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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/16/17 12:39 p.m.

Many of us dream about the perfect Q-ship, a stealthy, unassuming sedan packing a potent punch. What if one of the best came right from the factory? And what if it involved not just one factory, but two of the most celebrated-like Mercedes-Benz and Porsche?

Does such a mythical beast really exist? Meet the Mercedes-Benz 500 E, a factory hotrod that follows a rather tried-and-true formula: big engine in a smaller car.

In this case, Mercedes-Benz started with its mid-sized, E-class chassis, the foundation for countless vehicles ranging from taxicabs to luxury sedans. The factory built that W124 chassis from 1984 through 1996, offering it as a sedan, a coupe, a wagon and even a convertible. Starting with the 1992 model year, the mothership released a high-performance variant: that 500 E.

The engine came from the brand’s V8-powered 500 SL–a roadster that, despite having only two seats, weighed nearly 300 pounds more than the 500 E. Inside the lighter car, that quad-cam, 32-valve V8 produced 322 horsepower along with 354 ft.-lbs. of torque-figures that bested the Corvette’s from that year. Other impressive feats for that era: Zero to 60 took about 6 seconds, while top speed was limited to 155 mph.

The 500 E was more than an engine swap, though. Mercedes-Benz lowered the ride height, stiffened the suspension, and added flared fenders front and rear. These weren’t M3-style box flares, but subtle accents appropriate for a car bearing the three-pointed star. Only one gearbox was offered, a four-speed automatic, and standard tires were 225/55ZRl6–big for the day.

The price was equally hefty: more than $80,000 out the door, and you can thank the rather involved gestation process for that figure. Porsche assembled the body shells in their Zuffenhausen plant before shipping them to a Mercedes-Benz factory in Sindelfingen for paint. After that, the chassis traveled back to Zuffenhausen for final assembly, then made one more trip to Sindenfingen for final inspection.

Whew.

Production of the 500 E lasted through 1994, although the final-year cars bore the name E500; Mercedes-Benz revised all model designations for ‘94, putting the letter first.

The factory only sent about 1500 copies of the 500 E (and E500) to the U.S. Today, according Hagerty, the best ones in the world are worth about $50,000. However, we’ve seen several on Bring a Trailer for less than $20,000-a fair deal for a rare rocket from such a storied brand.

Read the rest of the story

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/16/17 12:50 p.m.

A little behind-the-scenes bit of (kinda useless) info about this story.

In the print version of these Vintage Views stories, we also run an old ad--something to give the piece some flavor from the times. For this one, we ran the Automobile cover that featured the "Like a Drug" headline. We blurred out the address label, but that issue is from my personal stash. I knew I had it somewhere. The address? My college apartment from my senior year in college.

Good times in Athens. Good times.

racerdave600
racerdave600 SuperDork
5/16/17 12:59 p.m.

I remember reading that article in Automobile!

I was able to drive a fairly new Mercedes recently (2015), and was stunned at how good it drove. It wasn't a 500 or a hot rod, but a lowly C250 coupe. Driven back to back with my dad's 328i, the Mercedes was definitely the better driving of the two. I also liked the seats and interior better. I suppose it's a result of getting older, but I want a Mercedes more and more as time goes by.

Robbie
Robbie UberDork
5/16/17 2:33 p.m.

I just read this article on a flight this week, and was struck at how similar the specs of this thing are compared to the 1990 750il I challenged in 2015.

Slippery
Slippery Dork
5/16/17 2:38 p.m.

I really want a 500E, but good ones are not cheap.

crankwalk
crankwalk Dork
5/16/17 3:23 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

Go Dawgs

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/16/17 6:15 p.m.
crankwalk wrote: In reply to David S. Wallens : Go Dawgs

Sic 'em. Woof, woof, woof.

Seriously, UGA was fun. It was a bit of a culture shock from growing up on Long Island, but I very quickly came to love Athens--awesome people, amazing music scene and a degree I still use every day.

TheRyGuy
TheRyGuy New Reader
5/16/17 9:17 p.m.

When I worked at a Mercedes dealership in Colorado, a customer brought one of these in for service. I got the chance to drive it to take it back to the customer. I didn't do anything stupid with it but man, despite having "only 322 horses" that car really wanted to get up and run. Sounded and felt good just cruising around at normal highway speeds.

I really wish I had the 25 grand the owner was asking for it at the time.

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
5/16/17 9:41 p.m.

I have been looking for one for a really long time. They just don't come up for sale that offen and when they do a real good one is 35k. I have seen them as cheep as 20k but these are well used with many needs.

Cotton
Cotton UberDork
5/16/17 10:15 p.m.

I like Porsches and Mercedes, so a 500e is right up my alley. One of these days I'll pick one up.

markwemple
markwemple UltraDork
5/16/17 10:24 p.m.

Why not urs4 and 6. Porsche and Audi. More drivable and way more modable. Plus wagon!! And manual for the win!!!!!

ChasH
ChasH New Reader
5/16/17 10:47 p.m.

Did the later 500s suffer the self degrading wire insulation that other 124's did? Same for the A/C evaporator. The engine wire harness for my '95 E320 was $900 or so, but relatively easy to install compared to the A/C evaporator which was a 22 hr flat rate to change. I did the job in about 26 hrs.

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
4/6/18 9:52 a.m.

One of my all-time favorites.  I have seen a few cross the block in Texas where people with oil money bought them, stored them well, drove them little and kept them clean. They command top dollar, but they are practically new.  

 

 

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 UltimaDork
4/6/18 10:21 a.m.

Dunno if I ever knew these existed.  The 400E from that era is hard enough to find.  I too am drawn by dark, mysterious forces toward these potential money-pits.

Devilsolsi
Devilsolsi Reader
4/6/18 12:59 p.m.

There is a very nice 500E for sale on Ferrarichat for anyone interested.

 

https://www.ferrarichat.com/forum/threads/1992-mercedes-500e-32-000-seattle-wa.572564/#post-145898140

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
4/6/18 4:06 p.m.

32K Not unreasonable but it is proving that the days of getting one of these cheep has probibly passed unless you find some on that does not know what they have.

I have resigned my self to the fact that I will probably end up with a 2007 CLS 550 instead.   Similar performance in a bit bigger package that while is not nearly as cool looking as the 500E it is still one of the better (if not the best) looking Mercs of the last 20 years. Decent ones can be found in the 10-15K range. So half the price of a similar condition 500E  

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
4/6/18 4:15 p.m.

Ohhhhhh I just have to add this.  It probably deserves its own thread.  I did not know they made a CLS wagon.  

 

 

 

nutherjrfan
nutherjrfan SuperDork
4/7/18 1:51 p.m.

How hard/expensive would it be to build a clone? angel

Stealthtercel
Stealthtercel Dork
4/7/18 2:48 p.m.

As per Mr. Wallens's useful summary in the article, "Mercedes-Benz lowered the ride height, stiffened the suspension, and added flared fenders front and rear. These weren’t M3-style box flares, but subtle accents appropriate for a car bearing the three-pointed star. Only one gearbox was offered, a four-speed automatic, and standard tires were 225/55ZRl6–big for the day."

So assuming you could find the specs for the ride height and the suspension, you then have to do the flares.  Subtly.  Then you have to ask yourself, "Do I want a late-1980s V8, four-speed auto, and 16-inch tires, or do I want to take advantage of 30 years of technological progress?"

I fell in love with these beasts back in the day too, after reading what DEDjr wrote in Automobile, but quite honestly I think at this point it's either go original or go restomod, and if you're going restomod there may be better paths than starting with a W124.

 

te72
te72 New Reader
4/7/18 5:13 p.m.
Stealthtercel said:

So assuming you could find the specs for the ride height and the suspension, you then have to do the flares.  Subtly.  Then you have to ask yourself, "Do I want a late-1980s V8, four-speed auto, and 16-inch tires, or do I want to take advantage of 30 years of technological progress?"

 

 

Very cool cars, yes. Well built, most likely. However, I can't help but think that a Pontiac G8 or Chevy SS might be the better buy, and I'm not even particularly fond of any of these three brands.

 

6.0 or 6.2 v8, 6-speed manual option, similar curb weight, similarly unknown, any of them would make a good Q-ship, but I imagine the newer cars are not likely to be kept up with by the minivan in the next lane. =P

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
4/7/18 5:23 p.m.

There is the feel that a Merc has the a Pontiac or a Chevrolet just can not duplicate. I really like it. It is almost like the car is more than the sum of its parts kind of thing. 

LanEvo
LanEvo HalfDork
4/7/18 5:23 p.m.

The 500E is at the very top of my wish list. But I daily drive a W124 and race a W201 ... so I guess I’m already a fanboi. Prices are just too high for me to justify right now. 

 

yupididit
yupididit SuperDork
4/7/18 6:34 p.m.
nutherjrfan said:

How hard/expensive would it be to build a clone? angel

 pretty sure they used a different firewall and significant differences in the engine bay compared to the 6cyl and even 4liter v8 cars. That's in regards to swapping in a m119. 

Or you could buy a c55 AMG wink

Jay_W
Jay_W Dork
4/7/18 11:33 p.m.

Mr Biased and Hopelessly Addicted says go forth and find a good well maintained 04 to 06 E55...

harrdware
harrdware None
4/9/18 3:48 p.m.

500E / E500 is a great car, not only because it just feels so "solid" - not just the sum of its add-on go fast parts. There's that famous Mercedes-Porsche build collaboration story.  Probably never see that happen again. Grab one now if you can find a decent one with good service records - they'll be more dear in the years to come. And also, great factory support by the MB Classic Center in Southern Cal.

For those that are looking for a decent E500 but not finding one, you might also consider expanding your search to include the quite similar 1998-2000 AMG C43, which offers virtually identical solid feel and a bit faster V-8 performance, in a slightly smaller package, but with similar style - and with cool AMG Monoblock rims as standard. It also has a "story" - 1. the W202 C-43 was AMG's first V-8 car offered under Mercedes ownership. 2. The C-43 was the first V-8 model offered in the C Class series by Mercedes. 3. C-43 was the only AMG model offered in the US in 1998 - and they only imported around 750 of them. Rare! Imagine that, compared to model year 2018, when Mercedes sold over 44,000 AMG's across 14 different models! 

 

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