The arrival of a new generation SL is always special, and more so if the preceding model spent as much time on the market as two generations would in the modern car world. Which showed when the R129 was launched, it turned out to be a runaway success. Now revered by classic car connoisseurs, the R129 SL’s inclusion in the Mercedes-Benz lineup also led to tuners launching their special versions based on it. We take a look at some of the finest examples of pimped-up R129 SLs:
With Mercedes-Benz and AMG now collaborating to produce the latter’s models, the R129 SL would have a few different iterations spread across the car’s lifetime. It started with the V8-engined SL 60 in the early 90s, the SL 55, and the range-topping, V12-powered SL 73. While more focused on performance, the sportier styling was easily noticeable. Plus with different tyre sizes (front vs rear), the AMGs did have a more assertive look than any other SL. Similarly, brands like Brabus offered their versions of the car, but they also left the clean appearance of the R129 SL alone, focussing more on the car’s ability to go fast.
One of the most common practices among modified R129s is of lowering the car, or how the cool kids on the Internet call it, ‘stancing’. And while many owners do tend to lower their SLs, this digital render might pique your interest. Brabus wheels on an SL 500 with flared wheel arches and the inability to clear the shortest of speed bumps without risking losing that splitter. It’s impractical but in its own way, very cool, too!
In comparison, the one-off Karmann-built 300 tried to add a mix of past (and the most widely known SL) with the then-modern R129. This meant you’d need to trade topless (ahem) motoring for quite possibly the coolest door style to have graced a car. Plus the wide aperture means it’d be practical to get in and out of, too; although reaching for the door when it’s open might be some workout.
Let’s not forget that while the 300SL kickstarted the craze for SLs, it wouldn’t be until the arrival of the gorgeous Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR that we’d see the return of Gullwing doors. Having said that, it’s also worth noting that the Gullwing doors on the SLR would have an upward and forward swing, unlike the original 300SL’s – or the Karmann’s, for that matter. For a proper Gullwing, one would have to wait for two decades until the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG was brought out with its upwards-opening Gullwing doors and as expected top-spec performance.
For nearly 10,000 EUR, one could also transform their regular SL into a wide-body Koenig Special. It can be a bit polarising, but Koenig has created some marvellous cars based on Mercedes, Jaguars, Ferraris, etc. The SL kit includes wider rear ‘fenders’, new front wings, a front skirt with air ducts, door panels, etc. One would also need to widen the car’s track and fit new wheels. As far as pimped up SLs go, this one has to be one of the most extensive efforts. And it doesn’t look bad, either!
But if looking bad is on someone’s agenda, this is quite possibly a winner in that regard. It is Franco Sbarro’s SL Roadster. Made at the request of a client, it is everything an SL shouldn’t be. Even for fans of left-field cars, this is taking things a touch too far. And if you thought the front was bad, wait until you get to the rear… Plus, what’s going on with the enormous wheel gap?! If we were to run a competition on some of the most horrendous vehicle mods, this would most definitely make top 100.
Or you know, you might as well jump to the next one. This car popped up on Mecum Auctions and has apparently won 20 best of show awards. Apart from the Lambo-style doors, a paintjob that could only be appreciated in the early noughties, 20-inch wheels, 14-inch TV screens (what!? — yeah, that used to be a thing), it also had a hand-built body kit, a fog machine, and air suspension…
The mods on the R129 SL by various tuners including many of the aforementioned and the likes of Lorinser and Wald didn’t stray too far from the original design by Bruno Sacco. Maybe because it was too much of a gamble to ruin the classic lines of the car or maybe car enthusiasts weren’t ready for the extent of customisation that they’d seen on previous Mercedes-Benz models. Plus, let’s not forget that the R129 SL is from the era when Max Power was at its peak, The Fast and The Furious had just screened, and NFS Underground was awaiting a release. So it’s natural to think that the following decade would’ve seen many custom cars based on the R129, but the reality is, in the broader scheme of things, the R129 remained rather untouched by weird mods, which while a respite for many, is also a reminder that its potential is yet to be tapped. Just don’t tell Leepu!
But why the R129 SL now?
While considered to be the best among modern, post R107 SLs, the R129 is still not ridiculously expensive to buy. Parts availability isn’t an issue, either, and it presents the chance for younger buyers or those new to classics to invest in a modern classic (that the R129 most definitely is) and enjoy one of the most likeable models that Mercedes-Benz produced in that era.
SLSHOP can’t only maintain your R129 SL or if required bring it to its near-original glory, from this year onwards, we’ll have body kits for cars like the R129 SL, making it easier for you to buy, own, and even customise your SL the way you’d like. We have more updates on this exciting journey we’re taking, and we’d suggest you keep an eye on our social media channels and here.