Quiet Confidence

Profiling the R129 Mercedes SL – the silent sportscar.

(c) zombdrive

There is little question that successive generations of Mercedes-Benz SL would never have come into being without the patronage of the more affluent and socially aspirant United States car buyer. After all, there simply wasn’t a sufficient market for such wilfully indulgent fare in the old world – nor available spaces one imagines on the car-train to Sylt. Also beyond doubt is that by the close of the 1980s, the SL had become the automotive marker of choice for those who really wished to underline their wealth and social status.

While some might argue the modern SL’s family tree is traceable to 1957’s 300SL convertible, the line runs more directly to the smaller and less performance-orientated 190 SL of 1955, which outsold it by a significant margin. 1963’s timeless W113 Pagoda brought forth a more muscular evolution of that template, but its long-lived successor, dubbed R107, which arrived in 1971 would by consequence codify the SL blueprint.

R107 arrived at a fortuitous time, on the right side of a wave of US anti-car legislation, both proposed and enacted, one of which was the banning of all open-topped cars amid fears of injury in roll-over accidents. It was this which led to a swathe of imported Targa-topped semi-convertibles and in some notable cases the cancellation of open models (both domestic and otherwise) entirely. But Mercedes had done their homework, and due in no small part to the efforts of legendary engineer, Bela Barenyi in the arena of passive safety, the well bolstered R107 was demonstrated to be sufficiently crash-worthy.

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In the end such legislation was deemed unenforceable, but in the wake of the 1973 fuel crisis and subsequent economic and political uncertainty throughout that decade, a good deal of soul searching took place within Sindelfingen over R107’s replacement, or indeed whether there should be one at all. In what would become a long-term thinktank project beginning in the late ’70s, a team of young designers examined the rationale for a two-seater sports model for the 1990s.

The result of this process, which was a lengthy one even by Mercedes-Benz traditionally thorough standards seems to have established the requirement being one of a broadly iterative car in conceptual terms, albeit one with a good deal of future-proofing built in, not to mention even more accomplished active and passive safety capabilities.

Fuelling the business case for such a model of course was the mid-eighties boom in the US for luxury vehicles, which had lent the now rather aged R107 something of a last hurrah. As the design for the new car, dubbed R129, was argued over in Sindelfingen’s styling studios under the supervision of Bruno Sacco, Josef Gallitzendörfer, and Peter Pfeiffer, the engineering teams set out R129’s technical package.

While the previous car was closely aligned with the W116 S-Class, R129 would derive its hardware from the W124 (E-Class), incorporating its front (struts and lower wishbones) and rear multi-link rear suspension layout, and an additional automatic four-setting ADS adaptive damping system. ASR anti skid control was optional. Power came from entry-level 3.0 litre six-cylinder engines in 12 and DOHC 24-valve form. The 32-valve 5.0 litre V8 developing 322 bhp would however be derived from the Sonderklasse’s M117 unit.

Mercedes engineers went to great pains to isolate sources of vibration into the bodyshell, employing profiled struts with their own vibration damper from the front axle carrier to the doorsills and a tubular arrangement from the rear of the sills to the spare wheelwell. These and other measures ensured that distortion of the SL’s body equalled that of Mercedes’ saloon models – exceptional for an open two-seater.

In marque tradition, all SL’s came with a detachable hardtop in addition to a folding soft roof. This latter feature was electro-hydraulically operated and could be deployed in 30 seconds, the lined hood being almost as quiet in place as the fixed roof. R129 also broke new ground with a retractable roll-over bar, which could either be raised from its normally recumbent position by the driver and used in conjunction with a draught screen for improved comfort, or would deploy automatically upon a number of pre-determined factors where risk of rollover was detected by an array of body-mounted sensors.

This was demonstrated in the most alarming manner when an inexperienced Japanese guest driver totalled a 500 SL in Portugal during the car’s press launch. The car, which rolled several times, was destroyed, but both occupants were shaken, but unhurt. Further aiding passenger safety were the specifically designed, magnesium framed integral seats, which incorporated the inertia reel seat belt, and electric control of seat position, seatbelt height and headrest position.

Mercedes’ PR made Bruno Sacco’s stylistic vision for the three pointed star crystal clear when it stated, “The design for the new SL is trailblazing and is geared towards the future, anticipating the pace of time. Exotic fancies of shape, condemned to be shortlived, are not in line with this philosophy. Concessions in this respect would have meant to sacrifice the marque identity and the SL image.

This was borne out in the R129’s exterior style which was largely the work of Johann Tomforde and Dieter Futschik, and took the Sacco doctrine to its logical extreme. Its clean unadorned lines coupled to superb proportioning and a more muscular stance to that of its predecessor, lent it a similar austere grace to that of the existing and much acclaimed saloon stablemates. Compared to the outgoing model’s somewhat chintzy, chrome-laden appearance, R129 with its anodized darkwork was a quantum leap – a high watermark that would not be matched again.

(c) mercedesheritage

Launched in the wake of a typically thorough (and lengthy) proving regime at the 1989 Geneva show, a long waiting list soon built up, with US dealers hitting prospective customers with a whopping 30% price-premium over that of the outgoing car. Not that they were deterred – SL production at Bremen (capped at 22,000 per annum) being sold-out for well over a year.

Like its predecessor, R129 had few direct rivals, Jaguar’s elderly and inferior XJ-S Convertible being the most obvious, although Cadillac also made a half-baked attempt. But nothing was as sophisticated, desirable or confirmed one’s social arrival like an SL.

1993 saw the SL move into an altogether higher plane with the introduction of a 6.0 litre V12 model developing 389 bhp. Two years later R129 received a minor facelift which to some eyes cleaned up the styling with the removal of the Sacco-Planks along the lower flanks and reshaped, body-coloured bumpers, but in truth, the purity of the original was lost.

Production ceased in 2001 with over 200,000 built. Later that year, the less well-resolved Steve Mattin-credited R230 was introduced, but R129’s true progeny was perhaps 1996’s Michael Mauer designed R170 SLK, the final Sindelfingen flowering of the visually austere Sacco principle. The fall off in design quality after this is both striking as it was precipitous.

(c) autorevue

We can simply view the R129 as an aesthetic object, a vehicle displaying all requisite signifiers of attainment, ostentation and superiority. We can equally revel in its engineering thoroughness, its rightness for purpose. In either case it is an object of wonder and yes, beauty. Yet the almost Calvinist rectitude with which the SL whispers these attributes is perhaps the most notable (and retrospectively speaking) impressive characteristic of all.

R129 crystallises a moment when the three pointed star of Untertürkheim was at its very apogee, and remains arguably the most perfectly realised of the ‘Sacco-era’ cars and a stark reminder of how far that celestial body has fallen in the intervening time. Because once you have truly arrived, it really isn’t necessary to shout about it.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

56 thoughts on “Quiet Confidence”

  1. Nicely written article, although I don’t entirely agree with the idea of the engineering merit of the R129. To my thinking, it goes too far toward the overweight and electronic excess of the W140.

    The R107 had a manual top and manual seats and sold just fine until the day it was replaced.

    The 129 had total electronic overkill including an electrically adjustable interior rear view mirror !

    This is nonsense, frankly.

    In North America, used values of the R107 are far higher than R129, even for 129’s that don’t have the “environmental” wiring insulator degradation issue. That difference is due to the enormous cost and complexity of trying to keep the automatic roof and other electronic crap functional so the car is actually drivable.

    1. Please name me any ’90s model that’s worth more than the predecessor model from one or two decades earlier.

    2. A 1990 XJS is worth the same as a 1989 XJS (assuming same condition, mileage).

      Currently, a 1990 500SL is worth approx. one half of a 1989 560SL.

    3. Angel, the obvious hint in that instance is in the name. Even without the hyphen (it was abandoned when the car received its contentious 1990 facelift), an XJ-S (or an XJS) is still broadly speaking, viewed by the market as the same car. In fact, the market appears to like the later XJS’ better than the mid-series models (the early cars are another matter), owing to their improved build and the fact that they were galvanised at the factory. The later AJ16 engine was viewed by many aficionados as a better proposition than the V12, offering almost as much power with a lot less complexity and thirst.

    4. A 1995 XJS is worth more than a 1975 XJS (he said, helpfully).

    5. Keep ‘em coming. This only gets better with each iteration.

    6. Students of history will recall that for a considerable period of time, values of Series III E-Types (the final series V12 models for those unfamiliar with the model derivations) outstripped those of the early first series models. As the market belatedly recognised the superior aesthetic qualities of the earlier models (and their comparative rarity), values soared, so that now, a first series E is more valuable than that of its Series III equivalent, condition and specification being more or less equivalent.

      We are seeing a similar situation emerge with XJ-S. Having languished in the darkest, most neglected antechamber of classic-collector interest for decades, there are now so few early XJ-S’ left in any reasonable state of preservation that on rarity alone, they have become collectable. Added to that is a belated realisation that the original shape was superior to that of the over-facelifted, somewhat chintzy looking final series XJS’, (notwithstanding their superiority as ownership propositions) and we are likely to see history repeating in this instance – and as every DTW reader now knows by rote, history always repeats when it comes to the leaping cat.

  2. Personally I can’t see the SL as a sportscar, although it does have the silent qualities as mentioned above.

    I’ve always liked the idea of incorporating the seatbelt in the seat, but here I think the seats look too bulky. BMW did a more elegant job with the E31 and later Lexus with the LFA.

    Still a proper decent Benz, though. I like it when design isn’t shouting at you. A quality mostly gone these days and it’s not just Audi, Benz and BMW who are the offenders.

  3. Good morning, Eóin. An excellent retrospective of one of Mercedes-Benz design and engineering masterpieces, thank you. The design is simply superlative: there isn’t a single detail I would change and the car stands as quiet but crushing indictment of the company’s current output.

    I’m not sure I agree that the design purity of the original was lost in the (thankfully, very minor) facelift. Paint technology had advanced to the point that Mercedes-Benz could precisely match the colour (and gloss) of the bumpers and protective panels on the flanks to that of the body, so that’s what was done. I think this actually enhanced the purity of the design, if only marginally

    Later on, more bulbous bumpers and “aero” sill cappings were added, which, I think, did rather spoil the looks of the car:

    1. I agree 100%. The facelift spoiled the original. The orange directionlights were also gone, which I now think are super cool.

    2. I don’t mind the use of a single colour, but the light units’ graphics lost some impact once the indicator lenses became clear, just as the softer side vent design managed to mess with the stylistic consistency and highlighted its age. And the less said about the SLK wing mirrors, the better.

    3. Yes, you’re right, those wing mirrors (and side vents) are not at all in keeping with the overall form of the car. I’d noticed the side vents before, but not the wing mirrors.

  4. I was long waiting for a DTW article about the R129. I agree with Eóin, R129 was a watermark both in terms of design and quality. Most things on it were overengineered.
    Take the door locking system. I believe it was a closed system of pressured air (shared with more Mercedes cars of the era) and it also locked the fueling cap, glovebox and armrest (lastmentioned could also be length-adjusted). When you locked the car pressure built up gradually so it took some seconds before everything was locked in a very suave way. I guess they use magnets now but some charm is lost.
    And the roof was a feast in itsself. Me and my wife drove an r129 when we first met, she had a cup of coffe resting on top of the softtop when we stopped to fuel up on a sunny day. Eager as I was to drive top down I pressed the red button (in it self a miniature of the roof if you notice) and the hot coffe was spilled to the rest of the roof. No open air cruising for us that day but nothing happened to the roof or the mechanism ( so ingenious it was that all fluids still drained outside the car not in the roof storage area). We are still married.
    R129 is versatile too, with the hardtop on, I drove 200km daily over snowy norwegian mountains for a year, never failed me. I am only glad my job paid the fuel bils that year.

    1. Vacuum operated central locking was used by Mercedes since the Sixties (W108/9 and W114/5 already had it) because its movements are softer and therefore less noisy than electro magenets. Audi uses vacuum for the same reason opposed to VW where magnets are used.

  5. An interesting detail of the R129, and on some W201 16V as well is that the ADS system is actually a full Citroën-style hydropneumatic system, albeit with partially load carrying coils.

  6. One Mercedes-Benz detail I’ve always puzzled over that I’m sure a DTW commenter will know the answer to, is why is the windscreen recessed from the leading edge of the A pillars? On most cars it’s flush. Does it keep it cleaner?

    1. Cleaner might be an idea. Cleaner side windows and maybe also less wind noise and turbulences when the side windows are open.
      Or it helps guide the air for a better flow and less drag.

    2. The recessed windscreen is part of the dirt water management system Mercedes introduced wth the W116. Water coming from the windscreen is prevented from flowing onto the door glass and guided over the roof. Door mirror mounts are designed to keep water away from the door window and there’s a rain gutter around the rear window to keep water coming from the doof away from the rear screen.

  7. That’s it – I want one, while prices are still reasonable. I’m sure it costs a bomb to maintain but still, I’m sure it’s well worth it. Which engine shall I go for and did any come with a manual gearbox? 😉

    1. I suggest you go for the 5.0l V8. As far as I know, it’s a reliable and not terribly wasteful an engine.

      The 3.0l 24v engine was unreliable and gutless, whereas the 12V was just plain underpowered (R129s are no featherweights). The V12 isn’t all that appealing in this installation, even disregarding fuel and maintenance costs, as its weight ruins the SL’s handling balance.

  8. As Herr Butt said, the M119 V8 is the best engine option. Find one that has been properly maintained and you’ll find a gem of an engine.
    On the rest of the car, the R129 is a complicated piece of machinery so I would invest in having any purchase candidate inspected by a specialist who works on them.
    Note that you will find some cars fitted with the ADS hydropneumatic system (standard on the V12), the system is brilliant if it works properly, a nightmare if it doesn’t. If there is a switch with a raising car to the left of the lights knob it has ADS, if it has a thumbwheel to adjust the level of the headlights it doesn’t.
    Buy the best one you can find and you’ll get a gem of a motorcar!

    1. If combustion engined cars were not soon to become pariahs, I would wholeheartedly recommend the R129 as a car to buy and to keep. Certainly as last hurrahs go, one could do a lot worse. If I had the resources, this Jaguar aficionado would have one in a heartbeat. (First series please). Find a good specialist who understands the electronics (there are bound to be a few about in the UK and mainland Europe, if not in the US) and you have a pretty durable and highly attractive proposition.

      On the subject of values, it’s only comparatively recently that the R107 has started to seriously move up in value, partly because its styling was quite timeless. Or at the very least, aged quite slowly. R129 is in a similar position. Like all the best VA-HH (have I got that right?) Sacco-helmed Mercedes’, it has scarcely aged at all, especially in contrast to its successors, so it hasn’t become sufficiently ‘charming’ to have gained widespread classic status. Its day will come however – assuming the classic car market survives the coming tsunami.

  9. I am trying to convince my wife ( the same one that spilled the coffee) it is the time to buy now. I completelly agree with you Eóin, R129 are suffering from what r107 suffered 20 years ago. They were convertible mercs with lots of power bought by people that could not afford to maintain them but made all sorts of modifications. You will for instance struggle to find an early R129 with its original beautiful wheels on, lots of them have some hiddeous aftermarket wheels. This means the few well maintained cars do not command very high prices. As people who where teenagers at the time the R129 was THE car to have get older ( and richer) they will start pushing up the prices. So it is definatelly a good time to buy.
    As for ICE cars being pariahs, I doubt anybody buys an R129 for their daily drive so you can make a good case or owning it. What’s more I believe most manufacturers will try and sell a battery/engine conversion, especially on their “special” cars. Jaguar offers already a conversion of the E-type (an eE-type if you wish) and even though the price is extreme and as long as there is gasoline to be bought the whole project has no real point (we all love the sound and feel of a good ICE) it functions as a proof of concept. I can not imagine Mercedes will resist the temptation to sell this kind of upgrade but we are looking several decades ahead now.
    One more thing if you are buying. Check that both softtop and hardtop are watertight. Usually these cars spend all summers with their softtop on and you rarely see one in the winter now. So softtops tend to be tested by the occasional summer-rain. Hardtops on the other hand tend to stand in a garage, their rubberparts get dry, they will not tighten to the windscreen and they can cause a leak in the rain usually from the three-point juncture (windscreen-window-hardtop). Should they leak from there the water is assembled in the seat, i.e. your trousers will get wet. The first time it happened I was already on my way to work ( one hour drive). Thankfully I change clothes at work.
    As for engine, I agree with everybody, the V8 is the one to go for. Running costs for the sort of use an R129 will get these days are about the same. The 3.0 with 12v with its 193hp ( I drove that model) definately made it no sportscar and as Herr Butt said all R129s are heavy. However it is a solid, honest engine and if you just want to cruise along it will do fine ( and very reliably). The thing is that the price difference between a good 3.0 and an good 5.0 has pretty much evaporated by now. It is milleage, service and condition that matter so there is really no reason to go for a 3.0 if you can find an equally good 5.0.

    1. yes, there is a reason to skip the 500. It‘s called 320, the enlarged inline six made from 1993 through approx. 1998. It’s a wonderful engine and a very good fit to the relaxed, confident character of the R129. Sounds good, has more than enough power (231hp), good performance while staying reasonably efficient (I just drove mine across France averaging 27mpg). Granted, the V8 is more fun and delivers a hefty punch even above 100mph. But the difference you‘ll notice only when driven back-to-back with the R6.

  10. Thanks Charles. I love those videos! The amount of attention to detail that Mercedes put into seemingly every aspect of these cars is astonishing.

  11. A really interesting piece, this site constantly opens my eyes to the depth of thinking which goes into these designs.
    One thing I should raise – it’s not necessary to specify the nationality of the test driver who rolled the car. It’s not relevant to his/her driving ability, and mentioning it reinforces unwelcome stereotypes.

    1. Matthew, thanks for your comment. I certainly had no intention of doing anything of the sort – if you spend time on the site, you’ll know we’re not in the habit of pandering to stereotyping or lazy assumptions. However, if anyone else agrees with Matthew’s position on this, I’m happy to alter the text accordingly.

    2. If anything, I might have generalised quite the opposite about Japanese people, that they would be quite cautious and courteous drivers, certainly not reckless.

      Now, had the driver been ¥@#$€£₩, that would have been a different matter!

    3. Thanks Eóin – I have spent a lot of time on this site and I’m a big fan, I think it’s consistently interesting and far better thought out than 99% of writing about cars. I don’t think you have that stereotype yourself, which is why I wanted to point out that it’s not necessary to mention in case it was seen as confirmation of that attitude. I’ve had similar things pointed out to me about my own writing at times, and I’m usually happy to modify. Not trying to police anybody, I simply feel that with minor efforts like this we can gradually change things. No disrespect intended. Please keep up the great writing. Cheers, MK.

  12. Did any other manufacturer pursue the single windscreen wiper option? And I don’t think MB have continued with it either? Any ideas why they tried, and why it didn’t catch on?

    1. Hi Andy, I had a 190E with the single wiper and it was a beautiful piece of engineering. It operated on a cam arrangement that pushed it up into each top corner of the windscreen as it swept, to increase the swept area and eliminate potential blindspots. Although highly effective, I imagine it was pretty expensive so was a casualty of Mercedes-Benz’s cynical cost-cutting in the late 1990s. The W210 E-Class had it but the W211 reverted to a pair of conventional wipers. Likewise the W202 first C-Class and its replacement the W203.

      Incidentally, the Jaguar XJ40 and its X300 and X308 successors also had a single (but conventional) windscreen wiper, but the X350 reverted to a pair.

    2. Thanks Daniel, I’d forgotten that the Jag also had a single wiper. Obviously negates any changing from left to right had drive, but you’re right, wouldn’t have been so cheap. Great piece of innovation though (*stands back waiting for posts telling me about similar arrangements going back decades…*).

    3. Predating all of the above was the Citroen CX of 1974. Although, like Jaguar’s arrangement, Quai de Javel’s arrangement was fixed and like Browns Lane’s finest, was not terrifically liked by customers. (The CX had a very large and highly curved screen to sweep and in heavy rain, had a lot of work to do). I believe Citroen improved it owing to complaints with the early models.

      As an aside, the XJ40’s single wiper came about because Jaguar were having terrible problems with the wipers as fitted to the earlier XJs – both saloons and XJ-S models – possibly owing to where they were permitted to source them from. So when the ’40 was being conceived, Mr Engineer Randle decided to design something simple and bulletproof. Hence the single wiper set-up. Unfortunately, in the interim, Mercedes had come up the pantograph system which made Jaguar’s design appear somewhat rudimentary…

    4. Of course Mercedes’ exquisitely engineered wiper system probably cost as much to develop as the entire Jaguar engineering budget…

    5. Hi Eóin. Ah, so the Mercedes wiper mechanism was known as “pantograph”. I thought I recalled that but wasn’t sure, as it resembles neither the drawing instrument nor the mechanism that connects trams and trains to overhead power lines.

      Regarding the CX, the windscreen was sufficiently deep for a single wiper to work, but I would guess its exaggerated (horizontal) curvature was problematic as far as keeping the whole length of the blade in contact with the screen throughout its sweep..

      There are actually quite a few cars that experimented with single windscreen windscreen wipers. The Mk1 VW Scirocco had one when launched, but quickly reverted to a pair.

    6. Actually Daniel, I wrote that from memory, so I’m probably mistaken. I’m old enough to get confused about such matters these days. Maybe I simply read it somewhere and just assumed that was what Mercedes called it. Either way, you’re right – it was beautifully engineered. A real pleasure to see in operation. I’d imagine however, a bit of a nightmare if it did malfunction.

    7. Now, here’s a bit of a mystery regarding the Scirocco:

      Looking online, there are photos of both pre- and post-facelift models in both left and right-hand drive form with either one or two wipers. Perhaps the choice was dictated by local regulations? Here’s the pre-facelift model with two wipers:

      That’s my night’s sleep ruined…

    8. At Mercedes the whole wiper thing started with the R107/W116 as part of the ‘dirt water management’. These Benzes had twin wipers with mounting points extremely close together with the intention to always hold the wiper blade parallel to the air flow and thereby keep the rubber in contact with the windscreen all the time and at high speeds. The W201 started with a single wiper with conventional operation. The telescopic wiper arm was introduced with the W124, the W201 then got it, too. The design of the telescopic wiper was closely inspected and approved by German TÜV because of the enormous acceleration forces working on the arm because of its great weight and the high speed of the longitudinal movement. The Benz design worked as intended only in cooperation with their special screen washer fluid (no joke) that was specifically developed for the high speed movement of the rubber blade. And yes, the system was abandoned because it was too expensive to make.

      Citroen used single wipers on the Visa, CX, BX and AX. Customers didn’t like it because for some time Citroen insisted on mounting the screen washer nozzles on the wiper arm where no amount of alcohol in the washer bottle could keep the system from freezing up. They also used normal wiper blades (as opposed to Mercedes who used rubbers specifically developed for the purpose) which suffered a high rate of wear because of the high speed of the wiper movement.

      The Scirocco Mk1 started with twin wipers and then turned to a single one. After the facelift VW reverted to twin wipers because of the unsatisfactory results of the single wiper.

    9. Dave, thank you. You’ve again demonstrated the extraordinary well of collective knowledge that makes DTW such a great website. That detail about the special screen wash for the Mercedes wiper is a gem!

    10. Every other manufacturer would be declared mad for formulating their own special purpose washer fluid but Mercedes is the one you expect to do so. It was this level of attention to detail that got them where they were.

  13. The very early mk2 Scirocco also used a single wiper setup for a while as did Fiat with both the mk1 Panda and Uno.

  14. the R129 is the one car on which one can trace the 1990’s transition in MB‘s car-builing ethos best.

    When it was released in 1989, it was all straight lines inside and out. It was the peak no-nonsense engineering car. Could be had (and was majorly sold as) bare-bones, as – in true MB tradition – all frills such as heated seats or leather where only
    to be had as options, at extra cost.

    As MB’s overall line-up changed to worse and beyond in the course of the 1990‘s (looking at you, W210 and W220!), so did the R129. It lived through two major face-lifts in 1995 and 1998, none of which improved anything on the car. It‘s exterior and interior got more rounded, adorned and fuzzier. Garish „designo“ versions with incredibly tacky colour options (2-tone purple leather seats? no problem!) came about. Granted, cars came better equipped, but where of course also sold at higher prices. To add insult to injury, the 1998 V6 engines, which succeeded the inline sixes, had less power, worse economy and where less smooth – but apparently were a lot cheaper to build. Just the same for the new-for-1998 3-valve V8. Lastly, I have never seen a truly rusty first series R129 (though make no mistake: they do rust if neglected) – but quite a few last series R129s.

    I agree with all above comments: the R129 is a fantastic car. Especially the stylistically pure first series with two-tone paint. It‘s all that was ever good at MB condensed, in an incredibly useful, yet smart open-top package. Mine drives like a modern car, I’m always amazed that it’s already almost thirty years old. Looking at their virtues, R129s are still incredibly cheap and probably the best value (future) classic cars currently out there.

    And one last thought: was there ever, in the history of motoring, a convertible that looked so good wearing its hard-top?

    1. I’ve no idea which is correct but I thought that inline sixes were cheaper to build due to the commonality of parts with four-cylinder engines? I’m sure that’s what MB said when switching from V6s to inlines.

  15. I didn´t notice how much like the Citroen XM´s dashboard the SL´s is. The gross form and the way the console undercuts and joins the main plank of dash is very XM. The binnacle is not the same at all. I suppose this shows that Citroen was simply aping Mercedes´s mid-80s dashboards . The MB is certainly more robust that the XM´s dashboard which is nice but has a glove box that needs tender love to open without eventually breaking it.

    1. Regarding the XM, these prototype pictures indicate the original intention of the designers took no inspiration from Mercedes.

    2. Gooddog: indeed, those are shown in the two XM books (no such books made for the poor old C6). However, that is not what they sent down the production line, for better and for worse. If the actual production interior is a bit too bland at least it is orderly and works well. The rejected design looks chaotic. I find the door-mounted consoler especially hard to take. GM used a similar detail on some of the late 90s Buicks. The dead space ahead of the passenger is pretty much the same dead space ahead of CX front passengers. It feels more reasuring to have the bloc of dashboard fill up some of the space and also have more room from knee to foot.

    3. Agreed, lack of PRN lunelles notwithstanding. Also it’s not a design crime like its counterpart in the 605.

      Regarding the Buick, it thematically reprises a few of Bill Mitchell’s favorite Corvette concepts which Chuck Jordan worked on alongside a certain Anatole Lapine, and you know the rest.

  16. An interesting similarity between R129 and the XJ-S is an initial brave attempt to shun wood, which didn’t take.

  17. I miss my 1990 W201 single wiper which was same as R129. Although it ate through wiper blades. Would only work correctly with Mercedes-Benz OE blade for some reason.? If I’m not mistaken the same mechanism and parts live on today in the Koenigsegg hyper sports car range. I’ve always wanted to email Koenigsegg in Sweden and ask about it and why they chose this wiper. Assuming it is the same part and supplied by Mercedes-Benz? I never did find out who the actual production supplier was. Valeo perhaps or Bosch? I was always warned if it broke it would be a £450 Mercedes dealer part only replacement!

    1. Hi ckracer76. We’ve got a piece on the W201 coming up in the near future. I drove one for a couple of years and the wiper mechanism was a thing of beauty to behold!

    2. Excellent I can’t wait. You won’t believe how much DTW has got me through the last 18 months Covid-19 pandemic. Thank you.

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