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1993 Mercedes-Benz 500E: The Banker’s Hotrod Revisited

Okay, so maybe a Porsche 928 is too small for your (my) growing family. I beg to differ, but for purposes of discussion, let’s go with it. How about a car assembled for the most part in Porsche’s same Zuffenhausen plant from solid Mercedes-Benz W124 and R129 parts? What if that car is limited production and goes as fast as anyone needs to go? Now we’re talking the same language, right? Enter the Mercedes-Benz 500E. Designed by Mercedes, Built by Porsche. Life is good. See this really cheap example on Craigslist in Charlotte, NC. You can probably afford that, and it’s a better car than you have.

The thing about the W124 500E/E500 is that it looks like an average 300E, but it’s not. It’s a hell of a sleeper is what it is. The subtle exterior cues that tell you this is not your grandfather’s 260E/300d/300E are the flared front and rear fenders, the bright driving light reflectors, and the low-mounted foglights. Oh, and the badge, but those of us familiar with offensive uses of the BMW “M” badge know that you need to look beyond that, don’t we?

I was fortunate enough to own a 1992 500E a few years ago, and even with over 260,000 miles it pulled like a freight train and loved to be pushed. The only reason I sold it was frankly because I feared the electronics with all those miles on them. That, and it was rusting in really special places. Here’s a hint: check around the sunroof, below the taillights, and at the molding line on the fenders and doors. Beyond the rust, make sure the CE light comes on when you turn the key before you start the car, and goes out after the car fires. Good advice for any Merc of this vintage, but will save you lots of money and headaches in the long run. Trust me.

The 500E came with just about every option imaginable on a W124: heated seats, traction control, climate control, rear sunshade, four place seating (LOVE the four place seating!), you name it! Invariably, one or more of the options doesn’t work. Red flags go up with the climate control, because an evaporator replacement on this car is in the multiple thousands. The motor is dead reliable and should be good for several hundred thousand miles – if taken care of. Early wiring harnesses disintegrated, although most should be replaced by now. Records of timing chain replacement are always a good thing as well…

The interiors generally wear extremely well: if anything is going to be bad it will be the driver’s outer upper bolster and/or cracks in the burled wood. Yes, folks, that is real wood. This car has an aftermarket stereo, which is really for the best since replacement of the original Beckers through 1993 is a royal pain due to the fact that they are 2-part radios with a head unit up front and an amplifier in the back. Once you rid the car of that system you should be good to go, and with modern radios you can get iPod hookups and stuff!

The seller says nothing about records that come with the car, but I am one of those idiots who looks at a K&N sticker and thinks that at least at some point, this car was loved. After all, you don’t spend the money on a K&N unless you love the car, right? Heh. Really, we know that most people buy them for the great leaps in horsepower they (ahem) deliver. Really, if you want to make a 500E faster, all you need is a first gear start. These cars normally start in second, so the 1gs turns them up to eleven.

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