The much-loved Mercedes Benz SL has been with us since 1954 and has just been rejuvenated for 2022 with a soft top, a stonking great V8 and standard all-wheel steering.
But even the cheaper SL 55 variant is set to cost around £100,000, so it’s hardly an everyman option. No matter, you needn’t break the bank for a soulful V8 cruiser with that covetable SL badge; you just need to do your research, be patient… and probably invest in a good toolkit.
We’re looking at the range-topping 500 SL of the R129 generation, which is widely regarded as one of Stuttgart’s finest designs and is quickly approaching classic status.
Bruno Sacco’s instantly recognisable angular silhouette, with its long, low bonnet and cab-backward stance, is made to look all the more purposeful on the V8 variant, which topped the line-up until the arrival in 1992 of the V12-powered 600 SL, for which you will have to pay a hefty premium today.
The R129’s wide selection of potent and reliable engines won buyers of all means, but the thumping 5.0-litre V8 is the pick of the bunch. It packed 322bhp and offered a 0-62mph time of 6.4sec, enabling it to go toe to toe with the Ferrari 328 GTS.
At launch, it cost a hefty £58,045 (about £150,000 today), yet of the 204,940 R129 SL examples sold, 79,827 wore a 500 badge.
The 500 was a soft-top as standard, claiming fame as the first Mercedes to have a button-operated hydraulic folding roof, plus buyers were given a manually detachable hard top.
Electronics replaced lots of the old R107 SL’s manual functions for added luxury and enhanced safety. Notably, the R129 was the first production car to feature seat-integrated seatbelts and the convertible the first to feature an automatically deployed roll bar. So it’s safe enough to take your kids out in if you can find one with the optional rear seats, but fair warning: they had best leave their legs at home.