Mercedes R129 300SL Manual Transmisson
I know, it sounds crazy… a manual transmission… in a Mercedes… in the U.S.? There sure weren’t very many in the 1980s and even fewer in the 1990s. How about a manual transmission in an R107? Nope, not in the U.S., unless it was a grey market import. But… for a few years, early on in R129 SL production and just for the 300 SL 6 cylinder cars, they were available in the U.S.
The question as to how many were produced world wide is often asked, and people always want to know how many made it to the U.S., or at least, how many were sold new in the U.S. I happen to have a copy of a fax from the late 90s that answers that very question… how many manual transmission R129 SLs were sold in the U.S.?
A friend of mine from the Mercedes Club in Minneapolis happens to own a 1990 300 SL with a manual transmission. When I was visiting Minneapolis in May to attend the Intermarque Spring Kick Off Car Show I looked at a card he had printed up for his car. One of the lines about the car read “There were very, very few manual transmission version produced, and fewer yet for the American market.”
I told him I had written information from Mercedes-Benz of North America quantifying the number of manual transmission 300 SLs sold in the U.S., I just had to find it. After some looking through one of my old ‘Mercedes Reference” files… I found it. Two pages of a three page fax, sent, to a Mercedes enthusiast I met through my work as editor of SL Market Letter. He happened to own a manual transmission R129 and wrote MB North America in the late 90s to inquire about production and sales numbers. I fuzzed out names and phone numbers for privacy. White the date shows as ’11-4-58′ it was really ’11-4-98’.
So there you have them… by year, U.S. sales of Mercedes R129 cars with manual transmissions.
1990 – 130 units
1991 – 242 units
1992 – 25 units
1993 – 0 units
Notice the last line of the fax, under the sales numbers, “Should hopefully have an answer regarding worldwide production for the above models yar by the end of the week.” Unfortunately, I don’t have those numbers… or I need to look closer.
What does this mean for future values and collectibility? The early R129 cars aren’t the cars that generally bring the most money today and probably won’t be in the future. The manual transmission cars however, will always have a special place in the value scale. If a perfect example with super low miles were stashed away somewhere, and I’m sure a couple of them were, someday, when they see the light of day again, they will probably demand a price premium over the tens of thousands of other R129 cars equipped with automatic transmissions. Along with the SL 320 and SL 500 Special Edition cars from 1997 and the 2002 Silver Arrow cars, the manual transmission 300 SLs from th first few years of R129 production probably have the best potential for future collectibility and price appreciation. It might take a couple of decades, but it probably will happen.