Collaboration within the auto industry is a common thing. However, asking a competitor to build a whole car is a whole different story. But that is exactly what Mercedes-Benz asked Porsche to do 30 years ago.
Curious? Read on.
In 1989, Mercedes-Benz wanted to build a super sedan that can give sports cars a scare. Their solution was to shove a V8 engine in the E-Class of that era which was internally known as the W124. On paper, the plan sounded simple enough. But this is Mercedes-Benz we’re talking about, so a massive engineering overhaul has done to the executive sedan.
First, they chose the 5.0-liter V8 from the R129 SL 500 roadster for the super E-Class. They then had to give it a unique front suspension and modified some parts of the chassis to accommodate the whopping V8. That’s because the W124 E-Class was never meant to have an eight-cylinder under the hood. The biggest engine that was supposed to be there was an inline-six.
After cramming that 5.0-liter V8 in the E-Class, they beefed up the rear axle to handle the power. It also gained a few inches in width because of all the suspension changes. However, that gave Mercedes-Benz a problem. Because of the extra width, they couldn’t build it alongside the standard models in their Sindelfingen plant. This is where Porsche comes into the story.
Mercedes-Benz commissioned Porsche to build the car for them and do more engineering and development work on the car. It was perfect timing too as Porsche was in dire straights at the time. Because of the job Mercedes-Benz handed to them, Porsche was able to stay afloat for the time being. You can even say Daimler helped Porsche during their trying times.
Because of that, building a 500 E wasn’t easy. Mercedes-Benz had to send W124 bodies over to Porsche to put on the wider fenders and underchassis components. After that, the cars were sent back to Mercedes-Benz for painting. But it didn’t stop there. Once the paint was dry, the cars were brought back to Porsche to install the engine and complete the assembly. No wonder it took 18 days to finish one car. Even more amusing is the fact that they did that for five years, all because it wouldn’t fit in the E-Class assembly line.
It’s also not surprising that the cost to build the car was reflected in its price. The 500 E retailed for a whopping 134,520 Deutsche Marks. That’s the equivalent of about € 114,169 in today’s money. For reference, that’s approximately PHP 6,600,000 at current exchange rates. So how much car did you get for the money?
It packed 326 PS and 480 Nm of torque that allowed it to do to the 0 to 100 km/h sprint under six seconds and a top speed of 260 km/h. While it doesn’t sound too exciting today, you have to remember this car came out when 150 PS was considered potent. Not only that, but it also packed luxuries and creature comforts you expected from a Mercedes-Benz from that era.
While the spirit of the 500 E lives on in the succeeding AMG E-Class models, it’s unlikely that Mercedes-Benz will ask for Porsche’s help for another high-performance sedan. Besides, the latter already has the Panamera. But the story behind the 500 E is fascinating and something we might never see ever again.