|Project Pseudo Sport - Part 1
During the late 80s and into the early 90s it was not uncommon for the owner of a 450SL or a 380SL to update their car to the later 560SL look by adding a trunk-mounted third brake light, front spoiler, larger wheels and tires, additional interior wood, 560SL nameplate, etc.
With the advent of the new generation R129 model 300 and 500SLs in 1990 that practice came to a stop for several reasons. Chief among them was the fact that the new series SL was significantly more expensive than the earlier SLs. Now that the oldest R129 models are 10 plus years old and they commonly sell for less than $30,000 a new breed of owner is emerging. These new owners are receptive to updating and modernizing their cars much like the 380 and 450SL owners did in years past.
The question thus arose, what could be done to improve and update a R129 series SL? To find out we purchased a used, but virtually showroom fresh, 1993 500SL with only 34,000 actual miles. After much contemplation I came to the conclusion that what the car needed to be considered more up-to-date was not that much different from the modifications that had been done to the previous generation SL.
A ground effects package and rear spoiler, plus two tires and wheels, suspension modifications, a performance exhaust system and some freshening of the interior would be all that it would take. Basically the idea would be to try and emulate the very attractive look of a later model 129 when it is equipped with the factory Sport package while updating other elements of the car at the same time.
During the project we learned some interesting things, several of which could only have been discovered by hands-on involvement. The project has been broken down into three basic areas: interior, exterior and chassis.
Our first area of attention was the interior. Not much is needed, or can be done, to improve the modern interior of R129 model SLs. American Stitches of Mesquite, Texas (972-613-2914 or www.american-stitches.com) suggested recovering the original leather-covered factory steering wheel. Because this is an airbag-equipped vehicle our steering wheel selection was limited and their suggestion was a good one. Not only did they recover the original wheel, they recovered it in a two-tone leather combination similar to an AMG factory wheel. The finished job was absolutely first rate and definitely served to freshen the interior.
About the only other interior update possible is a switch to white-faced gauges from the black-faced gauges that have been used since nearly the beginning of time in Mercedes-Benz vehicles. In case you havent noticed, all 1999 and newer SLs, as well as recent Mercedes specialty cars like the E55, C43, C36 and all SLKs, use white-faced gauges. NR Automobile Accessories of Sherman Oaks, California (818-986-8881 or www.nrauto.com) offer more than 200 applications of white-faced gauges including fitments for R107, W124, W126, R129, W140 and W201 chassis Mercedes vehicles. Coming soon are W202 and W210 applications.
The NR gauges (actually gauge faces) are not hard to install but they do require removing the instrument cluster from the dash. Since I didnt want to do more damage than good, I chose to let my mechanic, Kent Ayers, handle the installation and it went well. After years of looking at stock Mercedes gauges the white-faced effect is quite startling and attractive and makes a nice update.
Another area needing attention in the interior was the stock wood shifter surround on the console. The PO (previous owner) must not have been too careful in this area. I dont know if he used it as a resting place for his cell phone, sunglasses or what, but it had hundreds of fine scratches.
Madera Concepts of Santa Barbara, California (800-800-1579 or www.maderaconcepts.com) is run by Jeff Wayco, a good ole boy originally from Michigans thumb area, who relocated to California a few years ago. Among other things Madera is Jaguars Authorized Wood Warranty Center for North America.
With discretion once again being the better part of valor, I chose to have Kent remove my shifter surround. Quicker than you can say brand new, Madera had my piece of console wood restored to its original condition and back to me. The finished part looks absolutely perfect and is a nice improvement over the condition of the shifter surround when I purchased the car. Thanks to Madera Concepts for making the interior as nice as the exterior.
Satisfied with the interior, we move outside in the next issue as this project continues. Please join us then.