The answer is this E500.
In the late 1980s Mercedes found itself riding a wave of popularity. Building quality automobiles of restrained and tasteful luxury had served the company well for quite some time, but competition for the luxury car customer was heating up. Japan had ideas, and BMW was throwing its performance in Mercedes’ face.Â Competition emerged across the continents as the promising Nineties drew near.
However, designers and engineers at Mercedes were preoccupied with development of the new W140 S-Class sedan. There wasn’t bandwidth for other big projects, and something had to be done. Enter Porsche.
Mercedes contracted with Porsche in 1989 to develop a new performance-oriented sedan. Its task? To take the rather staid W124 E-Class and turn up the volume.
The existing small engine bay was crammed full with the 5.0-liter V8 from the R129 500SL. The front end had to be widened in order for the engine to fit at all, which is why the 500 E wears flared front fenders. The extra heft from the large engine meant a suspension rework. All that was left was to fit the four-speed automatic from the SL. It shifted 322 horsepower through the rear wheels, for a 0 to 60 time of 6.1 seconds. Top speed was 161 miles per hour.
All was well, and the car was ready for production â€” apart from one small issue. The new, beefy shape of the 500 E meant it did not fit on the assembly line with the regular E-Class cars. Time for another telephone call to Porsche.
Deepening their ties, Mercedes hired Porsche to build the 500 E at its factory in Stuttgart. Porsche had extra capacity at the time, since the company was going through a bit of a rough patch. Stuttgart was happy to oblige. Though production started in 1991, the process of getting these cars to buyers was complex.
Mercedes manufactured the parts and shipped them to Porsche, who then hand-assembled the 500 E’s chassis and body. The cars were then shipped back to the Mercedes plant and painted. Painted bodies traveled once more, to a different Porsche factory in Zuffenhausen, which installed the V8 and completed the car. When each 500 E’s grand tour was complete, 18 full days had elapsed.
The 500 E continued unchanged through 1993, and had one final model year in ’94. At that point its name was changed to E500. This coincided with a facelift of every E-Class model. A limited, special run of 120 cars emerged in 1995 to meet continued consumer demand, making for a total production figure of 10,479. Mercedes was ready for future performance models after the end of the E500, calling upon its in-house tuner AMG for such development.
Today’s Rare Ride is for sale in Germany by superb dealer and restorer Mechatronic. It’s a late-run model with a special edition interior of purple, blue, green, and black kaleidoscope-effect leather. Fantastic. It can be yours for about $73,000, and is importable into the US next year.
H/t to Adam Tonge for pointing out this awesome E.