A 500SL Like You’ve Never Seen (Or Heard) Before
Let’s Get Weird

Last month, we decided to spend three solid weeks living right next to Ebisu Circuit in Fukushima, Japan. The idea was to do as much driving as possible, upskilling behind the wheel in one short sharp mega-session of burnt rubber and opposite lock. As it turns out though, between general life, running Speedhunters and having to actually pay for tyres, fuel and spare parts, it’s a lot harder to spend three solid weeks drifting than you’d think. So, in one of those downtime moments when the emails weren’t coming through and the new tyres were still sitting in a courier truck somewhere between Tokyo and Ebisu, I had a hankering to shoot a car for a quick spotlight. Something fun, something interesting, something maybe even a little weird – and I knew just the man to see; Andy Gray, who along with wife Emily, run Power Vehicles, based right at Ebisu Circuit.

Anyone that has been to Ebisu or has seen shots of the Power Vehicles workshop will know that the surrounding area is a carpark of interesting machines; from ultra-clean JZXs, to ex-top speed Wangan racers, a caged drift-ready Nissan Crew and plenty more. Popping my head through the office door, I asked for the keys to something ‘rad’ on the yard. “Anything in particular?” Andy asked. “Surprise me,” I replied.

Mercedes 2JZ 21

A few seconds later, I was walking out the door with a set of Mercedes keys in my hand. Not really what I had expected, but interesting nonetheless.

Mercedes 2JZ 06

The car in question was a R129 Mercedes-Benz 500SL, a sharp, angular mid-’90s convertible luxury sports car.

Mercedes 2JZ 01

I’ve always liked how just ‘German’ these cars look; cold, severe and yet somehow still beautiful. Especially the hardtop version, like this example.

Mercedes 2JZ 22

This particular 500SL has a decidedly Japanese vibe on all fronts. Firstly its exterior; simple, but effective. The Merc sits low on Bilstein suspension, allowing the subtly blistered arches to sit nicely over the top of 19-inch Yokohama AVS Model 5s…

Mercedes 2JZ 20

Which, on a very related note, do absolutely nothing to hide the big Brembo Ferrari F50 brakes.

Mercedes 2JZ 13

The interior has plenty of JDM flavour too, with all the classic goodies you could ever want. Every Defi gauge imaginable is accounted for, and there’s no shortage of A’PEXi gadgetry assisting an A’PEXi Power FC engine management system.

Mercedes 2JZ 12

If the Power FC didn’t make you suspicious, then the telltale 6-speed gear knob, which looks to have been lifted from a Honda, is a dead giveaway that something isn’t quite right.

Mercedes 2JZ 05

Or maybe it’s the sneaky intercooler you’ve already spotted hiding behind the AMG-vented front bumper…

…No Sh*t
Mercedes 2JZ 15

Yep, the factory 5.0-litre Mercedes-Benz V8 is long gone, now replaced by Toyota’s finest piece of ’90s engineering – the 3.0-litre straight six 2JZ-GTE. Backing it up is a matching Getrag 6-speed gearbox.

Mercedes 2JZ 19

Suddenly, the car takes on a whole new form, and seems less like a lazy comfortable long distance tourer, and more like an angry machine with a purpose.

Mercedes 2JZ 14

This of course might have something to do with the dirty great HKS T45S/Garrett T51 turbocharger bolted up to an HKS manifold and kept company by a pair of HKS external wastegates.

Mercedes 2JZ 17

The 2JZ retains its stock bottom end, but with a set of 264-degree cams and plenty of fuel from a simple Bosch pump/Sard injector setup, the straight-six pushes over 600 horsepower out to the stock Mercedes limited slip diff via an OS Giken twin-plate clutch and custom driveshaft.

Because I was simply handed the keys by Andy and told to go take it wherever I wanted, I had the advantage of experiencing this car first-hand from the leather Ferrari F355 driver’s seat. As soon as I fired the raspy 2JZ up via the button-start ignition, I was grinning. This thing sounds angry.

Mercedes 2JZ 09

Although the Benz doesn’t have current Japanese street registration, it doesn’t really matter – we’re at Ebisu after all, and at this time of year I had full reign of the place during a deserted weekday. While I certainly wasn’t going to be thrashing someone else’s car, especially one that’s currently for sale, I couldn’t resist getting it on boost on Minami circuit for a few brief squirts.

Mercedes 2JZ 16

I can confirm that this car is absolutely vicious. Once it hits boost, the 500SL is a lairy monster, a heady mix of turbo spool, exhaust bark and brutal acceleration.

Mercedes 2JZ 18

If I’m honest, I found the setup to be a little on the laggy side, and while that is of course to be expected with such a large and somewhat outdated turbo, if I were to buy this car, it’d be on my list of things to eventually update.

Mercedes 2JZ 04

I’ve always loved the aggressive look of the R129 generation SL Mercedes-Benz, but at the same time I’ve always been turned off a little by the no doubt competent, but uninspiring factory V8 or straight six in the 300s and 320s. This car then, for me, makes for a much better marriage between cold, hard, Germanic styling and angry, shouty and all-round boot-to-the-face 2JZ power. You can’t really call it a sleeper, but whoever ends up buying this car is going to have a hard time wiping that smarmy, holier-than-though smirk off their face every time they pull up to a set of traffic lights.

If you want to know more about the 500SL and see more videos, check out this link.

Peter Kelly
Instagram: speedhunters_pedey



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So. Freaking. Awesome.


I hope he removed the passanger Airbag.


There is a replacement for displacement. It's called forced induction!


HunterHunted What happens when you put a turbocharger on that higher displacement motor though...


Then you've replaced an even higher displacement engine with a turbo. It's an endless cycle.


i'm lovin this!

these cars ooze presence




Why they didn't put turbo into stock 5.0? It would be much more interesting...


Maybe they bought the car without the engine or the wngine had blown up. Maybe they had a built 2jz and just went with it.


I second that. To know what the Merc 5.0 V8 with two turbos sounds like, type "Sauber C11" in youtube.


Or 2 turbos?!


Never been a big Merc fan, but I've always had a soft spot for this body style. This car brings it to whole new level though, it just looks so sinister!


It's certainly cool but not enough to give me "brief squirts", which sounds horrible for those 355 seats and whoever does your laundry.


This is cool. I want to do this now.






i could have called a 2jz in this lol.  makes me think about the possibilities with my 190e.  3s-ge turbo???


Straight six, not v ;)


toddwithrow9 BEAMS with a turbo :D


Finally....I have been thinking about this exact build for a long time. This is awesome. There are so many old sl's for dirt cheap in south florida. I would love to do this.


It has an E30 dash!


Very nice and unique build


I like the rat rod mentality of useing whatever brand parts yoi have to use to make what you want. Well done


I was kind of hoping for the v12 with the equal length F1 sounding exhaust, but this didn't disappoint. Very cool.


Some time ago I read about 2JZ swapped R129 from Japan. It looked similar to this one, but that was a convertible, not hard top and if I remember correctly had 500 hp. Last time I heard it was on sale.


Expected a 2JZ, there is a 2JZ and I'm still happy. Very cool.


TCBeast They're all convertibles, with the removable hardtop as an option, so this is probably the same one!


Oh HELLS YES. More content like this pleeease!


@MrMoons well it could be. Since that one was black and had similar wheels as this one. So it probably is the same car.


SHFan12 I spotted the E30 analogue clock too!  it looks like an E30 gauge cluster, with diff gauges, and some other E30 bits, like the A/C controls, bu the dash shape still looks mercedes. Awesome car!


2J will correct just about any cars issues. This is a good car to prove that point.



Awesome engine in a beautiful car without unnecessary visual mods.




I have wanted to do this for so long, and with those exact wheels. These old Mercs really reminded me of the body lines on Preludes, but with a Teutonic spin :) And such a great coupe shape!!!


Seen this car being listed for sale on Facebook about a month or two ago. I was intrigued to know more about this. Thanks for the article Peter!



....gonna do a 2j in a 190d myself (because California).


Whoever did those fenders knows what they're doing. Also nice upper radiator pipe. The shifter lines up perfectly. And Ferrari brakes! Assuming the rotor backspacing works all you need is a custom caliper bracket but still.. nuts.  This is speedhunting done right.


Haha, this is awesome! So very Japanese.


Thanks Pedey, I now have a strong case of 'the wants'.


R129 never came with a V6, only line.
320-24v is one of the best engines for that era MB, much preferable over v8 & v12.


Would have put a Mercedes-AMG M156 or M159 inside, maybe even a Brabus-tuned version :D


DamianDziaduch probably for the reason that the tuner is more versed with the 2J, and parts are easier to come by in Japan. Same reason you find more and more JDM cars sporting European engines in Europe, BMW, Saab turbos, even Benz I-6s


@Wout Most people have no idea what a m104 r6 is capable of in relatively stock trim. Four digit numbers are not unheard of.


D1RGE EXE Ah yes so true, the BB6 Prelude right?


TCBeast Probably the same car I'd say!


James_Turbo Ah my bad, thanks for that!


@Wout Ah yes, of course. Thanks for the spot, I've made the correction.


georgesimon182 SHFan12 I was confused about this as well - so it's a mash of R129 and E30?


Dill Pickle I'm on the exact same page here. This and the 2.3 16 Cosworth are the Mercs that work best for me.


DamianDziaduch And probably much harder, and more problematic.


Jordan_Butters I'll talk to Andy and hook you up with mates rates ;)


bluestreaksti Yea I had a quick peak in there and looked like a simple custom caliper bracket for the brakes. Cheers for the good feedback, appreciate it!


seattlejester That would be amazing though!


I have to admit this is the first time ive been dissapointed by a 2J swap. This car oozes class and is perfect for an off the wall engine swap, not a off the shelf toyota swap. This car was almost sooo cool...


one of the few stance rides I actually like.


Before even scrolling down I thought to myself this would be a 2J swap.....it's just too predictable and boring these days.

Looks cool on the AVS model 5's, but why not do something different for an engine?


cutterjones13 This is "stance" now?


Hell why Toyota's engine? Go and get the E55 AMG supercharged 5.4, more low end grunt, bigger capacity and it is a V8! Bigger displacement means it has more potenial. OK unless te owner was cost conscious fro the start


Peter_Kelly D1RGE EXE  Pretty much :) Almost the same hips, the same roof line, squared-wedge profile, useless rear seats etc :) Except Merc did theirs right with RWD :)


Spaghetti I completely agree here. I would suggest an BMW heart just to piss people off.


CharlieJoiner cost conscious, and they throw a 2J in err'thang there. Not much creativity in their engine packages.


D1RGE EXE Spaghetti YES....the 335i's 3.5TT would have been perfect!!!!


CharlieJoiner well you could buy a M113 powered R129 SL, so really very little point in building one. The 6 pot SLs are pretty cheap, as are the 2JZ, so why not?


seattlejester how abour welding two 2JZs to make it happen lol


Can we safely mention it's a R129 300SL now?


best for sale ad ever




Spaghetti D1RGE EXE


JPRedhead Do you have any idea how much that would cost? Cheap, easy and effective always wins in my mind. Why spend money just to be different?


SgHawk Yeah that too....:P


D1RGE EXE Peter_Kelly What's wrong with a FWD (in a Honda no less)?


I love this!!! Love seeing those off-the-wall, never expected swaps in cars you still see everyday.. Very cool!!

I see it's still using the factory cooling system set-up, don't ask me why, but we just got asked by a distribution company to make 100 all-aluminum radiators for this car!! Perfect timing of the article, lol


I get swapping out the M119; those engines are f**king expensive, complex and generally a bitch to get power out of. I know...I'm trying to get 450 HP out of a 6L, the intake is the biggest piece of shit I have seen in all my years, I'm going to ditch the LH system in favour of a custom standalone fuel/spark system (and lose the ABS and traction control systems in the process), I'm looking at possibly spending $3000 on sleeves, I was quoted 6000 Euros for a stroker crank if I'm too afraid of the $2500 the machine shop is quoting for machine work to make an M117 crank work, head gaskets (HEAD GASKETS!!!) are supposedly $700 each for a 6L M119 and heaven only knows how much custom cams and pistons are going to cost...I might just bin the damn thing and go LS. So I get swapping out the old M119. 
What did these guys do a bout suspension, though. The R129 doesn't take very well to changes in wheel diameter, those 19s must be a source of constant headaches. and the front struts, rear links and steering systems on these cars isn't exactly welcoming for high horsepower applications. I've seen an R129 throw a toe-link doing a donut. Is there a build thread or another link we can follow to find out more?


Spaghetti SgHawk It means that it doesnt exist the 3.5TT. Only 3.0TT


about 25 grand (US dollars) for that - hhhmmmm - do want


Trentworth Dude, that sounds brutal, maybe an LS would be the right way to go... As for a build thread, sadly no, this car was built by a shop in Japan a few years back, and then bought by PowerVehicles from the Auctions to be fixed up and put up for sale, so there isn't too much info about the build process itself unfortunately.


All the people saying that this is the "wrong engine swap" need to take a moment and realise that the objective of this car is to give a good dose of power in a cheap and reliable way, and it wasn't built to get your approval...
I've never seen this swap before, so why is it boring to put a 2jz in this merc?! As for being easy or predictable, I've done what is probably the easiest EFI engine swap for any car any manufacturer, which is 2zz in place of a 1zz in an MR2, and even that is not something a lot of people would do themselves.


JonathanW Well said mate


JonathanW  Get the 5.4 l supercharged E55 AMG engine. No need to fiddle it as it produces heaps of torque down low which 2JZ can't match. Come on 2JZ 3 lt vs E55 5.4 lt. No brainer.  2jZ is a middleweight boxer, 5.4 is a heavyweight. As good a boxer Sugar Ray Leonard or Marvin Hagler were, they were no match for Larry Holmes or Foreman. Get the analogy young man?


CharlieJoiner JonathanW Like has been said lower in the comments, the R129 came with the M113 V8 in it's later iterations (98-02) and it wouldn't have made sense to buy an M119 powered car and try to swap in an M113. Some M113 cars have been swapped for the 113K engine (check out member Tech-Tune on Benzworld.org) but it ain't no mean feat and the engine and trans are so dependent on their myriad of sensors they're pretty close to impossible to swap into any other non-M113 car. Besides we've seen JZ-swapped Mercs before, they're a pretty popular candidate for swaps with the W123, 201 and 202 chassis, there's a dude who owns a Mercedes service centre near me with a sick 1JZ powered 190E; that's a really cool car.


JonathanW Exactly. That's the appeal of an LS swap in the states. Or a BMW swap in Europe. Cheap, reliable power is a beautiful thing.
This thing is awesome.


Spaghetti cutterjones13 It's stance in the 10 years ago sense.


Spaghetti It's only boring to keyboard jockeys who never get to drive the thing. Funny how so many people who actually own the cars want cheap, reliable power.


Anyone else tired of these "boring" engine swap complaints? 600HP can only be boring to people who look at pictures of it on the internet. Wahhh, it's not the 600 HP engine you would have put in, so what?
Cheap, reliable power is a beautiful thing. In Japan, that's a 2JZ, in the US, it's an LS, in Europe, it may be a BMW.




Option13 Absolutely, I feel exactly the same and all those sorts of comments always get my left eye twitching with internet rage. 600 reliable horsepower and the sound of a big turbo like that on boost is never boring.


Cool car but I'm not sure why they just didn't stick with the M104 3.2L straight 6 and do head bolts and a turbo bandits turbo kit with a modded BMW Getrag transmission. no fab work for the engine and the trans is a near bolt in solution and the turbo bandits are pushing over 700HP on a stock headgasket, and stock bottom end no problem.