Mercedes is gearing up to launch the new SLC but it's celebrating an important birthday as the model's predecessor, the SLK, is turning 20 years old later this month.

Originally unveiled at the 1996 Turin Motor Show, the SLK was a wedged-shaped convertible which featured an innovative retractable folding metal roof.  Given its sporty styling and relatively affordable price tag, the model was an instant success particularly with female buyers who liked the improved safety and additional sound insulation that the car's Vario roof provided.  Mercedes also notes the SLK set "new standards in pioneering engineering and technology."

The model was originally launched as an SLK 200 and a supercharged SLK 230 K. A facelifted variant was introduced in 2000 and it saw the introduction of a 218 horsepower six-cylinder engine in the new SLK 320.  It was soon following by a high-performance SLK 32 AMG which produced 354 hp.

The first-generation model was a hit with consumers as the company sold more than 311,000 SLKs between 1996 and 2004. The second- and third-generation SLKs were also relatively popular as sales of these models helped Mercedes to sell more than 670,000 SLKs to date.

Gallery: First-generation Mercedes SLK

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