1994 Mercedes-Benz 500SL Convertible
Ever since the launch of the legendary 300 SL ‘Gullwing’ in 1954, the Sport Leicht series has served as Mercedes-Benz’s flagship sports car, from the fabulous ‘Pagodas’ of the 1960s to the long-running W107 range of the 1970s and 1980s. The fourth-generation SL, dubbed the R129 in Stuttgart’s coding system, was unveiled to a rapturous reception at the 1989 Geneva Motor Show, combining fresh, aerodynamic styling with high-tech luxury and safety features. Developed and tested with typical Germanic thoroughness, a major feature of the new SL was the innovative new automatic roll bar, activated in a split second in the event of a rollover and one of the first seen on any passenger car. The folding roof was powered by an electro-hydraulic system for the first time, activated at the touch of a button and taking just 30 seconds to raise or lower, while every SL was supplied with a removable aluminum hardtop, complete with heated rear glass. The R129 SL line-up initially consisted of two models, the six-cylinder 300SL and range-topping 500SL, the latter powered by a 32-valve, DOHC V8 motor. The R129’s suspension was all-new, combining a sophisticated five-arm multi-link set-up at the rear with an Adaptive Damping System, while ABS was now standard on both models. The interior was suitably well appointed, with standard luxury features like leather upholstery, airbags, electric seats, automatic climate control and a Bose sound system, along with electric windows and even a wind deflector. With 326 bhp on tap, the 500SL certainly packed a punch and delivered serious performance, with Autocar magazine recording a 0-60 mph time of just 5.9 seconds on the way to a top speed limited to 155 mph. The magazine went on to describe the model as “close to flawless” in their road test. As a sophisticated sports roadster, the R129 SL represents excellent value and these early cars also have the advantage of the superb build quality Daimler Benz was renowned for, something lost on cars built later in the 1990s.