Bring a Trailer Bargain of the Week: 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL
The next-gen, all-AMG SL is just around the corner. But with convertible season coming up, some buyers might not want to wait or pay for a brand-new one. Luckily, there are plenty of used Mercedes-Benz SLs available, many at reasonable prices. And if you’re nervous about buying a depreciated modern Benz, a stalwart vintage one won’t necessarily break the bank. Case in point, the 1991 R129 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL available this week on Bring a Trailer.
A Mercedes-Benz R129 SL is “equal parts performance, prestige, and engineering excellence,” Automobile says
The SL nameplate dates back to the original 300SL Gullwing, which eventually spawned a convertible model. And the R129 SL—or, technically, the SL-Class—is the fourth-gen version that replaced the long-lived R107. Although well-loved, by 1990 the R107 was almost 20 years old and rather outdated, Hagerty reports. Car and Driver describes the R129 as “a quantum leap in design, engineering, safety, and performance.”
The R129 SL models are contemporaries of the W124 E-Class. The two even share a platform, Classic & Sports Car points out. And just like the W124, they’re the products of famed designer Bruno Sacco. Sacco even describes the R129 “as ‘the most perfect car’ of his career,” Automobile reports. Plus, just like the W124, the R129 SL stems from a time when Mercedes-Benz was famous for over-engineered and innovative luxury.
Initially, Mercedes-Benz offered the R129 SL-Class in two forms: the 3.0-liter inline-six 300 SL and the 5.0-liter V8 500 SL, Autoweek reports. The German automaker later introduced more powerful models, like the V12-powered 600 SL and the SL 60 AMG. Famed tuner RENNtech even made a 575-hp version, Road & Track reports.
Power, though, wasn’t the R129 SL-Class’s biggest strength. The convertible was Mercedes-Benz’s flagship, Autoweek points out, and it lives up to the appellation. It has a retractable roll bar, a multi-link rear suspension, and optional adaptive dampers, Hagerty reports. The convertible also offers an industry-first power-operated roof, multiple airbags, ABS, and on later models, traction and stability control, Autoblog and Honest John note.
The R129 SL also has magnesium seat frames, power headrests, and central locking that locks the storage areas. It even has a power-operated rearview mirror like the W140 S-Class. As such, an R129 SL is arguably “the pinnacle of resplendent luxury,” R&T says.
The 1991 R129 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL on Bring a Trailer
Being a 1991 model, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL currently listed on Bring a Trailer is a pre-facelift model. In 1995 Mercedes updated the R129 lineup, and among other things, ditched the two-tone bodywork, Autotrader reports. But being an earlier 3.0-liter car means this Mercedes-Benz 300 SL doesn’t have the biodegradable wiring harness issues.
Despite its age, this 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL is a fairly low-mileage example, with just over 117,000 miles on the clock. It’s not a pristine car, to be fair. It has some stone chips and scratches, and the driver’s seat has some cracks and wear. But it has extensive service records and an accident-free history. Plus, everything electronic on the convertible still works.
Under the hood, this 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL has a 228-hp 3.0-liter inline-six engine linked to a five-speed automatic. The listing claims the car has a four-speed automatic, but all R129 300 SLs have either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic, Hagerty reports. This confusion might be due to the 500 SL decklid badge; those models initially had four-speed automatics.
Besides the leather upholstery, this 300 SL comes with power-adjustable heated seats, automatic climate control, cruise control, and ‘Acceleration Skid Control.’ It also has an aftermarket Clarion stereo, headlight wipers, fog lights, and a color-matched hardtop in addition to the black soft top. And the current owner recently changed the oil.
It’s a solid classic luxury convertible bargain
As of this writing, this 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL is listed on Bring a Trailer at $3000 with three days left in the auction. Given its condition and mileage, that’s below the market average. A fair-condition R129 SL like this could easily go for twice as much, Hagerty reports.
For some, the idea of owning a depreciated classic luxury car might sound terrifying. And as with any used car purchase, it’s recommended bidders get a pre-purchase inspection. However, just like the W124, the R129 is a durable vintage car that’s not too complicated to DIY. The inline-six engine is legendarily durable, Autotrader reports, and replacement parts are readily available.
In short, this 1991 300 SL has the makings of a dependable vintage luxury drop-top bargain.
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