Home » Don’t Eat The Snow In Hawaii: 2004 Mini Cooper S vs 2000 Mercedes-Benz SL500

Don’t Eat The Snow In Hawaii: 2004 Mini Cooper S vs 2000 Mercedes-Benz SL500

Cooper S Vs Sl500

Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown, where we pick through the used car classifieds in search of a few gems. Today, we’re growing out our mustaches and heading to Oahu to look at a pair of fun European machines. But first, let’s see how yesterday’s battle went.

330i Vs Echo Final

Yep, that’s about what I expected. While the Echo is a reliable, trustworthy form of transportation, the 330i is a whole step up across a litany of categories. Anyway, back to fun cars for Hawaii. While Thomas Magnum could borrow a Ferrari 308 anytime he liked, we’re on a bit of a budget here. Still, that doesn’t mean we have to forgo fun, quick European cars, as I’ve found a pair for you to choose from.

2004 Mini Cooper S – $2,000

2004 Mini Cooper S

Engine/drivetrain: 1.6-liter supercharged inline-four, six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel-drive.

Location: Ewa Gentry, Hawaii

Odometer reading: 191,145 miles

Runs/drives? Absolutely

Let’s start off with something truly joyous to drive – an R53 Mini Cooper S with a six-speed manual gearbox. Sure, these Anglo-German hatchbacks can be maintenance-intensive, but they’re just so nimble and joyous to chuck about that I wouldn’t feel bad splashing some cash to keep one on the road.

2004 Mini Cooper S 2

Powering this German-facilitated reborn British icon is a semi-American engine. Yes, the R53 Mini Cooper S is powered by a member of the Tritec engine family, a joint venture between Rover Group and Chrysler Corporation. With a little extra pep thanks to an Eaton M45 supercharger, this 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is good for 163 horsepower and 155 lb.-ft. of torque. Not bad for a car this small.

2004 Mini Cooper S 3

While the body of this Cooper S seems fairly clean, someone’s definitely gone to town on the alloy wheels with a can or two of Plasti-Dip. Add in the unusually green intercooler shroud, and this thing may have been driven hard and put away wet. On the plus side, it looks like it shares a garage with another Mini, so it’s entirely possible that the owner really knows what they’re doing.

2004 Mini Cooper S 4

On the inside, there’s not much we can see. The seller’s only included a shot from the cargo area, which makes it hard to judge seat wear and whatnot. It’s claimed that this car packs cold A/C and that the electric windows work, but until we get a clearer shot of the interior, it’s probably best to set low expectations.

2000 Mercedes-Benz SL500 – $2,500

2000 Sl500 1

Engine/drivetrain: 5.0-liter V8, five-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel-drive.

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii

Odometer reading: 86,000 miles.

Runs/drives? Not on all cylinders.

Moving from ‘feels quick’ to ‘is quick,’ how about a V8-powered Mercedes roadster from an era where Benzes were built like brick shithouses? Yes, it’s the R129 SL500, a 302-horsepower, highway-scorching, music video star of an open-topped cruiser. Magnum, P.I. had the 308, but an R129 was in the music video for “Return of the Mack.” How’s that for star power?

2000 Sl500 2

On the mechanical front, things aren’t all peachy with this SL500. The seller states that the car’s developed a single-cylinder misfire. It still runs, but that’s definitely an issue worth sorting. However, the seller also states that the gearbox was rebuilt two years ago and the battery is new. This late-model R129 SL500 comes with Mercedes-Benz’s very stout M113 V8, so I reckon the misfire should be a fairly easy fix.

2000 Sl500 3

Also on the list of knocks, the bodywork. Someone has done a number on this SL500’s left quarter panel, with a couple of nasty dents marring this otherwise lovely cruiser. Add in a couple of minor scrapes on the rear bumper, and it seems like the seller could be very well telling the truth when they say they’re listing the car for an elderly neighbor.

2000 Sl500 4

Moving inside the SL500, things are looking up. Although the driver’s seat shows minor bolster wear, the passenger seat looks like it’s hardly been used. Plus, the wood veneer’s in lovely shape and the steering wheel still looks reasonably intact. Oh, and the two-tone designo leather’s pretty cool too. As far as cheap Mercedes products go, this has one of the best-condition interiors I’ve seen and it’s an SL to boot.

So there we are, two stylish European cars for motoring about Hawaii. Neither are particularly smart used car choices, so fly by the seat of your pants on this one and pick whichever suits your fancy.

(Photo credits: Craigslist sellers)


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42 Responses

  1. Drove one of those MINIs new and was entirely unimpressed. That they’re also unreliable junk and the Benz will at least feel solid and be something I’d sort of want to drive when its done, I’d roll the dice on the misfire being a fairly easy fix and go with that. Either one will eat some money, but I’d rather dump it into the SL (with less than half the mileage) and have a V8 cruiser than just keep a POS MINI on the road (though, the mileage on that is impressive).

  2. I looked at a very well maintained Mini of this vintage which was being listed VERY cheaply due to paint failure one broken tail light, and one leaking headlight. But they had complete service records – and three other Minis!

    Shock one, just how absolutely batshit Mini part prices are. A 2006 non-LED tail light assembly? Fucking $300+. Are you shitting me? And those ‘cute’ headlights? The Xenon housing isn’t sold separately from the $700+ control module, making them quite literally more expensive than Porsche parts.
    Shock two, just how UTTERLY POINTLESS maintenance is on any Mini built by BMW. Seriously. I advocate for changing oil regularly and with quality fluids and parts, but on a Mini? You’re just wasting money. Over $2,000 in oil change receipts, and the 3/36 warranty claim records were taller. Which included an entirely new engine under warranty at 20,000 miles because the harmonic failed at 18,000, they replaced that ignoring any other checks, and walked the crank and broke the timing cover. And despite this engine only having 80,000 actual miles and getting every damn maintenance on time at trustworthy shops – plus THREE CYLINDER HEADS? Spewing blue smoke (which was noted as ‘normal for the engine’ by 3 different indys,) so many oil and coolant leaks I didn’t know how it had enough fluid to make smoke (only 3 of which had been noted in the past year,) perfect clutch mated to wandering synchros, a power window motor abruptly died halfway through going down, and when they tried to restart it, the BCM failed.

    That SL500’s hydraulics could be shot and it’d still be cheaper to fully restore than keeping that Mini on the road another 24 months.

    1. Mini parts are expensive, but I can tell from your post that you haven’t priced Porsche lighting lately.

      I won’t argue with a word of the rest, other than to say that when they’re running, Minis are amazing fun. That’s why I searched through them for a year and a half before finally throwing in the towel on finding one that’s actually worth owning. I’ve test driven over a dozen of them. I wish there was a viable engine DIY swap for them, because I’d definitely be in on that.

      1. Son. Go check my profile. And mine’s optioned with the “fuck your wallet” Bi-Xenon PDLS and my ‘how the fuck have you not killed yourself yet?’ luck. I know VERY well what broken headlights and taillights cost.

        The only way a headlight job on a 2006 Mini doesn’t end up more expensive than a 2012 911 is if you switch that 911 to the Speedster PDLS. Because here’s your dealer list prices and mandatory parts for the job. Just looked up. This is for a condensation in housing repair.

        – $826.69 – 63-12-7-198-739, bare xenon assembly, d/s only
        – $35.54 – 63-12-6-917-835, headlamp bezel, d/s only (has the rain seal)
        – $654.66 – 63-12-7-176-068, control module, d/s only (known to go bad)
        – $209.19 – 61-11-6-965-946, wire harness repair kit incl. grommets, d/s
        – $450.00 – dealer service, HID module reprogramming (no, the non-BMW tools can’t.)

        Total price for one 2006 Mini Cooper S headlight, $2,176.08 before tax or bulb.
        Porsche 997.2 PDLS assembly, $1,995.00 at Suncoast. Does not require control unit replacement or recoding.

  3. These showdowns are much better if the cars are somehow related, or the same but different, Cadillac vs. Mercedes (European vs. American luxury), Jensen Healey vs. BMW 2002 (might have been cross shopped new) couple different generations of old Mustang, competitors when new, different approaches to the same issue, used cars somebody might be cross-shopping now.

    When it just seems like two cars picked at random, less interesting compare and contrast/less interesting choice. Just my opinion, I do enjoy regardless.

  4. I’d take the Mercedes any day.
    I owned a poorly maintained R53 Mini – it was the most fun driving car I’ve had, but it sucked so much money. The previous owner deferred about every maintenance item imaginable.
    I replaced every sensor on it when I purchased it (it misfired horribly under boost – bad MAP sensor, among other things), it needed all new bushings and ball joints, so off came the subframe. I decided I should replace the supercharger oil since it had 140K on it and I had no clue when it was done last – there wasn’t any left and the supercharger was toast. The radiator is completely plastic and leaked – also replaced. Then the clutch went out. As soon as I got the clutch replaced it needed CV axles. Replacing the CV axles the ring in the transmission case that retains the axles stripped out (so it needed a new transmission).
    At this point I’d spent a truly ridiculous amount of money on this car and couldn’t justify a new transmission and away it went.

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