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.
Proprietor of Coventry Motorcar in scenic Coventry, Conn., Brian Werstak's passion for finding and enjoying intriguing cars has provided him some exhilarating experiences. Having been wowed by a "regular" 500E, he located this Limited in Virginia in 2002. It is believed to be the only example in North America. While fully federalized, the DOT bits were thankfully quickly relegated to attic munchies in tidy boxes, allowing the Limited to let its freak flag fly.
Arguably, Mercedes did the Limited right with its tasteful appointments; however, Werstak's well-honed expertise persuaded him to further endow his with more capability. Maintaining the gentlemanly execution the Limited mandates and keeping within the family, SL65 wheels were added with Michelin Pilot Sports all around. As such wheels can house a lot of brake and will likely demand them, 15-inch front rotors were chosen and Brembo six-piston silver calipers from a Ferrari F50 application were mounted on all four corners. A Renntech EPROM compliments their carbon fiber airbox, and an ASR (traction control) defeat switch allows one-legged exploitative shenanigans. Inside, a pistol grip steering wheel custom made in Europe was incorporated, feeling as if its creators dipped the Hulk's hands into a molten mold for forming.
Having owned a pair of W124s and a 2.3-16 myself, it's easy to appreciate the design, engineering, fit and finish. Many believe this chassis to be the apogee of Mercedes-Benz prowess and that something has been missing ever since. A turn of the key queues the starter to sing its Siren song of enchantment, a fitting soundtrack for what you are about to embark upon. There is nothing like that sound. Clicking the gear lever down to L then back to D engages start-in-first. Then you whomp the go pedal and chuckle audibly. With fourth gear at 1:1 and peak torque at 3900 rpm, it's comical watching the speedometer needle rush through the only digits on the dial that seem to matter-80, 120, 155. Acceleration is prodigious yet composed, dignified, distinguished. Double downshift and torque delivery is overt with immediate grunt. Surprisingly, the Brembos provide an OEM pedal feel, but their capacity is likely beyond your constitution. Seeing this in your garage each day might be like waking up next to the girl (or guy) of your dreams. Wide-open throttle exposure to one of them is a must-do on the enthusi-nut's rite of passage. Limited. In the true sense of the word.
1994 Mercedes-Benz E500 Limited
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
5.0-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve.
Renntech carbon airbox, Renntech EPROM
H&R springs with Bilstein sport dampers
Six-piston Brembo calipers, 15-inch front rotors
Wheels & Tires
OEM SL65 alloys, 8.5x19 (f), 9.5x19 (r)
Michelin Pilot Sport, 245/40 (f), 275/35 (r)
Custom "pistol grip" steering wheel, Renntech ASR
Peak Power: 322 hp
Peak Torque: 347 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 5.5 sec.
Top Speed: 178 mph