2003 Mercedes AMG SL55

Engine: 5439cc V8, 24 Valve Supercharged
Max Power: 493HP (369KW) @ 6100 RPM
Max Torque: 516lb.ft (700nm) at 2650-4500 RPM 
Max Speed: 202mph (325km/h), some of them are restricted to 155mph.
0-60mph: 4.5 seconds

With the retirement of the Mitsubishi Pajero, I was looking for an interesting car to get me to work. I initially looked hard for a VW Golf R32 and was really tempted by a rare BMW 3 Series CSL. But I always had a hankering to own a V8. I test drove a Mercedes AMG CLK55, which I couldnt agree a price on, and a Mercedes AMG E55, which had dodgy suspension. The power of the AMG motors was intoxicating, so when I saw an SL55 at auction I had to go for it. The SL55 was billed as the worlds fastest convertible when it launched.

I have to say it was a big gamble. The car had been imported by a dealer but he was unable to register it, because it didn't comply with current exhaust emission standards. I had been through the whole torturous process before with the Renault Sport Spider, so I knew I could register it as a Special Interest Vehicle because it was a "relatively rare" sports car. The registration process was only difficult because the Land Transport office lost all my documentation and I had months of extra delay because of it.

I love the sound this car makes, its performance, the gadgets and most of all the retractable roof. It has crazy features like electrically adjustable leather seats, that are also heated and cooled and have a massage function. Many of the body panels like the bonnet, roof, wings, door and boot lid are made of aluminium to keep the weight down, but it still weighs nearly 2 tons. It has drive by wire throttle and brakes and even active hydraulic suspension.

SL55 side view

The issue with these Mercedes though is the number of things that go wrong and the price of the parts. There are a couple of active SL owners forums that are helpful on the web, and I have saved some money by buying parts overseas. I seem to be working my way through the list of things that regularly breaks according to the forums.

So far this has included:

  • Hydraulic cylinders for roof
  • Hydraulic pump for roof
  • Repairs to pneumatic system that closes boot
  • Boot hydraulic rams
  • Two batteries - engine and equipment, special sizes and price !
  • Alternator
  • Battery Management system
  • Trunk flaps and assembly for roof
  • Drive by wire accelerator pedal assembly
  • Brake operating unit (like a master cylinder but way more expensive)
  • Windscreen washer motor and jets
  • Windscreen
  • Supercharger and alternator belts
  • Supercharger belt tensioner and pulleys
  • Front brake disks and pads
  • Wheel bolts and centre caps
  • Front alloy wheel, it was leaking air
  • 5 tyres
  • Front floor mats - only $500

Apparently its relatively easy to squeeze even more power out of that amazing engine. New engine management software, replace the supercharger pulley with a smaller one and you can take it to more than 550HP. 

At the moment the engine warning light has come on again, probably the air mass sensor, the air conditioning isn't working and the keyfob remote doesn't always open or close the door locks. I'll get round to them when I can....