“One could say I have a fetish for kitted-out cars from classic European tuners,” Edris told us when we asked why he purchased this R129 Mercedes-Benz 300SL. He already had a 1988 300CE with a Lorinser kit, beautiful wheels, and a well-set suspension. This one, though—this one ticked all the right boxes.
It’s hard to beat a car that has OEM clout like Mercedes and AMG have, especially in the 1980s and 1990s. They were the cars of celebrities, professional sports players, Wall Street millionaires, and of course, those of less than legal means of financial wealth. “I think the combination of OEM+ and the chrome and burgundy color is what makes it pop,” says Edris, “It looks like it came off a 90s New York City rap video or Pablo Escobar’s driveway.”
The body kit is all AMG, save for the Mercedes front bumper. It’s very hard to beat the looks that Benz created from the factory. With that clean, deep burgundy color, there aren’t cars today that equal the looks of this 300SL. Yeah, it’s not as aerodynamic as the latest R231 SL-class and doesn’t have the classic Gullwing pedigree of the original W198 300 SL, but it’s still a beautiful car for its time and still has the luxurious design that will make it timeless into the future.
The R129 was dreamed up in 1984, based off a shortened version of the W124 E-class sedans. A production version would eventually bow at the 1989 Geneva Motor Show. Despite that pedestrian base, it came with some features that were ahead of its time. It had adaptive suspension, an automatic roll bar that would pop up in the case of a rollover crash, and many other features. It even featured an electro-hydraulic cloth roof that would fold away with a color-matched tonneau cover and an detachable aluminum hardtop. However, even with those features, it kept its weight down to 3,970-pounds until the 1991 model year version.
The original wheels that came on it here in the US were 16x8 wheels with 225/55R16 tires, but those just wouldn’t do for the image Edris had in his head.
Nothing less than a set of three-piece, chrome AMG Aero “Hammer” wheels would work to meet the looks of the era he was aiming for. However, finding a clean set like these isn’t exactly easy or inexpensive. Even for their age, many of these wheels go for more money than a clean R129. The reason for their pricy nature is that they were forged out of aluminum by OZ Racing for AMG. The fronts measure out at 17x8.5 +18 enveloped by 245/40R17 tires, and the rears are 17x10 +17 with 275/40R17 tires. It was rare for OEMs to offer a three-piece wheel from the factory without being a supercar or exotic, but these Hammer wheels were made just for AMG models.
“The most important thing for me is to keep the vehicle true to its era and treasure the history behind it,” explained Edris. However, “Parts for these cars have become less available at the dealer,” he said, “and it’s made it difficult to update things like headlights, taillights, and tidbits. This has caused me delays in doing what I want with it.”
Inside, the OEM Mercedes-Benz seats feature color-matched piping. The phone on the center console matches the period-correct Alpine head unit.
Alpine car phones and matching head units were extremely expensive for many people during the 1990s. Nowadays, most of America has replaced its tape decks and CD player head units for ones that play music from our phones.
Owning old cars isn’t exactly easy, though. Anyone that owns a car that’s even 10-years old knows the trials and tribulations of owning it.
Engine parts break from time to time, electronics fail, and repair parts become harder to find when you own an older car. “Owning an old car is a love/hate relationship,” he says. “Some say you spend more time working on the car than you actually drive it. My high points are every time I drive it, my low points are every time I’d like to drive it, but I can’t because something’s not working.”
There is another side benefit of owning such a treasured car that’s in this excellent condition. “The first day I bought it, I drove down Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach, California. A seven- or eight-year-old kid was crossing the street with his family and yelled out, ‘sweet car!’ paired with a thumbs-up. That’s when I knew I bought the right car.” He adds, “The car has also made cameos in music videos, like Villain Park’s ‘We Out Here’ as well as used in props for brand photoshoots.”
Edris has more plans to improve the car, but subtly for the most part, “I have plans to refinish the wheels, install a set of Euro headlights, re-do the interior, and some paintwork.” Potentially, the most important part of this car is that, despite its age and how hard it is to find parts for it, “I would do it again and wouldn’t change a thing,” he says.
You can’t fault someone who has that type of gumption and stick-to-it attitude like Edris has for his 1990 Mercedes-Benz 300SL. It’s this type of love for a vehicle that brings us all together in the first place but seeing where it goes is what makes it all the more fun to witness.
Story by Justin Banner
Photos by Antonio Alvendia
If you like this 300SL, you can find additional Mercedes-Benz content at mercedes.fcpeuro.com, as well as more build features like this one here. If there's anything specific you would like to see, or if you have any questions/comments, leave them in the comments section below.
Antonio Alvendia is an aficionado of cameras, rare wheels, hip hop, and obscure aftermarket car accessories. He bought his first E39 Touring after seeing M5 Estates on photo trips to Europe, and now has sights set on restoring a classic Mercedes. Antonio was a principal photographer on the limited edition hardcover book on Singer Vehicle Design's Porsche 911 builds, entitled One More Than Ten. Future goals include returning to the Nurburgring to shoot the N24 race and driving the Nordschleife again. ••• Instagram : @MOTORMAVENS