Review and Test Drive: 1993 Mercedes-Benz 500SL Coupe/Roadster

By Jonathan Spira on 19 September 2017
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1993 Mercedes-Benz 500SL Coupe/Roadster

One of the most beautiful cars ever built arguably was the Mercedes-Benz SL coupe, which was introduced in 1954 as the 300SL, a model known for its distinctive gullwing doors. The legendary 300SL was developed specifically for the U.S. market as the result of a suggestion by legendary European automobile importer Max Hoffman.

Hoffman, whose home and his Park Avenue Mercedes-Benz showroom were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, was the son of a Rolls-Royce dealer in Vienna and was largely responsible for the success of multiple brands of European cars in the United States, most notably BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but also Volkswagen, Alfa-Romeo, and Porsche.

Fast forward to the late 1980s, where the successor to the 300SL Gullwing, the fourth-generation SL-Class (code-named R129), was introduced as a 1989 model. The 1993 500SL was the last to carry Mercedes’ older nomenclature scheme that placed the “SL” range designation, which stands for Sportlich-Leicht, (Sport Lightweight) after the number representing the engine displacement, in this case 500 for the 5.0-liter engine.

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We were invited to join a private collector who acquired a 1993 black/grey two-tone 500SL on a portion of his drive across the country to the car’s new home near San Antonio, Texas. It’s unusual for us to review a car that has been on the road for a quarter of a century and one that has been in production for over 60 years but we pounced at the opportunity.


The fourth-generation SL was designed by Bruno Sacco and Johann Tomforde. It featured many innovations for its time including the option of electronically controlled damping and a hidden, automatically extending rollover bar. It was the first fully automated convertible top in the industry, supplied standard with a detachable aluminum hardtop as well as an electro-hydraulically powered fabric folding roof. This is an SL that features modern technology and equipment designed in the pre-DaimlerChrysler days, where a vehicle coming out of the factory in Sindelfingen was built with uncompromising quality.

Click here to continue to Page 2Driving the 1993 Mercedes-Benz 500SL

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