“You know what,” I often say to myself, “I’m really a Mercedes Man at heart.” This is an aspirational declaration, as I’m not actually sufficiently wealthy to afford the Benz that I want: manual, rear-wheel drive, with some power. Oh wait, I can afford that Benz. It’s just an SLK.
It’s easy to forget that you could get the original SLK with a manual, both with the supercharged 1.8-liter four and the 3.2-liter V6.
Heavy and comfy as these cars may be in comparison to, say, a Miata, they’re still neat cars and are aging rather well by my eyes. In comparison to today’s overstyled swooshes and things, the two-bars-of-soap styling of the retractable hardtop kinda works.
Plus, manual rear-drive Benz that’s not an old non-turbo diesel or a similarly sluggish 190E.
These things are still more expensive than they should be, but they are very much affordable. This 2002's Craigslist listing only asks for $4,000 and it’s with the six-speed and 3.2-liter V6.
Even this very nice 2001 supercharged four-cylinder SLK230 with under a hundred thousand miles is going for a max of five grand. The seller seems, uh, “motivated” as they’d say, if the listing is anything to go by:
HI, DECIDED TO SELL MY 2001 SLK230 , CAR CAS 98998 MILES, RUNS AND DRIVES SIMPLY PERFECT, NO MECHANICAL PROBLEMS AT ALL, EVERYTHING WORK AS IT SHOULD, CAR IS SMALL FOR ME, I AM 6'2, DO NOT FEEL COMFY, CLEAR TITLE IS ON MY NAME, CAR HAS 6 SPEED MANUAL TRANNY, LOT OF FUN TO DRIVE, TIME TO ENJOY SUMMER, THANX
When someone is telling you that they want their car gone in the listing, they want it gone indeed.
Now, finding an SL of this generation for five grand is also not hard, but those are pretty much all automatics, and the ones that are three-pedal are firmly in the Bring A Trailer side of the car world. For richer owners do they belong.
But the SLK is within a dream’s reach. The speed at which I would have this thing stripped and caged (and probably weld the diff) would make my head spin. That’s not a good idea for me. I don’t need that in my life. Please, buy these manual Benzes so I don’t have to.