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Old 08-06-2017, 09:08 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: NH
Posts: 2
Counsel needed: Please help me pick between a 99 or 98 SL500 R129

Hi, I am longstanding member of this wonderful forum and am looking for R129 owners to help me better decide between two R129ís I have located locally. I have been searching the forums and reading up on the engine variation, soft top hydraulics etc. I understand there is no such thing as a cheap Mercedes from a maintenance perspective, hence being quite detailed in my findings thus far. Listing details below for both cars as I am a bit torn as to the one I should pick.

#1 1999 SL500, 89,650 miles

Black with black interior
AMG package and wheels
Black hardtop included
OEM Xenon headlight
Clean Carfax, 2 owners, the last owner had the car for 14 years, drove 5,808 miles a year
34 service records
Almost has had all yearly service done at local Mercedes dealer through 2015
In 2014, had the Maintenance inspection completed, Recommended maintenance performed, Air filter replaced,Serpentine belt replaced,Vehicle washed/detailed,Wiring repaired
In 2015, Brake rotor(s) replaced,Front brake pads replaced and Front brake rotor(s) replaced
All service records at the same Mercedes dealer since 2002
Other fixes at the dealership in 2002 through 2004 include: 2004 - Engine serviced,Harmonic balancer,Oil pan,Pulley tensioner,Seals/gaskets and Fluids/lubricants. 2002 - Computer(s) checked,Door locks checked,Electrical system checked,Fluids checked,Power steering checked,Power steering fluid leak checked,Power steering system serviced,Steering gear replaced and Vehicle washed/detailed

Test drive observations

Drives well, quiet cabin, good pick up and acceleration

Issues noted: Rearview mirror was shaky, the seat control module to move the driver side seat was broken and loose. Used the memory setting to move the seat forward, the center vents were not blowing any air (perhaps liked to the seat control module. The pop up area above the center vents is loose and does not close properly. I noticed some front end vibration so might need engine and transmission mounts or some front end suspension work. I plan to use it as a coupe so did not test the soft top mechanism. This will be tested during the PPI.

I liked the look of this car better and to me a Black Mercedes looks really sharp. The add on AMG package, wheels and xenon headlights give it a better look.

#2 1998 SL500, 76,800 miles

Silver with black interior
Silver hardtop included
Clean Carfax 3 owners, the last owner had the car for 10 years, drove 3,615 miles a year
13 service records
3 service records at local Mercedes dealer in 2014 and 2015

Test drive observations

Drives well and better than the 99 SL500 as there was no front end vibration or suspension related item, quiet cabin, good pick up and acceleration

Issues noted: Did not notice any issues. I plan to use it as a coupe so did not test the soft top mechanism. This will be tested during the PPI.

This car drove better, but looks plain compared to the 99 Black SL500.

My questions

Are the issues noted on the 99 SL500 major? I am not sure if the center vent issue is something that would warrant the whole dash being taken out.

What are some of the other item I should have specifically looked into as a part of the PPI?
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Old 08-07-2017, 06:51 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 7,149
A few things.

Other than checking mileage, ignore Car fax, it means nothing. Have the car inspected by a MB dealer. There is no substitute for an actual inspection by a shop.

If someone crashed the car and paid cash to fix, it won't always show up. And if something does show up, it can be wildly overstated. My 97 SL320 is car faxed with "Moderate rear damage" sometime prior to me getting it. The rear damage was a replaced rear bumper cover and a very shallow dent in the bottom of the spare tire well that I more or less pushed out by hand. I'd hardly call backing into the lawn mower moderate damage.

When I removed the front bumper cover to repair a tear, I found it had been repaired / painted 2X for minor bumps that never showed up on CF. ( Original paint + 2 more layers )

I don't know these year cars specifically but I don't think much if anything changed from 98 / 99. Google "Ken Rockwell Mercedes SL " He has lots of pics and a bit of yearly "whats changed" He is more a photographer that a car guy so some of the car info may be suspect. ( RE: listing the 63 Chevy Impala as the first 4 door "Coupe" The End of Mercedes when this was really called a "pillarless hard top" or just "hard top". I still have Moms 1956 Plymouth that is a 4 dr hardtop so that even predates the Chevy. )

Regardless of the car, giving it a preemptive reconditioning will reduce the number of random breakdowns. I change parts when they get towards the end of expected life not after they fail.

With nearly 100 K and 19 years, I'd expect to change: brake hoses , all coolant hoses , fan belt, spark plugs / wires / boots , filters , fuel pump , drive shaft discs for starters. Remove the front hubs and repack the bearings ( or just change them as they are cheap and you'd pay more in cleaning / inspection )

Lower ball joints on these cars tend to rust / lockup when the rubber boot fails so I'd have a look there. ( not expensive to change )

Upper strut mounts fail, but are not expensive to replace. ( If the car has self leveling / active shocks, the upper mounts are different and may be more $ )

Transmission shift bushings ( 2 of then ) come apart making for a floppy shifter, the parts cost almost nothing.

Transmission connector bushing / plug leaks internally and fluid wicks up the wires to the trans computer. This is cheap to fix.

Washer bottle pump grommet shrinks / leaks , parts cost almost nothing.

If you change the wiper blade, just get one from MB, the aftermarkets ones I've tried don't fit and the MB one was actually less $.

Now for the expensive stuff that more or less is let go until it fails:

The AC evaporator / heater core. This is a major dash out operation that is $$$$. I think the factory calls for 40 Hr labor.

Hard top / soft top hydraulic cylinders will end up leaking on ALL cars at this point regardless of mileage. If one is leaking the others will be in a short time. Buying new cylinders is big $ ( there are 11 to 12 of them depending on the year ) but replacement seals can be had from aftermarket vendors. Changing the seal isn't difficult, removing the cylinders is the time consuming part.

My system leaks but I leave my hard top on year round so no loss there. I did take it off to inspect / resew the soft top. There is a manual operation procedure that is simple so it isn't worth my time to fix the leaks.
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