It might have lacked the distinctive gullwings of the first generation but the R129 SL (Sportlich-Leicht or ‘lightweight sports’) was still one of the most eye-catching convertibles of the Nineties.
By the time the fourth-gen Mercedes-Benz came about it tipped the scales at a hefty 1,770kg. It wasn’t light but it was luxurious. Indeed the flagship, penned by Benz design chief Bruno Sacco, was the most technically advanced car for its time and unsurprisingly it was a massive hit even in Hollywood; Clint Eastwood drove one in “The Rookie” as did Jim Carrey in “Liar, Liar” but this wasn’t shameless product placement — the truth is everyone from movie actors to rap stars (Tupac Shakur was a fan) had an SL. Art was imitating life.
It packed every conceivable piece of kit that was available and aside from a fancy power folding roof, automatic rollover bar and automatically adjusting seat belts it even had an electrically adjustable rear view mirror!
There were several different models in the SL range, the best of the lot being the 500. Power came from a fuel-injected double overhead cam 5.0-litre V8 which made 326 horses and 450Nm of torque and came mated to a slick five-speed automatic. It could hit 100kph from rest in a little over six seconds and on to its electronically-limited top speed of 250kph.
The fully independent front suspension and a five-link rear ensured that it had very impressive road manners; it had a damping system which lowered by 30mm when you hit 120kph to help keep it glued to the road and it was perfectly adept at offering both a sporty or silky smooth ride. The large disc brakes in all four corners provided ample stopping power and it also had ABS, traction control and a power-assisted steering.
Today, they can be had for as little as Dh20,000 which is a bargain for one the hottest cars of the Nineties.