Brian Werstak's 1994 Mercedes E500 Limited
Limited. the word can mean many things and unfortunately its usage in automotive nomenclature has been widely and pathetically abused. Used in an automotive context, the earliest association I muster goes back to the 1950s and the Ford Crown Victoria LTD.
The mind then races through many forgettable decades of regrettable products. Exactly what was "limited" there? Limited ability? Certainly. Limited availability? In most cases bountifully available, too much so even.
Then we were graced with the Limited Brougham. Argh! And what is a "Bro Ham" anyway?
A little known glimmer of hope for the use of "Limited" in autodom existed in 1994. While most any gearhead enthusi-nut gamer is versed with at least some proficiency in the Mercedes-Benz language of the W124 500E/E500 (or better be), adding the suffix "Limited" escalated its otherwise übersedan wundercar into an even higher echelon of awesomeness. Produced for the Swiss market beginning late 1993, Mercedes set aside 500 of its crown jewel E500s for further enhancement. The effort resulted in a W124 swan song-the E500 Limited. Of the 500 produced, Mercedes bestowed 12 examples with an E60 designation coupled with a 381-hp 6.0-liter, making them the most limited of the Limiteds. None were exported to North America.
Subtle distinctive touches defined the Limited; it was available in two exterior colors, Sapphire Black or Diamond Silver. A rather avant-garde Roser leather interior that would have made Andy Warhol proud was utilized. An almost airbrushed appearance, the Recaro seat centers and door cards offered a striking refraction-of-light motif with matching steering wheel sections, gearshift lever, and vehicle documentation wallet.
Love it or hate it, there was no denying the panache that suits the Limited-its effect was something to behold. Black cars received either gray or green (!) interiors, and silver cars either gray or red. The gray featured navy blue outer sections complimenting the centers and was rather appealing with a smart eu de cool about it. Further distinguishing the Limited experience, burr walnut or black bird's eye maple interior trim exuded exclusivity, while the exterior was complemented with 17-inch Evo II six-spoke polished wheels.
The Limited was a regal tribute to a masterful symbiotic creation-Porsche has yet to corroborate with another manufacturer to this extent since. Mercedes trucked W124-series bodies-in-white from its Sindelfingen factory to Zuffenhausen, where Porsche minions bestowed their chassis/suspension/motor/gearbox Zen upon them. They punched out the transmission tunnel to accommodate a 928-sourced four-speed, fitted massively flared front fenders, and boxed out the rear quarters and doors to match. The front seats sit a couple inches further apart to straddle the monster box even. The Limiteds returned to Mercedes for paint, then again to Zuff for Porsche's dastardly hands to massage and install the SL500-sourced M119 engine and tune the suspension. With more than 4,500 unique parts, each car took 18 days to birth, versus three for the pedestrian W124. From 1991 to '94, about 10,500 examples resulted from this veritable ping pong amongst giants, with 1,505 or so finding homes in the United States from '92 to '94. The net result for model year '92 was a 322 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque 'bahnstormer with 50/50 weight distribution. Though the aluminum 5.0-liter threatened to burst the engine bay seams, it was a mere 18 pounds heavier than the iron straight-six it replaced. Horses and torques dropped slightly for U.S. cars in '93 and '94 due to emissions controls, but still hammered out an impressive 315 hp and 347 lb-ft.