R129 buying advice

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ivan1983

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Aug 21, 2012
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577
Location
Middlesex
Car
R129 500SL, R170 230K, 530i Touring, ZZR 600
Hello Boys and Girls,

I have been away for a long time and now Im back I fancied a 2 seater car.

I had narrowed it down to a 944 and either a R107, it turns out my pockets wont stretch to a R107 thats not a basket case and all of the 944's I have seen so far have had rotten sills.

So looks like Im looking at a R129.

For insurance reasons Im looking at pre face lift models ie up to 95, I cant seem to get a quote for a post 95 for less than £1400. I also want a V8 so that will be a 500 SL or SL 500

I have a few questions;

Exactly when did the indicators change, from orange=>part orange=>clear ?
As it seems lots have the wrong colour for year but i dont know exactly when the changes occurred

With regards to the wheels,during the 89 -95 period what sizes were available from the factory 16"-17" ?

When checking soft top operation I have heard the leaking cylinders will be apparent by fluid near the sun visors/ rear wheels any where else to check ?

With regards to the transmission I assume it will be similar to the W126 being of the hydraulic variety so fluid changes every 30k or less and i assume it should have a similar shifting style, smooth and slightly slurred?

Since the models Im looking at will be using the M119 engine I was wandering if there is anything specific to look out for these.

I assume chain guide rails should have been replaced by now, what is the rough service life for the chain/tensioner I understand its a lot more involved than in the M116/117.

What are the common failures with these engines TDC sensor, and throttle bodies have come up on my research anything else?


Anything else I should look out for on the engine, drive train, suspension or brakes?


Bodywork wise Im hoping these are more solid than the 944s or R107s, I have heard they have rust under the doors and the front wings. Also is it only the newer ones that rust where the hard top meets the body?

Any other areas where to look for tin worm?

Interior wise the drivers seat seems to hide wear very badly is this a good indication of wear and tear on these cars. I believe the memory function can suffer from amnesia , any other electrical gremlins to look for?

Whilst on the subject of electrics im guessing post 93 cars should have a new wiring loom or I should budget for one. When was this resolved? I assume all wires on a post 93 car will be biodegradable its just the engine ones that go first?

I have done what i feel is a reasonable amount of research but require some pointers from people who have hands on experience with these machines :)

Please let me know what I have missed out and what repairs/ preventative maintenance should have/needs to be done?

Also how much more difficult to work on will this be compared to the W126 where everything as easy to access and doesn't require a laptop!

Thanks

Ivan

PS sorry for the long post
 
A very good friend of mine went looking for a R129 500, it took him five or six weeks to find the right car after viewing about eight. The car he purchased was not the most expensive advertised either. Take your time and view as many as possible seems to be a good rule of thumb particularly with a convertible.
 
There is a lot of 129 buying advice on this board, the search facility is your friend.

Some folks like the later models (I have one) but I slightly prefer the earlier models.

Don't buy anything with less than a 500 engine, V8 600 is best, but some folks like the V12 600.

Buy on condition and make sure all the electrics work.

Have fun. :D:D
 
Clear indicators are post 95, so any pre-facelift with them is incorrect (including mine!). Half and halfs are 94-95, possibly slightly earlier.

Wheels wise, you're normally looking at 16s as standard, either 15 hole or 8 hole. 17's optional.

Gearbox wll be 4sp hydro, they're as tough as old boots, just throw some fresh ATF in them every so often.

Check the engine wiring loom, many won't have been done and may well be badly in need by now. Rest of the wiring isn't too bad, it's the heat and vibration that kills the engine loom.
Issues with TDC sensor and throttle bodies are quite rare, the main issue is keeping on top of the ignition system - it's quite hard on caps and rotors, and the plug leads will probably be tired too if original. I've given PerformanceLeads the correct dimensions for a 95 car (the first set they sent me were miles out)

My car is pretty much rust free, but I have seen arches going on other vehicles.

Not much call for a laptop, while there's a lot of electrics it's still relatively simple stuff.
 
The indicators (main and side repeaters) went from orange to white in the big 1996 facelift. I know the 'part orange' ones you mention ... not sure those were ever actually a standard fit, but someone will know!

A lot of people with pre-facelift cars changed the indicators to make the car look younger. The rear light clusters are also sometimes changed to '99 facelift ones, which don't have the 'ribs' of the earlier ones. Occasionally people also changed the small cladding panels behind the front wheel arches, which went from three vents two in the '96 facelift. I've even seen the oval '99 onward door mirrors fitted to earlier cars!

The 'electronic' 5-speed gearbox was fitted as standard from the '96 facelift onwards but was available as an option for a while before that. So a few earlier cars may have that rather than the 'hydraulic' 4-speed.
 
First I have heard of post 1995 ones being more expensive to insure.

What insurance companies did you try?
 
A very good friend of mine went looking for a R129 500, it took him five or six weeks to find the right car after viewing about eight. The car he purchased was not the most expensive advertised either. Take your time and view as many as possible seems to be a good rule of thumb particularly with a convertible.

It took me 8 months to find my one. :eek:
 
IIRC V8 & V12 were 4sp auto only until after the facelift.

I think the 5sp auto was for the sixes, certainly you could order the base model with a 5sp manual box. No idea why you'd want to though.
 
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They are based in the main on a modified W124 floorpan and the early ones may suffer from the rear jacking points/ rear subframe front mounts corrosion problems by now. Its a convertible so they leak a bit its almost ineviatble-- Any bad leaks may damage the many electronic control units these cars have so be very wary of cars with evidence of water ingress over a period of time. Make sure the soft top works faultlessly and is in good condition-- they are expensive to " refettle" and need expert attention. Not many MB dealers have mechanics familiar with these cars now so a specialist is your best bet for servicing and repairs.
 
Thanks for the input guys, I have done a fair bit of searching and still havent stopped. Im guessing I have well over 30 tabs open in my browser at the moment and many more closed!

There is no way I could afford the V8 600! From what I have seen these seem to be 20K+

And I have a feeling the V12 wont be as easy to work on and will have less forum support being less popular.

Good call on the ignition system, its what stranded me on the W126.

What should I budget for dizzy, rotor, and leads £150 ish?

As said Im limiting my search to pre 95 models which hopefully will be a bit cheaper as all the buyers guides says that a post 95 panoramic top is the one to have!

I will try and get my first test drive tomorrow.

Sp!ke I have tried all the comparison sites and it was bewiser and and another one which I cant recall came in with quotes around the £500 mark. The W126 is with lancaster but again they came in at around £1.5K. I also rang up Chris Knott's which was astronomical, need to try Sky.


From what I have read Doodles info on the transmission is accurate.

Grober very useful info on the rear jacking points.


I really like the ribbed lights at the back and I want orange indicators and square mirrors:)

Oh I have also read the auto dimming mirror can go wrong, how can this be tested in daylight conditions?
 
Unfortunately it's a bit more than that. From MB, a pair of dizzy caps and rotors is the best part of £500, and about the same again for leads. :eek:

Performance leads will do a set of leads for about £120, ECP can supply a pair of caps and rotors for under £200 with our forum discount
 
Having had a 129 without the panny roof, and one with, I think they really are worth getting. There's one on sale here at the mo, buy it, then the car :D
 
Ian unfortunately since im looking at a pre face lift the pano roof wont fit :(
 
Ian unfortunately since im looking at a pre face lift the pano roof wont fit :(

Oh, ok, I thought they all fitted but that some needed different seals. Anyway, it's just been sold :(
 
They do, but there have been cases where people have had to change the seals for a proper fit.

However, they're both sold now, and it's £1200-1500 that could probably be better spent elsewhere. Basically, you've got to *really* want one, and have a wad of cash sat around you don't need :thumb:
 
As others have said, take your time. I spend a huge amount of time and money travelling around the country before buying ours. I must have seen about 20. I found that even when asked very specific questions sellers still often blatantly lie resulting in lots of wasted journeys and much frustration. In my experience the earlier cars were less susceptible to rust and the interiors are more robust however I soon decided that I wanted the five speed automatic and electronic ignition, ideally the M119 but would consider the later models. There's a thread on Benzworld I think which shows the location of all the roof hydraulics. If I got to the point where I was considering buying, I removed the cover in the boot under the spare wheel well to check the fluid level whilst cycling the roof a few times and also checked around the areas of any cyclinders you can get close to. You're right about the visor/mirror area though the problem mainly occurs in hot countries due to the seals drying out.

Basically just have a really thorough look around and under the car, espcecially the leading edge of arches including the inner edges, also around the aerial and up under the boot around the bumper area. Then test all electrics. Heated seats and rear screens can often have issues but not necessarily deal breaking. Aircon. I could go on......
 
There's a thread on Benzworld I think which shows the location of all the roof hydraulics. If I got to the point where I was considering buying, I removed the cover in the boot under the spare wheel well to check the fluid level whilst cycling the roof a few times and also checked around the areas of any cylinders you can get close to. You're right about the visor/mirror area though the problem mainly occurs in hot countries due to the seals drying out.
....
MAYBE THIS ONE??
R129 soft top 'Hydraulic System' ultimate thread - Benzworld.org - Mercedes-Benz Discussion Forum
 
Hi Ivan. I owned a 500SL 1991 J for 2 years. ( 117K when I sold it and the ignition system was starting to play up) Graphite two tone , fully loaded. A doctor from the mayfair area London spent a fortune on it new. Electric steering adj, wind deflector , first aid kit and fire ext still in situ, Full MBSH and on and on. The only thing it didn't have was adaptive damping. An acqaintance of mine has run Merc care ( now German auto care ) Leeds for many years and I did my research. All I have read on here is bang on.
Just one or two other things. The rear view mirror can get loose. The 32v quad cam is obviously very heavy and I had to have an engine mount replaced.... and the springs can go after 100K or so. At 322 bhp the best car I ever owned. No rust on this 1991 car.
Fantastic 4 speed auto.

However I bought a white SL320 1994 M three years ago. 87K. FSH , sort of. Car was cheap at £6K so you get what you pay for. From a dealer so they'll rob you ..top and bottom. Long story short , elec gremlins with roof and other stuff. Turned out to be wiring loom/harness. Cost £800 in all but once I'd had the head gasket done/skimmed etc the car was like new. ( 93' to 95' had the bio degradable as you say). I got my roof control unit repaired at BBA remanufacturing , Rochester for £270. And it worked. Problems started with windows initially. The roof mechanism iis the main point for me.
It's for sale now at £6K 3 years later. I'll enjoy my SL350 with ABC option 55 plate and just hope it doesn't cost me £1000 a corner if it plays up. Happy hunting.
 
I have been hit with a man cold so didn't get to do my first test drive yesterday will aim to do it today.

I have already spent some time and money wondering round the country looking at 944s (Which I somehow felt a little underwhelmed by ). I may be tempted to ask for detailed pics before setting off for cars further away!

Good to know about engine mounts/ springs I assume this is one area that is easily neglected. You mentioned the ignition system was starting to play up, how was this apparent?

Dan was the 5 speed box that much better than 4 speed also is the electronic ignition more reliable or is it just that it has fewer consumables?

So far on my list of bits that wear out.

timing chains/ tensioners/ guides 100K-150K/every 10 years?
Engine mounts 100K
Springs 100K
Rotors/distributor/leads 100K?
I assume bushes etc will need doing by this age
Flexi discs?
 

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