British comedian and car enthusiast Rowan Atkinson must really like the Mercedes Benz 500E. After all, he's owned the same one on two separate occasions. There are apparently limits to his affection, however, as he has now consigned it for sale at Classic Car Auctions in the UK on May 25.
Actually, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Atkinson is selling a much-beloved automobile. When he’s had his fill, he spread the automotive love to a new caretaker. In 2015, he auctioned off his McLaren F1, explaining, “It is time for it to be enjoyed by someone else.”
One could argue that Atkinson's 500E is even rarer than the one-of-106 (including prototypes and racers) F1. It is one of only 29 500Es supplied to the UK in left-hand-drive. Equipped with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine from the SL models, it has a top speed of 161 mph and can do 0-62 mph in 5.5 seconds. That’s pretty quick for a large sedan, even these days.
The Atkinson car is well-documented, including being featured in Car magazine a number of times over the years. He originally bought it new in 1991 and drove it for four years before selling it. Atkinson must have missed his Merc, though, because in 2017 he bought it back from the second owner. According to the auction house, it needs some “tidying up, with a condition score of 82 out of a possible 135.
The wolf-in-sheep's-clothing Mercedes-Benz 500E itself has an interesting story. It was actually engineered and built with major help from Porsche. At the time, in the early 1990s, Benz engineers were too busy developing a new flagship S-Class, so Daimler commissioned Porsche to re-engineer the W124 E-Class to accept the big V-8 and necessary driveline and suspension modifications. As it turned out, the modified sedan's wider fenders wouldn't fit on the assembly line at Daimler's Sindelfingen factory where standard E-Class models were assembled. Porsche was going through one of the financial crises that periodically plagued the sports-car maker back then and it had excess capacity, so the Porsche's nearby Zuffenhausen plant, just outside of Stuttgart, hand-assembled the 500E chassis. Midway through the process the cars were shipped back to Sindelfingen for paint, and then back again the Zuffenhausen for engine installation, before receiving final checks and tags for delivery (once again) at Mercedes’ facility.
All of this complexity, combined with the fact that Mercedes sold just over 10,000 of these cars between 1991 and 1994, meant that the 500E was extremely expensive. It went on sale in the U.S. in 1992 for about $80,000, or roughly $144,000 is today’s dollars. For reference, a base S-Class today is $91,250, and the S63 AMG costs just shy of $150,000 before destination.
If you're interesting in owning Mr. Bean's Benz, the auction will take place, as mentioned, on May 25, 2019 at the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre. Atkinson is offering the car at no reserve.