Proving Just How Modern Classics Can Be In A 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL500
Story and photography by Sangrok Kim
Ever since I was six years old, my enthusiasm towards cars has never stopped. Seoul, which is the city where I was born and grew up, is not the best place to spot great cars. However, that didn’t stopped me from being patient and determined to seek out the ones that were hiding out there somewhere.
To fulfill my desire for the kinds of cars I rarely had the luck to see, I always went to underground parking lots with some of my friends after our classes were over. We spotted some great cars doing this, and I was amazed and captivated by their designs—of particular interest to me was the Shelby Cobra that I’d come across one day. I can still remember that moment where the reflection of the dim underground spotlight beautifully flowed up through its fender.
As time passed by, I needed to choose what my major was going to be, and I didn’t wanted to separate that important part of my life from cars. Without doubt, I chose my dream, and decided to pursue becoming an automobile designer. Currently, I am in Detroit at the College for Creative Studies, or CCS, as a student in the Automotive Design department.
After I came to America for college, I found out that lots of modern classic cars were actually affordable. However, since I am a college student, I needed to consider the insurance cost, maintenance, and everything else against my budget… and that was when the Mercedes SL500 came to my mind. It is a great modern classic car with nice power from its V8 motor, and all of this with a surprisingly moderate cost of maintenance.
Also, it is a hardtop convertible; the primary reason I bought this, is because it’s just undeniably beautiful! After a month of searching for the right car, I decided to buy this SL500, and I came back to Michigan from Ohio with a 2002 Firemist Red example of the car I’d been so taken with.
More specifically, the main reason I chose this car was the ‘80s-‘90s vibe it has going on. Like all the Mercedes I saw in Miami Vice, this one has got luxurious styling, and Mercedes’ stylish, edgy design caught my eye. Also, lots of Movies during the 1990s, like Color of Night with Bruce Willis, featured this car as an icon of success and extravagant lifestyle. These traits just made me fall in love with this car. Driving what is today a modern classic and what was yesterday the pinnacle of modern luxury.
In my case, that car is an 2002 SL500 with the AMG package (which came standard for 2002 SLs), in Firemist Red. I am currently keeping everything—even the audio system—stock. It is in amazing condition even though the car was daily driven by its first owner, ending up with its current 239,000 mile reading on the odometer.
The more experienced nature of my car does nothing to take away my enjoyment of it though. First and foremost, this car, every time I ride in it, gives me that “back-to-the-1990s” feeling that I always find so enjoyable to be able to access on a regular basis. Secondly, it is so quiet on the inside; it’s so impressive that people can talk in a normal tone while driving at 80 mph down the highway with the roof off. Also, it is very smooth and agile at the same time. Whether it is in the corners or on a arrow-straight road, the SL500 has the chemistry that gives true driver satisfaction.
My favorite times in my SL come from driving my car to downtown Detroit, where I can see the lively city. When the top is down, I can feel cool wind breezes coming in to meet me in the comfortable leather interior, bolstering my wish to drive this car to California one day, where it is always warm!