September 14, 2012

Yes, Virginia, There Is A 'Mercedes 500TE'

And since it's apparently Complicated Cuts & Modifications Motivated By Religious Passion Week here at DT...

The re-emergence of that AMG Like-A-Hammer Wagon started me looking into its fate, and why AMG didn't end up making 50 of those things/year like they'd originally planned. [One article said only 13 AMG 300TE 6.0 wagons were completed, and it's not known how many others have survived.]

The short answer, of course, is that Mercedes got into the V-8 E-Class business themselves, with the 400E in 1989. Then in 1990, Mercedes released the 322hp 500E, which was, rather amazingly, developed and constructed in collaboration with Porsche. But only as a sedan. Right? 10,000 500E's produced over five years, and there were really no wagons? Not even one?

Alas, that does seem to be the case. Which did not stop the handful of guys who wanted a Mercedes they could haul both ass and their dog in at the same time. And those folks have made a few cars they call the Mercedes-Benz 500TE.

e500vf2.jpg

There are two ways to make a 500TE: cloning and splicing. You either convert a station wagon into a 500E, or a 500E into a station wagon.

Cloning begins with a stock W124 wagon, which is rebuilt with the bodywork, performance parts, and finishes of a 500E: the wheel arches and ground effects; the 5.0L engine; the SL 500's brakes, Recaro seats, etc. It seems doable, almost practical, even. But it misses the handbuilt quality which, in this case, also includes closer welds and chassis reinforcements. And complicated body panels like the 500E's rear fenders often don't make the jump.

The splicing option, meanwhile, seems more radical and difficult, but also sounds like it preserves more of the 500E's 500E-ness: You take the entire roof and rear chassis of a wagon, and attach it onto the farthest back spots on the 500E that the cars have in common. Which is apparently just in front of the rear footwells. There are drivetrain, rear seat, and bumper issues to be worked out.

For some reason, there are at least two 500TE's in Norway, one of each variety. A participant in the 500E messageboards said, when a 500TE splice came up for sale [above] last fall, that there were either 5-6 or 13 known splices and "many more" clones. Though the board's debate over the clone vs. splice question is vigorous, I think it's telling that the only guy to have actually owned a 500TE, a clone, prefers a splice.

Though you could sure put off a lot of niggling questions about rear seat folds and chassis reinforcements if you painted your 500TE purple.

500TE_purple_500eboard.jpg

Either way, though, the integrity of the car is heavily dependent on the quality of the workmanship, but also the particulars of each solution, and whether it was ignored, punted, kludged, or thoughtfully sorted out.

There seems to be recognition within the 500E communities that the greatest 500TE is the first [above], created in 1993 by the legendary Hanover VW/Audi/Porsche tuner and station wagon converter G√ľnter Artz, so he could--all together now--take his dog on the Autobahn. It came up for sale in 2009. And I can easily declare it to be the coolest car Artz ever built. At least until I click through on the VW Golf 928. Haven't seen that thing in decades...

Mercedes-Benz 500E [wikipedia]
E500T for sale [500eboard.com]
500TE Artz [500eboard.com]
1995 mod. E 500 STASJONSVOGN, was asking, I believe 221,000 kronors, or around $USD43,000 [mercedesdeler.no]
Ferocious Rabbit, scans from R&T Oct. 1979 [rennlist]

4 Comments

I bet you could get this cross-posted on Jalopnik

But then I'd have to track down the AMG 500TE 7.3, with the 520ps, bored-out V12. Can't leave hoon journalism like that lying around unclaimed...

Well? have you found it yet? And who owns the 6.3 wagon these days?

on the E73T, no, nothing more than the same scan of a 1996 magazine photo that's already in circulation. I'm not even confident it's AMG, since the only references I can find to a 7.3L W124 conversion are to Brabus.

As for the 6.3, you mean the Mallet? I think it's the same guy who tried to sell it last time around, that 2008 eBay sale. The new location is the Bronx, but those NJ tags look unchanged to me. Seems to be a fellow in the trucking business.

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