Ever since I watched Luc Besson’s 1998 film Taxi, the Mercedes-Benz 500E has been on my list of dream cars. Watching the silver German rockets chase the white Peugeot taxi through the streets of Marseille went a long way in forming my passion for cars when I was a young kid—I hope, and truthfully expect, that I’m not alone in this.
As the information about automobiles became more widespread, I found out how special that car really was. Developed in part and hand-built for Mercedes-Benz by Porsche in Stuttgart, it could go from a standstill to 60mph in 5.5 seconds, which was only a tad slower than the Ferrari Testarossa, a decidedly more exotic car. The 500E would go on to top out at 160mph only because of the redline limit and the 4-speed automatic gearbox. It was König der Autobahn, and you could most definitely drive it as a daily, or load up its spacious boot and still haul ass for a weekend trip away with the family.
In 1993 the 500E name was changed to E500 according to Mercedes-Benz marketing policy at the time, and things became more interesting with the introduction of the very special, and very limited, E60 AMG, the end-all be-all of production W124 sedans.
It was based on the E500, but came equipped with the 957 “AMG Technik Paket” which included a more powerful 6.0L V8 instead of the 5.0L M119 V8. It also had 17” wheels shared with the 190E Evo II, stiffer AMG-tuned suspension, and an AMG exhaust system. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to find out the exact number of E60 AMG cars produced, but estimates vary between 100 to 150. Whatever the true number, it’s an extremely rare car.
The number is nebulous for the same reason so many pre-merger AMGs are tough to differentiate between. In the case of the E60, some people would send off their newly-purchased E500s to Affalterbach, a small town in Germany’s Baden–Württemberg region and the home of AMG. The famous Mercedes-Benz tuner—still a separate company back then—would fit those cars with their 6.0L V8 and do the rest of the conversion, which makes it almost impossible these days to find a “real” E60 AMG rather than one that started out as a 500E or E500. The true factory cars have it coded in their VIN though, so it all comes out in the end unless someone gets really shady.
The car is a needle in a haystack, you could say, but they are still out there. It’s the kind of car you won’t find unless you know of one already or happen to have some serendipity on your side. Some of the most memorable things in our lives happen unplanned; the places that we go to, the people who we meet there, the cars we get to drive, the memories left afterwards, sometimes it’s simply impossible to plan ahead of time and you have to trust that getting out in the world will yield something worthwhile. That’s how I came across this car.
To tell you the truth, I didn’t even consider going to Georgia earlier this year due to some circumstances in my life until my friends invited me to partake in some dirt-cheap plane tickets to Vladikavkaz, Russia with them, where we would then take a bus to Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. Why not? The trip was really short in total, just several days, but we had lots of fun, wine, and memories to last us after it was over. On our way back, retracing our route, we arrived to Vladikavkaz well before our evening flight, so I decided to try to find a car to shoot.
Call it a coincidence, a miracle, whatever, but it happened the moment I decided to explore the completely unknown city in the middle of Caucasus mountains on my own. A year beforehand, I’d found out about a low-mileage 1995 BMW M5 in Vladikavkaz, with a beautiful light grey leather interior and painted in the rare-for-E34 Dakargelb, or Dakar Yellow. Only five M5s left the factory in this color, and three of them, to my knowledge, have ended up in Russia. One had been recently acquired and imported from Japan, so I contacted the owner online, and, to my surprise, he agreed to meet, although he said that the M5 was dirty, dusty, and with a dead battery, so if I were interested in any other of his cars, he would pick me up somewhere in the city and show me something else instead.
Most of us would agree to let someone take photos of our favorite car(s) to share with an audience like 400-euro-job’, but from my experience with collectors in Russia is that they are usually 40-something-year-old, very busy people with families, who rarely wish to spend their precious time letting someone they don’t know get all personal with their automotive babies.
Probably it was my lucky day though, because less than an hour later Konstantin showed up in a one-of-two 1996 Carlsson CM 62. I asked where on Earth he found it, and the answer came shortly, one I should have known: “Japan. And my other cars too. Let’s go check them out, we as well may take this car their. It’s up to you.” Carte blanche.
After a short ride, we arrive at Konstantin’s garage and I find myself standing in the middle of a space struggling to choose. Instead of collecting one marque or one model, he has an obvious affinity for ‘90s super sedans from Germany. Besides the stock E34 535i with faded paint (a car with a great story of its own), the rest were some of the fastest cars with four doors or otherwise that one could hope to own at the end of the 20th century. The others included the Carlsson CM 62 that we arrived in, the Dakar Yellow M5 mentioned earlier, a 1992 Alpina B10 (the Bi-Turbo one, of course) and the one pictured here today: a 1994 Mercedes-Benz E60 AMG.
It’s hard describe the feeling when you finally meet your dream car in the metal. I was stunned. 20 years after watching the movie that started my obsession with this car, I had finally found one in three dimensions. I guess most of you understand me even if this particular car isn’t your favorite. It seemed almost black in the garage, but as soon as Konstantin rolled it out the E60’s Azuritblau changed its shade to a deep blue that hinted at dark violet from some angles.
We drove around the city for a bit and then found a place to eat while Konstantin told me the car’s story. His love for Mercedes-Benz goes way back, and he’s owned a few, with some still on his list. His favorite of all time, if forced to answer that difficult question, is the W140-generation BRABUS 7.3S, which was the fastest and most luxurious sedan of its era, and, surprise, he owns one with less than 20,000 miles on it. Never content though, he was looking for something else to add to his collection when he came across this gorgeous E60 AMG that had come up for sale at an auction in Japan. Long story short, he got it delivered to Russia.
Immediately upon arrival the car went through a full service before it could stretch its legs on the narrow and winding Caucasus roads, but it turned up to be in pretty decent condition to start with and needed nothing more serious than standard due diligence with basic fluids and such. It already had its brake system upgraded during its time in Japan, which unfortunately didn’t fit in the original wheels, so they have been replaced by the 18-inch ones in the same design. It also felt like the guys at Direct Racing Fuji—who serviced the car back in Japan—did their magic in the suspension department too, and they installed good old German H&R components that allowed it to retain the Mercedes-Benz levels of ride comfort level while sharpening up the response.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end at some point, and I had to catch my flight, so we lowered ourselves back into the Recaro CSE seats and took off. 1990s or otherwise, it steel feels overwhelmingly fast. Frightening almost, depending on the width of the road in relation to this stout machine. I knew that our blast to the airport powered by 381 German horses was going to be something like this, but the car passed the 100mph mark on the speedometer like it was nothing. Only when I noticed that the scenery was moving past faster than normal did I get a sense of our pace. Nothing else gave it away though—quiet, smooth, assured. And these speeds are no big deal for the E60 AMG, the König der Autobahn.