Rare Mercedes-Benz E500 Limited for sale
It’s difficult to see a future where Porsche would see any benefit in buddying up with a rival for, say, the purpose of building a performance car (not with VW’s parts bin to dive into, at any rate). But in the days before mega sellers like the Cayenne and Boxster, the company would occasionally team up with other German carmakers – long before they were competitors or cohorts – to lend out its sports car knowhow and earn a few Deutschemarks in the process.
The most obvious example is the Audi RS2, a car that Porsche made a very tangible contribution to – from upgrading the engine to peppering the exterior with bits and pieces from the 964 parts bin. But before it started work on the legendary super estate, Porsche was busy helping Mercedes (yes, really) put together a hot version of the W124 E-Class. Mercedes had attempted to enlisted AMG for its expertise in turning humdrum saloons and coupes into autobahn stormers, but unfortunately the independent tuning firm was unable to meet the production requirements of around 20 cars per day. With AMG off the table, Mercedes’ next port of call would be Porsche…
The car in question was the 500E, though later models were badged the E500 (more on that in a bit). The idea was simple and is one that Mercedes perfected in the coming years: take an E-Class, shove a massive V8 up front and, voila, you’ve got yourself a super saloon. Of course, AMG had been doing this for some time by the late 1980s, but at nowhere near the volume Mercedes had in mind. The 500E, meanwhile, would be an in-house project, with Mercedes supplying the parts while Porsche handled most of the assembly. It was a highly convoluted production process, with cars pinging back and forth between the two company’s facilities in Stuttgart over an 18-day period. Still, it probably left a smaller carbon footprint than the global production lines of today.
The 500E was powered by Merc’s own M119 5.0-litre V8 derived from the R129 SL, retaining the same 326hp and 54lb ft of torque output as the drop-top. The brakes were also pinched from the SL, while a reworked suspension layout lowered the car by 23mm and extended the track width by 38mm. This not only made the E500 look exceptionally mean – especially with those extended wheel arches – but it was rapid in a straight line. An official 0-62mph time of 6.1 seconds is widely believed to be conservative, in true German car giant fashion, with journalists at the time claiming to have clocked times up to half a second faster. Top speed was limited to 155mph, though digging around online suggests the four-speed automatic gearbox would prevent you from exceeding 165mph if the limiter were to be removed.
As the title suggests, this is no regular 500E; it’s the later, far rarer E500 Limited model. Admittedly, these were practically identical to the standard car, save for suspension tweaks that lowered the ride height further still. It did, however, get a host of cosmetic upgrades, including birdseye maple trim, a very jazzy seat pattern that’s mirrored on the steering wheel, colour-coded floor mats and those stunning 17-inch wheels plucked from the legendary 190E Evo II. Less than 10 per cent of the initial 10,479-strong E500 production run were Limited models, but only a handful made their way to the UK.
This car, however, was originally registered in Germany in 1994, before it was acquired by a British collector who imported it to the UK in 2000. It’s changed hands a few times since then, with the most recent owner being an avid German car collector. It’s covered 97,000km (or 60,000 miles in old money), with recent work including a replacement engine wiring loom which, according to the ad, is a bit of a weak spot on the E500. And while it doesn’t have the overt Porsche connection that an RS2 might have, the E500 was all about understatement. You’ll know that you’ve got something special on your hands – a Mercedes mostly hand-built by Porsche – and that’s all that matters.
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