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The Mercedes-Benz R129 automobiles were produced from 1989 through 2002. They were sold under the SL-Class model names. The R129 replaced the R107 SL-Class in 1989 and was in its turn replaced by the R230 in 2003 (US).
Designed in 1984, the R129 was based on the shortened floorpan of the Mercedes-Benz W124 and featured many innovative details for the time, for instance electronically controlled damping (optional) and a hidden, automatically extending roll-over bar. The R107's rather dated rear diagonal swing axle gave way to a modern multi-link axle. The number of standard features was high, with electric action for the windows, mirrors, seats and convertible top.
1995 had minor updates for the car:
1996+ models featured minor facelifts for the car:
1997 cars were the first year to have an option of the panoramic roof. Also newly available:
A second facelift occurred for models 1999+ which featured:
1989 - 2002 All models: small light switch just behind main trunk closure will enable you to turn off the trunk light and leave trunk lid open should you need to air out the trunk or just leave it open for prolonged periods of time while avoiding battery use.
1999 - 2002: If you fail to close the tape deck, an alarm will sound upon the vehicle engaging in any gear. It is similar to the sound made when pre-setting radio stations, however, is louder and consecutive.
1989 - 1996 models: you can place rectangular foam blocks on the floor of the soft top storage compartment approximately 1.5" high. 1997 - 2002 models come with this as a standard feature, which prevents excessive creasing in the plastic rear windows.
1999 - 2002: depress the odometer reset button two times in a row; this will display remaining milage to next A or B service.
Initially, there were three different engines available:
and joined in July, 1992 by:
There was a choice of 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic for the six-cylinder cars; the V8 and V12 could only be ordered with an automatic gearbox.
In Autumn 1993 Mercedes-Benz rearranged names and models. Also, the 300 SL was replaced by:
Only the 280 was available with a manual gearbox. SL 500 and 600 continued with their respective engines.
A second facelift, introduced in late 1998, comprised new external mirrors, 17" wheels and new bumpers. Also new were the engines:
The V12 engine remained unchanged.
Chassis from 1990-1995
Front suspension Independent damper struts with separate coil springs and gas-pressurized shock absorbers, triangular lower control arms with antidive geometry and stabilizer bar.
Rear suspension Independent 5-arm multilink with separate single-tube gas-pressurized shock absorbers and coil springs, geometry for antilift, antisquat and alignment control, stabilizer bar.
Wheels 8.0Jx16H2 aluminum alloy and regular.
Tires 225/55 ZR 16 steel-belted radial.
Brakes 2-circuit hydraulic power-assisted 4-wheel discs. Antilock Braking System (ABS).
Chassis from 1996-1997
Body construction Monocoque convertible with front and rear crumple zones and removable hardtop.
Front suspension Independent damper strut with antidive geometry and stabilizer bar. Separate shock absorbers and coil springs. Negative-offset steering.
Rear suspension Independent 5-arm multilink with geometry for antilift, antisquat and alignment control and stabilizer bar. Separate shock absorbers and coil springs.
Steering Recirculating ball with speed-sensitive power assist and hydraulic damper. Steering wheel turns (lock-to-lock) 3.0.
Tires Steel-belted radials. Performance 225/55ZR16.
Wheels Aluminum-alloy 8.0Jx16 H2.
Brakes 2-circuit hydraulic power-assisted 4-wheel disc. Ventilated front, solid rear brake discs.
Antilock Braking System (ABS) ABS senses impending wheel lockup under heavy braking and pumps the front brakes individually or the rear brakes together (to help maintain stability), as needed, up to 30 times per second to prevent lockup and maintain steering ability.
Interior Features 1990-1995
Exterior Features 1990-1995
AMG had already offered an SL version while still independent, the AMG 500 SL 6.0 of 1991. After being taken over by Daimler-Benz, there were several AMG SL-models available through D-B dealers.
The SL 60 AMG was the most numerous of these rare cars. Sold from 1993 to 1998, it used a 6.0 litre V8 engine producing 381 PS (280 kW; 376 hp) at 5500 rpm. AMG claimed a 0-62 mph (100 km/h) speed of 5.6 seconds. Its top speed was limited to 250 km/h (155 mph), but with the limiter removed, it was capable of approximately 185 mph (298 km/h). AMG later unofficially conceded that 0-60 mph was more like 5.0 seconds and the engine produced between 405-410 bhp..
Extremely rare was the SL 73 AMG, sold through Mercedes-AMG in 1995, and offering the most powerful V12 engine ever put into an SL up to that time. After a brief hiatus, the SL73 was offered again from 1998 to 2001. The same 7.3 L V12 was later used by Pagani in the Zonda.
The SL 55 AMG was sold in the R129 bodystyle from 1998 to 2001 in limited numbers (5.4L V8, 354 PS (260 kW; 349 hp) at 5500 rpm). It was the predecessor of the production R230 SL55 AMG sold later, albeit was normally aspirated in the R129 and not supercharged as in its R230 successor.
Only about 300 cars in the SL-class were customized by AMG prior to the 2003 model year.
Mille Miglia Edition (1995, 1999, 2000, 2001)
In 1995 Mercedes released the Mille Miglia edition, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Stirling Moss's win of the 1955 Mille Miglia road race. The limited edition was available in either SL320 or SL500 guise, came in Brilliant Silver metallic, and had Evo II six-spoke polished alloys, red and black leather interior, carbon-fibre trim and extra equipment. Stirling Moss was given the first SL500 built.
Silver Arrow Edition
Special edition of 2002 SL 500/SL 600 made to celebrate the race car with the same name (from 1930). Two-tone interior leather on steering wheel and seats, special wheels, etc.
For the US market, only 1550 Silver Arrow units were produced; 100 units of the SL600 and 1450 units of the SL500.
The 2002 Silver Arrow Edition was a prominent feature in the 2001 music video Rollout (My Business) performed by Ludacris.
Several other editions were released of the 129 body SL. These include:
Diana, Princess of Wales ownership
Princess Diana's Mercedes 500SLThe R129 came to public attention in 1991 when Diana, Princess of Wales sold her Jaguar XJS to lease a J-reg metallic-red 500SL and became the first member of the royal family to use a foreign car. This was not without controversy as it sparked a media storm as it questioned whether a member of a British royalty should drive foreign cars. Media pressure eventually forced her to return the car to Mercedes-Benz in 1992, with whom it now resides in the Mercedes-Benz Museum