto-box changes smoothly and is not sloppy.
>> be fussy- there are now quite a few R129's around, since the R230 has come out.
>> If you are not sure, get an independant AA or RAC check as some faults can be costly to fix afterwards.
>> Read the warranty small print (if offered) as most are not worth the paper they are written on (too many get-out clauses and limited cover).

If you can stretch to a later year, some special and limited editions came out around 1999 onwards. These have all the toys, together with "Designo" leather interiors, special aluminium-metallic dash, wide 18" alloys and special paintwork.
In the UK, there were four or five "edition" variants.

Silver is popular, but I think that darker colours (almandine-black, mystic blue etc..) work best to make the car look smaller and sleeker. Also, go for dark leather and avoid "mushroom" colours.

Good luck! If you get a nice car you'll be very happy. The R129s are really excellent.
Old 07-07-2004, 02:28 PM
kkmfo kkmfo is offline
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Posts: 71
Default 129s

Having just sold my first 129 (97 sl320) and bought another (96p sl60 amg) I would add the following:

- Arnie has given excellent advice and I would add:

- if you buy the 320 you may end up wishing you had bought a 500. The 320 is a very capable engine and more than quick enough generally BUT if you do like to put your foot down then you may find that there is a flat spot in acceleration that can surprise you when overtaking etc. The 500 does not have this problem (and the sl60 certainly doesn't!!)
- my previous car was mushroom leather interior and provided it is cared for it will look superb.
- auto trader has loads of examples. Most are well overpriced and many seem to have been advertised for several weeks. Take your time and look to knock a good 1500 off the advertised price when you buy privately.
- check tyre wear - a new set of 4 will cost you the best part of 500.

PS Arnie - am now worried because I don't have the red & black alarm disabling keys with my current car. I do have a grey plastic "key" that doesn't fit anywhere else. Could this be the alarm disabler?
Old 07-07-2004, 09:05 PM
peterchurch peterchurch is offline
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Cheers guys this is great just out of interest is there much difference in the fuel consumption between the 320 and 500 (or in my dreams the AMG)?


Old 08-07-2004, 07:37 AM
Arnie Arnie is offline
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I have the V6 SL320 and yes, occasionally, I do wish I had the SL500. The engine bay is so large that it really was designed for a V8 or V12.

On the plus side, the sixes are a bit lighter up-front and improve handling a little. I have not driven the straight-6 320, but I have not noticed any flat-spots on my V6 and with the electronic 5-speed box, it's always very quick off the mark. However, unlike the straight-6, the V6 does not have variable valve timing, which is is supposed help with "flat-spots". Still, the V6 does have quite a good, throaty, exhaust sound, not quite like the V8, but better than the straight-6.

However, I think that if you try a V8, you will probably not want a 6.

There is not that much difference in fuel consumption (a couple of MPG) between the 320 (either version) and 500. The engines have similar efficiencies and so if driven in the same way, the MPGs will not be too different. However, I suspect that the V8 would encourage more enthusiastic driving style, which will make a difference. Insurance may also be a bit more on the 500 and certainly on the AMG.

One thing to note though, is that while the R129 is a very capable car, it really is more of a GT than a roadster. The suspension system is great at soaking up bumps (even with rubber-band 275/35 tyres), but does roll a little in sharp cornering. The steering is very precise, but has that Mercedes wooly feeling, lacking some feedback, and if you're used to BMW's, will feel a little overservoed. You must remember its principal market was the US (LA/Hollywood). Also, being a soft-top, it does exhibit less than optimal body stiffness which shows up a little on rough surfaces and has a slight tendancy to skitter a little on bumps encountered mid-bend on fast cornering. Having said that it's still one of the best and the new R230 is only 20% stiffer, which really is not significantly more. What I'm trying to say is that if you drive the car as it was meant-to be driven the 320 will be fine. The 500 or AMG will give you more straight-line thrills, but, at least, in my opinion, that's not what the car is about. Whichever one you choose, it will be great.


It may depend on what alarm was fitted. I noticed that all the Continental European and US cars had a factory alarm fitted with the proper disabling switch on the central dash (button with raised-car and tow-hook symbol). But, for some reason, the UK cars (SLK also) had dealer-fitted systems. These were mostly the older MBSS1 (Mercedes OEM) system, which has a red-flashing LED, usually installed near the ignition switch, which when pressed, disables the interior sensors. (The interior ultrasonic sensors are rectangular devices visibly fitted on the front windscreen pillars.)

A set of small (about 1 inch long), plastic keys each with 4 electronic contacts are supplied to disable/reset the whole system, in case of a fault, by inserting the key in a small, round, black hidden socket (looks like a trim-fixing fastener with a rectangular slot), usually in or around the driver footwell. There is a red Master-Key (wich allows you to code more black User-keys if the black ones get lost.) Apparently, the red ones cannot be replaced and the black-ones work upto 500 times (programmable memory, or something like that).

It's really not such a wonderful system and it does not disable any ignition or starter circuits or have any tilt detection to protect the wheels. (But thankfully, the ignition keys are electronically coded with the ECU, so the car will not be easy to start without them.) The samll plastic alarm control box is usually hidden under the dash and "splices" in to the ignition and body-electronics control box (windows, interior lighting and doors) with an adapter wiring loom. A very small siren is also fitted in the engine compartment.

You may have a different system to this because as I mentioned, the UK cars for whatever reason, did not come with factory alarms.
Old 08-07-2004, 09:31 AM
kkmfo kkmfo is offline
Join Date: Nov 2002
Posts: 71

only had the sl60 for a week so hard to tell on fuel, particularly as I have been pretty heavy on the accelerator during the "honeymoon period". I reckon fuel consumption will probably work out 10% - 15% higher than the 320 - depending on how its thing about the sl60 is that at 70mph its only doing about 1200 rpm!!
don't know about the 500 but have been told that its not much different to the 320.
Old 28-07-2004, 05:07 PM
iva merc iva merc is offline
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MBUK fitted aftermarket alarms (scorpion)(MBSS) cos the factory alarms were NOT thatcham approved so the insurance companys would not acceppt them, the later factory alarms ARE aproved
Old 03-08-2004, 09:24 PM
sl32099 sl32099 is offline
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Hi Peter,I will be selling my 98 320 in August, It has covered 57000mls with a full MB service history and has just had a 500 service at a main dealer.It will have a full years Mercedes Extended Warrenty and has had new tyres fitted 2000mls ago.The car is in outstanding condition and is for sale due to me having ordered a new 350.plese feel free to contact me on 01908510798.
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