The year was 1984: Los Angeles was holding the Olympics, Ghostbusters was on the silver screen, and every American was asking the question, “where’s the beef?” But for automotive enthusiasts, 1984 was significant as it was the year the folks at Mercedes Benz began development of what would become their Halo-car for the entirety of the 1990s into the early 2000s.

Released in 1989, the R129 SL-class two-seater Benz was a significant step forward for the brand, showing the world that not only was Mercedes Benz a top-tier luxury car company, but could develop world-class sports cars that are second-to-none in performance and style. Featuring electronically-controlled dampening, engine options that offered as high as 525 horsepower, automatically extending roll bar, multi-link rear axle and so much more, the R129 was a significant technological marvel for its time, and a worthy successor for the uber-iconic R107 SL platform that the car was replacing.

However, while we could go on for pages about how great a car the R129 SL Benz was and how iconic it has become, today we will instead focus our attention on a very special R129 owned by renowned automotive journalist and YouTube sensation, Matt Farah. Matt is seemingly an equal-opportunity car nut, having owned a variety of cars cool cars including a DeLorean, Aston Martin Vanquish, R32 Skyline GT-R, a super-tuned Fox Body Mustang, a Ford Focus RS and a 90s Lexus LS that he hopes to see hit 1-million miles. With so many fun cars under his belt, Matt was looking for the ultimate daily driver/commuter car – something that was fun to drive in the canyons, yet comfortable enough to daily drive, and it just so happened that a 2001 Mercedes Benz SL 500 checked all the boxes.

Upon receiving the car, Matt expressed interest in updating the car’s audio system, but didn’t want to compromise any of the usable trunk space, as he would in fact be using the car for hauling lots of gear to shoots. Without hesitation, Clarion accepted the challenge and hooked his car up with a system that would take his driving pleasure to the next level while adding safety features.

Product List:

·      NZ503: Multimedia source unit with built-in navigation and single DIN motorized 7-inch high-resolution touch screen

·      Xc2510:  Micro 5/4/3 Channel Class D Amplifier

·      WG2520 x2: 1000-watt 10” Subwoofers

·      CC520: CMOS Vision Assist Camera

·      CCU002: Concealed License Plate Bracket for Rear Vision Camera

·      Custom subwoofer and amp enclosure  

To start things off, we swapped the car’s rather archaic single din AM/FM/Cassette with a Clarion NZ503 multimedia source unit with flip out touch screen. This head unit features hands-free Bluetooth calling and Bluetooth music streaming, Pandora connectivity, embedded navigation with 3D mapping, and 24-bit DAC for extremely high-quality music playback.

Ideal for Matt’s wants, the flip-out screen of the NZ503 need not always be out, as it also features a small LCD display on the outer edge of the display that gives radio information with buttons below the screen. This keeps the dash looking very clean. Taking advantage of the numerous inputs that the NZ503 offers, we added one of our CC520 Vision Assist cameras mounted to a CCU002 concealed license plate camera bracket, giving Matt full visibility of what’s behind his car while reversing.

As tempting as it was to go overboard with speakers, we chose not to replace the car’s full-range speakers and tweeters as they were top-of-the line factory options and in good working condition. Instead, we opted to boost the power delivered to them by installing Clarion’s XC2510 5-channel micro-size amplifier. The amp is very compact and easy to hide in even the most confined interiors, making it perfect for this car’s already cozy interior. The amp features 4-channel output plus dedicated subwoofer channel, and is 2-ohm stable, making this small amp more than powerful enough to drive the entire audio system, subs and all. Additionally, the amp’s crossovers allowed us to mitigate distortion risks by capping the low frequencies played over the speakers, protecting the factory speakers from being blown out down the road and ultimately making them sound better than they did from the factory.

For bass, Matt was vocal about not touching the trunk, so we had a custom subwoofer enclosure made that houses two Clarion WG2520 10-inch subs and fills the empty space behind the seats. Our friends at Beach Auto Sound in Huntington Beach did a stellar job of making the enclosure unobtrusive and look as if it could have come from the factory that way. They also grafted a custom enclosure for the amplifier with a removable bezel, so should Matt need to access the amplifier or its adjustments, doing so would be easy. A major plus of the XC2510 amplifier’s stable operation at 2-ohms is that we could connect both 4-ohm subwoofers to the single subwoofer output of the amp, delivering a very strong 300 watts of RMS power – more than plenty for the small cabin of the SL.

Upgrading the audio system of any car should be an exciting endeavor that pays off with a dramatically improved audio experience. But, sometimes, it can be easy to lose track of what you want out of your car audio system and tempting to go nuts with tons of added components that take up space and exhaust/exceed your budget. But, in Matt’s case, he knew exactly how he wanted to use his car and we were able to work with him to design a system that fit his needs, resulting in what is likely one of the classiest and cleanest audio installations ever done on an R129 SL Benz.