Forgotten Project: 1995 Mercedes SL500

By Steve Boelhouwer

This rather dull-looking Mercedes SL500 here on craigslist is a DIY project that was never completed, according to the seller’s write-up.  Stuffed into the corner of a garage in Alameda, CA, it appears it may have been sitting for some time.

Part of the long, historic line of Mercedes SL-class roadsters, this car is an example of the R129 platform which was produced form 1989 through 2003. The earlier R107 series is famous as being a trendsetter in the personal luxury segment in the 1970s, and is often seen in movies driven by the “tennis and chardonnay” set from that era. The R129s were much more modern technologically, which is both good and bad. These feature an aluminum detachable hardtop as well as a folding canvas top,  in case the driver is caught out in unexpected wet weather with the hardtop at home.

The listing is very light on any description of the car’s mechanical condition, other than a statement “It has been my baby and I kept this car running like new!” That seems a little subjective given the price of parts for these cars. There is no photo of the engine bay, although it should have the 5.0 L DOHC V8 powerplant putting about a tad over 320 HP,  coupled to a 4-speed automatic transmission. These are not muscle cars, they have a mellow exhaust tone and the power band is smooth and controllable.

The interior looks average for a car of its age. Keep in mind that some of that plastic can be brittle, and many replacement interior bits are largely no longer available from Mercedes.

A large subwoofer box in the rear area ensures no passengers (or anything else) can be stuffed into this small space.

One plus side is it does have the desired AMG monoblock wheels, although these seem to have a pretty serious case of curb rash.

The removable top seems to have escaped serious damage, it is common to find these damaged from improper storage as they take up a lot of room in the garage when removed from the car.  A hydraulic system (operated from a switch inside he cockpit) handles all roof operations. There are no photos of the canvas top.

As a former owner of one of these beasts, they can be a lot of fun to drive with the top down. But they can have some serious issues with the electrical and hydraulic systems, and even though they are now worth only a fraction of their original MSRP, parts and repair prices are still high.  Today the R129s are largely ignored by the collector marketplace, whereas the R107s and newer R230s have fared better. In many places you can find ratty 129’s at Daewoo Lanos prices. Which makes the seller’s asking price of $5,000 a bit of a financial risk to anyone looking to shine this one back up. What do you think?

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Comments

  1. Miguel

    This car is scary for so many reasons.

    5
    • jdjonesdr

      A friend of mine had one. Bought a couple of years old. Lived in the dealer’s shop. I felt bad for the guy.

      2
    • Kornmanone

      Run Forest Run

      4
  2. Rich

    If this is their “pampered Baby” I would hate to see a car they neglect.

    20
  3. Too Late

    The ad says it was ” block sanded” What type of block did he use ? 4×4. A friend owns a body shop and from time to time informs me how much auto body paint and supplies cost these days. Even the special tape is expensive. In order to get a Mercedes type of paint job you’ll have at LEAST $2000 in material plus labor. He just finished painting my daughters dark blue Toyota Corolla. Removed both bumpers windshield ,all door glass , headlights , tail lights as well as all trim (door locks) etc. etc. What a lot of prep work. Thank god I’m an electrical contractor and traded work with him.

    4
  4. Too Late

    The ad says it was ” block sanded” What type of block did he use ? 4×4. A friend owns a body shop and from time to time informs me how much auto body paint and supplies cost these days. Even the special tape is expensive. In order to get a Mercedes type of paint job you’ll have at LEAST $2000 in material plus labor. He just finished painting my daughters dark blue Toyota Corolla. Removed both bumpers windshield ,all door glass , headlights , tail lights as well as all trim (door locks) etc. etc. What a lot of prep work. Thank god I’m an electrical contractor and traded work with him.

    1
  5. Saprkster

    $5000 paint job for a $5000 car , the math doesn’t work. Then start fixing the interior, then wheels , then . . . . . . . ., it just never ends.

    3
  6. Skorzeny

    It’s an automatic? I wouldn’t pay $500 for it.

    2
  7. PRA4SNW Member

    Can’t you buy a decent one for $10K? And even then, you would have to have at least that much in reserve to cover maintenance and repairs.

    3
  8. Chebby Member

    That terrible speaker box just says “Stay away”.

    5
    • Mike

      True that. The curb rash on the wheels and the cartoon sound system should tell you everything you need to know how it was treated. Movin’ on….

      4
  9. Mike

    Very nice examples of this model can be had from $8000 to $12000 your looking at 7-10 thousand on the cosmetics if you have no hidden problems…..save money buy a nice preserved cared for example in pristeen shape and enjoy driving it

    2
  10. Chuck F 55chevy

    My 1998 with 48k miles is a great handling car, good for long distance touring, but the doors are a bit of a pain for every day driving. (It’s a custom) It would be a good car for the do it yourself mechanic, the seven hydraulic fittings in the top mechanism usually need replaced at some point, $100 each for rebuilt ones.

    1
  11. Redragula

    Weren’t these originally 90-100k when new? I’m surprised they haven’t held some value

    • ccrvtt

      You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression, “There’s nothing more expensive than a cheap old Mercedes.”

      1
  12. chris

    Just sold one in near perfect condition with 80K miles on it. I had the original window sticker and every maintenance receipt for the car. This is a $1200 car tops, and I would not pay that.

  13. Miguel

    Hoovie bought an SL600 here for $5000.00

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FcRM-p4koo

  14. Doug M.(in Oregon)

    So, here’s a different story (kinda?): 2 years ago I bought a 92 MB 500sl parked, not running, a little abused, but in a nice color, and only 126k miles on it. I learned via the “first time learning curve” and found them to be quite easy to diagnose and repair thanks to $25 per-month mechanic advice on “Just Answers.” There were a number of little black controller boxes that kept blinkers, headlights, and other things from working, but I was able to diagnose them easily, and found all the parts new or used on Ebay for cheap. I did even rebuild two of the top’s hydraulic cylinders myself. Simple o-ring replacements for about $12. When done, I had a great driving car with awesome power and acceleration. Sold it on Ebay later for about $4500, and lost a little in the process. But what I learned was worth any money I lost on this first one. 6 months ago I found a 94 SL320 on CL, and bought it for $3,000. Has only 94k miles, black on black -and everything works!! It is an absolute joy to drive, and gets right around 20 mpg! I have only had to add tires and change a fuse… These are way undervalued for what they are! Better get one before they go up!

    1
  15. davew833

    This one being a 1995 probably has the infamous biodegradable wiring harness that Mercedes used in the mid-90s. Factor replacing that into the cost too.

    These are really at the bottom of the curve as far as their value goes. They might never come up much either.

    1

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