For many years, I’ve been chasing after the ultimate Mercedes unicorn of the ’90s. With only 1500 sold in the U.S. over a span of three years, it’s rare to see a Mercedes 500e in the wild — but there was one in my home town of Wichita, Kansas that I would spot fairly regularly. When it recently became available for sale, and was priced well under the cheapest 500E in the nation, I didn’t hesitate. Unfortunately, now that I own this unicorn, the pointy end is probably going to stab me right through the wallet.
Currently on Autotrader, there are only four of these German muscle cars listed for sale, at prices ranging from $25,000 to $64,000. Recent auction sales have been equally strong, with a 120,000-mile example with a few Renntech performance additions fetching a whopping $62,000 last week. Despite my fondness for this era of Mercedes, and a deep affection for the 500e, in my opinion, they had priced themselves beyond reason. Whether you’re a fan of the classics, or the latest modern performance offerings, I can think of much better Mercedes models to buy for $60,000. Thankfully, my 500e was only $10,000 — but it was that cheap for several very good reasons.
The good news is the overall condition of my 500e is very nice. Other than some light wear, and badly aging period correct aftermarket wheels, it appears to have never been wrecked — and looks like it will clean up well. The pedigree is also good, and a bit interesting, as the original owner is a famous local billionaire. He sold it to one of his executives, who kept it for decades, until it recently became too needy to keep around. Several issues began stacking up, making this 500e almost undrivable.
Back in 1992, though, it would make sense for a billionaire to buy this car. While the $82,000 price tag ($146,000 if calculating for inflation) would certainly require a person of means, it’s doubtful this uber-expensive sedan was a profitable venture for Mercedes, given the insane production process. The 124 chassis sedan had to be modified to accept a V8, and the engineering needed to make this possible, along with much of the assembly, took place at Porsche’s recently idled 959 production facility. It’s reported the average time required to build a single 500e took 18 days, with multiple trips back and forth between the Mercedes production line and Porsche’s facility. This seems like a stupid waste of time and resources — but the result of this "Avenger’s: Infinity War" level of crossover epicness created something that was very impressive.
Finally, Mercedes had an answer to the BMW M5, offering a 322-horsepower V8 in a brawny sedan, which propelled itself to 60 in under six seconds. The fenders were flared to accommodate the larger 16×8-in wheels, and the suspension was lowered and tuned by Porsche to make the handling feel respectable. The interior was fitted with Recaro sports seats, and a similar bucket treatment seat treatment was given to the rear — with a wooden center console sandwiched in between. It’s easy to call this one of the best-looking sedans of all time, and as cars like the first generation CLS and Panamera have shown, this is something both Mercedes and Porsche have since struggled to repeat.
Unfortunately, I have no idea how a 500e is supposed to drive — since the car that I bought is severely wounded. Not only is the engine misfiring badly, the transmission might be failing, as well — and even the rear differential seems to be making a terrible noise. As if that’s not bad enough, there are numerous electrical problems that need to be sorted out as well. This will no doubt keep my mechanic, the Car Wizard, busy for a very long time — and I already have him buried in a few other major projects.
So it probably won’t be long before I spend my way out of having the cheapest 500E — but given the crazy values, I’m hoping it will be a worthwhile investment. Once it’s sorted, I can finally decide if the car is worth the hype — and decide whether or not it’s worth keeping. I gave up my 1995 Mercedes C36 AMG to fund this project, so I’m hoping it’s good! Find a Mercedes-Benz 500E for sale
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