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The Sultan's Mercedes SL73 "Argento Vivos"

The rarest SLs?


October 2007



It's amazing what I find at the shipper during my regular trips to redress the United States massive trade imbalance. A recent trip to drop off a lovely 280SL destined for Holland revealed two partially finished oddities awaiting shipment that I immediately recognized as the "Argento" Mercedes I had seen advertised in Hemmings earlier this year.


The Hemmings listing featured an artist's rendering of the nose of the car with very little information, although the text did mention the car(s) needed "finishing." I'll certainly second that! The ad was somewhat cryptic simply referring to the cars as specially constructed one-off Mercedes SL600s. The listing appeared in a few issues of Hemmings and then disappeared.


AMG wheels reveal SL73 underpinnings of this unusual creation.


Inspecting the script on the carbon fiber upper engine covers of each car revealed they were commissioned by the Royal Family of Brunei or more specifically, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah (profile), and for some reason both projects had been abandoned. Perhaps the Sultan forgot he commissioned the cars! You see, he already owned over 4,000 other cars at the  time! He is likely THE most prolific collector of exotic automobiles in the world, with a penchant for commissioning the construction of whatever suits his whimsy. Researching the car buying habits of the Sultan reveals an astounding collection of cars numbering between 4,000 and 5,000! And a high percentage of those cars are one-offs such as Bentley SUVs, Ferrari 456 four door sedans, and Aston Martin station wagons.


Fabrication quality can not be faulted on the Sultan's Vivos.
The same can not be said of the design concept.


I counted 189 Mercedes AMG models on a list purporting to be a complete inventory of his cars.  And there were over 500 more regular Mercedes-Benz automobiles at his disposal. During the '90s it has been reported that he purchased half of Roll Royce's total  production! This is all really no surprise in view of two basic facts; he's a car nut and he earns 3/4 of a billion dollars each year, give or take a few hundred million.


As I looked over the two 1997 Argento Vivos, I was amazed at the extent of the modifications performed on the two ultra rare AMG SL73s. The constructor had removed every piece of proprietary Mercedes sheetmetal and mechanical items above the floor pan of the car. The complete perimeter of the unit body was simply shaved off and thrown away. The factory soft top and hardware were gone, replaced by a hydraulically actuated articulating carbon fiber hard top! God forbid the Sultan should have to peer at a standard Mercedes dash, hence that was ripped out and replaced with a formed carbon fiber unit. Every square inch of this car was specially conceived by its designer to provide the Sultan with yet another absolutely unique car to park in one of his three massive airport hangers, each filled with spectacular cars.


RHD, carbon fiber dash feature in mocked up interior.
Hydraulic ram for carbon fiber retractable hard top actuation.
Massive clamshell deck lid
reveals more bits and pieces.


Looking underneath the cars revealed spotless new, never used, drivetrain and suspension, albeit with conventional springs rather than the standard SL600's self-leveling struts and spheres. Each RHD interior was filled with various pieces; partially completed aluminum panels, exhaust parts, new instrument clusters, and a few original SL600 bits and pieces. The workmanship was absolutely superb with most of the external sheetmetal in specially fabricated aluminum and the nose and tail covers done in carbon fiber.


Beautiful carbon fiber tail section.
Will this 525 hp V-12 ever get a chance to run in this car?
Original side cladding gives
car's origin away.


While one car with its more complete coachwork is further along than the other, both remain daunting projects to complete. These cars are barley 20% finished. Will they be completed? I don't know as I have not been able to contact the new owners. My feeling is completing the cars will require a budget only the Sultan could stomach and they will likely be stripped of their zero mile SL73 drivetrain and the rest tossed aside. If this is the case, two of the 85 SL73s constructed by AMG will disappear from the planet.


What the Sultan wishes, the Sultan receives!

I'll keep on the trail of these unique cars and report any further developments.


Roy Spencer,

editor www.ourSL.com



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