There were a lot of R129 bodied SLs at the auctions in Scottsdale this year. I counted more than 15 at Barrett-Jackson alone.Most are SL500 V8 models, there are usually a handful of V12 600 models and almost all of them fall into the ‘ho-hum just a used car’ category in terms of condition, mileage and price at the gavel. So I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled across this exquisite 1997 SL320.
This is one of just 250 40th Anniversary 320SL models Mercedes-Benz built in 1997. All 250 of them were this Quartz Blue Metallic color with a navy blue soft top and grey leather interior with special ’40th Anniversary Roadster Edition’ floor mats and what Mercedes-Benz calls ‘Royal Maple Wood Trim’, a blue grey dyed maple wood that works well with the rest of the car. They also built a 40th Anniversary SL500 model for 1997 available in Crimson Metallic with Parchment leather, they produced twice as many V8 models, 500 total, making the 6 cylinder cars rarer.
This car was essentially a one owner example, originally purchased at Barrier Motors in Bellevue, WA. The auction company photos look like they were taken in a Mercedes-Benz dealership (given the strict decorating rules of the new ‘Auto Haus’ stores, I recognize the floor tile and shelving in the background of the photo. I couldn’t find any faults on the exterior of this car and it comes with full documentation regarding ownership and a robust service history, despite the few miles on the odometer, just under 37,000.
The description page taped to the inside of the windshield boasts that this car received ‘First Place’ at a local MBCA show and Shine in Washington in August of 2013… while that doesn’t mean all that much, it certainly can’t hurt… someone else thought it was a pretty nice example of the SL320 too. These are delightful cars to drive, they get good gas mileage and have gone largely unnoticed over the years as so many people think they ‘need’ the V8 in their SL. I wrote an extensive review about the SL320 which you may care to refer to if you’re interested in learning more about them, here is a link to that article on the SL Market Letter website.
This car sold at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale sale in January 2014 for $18,150 including buyer’s premium. That’s as much as I’ve seen just about anyone pay for an SL320 recently, but I don’t think the buyer overpaid if they intend to keep the car for the long term. Production numbers of the R129 series SLs reaches well into the six figures, they will never be ‘rare’ cars as a series. When they do begin to be recognized as more than ‘just used cars’ – which I believe is happening now – the best survivors will be the only cars worth collecting. While the 40th Anniversary edition isn’t much more than a special color and one off wood trim, it is something that will differentiate this car from others in the R129 series… the same could be said of the R129 series ‘Silver Arrow’ edition cars. If there is going to be a ‘collectible’ R129 in the future, my guess is that these will be the cars… remember, condition and originality will be the determining factors of these cars as collectibles.
Hopefully this car will see occasional Mercedes-Benz Club use on nice days in the Spring and Summer and remain a well maintained example. As long as it’s used sparingly in the future and well cared for, the depreciation curve should stop free falling on this particular example.