The first generation Mercedes-Benz SLK was all about fun. When the SLK was launched, Mercedes said it was ”driving in a new dimension.” I kind of get what they were after but I’ll just chalk it up to some marketing-speak. While the R129 was the serious roadster with a serious price tag, the R170 was the light-hearted option that checked in at $40,000 as opposed to the $80,000 and up if you went with SL500. There was a finally an option for people who didn’t want to spend starter home money for a Mercedes convertible. The best part about it was that the normally ultra-conservative styling you were used to seeing was moved towards something that still could be recognized as a Mercedes, but a breath of fresh air and a look into the new millennium. You want a crazy color? Sure. Matching seats? You got it. And how about something those stuffy R129 buyers don’t have, an automatic, retractable hardtop? Yep, that will make Morty and Barb from the club jealous. How about one more thing, a supercharger. Now we are going crazy!
All this was really great in the late 1990s. Times were good, money was flowing and there was no reason to believe that you when you bought a SLK, you weren’t getting that same standard of quality that you were used to from every Mercedes convertible of past. All the way from the 300SL and 190SL to the R129 and C124 and everything in between, those were really special cars. There is a reason why the W111/112 Cabriolet is still a six-figure car and Pagodas even in the roughest of condition are starting at $50,000. The thing with the SLK was that all of a sudden the generous amount of leather and wood you were accustomed to in your top-down Mercedes was suddenly replaced with vinyl and plastic. Lots and lots of plastic. It’s tough to blame Mercedes as they needed to directly compete with the BWM Z3 that was well into production and buyers didn’t care all that much because they got a convertible with that giant three-pointed in the grille for half the price they usually are. Everyone wins.