The Mercedes-Benz R129 SL (1990 - 2002)

 

Helpful information

Technical manuals

 

These are the original owner's manuals in PDF format. They have everything the real manual has.

To save these to disk, right click the links and pick "Save Target As..."

 

Manuals in English Handbücher in Deutsch
1990 Operator Manual Modelljahr 1991-1992-1993
1991 Operator Manual Modelljahr 1996
1992 Operator Manual Modelljahr 1997
1993 Operator Manual Modelljahr 1998 Exterieur
1994 Operator Manual Modelljahr 1998 Fahren
1995 Operator Manual Modelljahr 1998 Interieur
1996 Operator Manual Modelljahr 1998 Technische Daten
1997 Operator Manual Modelljahr 1999 Exterieur
1998 Operator Manual Modelljahr 1999 Interieur
1999 Operator Manual Modelljahr 1999 Technische Daten
2000 Operator Manual Modelljahr 2000
2001 Operator Manual Modelljahr 2001
2002 Operator Manual

 

More technical manuals. I recently added the ADS II manual which will be useful if you have an SL600.

Radio manual (First generation)
Radio manual (Second generation)
Radio manual (Second generation)
Radio manual (Third generation)
Upgraded Becker unit - find more information about this unit by clicking here
Bose® sound system in the Mercedes-Benz SL

Shop manual for ADS II - Notes from BenzWorld member chriswufgator :
     "The WIS is woefully incomplete regarding this system, as is alldata. For the most part, ADS-I diagrams and components are shown, and are mis-labeled as ADS-II. This creates a huge problem with shops not knowing what they're doing. Even the bleed points shown in WIS are not accurate."
     "Steve Brotherton was apparently aware of a german-language version of this thing and managed to track the english one down, so now I have come into possession of the entire 162-page ADS-II factory manual. This material is pre-labeled for insertion in WIS, and was apparently slated for inclusion, but for whatever reason MB never actually did put it in. So accordingly, 95%+ of this is not found in WIS."

Service videos

 

    The videos are part of the R129 Infoaccess Course (part number: TT-2806-CD). This course was released to the public by Mercedes-Benz USA around the year 2003; You can download the full training course (which includes all of the videos) from here:
http://www.mercedestechstore.com/r129.htm

 

If you have any doubts, you can do a WHOIS lookup on the domain above to verify that it's owned by Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC.

 

The removable hard top

 

Roll bar and hydraulics

 

Seats

 

Dash removal

 

Doors

 

Disassembling the soft top

 

Other information

References (online)

 

Articles

Official Daimler Global Media Site for the R129 SL
Mercedes-Benz R129 SL-Club e.V. : TECHNISCHE DATEN Technology car: the 129 series (1989 to 2001) R 129 (1989 to 2001) "1989: Heart flutter or fascination at its best" by ourSL.com
"A Day in History: The 1989 Mercedes-Benz SL R129 series" by Muamer Hodzic (2009)
"Mercedes-Benz History: The R 129 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class" by Chris Danielson (2010)
"1990-2002 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class: Full Review" by Consumer Guide (2009)
"R129 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class History" by Pace Motors
"1990 - 2002 R129 Mercedes SL500 Historical Summary" by Ken Rockwell (2006)

 

Forums or communities

These are great places to turn to to find information and meet people with similar cars.

Mercedes-Benz Club of America - SL Class (R129)
BenzWorld.org Forums - R129 SL Class
MBWorld.org Forums - SL Class (R129)
129SL Forum (in German)
R129-Forum (in German)
The official R129 club (in German)

 

YouTube Videos

Mercedes-Benz SL-class R129 Development (in German)
Mercedes-Benz SL-class rollover on highway
155 MPH - Mercedes V12 Highspeed driving, road cam and speed
Picture slideshow of the R129 (contains explicit music)

 

Frequently asked questions

These are links which have answers to frequently asked questions. The links direct you to online forums with information.

BenzWorld.org - Important useful archived topics
How to buy the service manual on DVD
Beware of scammers when buying a panoramic hardtop; click here for more
Everything you want to know about the panoramic hardtop
Secrets of the R129
Not sure which to buy? SL500 vs SL600
6 Cylinder US Models
Beware of wiring harness on models manufactured 1993 -1995
Ordering / installing AMG Pedals
Wheel sizes with ETs (offsets)
Replacing the center vent backlighting
Manually removing hard top and operating soft top
Rear View Mirror Removal Instructions
Description of the AC vent unit
Door panel removal for 99 - 01
Trip Computer (the one in the eyeglasses case)
How the roll-over bar works
SL (R129) accessories
R129 Series Reference Materials

Books

 

Andrew Noakes (2004). Mercedes SL Series: The Complete Story. The Crowood Press. Pages 125-148.

 

Magazine articles

 

Mercedes-Benz Classic

Hermann Ries (2009, Fall). Simply beautiful. Mercedes-Benz Classic. Pages 76-79.

 

The Star

<%-- Author, I. N. (Year). Title of the article. Title of the Journal or Periodical, volume number, page numbers. --%> [Uncredited] (1989, January / February). World Premiere For New SL. The Star, Volume 34, Number 1, Page 21.
Michael Cotton (1989, May / June). New SL Stars at Geneva Auto Show. The Star, Volume 34, Number 3, Pages 48-51.
Frank Barrett (1989, July / August). 1990 300SL & 500SL. The Star, Volume 34, Number 4, Pages 22-29.
Frank Barrett (1989, November / December). Mercedes-Benz for 1990............. The Star, Volume 34, Number 5, Page 36.
Frank Barrett (1992, November / December). 600SL Leads 1993 Models. The Star, Volume 37, Number 6, Pages 46-47.
Frank Barrett (1993, January / February). Truly Grand Tourers, The V12 Coupes & SL. The Star, Volume 38, Number 1, Pages 34-37.
Ian Fraser (1996, May / June). Driving 40 Years of Big SLs (Part II). The Star, Volume 41, Number 3, Pages 48-51.
[Uncredited] (1997, May / June). Factory News. The Star, Volume 42, Number 3, Pages 36-37.
Jim McCraw (2000, July / August). SL600 Nearly Grabs One Lap of America. The Star, Volume 45, Number 4, Page 42.
Brian Clifton (2010, July / August). Buyers' Guide - R129 Roadsters. The Star, Volume 55, Number 4, Page 56.

 

Mercedes Enthusiast

David Sutherland (2006, January). Black beauty. Mercedes enthusiast, Issue 51, Pages 58-65.
Tim Slade (2006, April). Macho Man. Mercedes enthusiast, Issue 54, Pages 46-51.
Ian Kuah (2007, June). Original Sinner. Mercedes enthusiast, Issue 68, Pages 36-40.
Eric Richardson (2009, March). First In Line. Mercedes enthusiast, Issue 89, Pages 36-42.
David Sutherland (2010, August). V Almighty. Mercedes enthusiast, Issue 106.
Chris Eckermann (2011, March). A Green Dream. Mercedes enthusiast, Issue 113, Pages 96-97.
Karl Middelhauve (2011, May). Dream Come True. Mercedes enthusiast, Issue 115, Pages 86-88.
David Sutherland (2011, July). More Than Metal. Mercedes enthusiast, Issue 117, Pages 66-70.

Handy part numbers

 

Lighting on the center AC vent

Sooner or later, the lighting in your center AC vent is going to go out. These lights specifically light up the white lines over the vent adjustment knobs and the blue push button on the vent. Instead of replacing the bulbs, the dealer suggested I replace the unit at a cost of over $1000. It took me some digging, but I found the replacement part number for the bulbs. There are two bulbs (see picture) and a third bulb if you take the unit out (this lights up the arrow on the push button for the eyeglasses case).
This part costs about $1.00 each. Here is the part number:
002 544 02 94

One reader sent in a note regarding this part... Part number has been changed to 072601012230. He also notes that this part may not fit 1990 - 1992 models.

 

AMG pedals

You can easily upgrade the appearance of your R129 by installing genuine AMG Pedals. I was made aware of this by BenzWorld.org R129 forum moderator Lynns. The emergency brake and brake are both essentially covers you can slip off to replace. The accelerator is easily swappable also.

These parts cost around $45.00. Here are the part numbers for all three pedals:
A 170 290 01 82
A 230 430 00 84 64
A 170 300 00 04

 

European Headlamps

In the US, unless you have the projection headlamps, your car will come with ugly ADOT compliant headlamps. There's a plastic bezel around the entire lamp that looks stupid and the actual quality of the lights are horrible. It's very difficult to see at night time.

Good news it that it's easy to swap these out. I printed out the job from the service manual and it took me about 2 hours. You can buy the parts from Adsitco, click here to view them.

Update: these headlamps are no longer available from Adsitco

 

 

STAR Classic Service Manual Library

When in doubt, you can order the official R129 STAR Classic Service Manual Library on DVD. You’ll need a Windows machine to browse the content. When you pop the DVD in, you can see step-by-step instructions for removing or replacing parts. For the folks that aren’t scared of buying genuine parts and doing service themselves, this is a must have. This DVD is good for US models 300, 320, 500, and 600.

This cost approximately $88.00. The part number is:
P-2700-129-07

This DVD is no longer available from MBUSA. However, the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center now has inventory on hand. Please contact the Classic Center at 1-866-MB-CLASSIC(1-866-622-5277).

 

Wheels and their names

 

 

Buyer's Guide

 

Introduction

 

    The R129 is the fourth generation of the SL and is my favorite of the series. The 300SL Gullwing and 300SL roadster are beautiful, but they are a bit old for my tastes and I also don’t have pockets deep enough to buy (or maintain) them. The 113-Pagoda and 107-body SL are without doubt classics... but they don't have a lot of power and I think they are dated in many ways. I believe the 129-body SL offers a great compromise between power, modern technology, and the comfortable cruising you’d expect from an SL.

 

    Before I jumped in and bought an R129, I looked quite a bit at the 230-body SL. I don’t like the look of the body style as much as the R129, but they do feature a retractable hardtop. Through all my searching, I’ve found there are several advantages the R129 has over the R230:

  • You can actually fit golf clubs in the trunk; I’ve actually managed to fit two full golf bags in there! You’d have a hard time squeezing a cooler into an R230.
  • The panoramic roof option on the 129-body is amazing; it offers ridiculously large views of the sky, much bigger than the panoramic roof on the R230.

 

    With later V8 models which feature the M113 engine, you also have a lot of supercharging options. It’s essentially the same engine as what’s in the R230 until the SL550 came out for model year 2007.

 

    This guide is my attempt at helping folks who love the R129 or are interested in buying one. I've collected information from various sources and wrote most of the guide myself. Bud Cloninger, MBCA Desert Stars section President and owner of MB Motors here in Phoenix Arizona, has also helped a lot by contributing content. I've tried my best to note where credit is due.

 

    I hope you all will find this information useful. If you have any feedback, please contact me. Thanks for taking the time to check this out!

- Brian

Things to note when you are examining the car

 

    So you finally find a car in the newspaper, online, or for sale at a dealership. Here are the most important things to keep in mind while you are examining the car.

 

Does the car have a wiring harness issue?

    If the car is model year 1993, 1994, or 1995 more than likely there was or will be a wiring harness issue. It’s a known problem but a recall was never issued. Repairing this can cost several thousand dollars (unless you do it yourself; parts cost roughly $500 - $700). If you are considering a 1993 - 1995 model year and can’t verify if the harness was replaced, take the car to a good Mercedes-Benz mechanic. Someone that has worked with these cars a lot should be able to quickly tell and give an estimate if the harness needs replacement.

 

Does the car have a wind protection screen?

    Starting with model year 1993, the wind protection screen (also called a “draught-stop”) is standard equipment. The windscreen snaps onto the roll bar and helps provide a super quiet ride when you have the top down. If the car has one you’ll find it in the trunk. Pop the trunk and you should see a compartment held by 3 straps. Un-strap those and you should see the windscreen, hopefully in good shape.

 

Does the car have a removable hard top?

    If the car you’re looking at does not have a hard top, you will have to find one that fits. The roofs for all R129s are not entirely interchangeable. Late model SLs have a much larger seal around the A-pillars and windshield surround.

 

Does the car have a panoramic roof?

    You’ll notice the very top is black and the rest is body colored. If the car is black, you’ll probably have to jump in to notice. Regardless, you can tell the difference in the hard tops from the outside. The panoramic roof has a more round and much smoother shape to it. Having the roof from the beginning is a huge plus; Buying the roof afterwards can cost anywhere from $500 - $2500 and you may have to match the paint and interior after that. I am not positive, but I think the panoramic roof is only compatible on model year 1995+ because of the seals.

 

 

The soft top and rollover bar (by Bud Cloninger)

    When you look at the car you should always work the soft top and rollover bar several times and check for hydraulic leaks at the front A pillars by the visors and at the pistons that lift the top and soft top boot. In my experience the tops that are not exercised occasionally have a better chance of leaking.
    You can tell if the soft top is original by examining it; when you look close, you should see a checkered pattern. You can also test to make sure the soft top still works well by trying to pour some water on it and see if any water makes its way through the plastic window. The canvas top comes in two pieces and just the rear with the plastic windows can be replaced if needed.

 

Wiring for high mounted stoplight and alternator harness (by Bud Cloninger)

    Check the high mounted stop light (the 3rd brake light) for function. If it does not work there is most likely an open in the wires at the right side trunk hinge. In two cases I have found the brake lights were stuck on because of a “short” had a cured instead of an “open” at the trunk hinge wires, and it melted wires together way into the wire loom up by the drivers left foot rest.
    Also have found on early V8 cars the alternator wire harness can chafe on heat shields when the engine mounts are collapsed from age. This can lead to serious alternator and electronic control unit failures from voltage spikes and short circuits.

 

Does the car have any non-standard packages?

    The SL600 includes should include all options standard. If the headlights aren’t Xenon, maybe they were replaced because of an accident. For other vehicles, you’ll want to see if any packages were included. There are two main packages: SL1 package which features an AMG body kit (bumper, side skirts) and 18 inch AMG alloys with sport tires. The SL2 package offers Xenon headlights and heated seats.

 

Is the car a special edition?

    There are several different special editions of the 129-body SL. These could significantly affect the long term value of the car. It’s possible the owner doesn’t know what they have. Here is a list of the editions to keep an eye out for: Mille Miglia Edition, Designo Edition, 40th Anniversary Roadster Edition (1997), Special Edition (1998), Final Edition (2000), SL Edition (2000), Silver Arrow Edition (2002).

Click here to read more about the different special editions.

 

Is the car an AMG model?

    Inspect the car closely, because it’s easy to buy AMG badging and put it on the car, and it’s easy to buy AMG wheels. An AMG is distinguished by its hand-built engine with a distinctive serial number a badge on the engine signed by the builder. There are only four types of AMG-modified SLs and they are rare. The SL55 (65 units made), the SL60 (633 units made), the SL70 (150 units made), and the SL73 (42 units made). Most of these cars live in Europe. Keep in mind that only 204,940 total units of the R129 SL were made so the AMG models are extremely rare and valuable. If the buyer is questionable, most likely it’s not really an AMG original.

Chronology

 

1994 models...

were the first to have the new designation. For example, 500 SL is now SL 500.

1996+ models...

featured minor facelifts for the car:

  • V8 and V12 upgraded to 5 speed electronic transmission; previous transmission was hydraulic 4-speed
  • Bumper and side panels are now body color
  • Grill now only has 6 slats instead of 7
  • Front fender vents updated; only 2 rounded slots, rather than 3 squared slots
  • Panoramic roof is now an option
  • Xenon HID headlamps standard on SL600, optional on SL500
  • Clear front turn signal indicators
  • Addition of side airbags

1997+ models...

featured:

  • A new front-seat occupant-detection sensor could deactivate the right-side airbag when it determined that the passenger seat held less than 26 pounds
  • "Sport" package became an option
  • Automatic rain-sensing windshield wipers standard
  • Three-way programmable garage door opener "HomeLink" transmitters built into the rear-view mirror
  • Replaced the earlier climate control panel with one with a much larger LCD
  • Remote control uses dual infrared (IR) and radio (RF) control

1999+ models...

featured a second facelift occurred for models which included:

  • V8 engine switch from M119 to M113
  • Body color door handles
  • Side mirrors in the SLK style
  • Soft Nappa leather seats replace the perforated leather seats
  • Tail lights with curved faces replacing the classic square stepped lights
  • New engine vanity cover
  • Instrument cluster now has chrome rings around each gauge
  • Fiber-Optic digital audio links to the CD player instead of analog copper
  • 17-inch wheels standard: Wheels are now 8.25 x 17" with 245/45ZR17 tires. Sport package is 8" (front) or 9" (rear) x 18" with 245/40 (f) and 275/35 (r) tires.

Useful statistics

 

Breakdown of units produced

 

Total models

ModelMotorCylinders / ValvesPerformanceChassisProduction# Made
SL 280M104 E28I6 / 24193 hp129.0587/1993 - 6/199810,319
SL 280M112 E28V6 / 18204 hp129.0596/1998 - 6/20011,704
300 SLM103 E30I6 / 12190 hp129.0603/1989 – 6/199312,020
300 SL-24M104 E30/2I6 / 24231 hp129.0613/1989 - 6/199326,984
SL 320M104 E32I6 / 24231 hp129.0636/1993 – 6/199832,223
SL 320M112 E32V6 / 18224 hp129.0646/1998 – 7/20017,070
500 SL
SL 500
M119 E50V8 / 32326 hp129.0663/1989 – 6/199879,827
SL 500M113 E50V8 / 24306 hp129.0686/1998 - 7/200123,704
600 SL
SL 600
M120 E60V12 / 48394 hp129.0767/1992 – 5/200111,089
Total204,940

 

AMG models

ModelMotorCylinders / ValvesPerformanceChassisProduction# Made
SL 55 AMGM113 E55V8 / 24354 hp129.0685/1999 - 7/200165
SL 60 AMGM119 E60V8 / 32381 hp129.0679/1993 - 12/1995164
SL 60 AMGM119 E60V8 / 32381 hp129.0674/1996 - 5/1998469
SL 70 AMGM120 E70V12 / 48496 hp129.0761997 – 2000150
SL 73 AMGM297 E73V12 / 48525 hp129.0764/1999 - 5/200142
Total890

 

Transmission Details

For the inline 6 engines

  • 300SL/300SL-24/SL280: 5-speed manual gearbox, 4-speed automatic optional
  • 300SL-24/SL280: 5-speed automatic optional from 1989
  • SL320: 5-speed automatic standard

 

For the V6 engines

  • SL280: 5-speed manual gearbox, 5-speed automatic optional
  • SL320: 5-speed automatic standard

 

For the V8 / V12 engines

  • 4-speed automatic standard, 5-speed automatic standard from 1996.

 

What models are available here in the USA?

All of the cars listed above did make it here to the US with the exception of the SL280 and the 12 valve 300 SL. Also note that starting with model year 1998, 6-cylinder models were no longer offered here in the US.

A mechanics take on the R129 (by Bud Cloninger)

 

    Now I have been dancing around a 129 car without much comment, the V12 Roadster. First off let me say that all comments are from a mechanics point of view.

    The V12 is a car that “only a mother could love”. The early 129 V12’s were very problematic from an emissions stand point (ck engine light). These cars were a never-ending source of work for my shop. Not to say I made any money (because I didn’t) but they sure kept me busy! From wire harness problems to oil leaks it was just a bad design. Now don’t get me wrong from the driver’s seat this is one of the most awesome cars in the world … when all is right. The feeling of acceleration from 30 mph to 90 mph is the same as from 90 to 140 mph! This car pulls hard though-out any speed range and the 129 chassis handles it well!

    Now I will mention just a few of the problems this car will have. Oil leaks are a problem. Because the 120 engine shares the same right bank cylinder head configuration with it’s little brother the 104 engine it stands to reason it should also have the same oil leak, the front cover. After a while if left unattended it will soak the right side of the engine ruining the alternator and any coolant or air hoses in the vicinity. The intake manifold will have to be removed to get to the valve cover gaskets to remove the front cylinder head cover. Updated intake gasket spacers will be needed along with just about every rubber air or crankcase vent hose and all vacuum hoses. Oh and did I mention that you have to disconnect the engine wire harness from al the sensors and injectors? Wow, look at all those cracked wires. Now that’s just one oil leak. I normally refer to the check engine light as “my friend”, but on the 1992 though 1995 V12 it is my worst enemy. From plugged EGR ports in the intake manifold to carbon fouled air injection ports in the cylinder head, there is always a place to start and never a place to end. If you are thinking of buying any V12 you had better be willing to devote allot of resources into keeping it in good shape. You can now find these cars for under 10k so don’t be fooled into thinking your getting a good deal. Now remember this is from a mechanics point of view, I can only imagine the owners.

Just some random thoughts,

- Bud

Translations of this guide

 

This guide has turned out to be popular! Here are links to the guide translated...

 

Italian (Italiano) - SL R129 - Guida all'Acquisto

Traduzione di Davide Cantone

Clicca qui per scaricare in formato PDF

Clicca qui per discutere di questo tradotto guida

 

If you'd like to translate any of this content, please feel free to do so. You can also contact me and I'll post a link here to your translation.

 

Special Editions

 

Silver Arrow

 

2002 - 1550 units total

    Special edition of 2002 SL 500/SL 600 made to celebrate the race car with the same name (from 1930). Two-tone interior leather on steering wheel and seats, special wheels, etc. For the US market, only 1550 Silver Arrow units were produced; 100 units of the SL600 and 1450 units of the SL500.

    This edition has special Silver Arrow ultra-metallic paint; fully-lined black soft top; brushed aluminum instrument cluster; black bird's eye maple wood trim; and aluminum trim on the wind deflector, shift gate, pedals, grille and trunk lid. In addition, unique mechanical components include: 2 piece six-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels; factory cross-drilled brake rotors front and rear; Xenon headlights; a six-disc CD changer; and an aluminum briefcase delivery kit. The SL 600 Silver Arrow received black leather upholstery with silver perforations, a combination leather/black bird's eye maple steering wheel and shift knob, plus a Panorama hardtop and multi-contour sport seats.

 

Read more about the Silver Arrow edition at OurSL.com

 

The aluminum briefcase delivery kit

Mille Miglia

 

1995, 1999, 2000, 2001 - unknown units total

    In 1995 Mercedes released the Mille Miglia edition, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Stirling Moss's win of the 1955 Mille Miglia road race. The limited edition was available in either SL320 or SL500 guise, came in Brilliant Silver metallic, and had Evo II six-spoke polished alloys, red and black leather interior, carbon-fiber trim and extra equipment. Stirling Moss was given the first Mille Miglia edition SL500 built.

 

Read more about the Mille Miglia edition at BenzWorld.org

Read about the SL320 version at BenzWorld.org

 

Mille Miglia

Special edition

 

1998 - 500 units

SL edition

 

2000 - 708 units

Final edition

 

2000 - 674 units total

Final edition

40th Anniversary edition

 

View photos of the 40th Anniversary SL320

La Costa edition (info courtesy of oursl.com)

 

    The "La Costa" SL was constructed in 1997 to commemorate Mercedes-Benz's sponsorship of the "Mercedes Championship" PGA golf tournament at the La Costa Resort and Spa played January 6-10, 1997.

    Announced January 10th, 1997, the $5,000 package included the AMG "Sport" package; special calypso green paint; black and calypso green leather; special badging and gearshift insert; eucalyptus wood trim; custom floormats; heated seats, Xenon headlamps and multi-contour seats.

 

View photos of the La Costa edition

 

La Costa edition

Formula One edition

 

2001 - 20 units total

    Commemorates Mercedes-Benz returning to Formula 1. Many of the details that went into the Silver Arrow are present on this edition.

    Silver Arrow paint color; F1 Edition side markers; Perforated black and silver seat cushions; Shift lever and steering wheel in contrasting Silver and Black; Silver painted "wood trim"; Stainless Steel grill; Silver (grey) soft top.

 

Read more about the Formula One edition

 

Formula One edition