The Mercedes-Benz R129 replaced the R107 in 1989, staying in production until 2001 when it was replaced by the R230. Production of the R230 began in October 2001 with the first car arriving with customers in November of that year.
Throughout the 12 year production run of the R129 SL, the company launched a number of special models – there are none as desirable and rare as the Mercedes Silver Arrows edition of 2001.
When Did the Mercedes Silver Arrows Emerge?
Back in 1934, on a cloudy June day, a white racing car stood in the grounds of the Nürburgring track. Armed with a spatula, a technician begins diligently scraping the white paint from the car to reveal the bare silver aluminium beneath. The process of removing the white paint did two things – reduced the weight of the car to within the required limit and created a motor racing legend.
Whether the spatula story is actually true, the legendary status of the Mercedes Silver Arrows was cemented by those iconic races of the 1930s. The Grand Prix races held in the years prior to World War Two were hotly contested. Adolf Hitler was financing Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union in his attempt to build a prouder, more competitive Germany and the competition weren’t exactly rank amateurs – the Italian Bugattis, Maseratis and Alfa Romeos were formidable machines in their own right. Despite the wider context of how history would unfold, these few short years of motor racing between world wars presents a fascinating snapshot of time, capturing the very best in engineering, driving ability, competition and good old fashioned ‘daring do’.
The Mercedes Benz Silver Arrows and the Formula One World Championship
After a 15 year absence from motorsport, Mercedes-Benz returned to the track in 1954 with the W196R Silver Arrow; aiming to win both the Formula One World Championship and the World Sports Car Championship. To achieve this ambitious goal, the company would need the talents of the infamous Sir Sterling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio, to name a few. Over the course of two years, the team would pummel the competition and take top podium positions within just 18 months, securing 9 wins out of 12 starts.
The W196R Silver Arrow was the first fuel injection F1 car and thus laying the groundwork for other models such as the 300 SL Gullwing, as well as the W113 Pagoda SL. With a lightweight space frame of just 36kg almost identical to the W125 Silver Arrow of 1937, the W196R’s engine produced 595 bhp and had an overall weight of just 750 kg (1653 lb) – a power-to-weight ratio that wasn’t matched until the turbo charged cars of the 1980s.
Prior to the war, Mercedes-Benz were at the forefront of aerodynamics, designing and constructing the first wind tunnel. This progressive quality of Mercedes-Benz enabled them to go on to build the 196R and many more successful race and rally cars, many of which bare the SL designation.
Read more about the W196R here.
Sir Stirling Moss (17 September 1929 to 12 April 2020) in a Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow W 196 R at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2015. (Photo signature in the Mercedes-Benz Classic archive: D1531449)
The R129 SL Mercedes Silver Arrow Edition
It is these legendary Silver Arrows cars that the 2001 SL 500 was made to celebrate.
At the very end of it’s production run, just before the R230 arrived in showrooms came the Mercedes-Benz R129 Silver Arrows edition. Just 100 were made for the European market in Right Hand Drive form, with each car having it’s own build certificate signed by none other than Stirling Moss himself.
The Silver Arrows R129 was more than just a lick of paint and a commemorative badge, it offered a comprehensive specification resulting in what is arguably the most aesthetically pleasing R129s of all.
When it comes to buying an R129, the Silver Arrow has to be one of the very best cars you could choose.
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Interested in finding out more about the R129 SL? Check out this comprehensive piece detailing everything you need to know about the marque.