Information request for buying and owning a R129 SL320

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MurgyMB

New Member
Joined
Sep 13, 2021
Messages
5
Location
York, England
Car
R129 320SL
Hi
This is my first time on this site, and I've found a lot of great content, passionate Mercedes enthusiasts and knowledgeable contributors.
Hopefully this post is in the correct area?
Why Im here?, well Ive always loved Mercedes from being a kid, and especially the R129 SL Mercedes , and now Im looking for a bit of information on buying and owning one!

I am looking for a bit of feedback and practical information on buying and owning a R129, from the knowledge of R129 owners past and present, and other enthusiasts on this site.
Any ownership tips and information will be gratefully received.

As it will be a 20+ year old car, and having never owned a car of this age, Im not going into this blind, and realise an older car, takes a bit more effort and cost to own and look after.
I appreciate mileage can be a factor with older cars, but realise age is also a big factor to consider, on trim, rubber or perishable items and their replacement.
Are their aftermarket suppliers available, or can this be a problem for certain items?

The car Im looking at is an R129 2000 SL320, well maintained service history with MB and a few independant specialists, and has only done 30,000 miles.
It looks to be in really good condition, paint and interior look great - only very light seat bolster wear, recent tyres, and has the panoramic hartop, unmarkerd 17" alloys (unfortunately not AMG style), electric, memory and heated seats and mirrors, Xenon headlights, wind deflector.
The only non original item is an aftermarket stereo with bluetooth for phone use.
It looks amazing and is everything I want, however its £25,000 (as of September 2021).

So a bit of help please:
From peoples knowledge of the R129 market, is this a good price for what seems a good car, as Ive seen other similar spec cars around the same age, with similar or a little higher miles for up to £5000 less?

Everyone Ive spoken to says "buy a good well maintained car", implying I'll spend a lot to put others right!, which to me seems common sense when buying any car.

Others have said "dont buy one as you cant get parts, and parts you can get are very expensive"! - Not sure if this is true about getting parts, as there seems a lot of R129's throughout Europe and the USA? - Any feedback on this?

From your real experiences, is an R129 still reliable enough to use weekly, or does a car of this age need a lot of weekly work?
Im all for restoring or running "as is" cars to match peoples passions and budgets, however I havent the time commitment anymore to spend my weekends or evenings, doing major or timely repairs to the car, hence why Im looking for a well looked after car to minimise any upkeep.

I always look after my cars, washing and cleaning, doing general maintenance and letting specialists do the rest, so it will be looked after.
That said it will be stored outside on my driveway, and mostly used on weekends.
As North Yorkshire isnt know for its warm tropical climate!!, from peoples experience will this be a problem for electrics etc?
Does anyone recommend any preventative maintenance tips to help keep the car and electrics in top condition?

As Ive read conflicting information, can anyone also advise on realistic service intervals, and typical current costs of services for the 320SL?.

Thanks for your time and any information you can share.
 
They are really nice cars to drive. I did have one years ago and the one thing that puts me off buying another one is the removable roof. It is a great idea but you need two people to remove and replace the metal (the glass roof is even heavier) roof and then it is quite a big thing to store away - and needs to be somewhere where it is not going to get damaged. Despite having the space it became a nuisance. The folding fabric roof tends to become creased because it spends a lot of time folded up.
The rear seats are for small children only or for short distances.
The engine and transmission are reliable but before paying top money I would get it inspected by a mercedes independent - a low mileage car could have sizeable recommissioning costs if it has been used very little in the last few years.
 
I have a 2000 sl320 with 145k on the clock. I got mine early this year and have spent 2k and later this year will spend another 2k to finish it off.
Its low miles but its still 20 year old so you will have to spend on it as i have just to get it right .
I paid £ 5500 for mine, 25k , best be mint, and i mean showroom.
I use mine as my daily.
Don't think this as a cheap classic to run as all shorts can go wrong after 20+ years. Low miles means didly squat.
I would check out that mileage as my bolster has only just split with wear after 145k miles.
Don't want to put you off but that is a lot of money.
 
They are really nice cars to drive. I did have one years ago and the one thing that puts me off buying another one is the removable roof. It is a great idea but you need two people to remove and replace the metal (the glass roof is even heavier) roof and then it is quite a big thing to store away - and needs to be somewhere where it is not going to get damaged. Despite having the space it became a nuisance. The folding fabric roof tends to become creased because it spends a lot of time folded up.
The rear seats are for small children only or for short distances.
The engine and transmission are reliable but before paying top money I would get it inspected by a mercedes independent - a low mileage car could have sizeable recommissioning costs if it has been used very little in the last few years.
Thanks for you reply Smiley.
Thats some really good practical points you made, I hadent really put much thought into the hardtop storage!
Thanks for the comment on the rear seats, my son is 10, so I think I might be able to wedge him in there for now.
The car has stood for a while, and just gone through a recommissioning process with an independant MB garage - Ive not seen what was done though, and will have to check the documentation.
I will definitely look at a pre purchase inspection.
Thanks
 
I would happily recommend Hammerton Cars at Green Hammerton (if it hasn't changed hands). I used to take all my Mercedes to him when I lived there and he was honest, reliable and well-priced. If the seller will allow it, I'm sure an inspection there will tell you what you need to know.

£25k is at the top end of the scale, so I would expect it to be as sorted as a 20+ year old car can reasonably be.
 
I'm with Tonye, and you are paying a steep premium for the low mileage which will increase as you use it and devalue the car. There's currently a 98 SL320 (straight 6) on a members' club forum which looks lovely. It's done 147k, being sold by the 5th owner, asking £7995 (I have no connection). Pano roof, tourmaline green with mushroom interior, all three keys, private plate and has had £25k spent on it over the last 10 years.

My own 96 SL500 has done nearly 160k miles, scrubs up well and still gives me great driving pleasure after 18 years, although I hardly use it these days with other cars in the garage. A few of them are low mileage and the thought of putting more miles on them detracts from the driving pleasure, which defeats the object of owning them. Don't become a slave to a garage queen!
 
I have a 2000 sl320 with 145k on the clock. I got mine early this year and have spent 2k and later this year will spend another 2k to finish it off.
Its low miles but its still 20 year old so you will have to spend on it as i have just to get it right .
I paid £ 5500 for mine, 25k , best be mint, and i mean showroom.
I use mine as my daily.
Don't think this as a cheap classic to run as all shorts can go wrong after 20+ years. Low miles means didly squat.
I would check out that mileage as my bolster has only just split with wear after 145k miles.
Don't want to put you off but that is a lot of money.
Hi Tonye
Thanks for your reply.
I appreciate your comments and love the fact your using yor SL320 daily.
The car, engine, underside and interior are visually in really good condition, and the drivers seat bolster probably only needs a clean and a bit of leather conditioning (probably just me being picky and looking for faults!), and the rest of the documentation seems to check out the mileage.

Thanks for the reality check re the low miles and running costs.
Its reassuring that there are a lot of higher mileage SL320's, that all seems to be going strong and still look good, which I guess is down to good maintenance and a bit of TLC.

£5500 for your car was a really good price.
I am still concerned the car Ive seen is top dollar for a SL320, and it is a lot of money. As you said it needs to be mint, which it seems to be, but I would be getting a full pre purchase inspection, to hopefully avoid any hidden costs (as much as can be seen!)
As you mention at 20 years old things will still break, so even with the inspection I realise its a bit of an unknown, and Im prepared for future breakages.
Im still looking at cheaper car options leaving money in the budget to get it right.

I appreciate its going to take more to keep it on the road, but like you I think its worth it, as these cars look fantastic.
Good luck with getting your car finished, and enjoy driving it.
Thanks for your feedback
Cheers
 
I would happily recommend Hammerton Cars at Green Hammerton (if it hasn't changed hands). I used to take all my Mercedes to him when I lived there and he was honest, reliable and well-priced. If the seller will allow it, I'm sure an inspection there will tell you what you need to know.

£25k is at the top end of the scale, so I would expect it to be as sorted as a 20+ year old car can reasonably be.
Hi jdrrco
Thanks for the info and recommendation.
Yes they are still there. they seem to have expanded their car sales a lot recently, so not sure if its still the same people, but I'll definitely keep them in mind.
My thoughts are also that £25k is top end pricing, so as you mentioned it would be inspected to check it is as sorted as possible.
Thanks for your comments.
Cheers
 
I'm with Tonye, and you are paying a steep premium for the low mileage which will increase as you use it and devalue the car. There's currently a 98 SL320 (straight 6) on a members' club forum which looks lovely. It's done 147k, being sold by the 5th owner, asking £7995 (I have no connection). Pano roof, tourmaline green with mushroom interior, all three keys, private plate and has had £25k spent on it over the last 10 years.

My own 96 SL500 has done nearly 160k miles, scrubs up well and still gives me great driving pleasure after 18 years, although I hardly use it these days with other cars in the garage. A few of them are low mileage and the thought of putting more miles on them detracts from the driving pleasure, which defeats the object of owning them. Don't become a slave to a garage queen!
Hi MD5
Thanks for your comments.
Cheers for the mileage and pricing info.
Im hoping to keep this car long term as you have, and whilst I will only be doing around 5k miles a year, I understand your point about paying a pemium and mileage devaluing the car.

As lovely as they are, I dont want to just sit and look at it (actually I would like to just sit and look at it !!) and I intend to use it weekends , so I dont think it will become a garage queen.
As this has been a long time dream to get a R129, and as with most owners, I suspect I will become a slave to it in some respect!

Thanks for the pointer to the advert - think Ive found it now, great colour and interior.

Thanks for your feedback, and enjoy your SL500.
Cheers
 
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You need to ask yourself, WHY you are buying this car?

If it is because you want 'the best', then that is fine, BUT if you are going to use it as a daily driver, it will not be 'the best' for long......more miles, wear & tear etc!

I bought mine 4 years ago, because I wanted 'the best', from the SL Shop (top money, for a top car with 2 year warranty). - 4 years later, and it is still 'the best', because I do few miles per year in it and it lives in a heated/dehumidified carcoon in my garage!

It would be a waste to buy an immaculate 30,000 mile SL and use it as a daily driver in my opinion, but it is of course, up to you.

For your use, I would suggest looking at a higher mileage car, with comprehensive service history at a much more realistic price........there are 'nice' cars out there!
 
It does seem like a lot of money. There will be others out there that are pretty good for less (but mega cheap will be cheap for a reason that may not be immediately obvious!)
People will say that are complicated and expensive when they go wrong, but I think they are actually quite reliable.
However, the comment about parts is valid. There are some common parts that go wrong and are difficult to source, but they are mostly trim related. Always check the condition of the sun visors/mirrors and plastic supports - they crack and are tricky to get hold of, if that worries you.
Look at all other trim - its going to be difficult to replace with new if it doesn't fit properly or is cracked, and it does get brittle with age.
Keys - make sure it has more than one key that actually works. They can be intermittent to obtain new ones.
Switchgear in the overhead panel can fail and is tricky to get hold of.
Air vents can fall apart - they can be repaired if you catch all the bits!
Heated seats will stop working. Again can be repaired usually rather than replaced.
Roof - this is the biggest worry, but the main problem is leaking cylinders and these can be repaired or refurbished. They should then last another 10 years! Clear windows can be replaced if cracked but original thickness of plastic is not available if thats a worry. There are soft top specialists around that can work on the roofs though.
Lack of use can lead to contact problems which can stop things working eg microswitches in the roof mechanism. Can be tricky to find but again not impossible and roof specialists should be able identify it quickly enough - it does generate fault codes.
Check for rust, particularly around the front of the wings and in the wheel arches. New panels are nearly impossible to find.
Mechanical stuff can be fixed and they are not noted for any specific issues I would suggest - the engine is reliable and well understood in general.
Buy on condition and looks - its for posing!
I prefer the later ones as the technology is a bit more modern (5 speed box, Xenon lights). About the only option if I recall, is the wooden steering wheel which looks nice.
Oh and check the AC. That can be expensive to fix (like all AC systems!)
 
I’ve gone round the same buoy as you’re doing on SL (r129) ownership. As they are lovely looking cars - and I will own one yet. It’s a 35/40 year old design don’t forget and the fact they feel so modern is amazing. Condition and maintenance is all if you’re planning to daily it/leave it out then I’d halve your budget or more - and retain the rest as self funded warranty. If you buy one and it doesn’t quite suit (or your son shoots up as they do from12-16) you’ve got a hard sale to make as you’ve paid top money.
 
The problem with the rear seat space (apart from the obvious that it's small) is that the front seat back comes almost to the floor and there's nowhere to put your feet. It's really a 2 seater.
 
is it a private sale or a dealer with a warranty? if paying top dollar then there should be some form of warranty. how old are the tyres?
"The car has stood for a while, and just gone through a recommissioning process with an independant MB garage - Ive not seen what was done though, and will have to check the documentation.
I will definitely look at a pre purchase inspection."
what's a while? months years?
 
Rubber deteriorates over time, whether the car does a thousand or twenty thousand miles a year.
There are an awful lot of rubber bits on an R129, many of which hold the suspension in place.
 
The problem with the rear seat space (apart from the obvious that it's small) is that the front seat back comes almost to the floor and there's nowhere to put your feet. It's really a 2 seater.

It's a 3-seater ... you can wind the front passenger seat a good way forward and still have plenty of legroom. I've had my dad in the front and mum in the back without any problems, and although I normally drive with my seat all the way back (I'm 6' 1") it's possible to move it forward enough to seat a child behind me ... certainly for short-ish journeys. And you can get a Border Collie in the front as well :DFamily car.jpg
 
Thats some really good practical points you made, I hadent really put much thought into the hardtop storage!
Thanks for the comment on the rear seats, my son is 10, so I think I might be able to wedge him in there for now.

You can get hardtop storage trollies that hold them vertically ... doesn't need too much space that way. We kept the hardtop for ours in an upstairs spare bedroom in one house! You also used to be able to get padded storage bags with hanging loops that went onto wall hooks. As mentioned the panoramic top is significantly heavier than the standard one (which is mostly aluminium).
 
Parts availability is a consideration for daily driver. It's good in terms of general availability, but over the last 20 years I've watched stocks go from same day at the dealer, to next day from Milton Keynes, and now to 3-5 days from Germany for a lot of parts. In most cases it's not insurmountable, either by being flexible in terms of sourcing from the aftermarket, or being willing to stump up.

On that subject, new wings are still available last time I checked (around 12 months ago?), but at eye-watering prices that will only have got worse since. You'll find random bits that drop in and out of availability and or are exorbitantly priced, usually when MB has no competition for supply.

If you're flexible about the occasional hiccup or have alternatives to fall back on, daily driver shouldn't be a problem.
 
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I had a 1996 R129 SL500 for 3 years, from June 2012 to June 2015. It had done 78,000 miles when I bought it for just under £9000 and 84,000 miles when I part exchanged it for a supercharged 5 litre Jaguar XKR mainly because I was disappointed in its performance and general driving experience. The 5 litre engine in the SL just didn't give me the response I had expected. (Have you test driven an SL320?). The bodywork and interior were in excellent condition - it had been really well looked after. Other than regular servicing, mine did not need 'a lot of weekly work'. (I bought it from Mercland in Nuneaton - many people on here will know Jay who has been a long-time supporter of the forum and who still advertises in the forum's Classified - Traders' Cars section). Have a look at Jay's buyers guide for the R129 from 2017:
Also have a look at Classic and sports Car buyers guide for the R129 from March 2019, here - Mercedes-Benz SL (R129) buyer’s guide: what to pay and what to look for | Classic & Sports Car

I think you'd be paying too much for a car that you will not be using and maintaining in the manner it is accustomed to. You will be leaving a car that must be in 'show' condition according to the price and mileage, outside through all weather and all seasons (the North Yorks climate, as you say) and only doing around 5000 miles a year at weekends, so the condensation will never get shaken off and the seals will continue to dry out more than they already have done. (Before I sold mine, I had a new A/C condenser fitted - I think that was about £800 at my indie specialist). I don't think parts, generally, would be too much of a problem and a good indie will help keep servicing costs reasonable. Mine was very reliable except for that A/C - the R129 was massively over engineered originally, at a time when Mercedes were living up to their reputation for build quality but after the Mercedes merger with Chrysler in May 1998 the bean counters took over, and the accountants started to control the quality rather than the engineers. For this reason, the the quality had started to decline before 2000. I seem to remember reading that 1996-98 were the best years for quality. The wiring loom/electrical problems were more through 1993-95 manufacturing years.

I had the standard detachable hard top that needed two people to lift into place or remove. I had a wheeled trolley that I could move it around on, in my garage - still available probably on Ebay. Some people hung them up or suspended them from the ceiling! The panoramic version is very heavy. Mine was an excellent fit and made the car feel like a coupe during winter months - very solid.

Personally, I would go for a higher mileage example (and don't let 100K be a barrier to you) with a maximum price of around £13-15K - I think that would be better value for money.
 

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