|Project Pseudo Sport - Part 2
Faithful readers will no doubt recall the earlier installment of our Project Pseudo Sport article. For everyone else, here is a short refresher course. Project Pseudo Sport was conceived for the purpose of illustrating how a first generation R129 500SL (1990-1995) could be updated to have the appearance of the second generation R129 SL 500 (1996-2001). You say you didn't realize that there were two distinctly different versions of the same model? Well, neither did we.
Despite having a very similar shape during its 13-year model run, continuous changes were made to the R129 Series throughout its life span. None of the changes were more profound than in 1996 when not only many parts but also many assembly processes were changed. Take the front bumper cover for instance. Not only was the v-angle changed but also the method of attachment was modified. It is basically impossible to mount a 1996-2002 SL front bumper on a 1990-1995 SL.
Despite being actively involved with various SL models for the past 20 years we didnt know the above factoid, along with others, when we started this project. Additionally there was no place that this information was specifically spelled out. This was just one of many things that we learned along the way. All of the challenges served to extend the overall time needed for the project but the results were well worth the effort and expense.
Our original idea was to install the AMG Sport package components from a 1997 and newer SL on our 1993 project car. Of course, we only discovered our front bumper dilemma after we had obtained the new factory AMG bumper covers (800-367-6372 for name and phone number of nearest authorized Mercedes-Benz dealer) and traded our stock bumper covers to our favorite local body shop in exchange for the paint and labor on the new parts. Luckily, MBUSA came to our rescue. Tucked deep in their parts system were AMG bumper covers for the 1990-1995 SL. While these covers arent quite as sporty as the 1997 to 2002 style they were an improvement over stock and our only alternative as well.
This is when factoid #2 surfaced. While the 1997 and up AMG covers come with the mounting brackets, the 1990-1995 do not. We of course did not know this and innocently let our brackets go with our stock covers. Had we known this we could easily have kept ours or the ones that came of off the wreck that was being repaired with our original parts. Factoid #3 reared its ugly head when we discovered that MBUSA does not sell mounting brackets separately. To make a long story short we ended up purchasing a new set of stock 1990-1995 covers just to get the brackets and the roughly $2,000.00 worth of covers (minus brackets) still reside in our parts room.
With the bumper cover issue finally resolved we eagerly moved on to the side skirts. Here our original plan had been to purchase the twisted Sport rocker panels along with the later style front fender cladding. We thought the latest version of the front fender cladding would bolt right on and give us the later appearance side scoops. For once things went as planned and everything bolted up just fine after being painted.
That is until we closed the door and factoid #3 appeared. Amazingly, Mercedes had changed the door cut angle on the rear edge of the cladding even though both generations of the R129 use the same basic door. The end result was part of the inside showing on the outside when you closed the door. The end, end result was another $800 on ye olde American Express Card as we bought the door and quarter panel cladding so that everything lined up and matched. After conquering our bodywork demons at long last we completed the exterior by purchasing a trunk spoiler from Precision Auto Designs that was made in Italy (they are now Performance Products, 800-243-1220 or www.performanceproducts.com).
AMG does not offer a trunk spoiler for any of their conversion packages but my muscle car roots say that you need a trunk spoiler if you are going to look the part. Note that I said trunk spoiler and not trunk wing. I feel that the elevated rear wings do not compliment the purity of the original Mercedes design and it took some digging to locate a discreet trunk spoiler that complimented our overall package.
Troy Trepanier is one of this countrys premier custom car builders. When beginning any new project he first establishes The Stance and then proceeds from there. So, the first thing we needed to do was achieve our stance and that, to me, is slightly lower than stock all the way around with a little more taken out of the front. Fortunately H & R Special Springs (888-827-888) has just such a set available and there is no question about H & R's quality. They have been a supplier to the factory Mercedes racing team for several years now and their products can be found on the factory CLK DTM cars that compete in Europe.
One nice thing about the H & R street sport springs is that they do not hurt the ride quality when they lower the car. In fact, our first trip after completing the project was a 2,000 mile round trip drive to the Asheville, North Carolina. At no time did we pay a price in ride comfort for our improved good looks. Incidentally this is one area that we were able to improve on what the factory offers, even on their Sport version. Their ride height is not altered and the stock Sport package ends up looking a little tall for its wheels and tires.
Speaking of wheels and tires, we chose to duplicate the factorys 245/40ZR18 rolling stock that comes on the front of the Sport package. This was a Plus 2 upgrade over the original 225/55VR16 tires that came on the car came from the factory. Tire brands are the subject of intense personal preference but I feel that most modern, major brand tires are pretty equal. The chief differentiator left is tread pattern. After looking at all the available 245/40 tires I felt that the Sumitomo XTRZ II tire (903-887-8860) had the most progressive and attractive tread pattern.
While not as well known in the USA as some other countries, Sumitomo is the parent company of no less than Dunlop brand tires. We learned Sumitomo tires are available and respected around the world. We have been very pleased with the ride, traction and appearance of our Sumitomo tires.
We completed the chassis with a Supersprint stainless steel performance exhaust system that we obtained from Bekkers Import Corporation (800-624-5410 or www.bekkers.com) of Albany, Georgia. The Supersprint exhaust tone provides a nice sound under acceleration but is not annoying when driving normally down the road.
In the end our project took longer and cost more than we ever envisioned. But we learned a lot and the finished product was well worth the effort. Im sure youll understand if we wait awhile before undertaking another project.