For Enrique Martinez Sanchez and son Camilo, a 'barn storming Mercedes wasn't part of the plan - but now the car feels like a part of the family
Images by Gianfranco Tagliaferri
There’s no doubt it was love at first sight. Since the very first time we saw her in the corner of the of the garage, we knew she was sitting there waiting for us.
In 2012 Camilo, my son, with whom I share a mad passion for cars – by mad I mean that we end up turning off the radio in the car just so we can hear the roar of the engines of cars around us - and I decided to turn our dream of buying a car with the ‘DNA’ of a true classic, into a reality. Back then we had already seen some potential cars to buy. In fact we were considering buying a 1973 Datsun 240Z in lime yellow that had been imported from California and whose ‘pedigree’ showed that she only had one previous owner - a high school teacher - for an asking price of U$27.000.
Out of the blue, one of my dearest friends, Edgar, who is a real car connoisseur, phoned me and told me he wanted to show me a 'very special' car, but refused to give us any further details. With such a build-up of anticipation, which one might compare to the feeling Howard Carter must have had when he was getting closer to discovering Tutankhamun’s tomb, Camilo and I embarked upon our journey to meet up with Edgar so he could show us the car. While on our way we could not stop speculating. We were so excited that a simple one-hour journey seemed to take ages!
Finally, the intrigue came to an end when we finally arrived and the current owner removed the protecting cover. From the depths of the darkest corner in the garage a 1992 Mercedes Benz 500E in graphite grey emerged displaying her beautiful AMG aluminium alloys and enlarged side skirt, which was one of the characteristics that differentiated her from her siblings in the standard range. Her dark grey interior and beautiful condition left us absolutely speechless. We could not believe that the car which multiple critics had referred to as a ‘wolf in a sheep’s skin’, was right in front of us.
The owner asked us if we wanted to take her for a spin, which we obviously agreed to, and handed me the keys. When I turned her on, the 5 litres of her V8 engine with 32 valves immediately let out a wonderful baritone howl making the whole place vibrate at its core, giving us the kind of goose bumps that only petrol heads get. It was our first experience driving a V8 but it wasn’t just any V8 and we could not believe our eyes. Camilo and I looked at each other, trying to disguise our emotions behind a poker-face so as not to reveal our hand and leave the door open for at least some sort of negotiation with the owner, but we both had a very clear goal in our minds and could see ourselves waving goodbye to the 1973 Datsun, as its humble 6 cylinders were not able to produce this level of excitement or testosterone.
Her owner asked me to put my foot down, so I followed his instructions. The tachometer evidenced what this car was made of, and the manufacturers pedigree, responding beautifully with her 326 hp and delivering her top speed of 260 km/h without any hesitation in spite of being 20 years old.
When we got back to the owner’s garage, we were a bit anxious to find out what was the asking price for such a beast. The owner, while sipping coffee and looking us in the eye, revealed that the asking price was U$25,000. We had to literally force ourselves to keep a straight face, as we were so excited to hear that he was willing to sell the car for such an affordable price, and we then proceeded to do some minor negotiations, as is customary in these situations, although deep inside we both knew that the car was ours already. We finally agreed on payment terms and most importantly, agreed on the delivery time - it was going to take 3 days for the car to be ready and delivered to our doorstep.
During those 3 days we both felt the same mix of intrigue and butterflies in our stomachs that a child feels on Christmas eve, waiting for their first bike after having included it in their letter to Father Christmas. To cope with what seemed an endless wait, we started researching everything we could about this car. We discovered that this model had been developed in partnership with Porsche on a W124 chassis and that Porsche had not only designed its powertrain and suspension but assembled the cars in its Zuffenhausen workshop for technical practicalities. The manufacturing and assembly process lasted 18 days and in 1992 its retail price was U$81,100. Lastly, we discovered that it would do 0-100Km/h in 5.5-6 s, which was absolutely remarkable for a car that weighs over 1,700kg. This information filled our hearts with joy, and now as present-day owners she still makes us shake every time we put our foot down.
Ever since we received her our 500E has become our true companion. In all honesty we would struggle to find a good reason to get rid of her given all the history we’ve had together and all that she represents. In fact, every time we’re out, she always gets compliments and looks. She’s been invited to three Mercedes exhibitions ‘FUR FANS’ in Colombia where we reside. In fact, the last exhibit she attended broke the world record of the highest number of different types of Mercedes gathered together in one place - 370 to be exact. During all of these events we’ve received multiple offers from eager buyers that surpass by far what we paid for her, one of which is from her regretful former owner.
It has been a lifelong belief, just as it is the case with love, whatever we are truly passionate about in life, is waiting for us in some corner of the world and that the universe is conspiring to ensure that our paths cross - all we have to do is tap into our true desire and enthusiasm and it will just be a matter of time.