All of a sudden it’s March! You know what that means. Four more weeks of winter for us in the northern part of the country and then we’ll maybe start thinking about spring. In all seriousness, hope springs eternal when the calendar turns and we’ll be preparing for car season. What better way to kick it off by looking at a Mercedes-Benz convertible with a supercharged V8 with nearly 500 horsepower?
This 2003 SL55 AMG up for sale in Arizona is finished in the classic Brilliant Silver Metallic, but when you open the doors you get your hair blown away with a red leather interior. Personally, I love it. I love even more that it has just 14,000 miles as well.
All of a sudden we are in the middle of October and soon little Spider-Mans with coats on will be banging on your door wondering where the free candy is at. That means convertible season is all but over for most of America. That is, like my father used to yell at me for, unless you are one of those crazy people who puts the top down and blasts the heat which in turn is like trying to heat the whole neighborhood. The other scenario is of course if you live somewhere that doesn’t get snow then go ahead and enjoy your top down weather until the turkey is in the oven. That brings me to today’s car, a 1998 Mercedes-Benz SL320.
The SL320 and the pre-facelift 300SL have always stood deep in the shadow of big brothers V8 and V12 R129s and rightfully so. They are were just powerful enough that the car wasn’t a total dog, and usually they were low on standard features. Mercedes figured this out after eight long years with the inline-six SL and finally killed it off in the US after the 1998 model year. This leaves this example in Greenwich, Connecticut, a place where a four garage costs nearly $600,000, in rare company. The even better part about this car is that it had a pile of repairs and maintenance just competed. The thing is, is the price worthy of the little brother SL?
I still remember hearing the news that Alpina was going to be tuning a Z8 around 2002. “Awesome”, I thought, “this thing is going to eat Porsches for breakfast!” Imagine my shock when I found out it was going to be an automatic; I was confused and felt lost. Then, I found out they yanked the 4.9 S62 M5 powerplant out in exchange for something less powerful. It was as if Alpina had broken into my mind and destroyed my dreams – I didn’t get it. Then I saw one, and I thought “Wow, they actually made it look a little bit better”. Yes, externally it was only wheels, but somehow those wheels and Alpina badges were still magical and understated but hinted there was more to this car than just less horsepower and more money. Fast forward a few years and the Alpina Roadster V8s are commanding more money than the original Z8 they were based upon. What had I missed?
Well, I missed that Alpina hadn’t just slapped some wheels onto a Z8; Alpina had completely reworked the E52 to be their own car. Yes, the tuned M62B48 V8 borrowed from the B10 had a few less horsepower than the S62, but critically it had more torque, and that torque was available lower in the rev range. Alpina had also softened the suspension, which apparently improved ride quality despite the massive 20″ wheels. Indeed, by softening the character of the Z8 slightly, Alpina had made the V8 Roadster a more enjoyable and more relaxing car. One thing they didn’t change was that bite-the-back-of-your-hand good looks. Today’s example looks stunning in black, a nice change from the very popular silver that most seemed to be painted. Oh, and it’s got 7 miles. SEVEN. If that doesn’t blow your mind, the price will.
Earlier this year I took a deep dive into what the R230 Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG is and where it might be headed into the future. It is a car that can hold its own without a doubt, but certainly is not at the top of anyone’s list when it comes to buying a convertible for around $25,000. However, today we have a 2005 that might change everyone’s opinion at how these things look. This SL55 up for sale in California is painted in the very rare Orion Blue and shows just under 30,000 miles. The condition is nearly perfect and frankly, I love it very much. Where do I send my money?
As much as I love cars with an insane amount of miles on them, finding older cars with just a handful of miles can be just as fun. This 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL500 Silver Arrow checks in from California with just 4,600 miles on the odometer and the classic story of “bought it for the wife, she didn’t drive it”. The last Silver Arrow I looked was a SL600 with just 5,400 miles that carried a truly insane price tag of over $100,000. This SL500 actually looks like a brand new car and the seller states that all the service was done on a regular basis regardless of mileage or use. Thankfully, this car isn’t six figures like the SL600, but it still is going to set you back a boat load more than what a Silver Arrow with around 100,000 miles will run you. Are you in?
Post World War II, the German manufacturing sector and economy attempted to pick itself up – but it was a pretty rocky road. Still, as early as 1950 Western powers were pronouncing the ‘Wirtschaftswunder‘ in the Western side of Germany – a phoenix-like rebirth of the economy overseen by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. Despite this, it would be decades until this wealth and prosperity really filtered down to the average worker. As a result most drivers in Germany were relegated to very small and efficient cars, with the Volkswagen Beetle being the most successful. But it was far from alone.
I’ve previously looked at some other alternative air-cooled designs from Germany; both the NSU Prinz and BMW 700 challenged the Beetle’s hegemony in the marketplace while offering more style:
1963 BMW 700 Coupe
Feature Listing: 1965 NSU Spider
However, while sporty-looking economy-based cars began to emerge from major manufacturers, microcars were still reasonably popular in the early 1960s though choices were dying out. The Isetta continued to be produced until 1962 and was quite popular. But one other World War II-era name also strangely entered the marketplace – from the makers of some of the most famed fighter planes in history came a single cylinder, two-stroke wingless “car” – the Messerschmitt KR175, 200 and 201 Roadster:
Continuing on my quest to bring you odd color combinations, I present a 1991 Mercedes-Benz 500SL painted in Impala Brown Metallic with a dark brown top. I’m trying to imagine someone who would walk onto a Mercedes dealer lot in 1991, find the row of R129s, look at all the colors that were offered and say, ”Yes. The brown one. Here is $90,000”. I understand not trying not to stick out or not wanting something flashy, but you shouldn’t be buying a very expensive convertible in the first place if you wanted to blend in with the earth. Yet, someone out there wanted a SL in this color and now they still remain in the garages of retirees to take out for a drive on a nice day. This example up for sale outside of Philadelphia seems to be exactly that. Owned by the same person for the past 18 years but now ready for a new home. Thing is, you aren’t getting a deal on the drab color. At least not this one.
Back in the 1990s, Mercedes-Benz really started hitting their stride with producing a bunch of special editions that were all made up whenever they felt they need. Most of the time they just threw whatever they had in the parts bin on the cars when it came to paint colors, wheels, interior trim and then would finish it off by calling up their graphic designers to whip up a unique logo to stick around the car. Today’s car, a 2000 SL320 Mille Miglia, is exactly that.
Back in 1995, Mercedes actually launched a Millie Miglia edition to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Stirling Moss’s and Dennis Jenkinsonâ€™s win of the 1955 Mille Miglia road race. A nice gesture for sure, but I’m sure this decision was highly influenced, if not totally, by getting ready to launch a major facelift in 1996 for the R129 and they wanted to move all the old stock out. Offered on the SL280, SL320, and SL500, it was nothing more than some red inserts on the leather seats, carbon fiber trim with some red weave in it and some leftover EVO 2 wheels from, you guessed it, the parts bin. Then in 2000, Mercedes made another Mille Miglia edition, but just made 12 cars. Why 12 cars? Well, that is how many they needed to usher around VIPs at the Rally 1000 Miglia in Italy. In 2001, the final year of the R129, they again made 13 cars all based off the SL600. So what is unique about these cars? Well, it is basically a Silver Arrow with some badges on the outside and a little sticker on the ashtray door. That’s it. Lean manufacturing must be big at Mercedes.
Now that I’ve exhausted all of the nice Mercedes-Benz R129s currently on the market, I wanted to wander over to the R230 to see how things are going with the first SL with a folding hard top. The R230 was a giant leap forward in terms of styling and technology compared to the R129 as now the normally boxy and square roadster suddenly didn’t have a flat edge on the entire car. It was what needed to be done to keep the car relevant in the new millennium with the legacy buyers coming back as well as capture the hearts of all the new money buyers that wanted a sleek roadster that didn’t feel like an old man or woman’s car that was driven to the country club on a Sunday morning to play golf. It is tough to stay that Mercedes didn’t succeed in that as even now that the R230 is 17 years-old, it still doesn’t look or feel that age. Sure, some of the tech is dated, but getting in of these cars doesn’t scream ”this car can legally buy cigarettes next year” old.
Of course, with the introduction of the SL500 and V12 SL600 in the R230, Mercedes stepped up their game in the US market by giving customers the SL55 AMG that was a hit as soon as they landed on dealer lots. A 0-60 time in 4.4 seconds thanks to 493 horsepower and 520 lbâ‹…ft of torque, the SL55 wore the crowd of the fastest automatic transmission car in the world for a short time before the big brother SLR came on to the scene in 2003. The SL55 continued to be the model of choice over the more expensive V12 SL600 until it was replaced by the SL63 in 2008. The SL65 AMG joined the lineup in 2005 with its twin-turbocharged V12 making an insane 604 horsepower and 738 lbâ‹…ft of torque, but also carried a price tag starting at $185,000. Needless to say, the SL55 remained the best bang for the buck at a still very expensive $115,000, but was a bargain compared to competitors Ferrari 360 and Aston Martin’s DB7 Volante in terms of both purchase price and cost of running. Today, the SL55 sits in that no man’s land of not old enough to be considered a classic and not modern enough to be considered by people who want to be impressed by a bunch of tech. Add in the fact that the running costs can scare some people off, a Corvette seems like a much better buy for the convertible crowd who take Sunday cruises to the Daily Queen. What does that mean for prices on these beasts? Very good things if you are willing to commit to owning one. At least this example up for sale in North Carolina proves that.
I know everyone might be getting just a little sick of all the silver R129 Mercedes-Benz models I’ve been covering as of late, but I promise this one is worth it. This is a 1997 Mercedes-Benz SL60 AMG up for sale just outside of London. The backstory on the SL60 AMG is a little murky but I’m going to try to explain it the best I can. These cars were officially sold through Mercedes as a SL60 from 1993 to 1998, meaning when you run the VIN it comes back as a SL60 and not just as SL500s that were converted after the fact like we see a lot of times. There wasn’t much fanfare or marketing for these; they made somewhere between 1000 and 1500 with all of them being sold anywhere but North America.
The modifications are what you might have guessed: the 5.0 liter M119 converted to a 6.0 liter that made a conservative 381 horsepower. The rest of the stuff depended on the year and what the AMG factory felt like putting in the car. I don’t have any explanation as to why some cars were sold with Xenon and some weren’t. The same went with the interior changes as some cars got AMG gauge clusters while some didn’t and some interiors were crazy colors but others were just standard R129 interiors from that year. I believe that all the cars, except the very early ones, received the two-piece AMG wheels in the staggered setup. Today’s car is one of the few right hand drive examples that were built and honestly priced pretty reasonable in the grand scheme of things.