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Previously owned by comedian Red Skelton and wife, Lothian Skelton
Built in a collaboration between Porsche and Mercedes-Benz in limited production
Extremely rare factory black over black specification, believed one of three built
Extensive “Canepa Difference” servicing and upgrades of $80,000
All original black paint finish, California car since new
Large collection of service documents, includes owner’s manual
Canepa upgrades including BBS Aero II wheels and Canepa Design cosmetic enhancements
One of the best under-the-radar cars in the automotive world is the Mercedes-Benz 500E. Built in collaboration with Porsche in the early 90s, it is one of the greatest Q-ship sedans ever created. Using parts from the SL sports car and accessing Porsche’s handmade expertise, these special cars took an average of 18 days to build. With the powerful 5.0-liter V8 engine came impressive performance with a limited top speed of 155mph, all while maintaining the Mercedes-Benz level of quality and comfort. A few clues gave away that this was not your ordinary W124 was its aggressive stance that has 1.5-inch wider track, an inch lower profile, flared fenders, side skirts, and a front air dam. Thankfully the final package, to the untrained eye, was subtle enough to not attract unwarranted attention from law enforcement.
This Mercedes-Benz 500E represents a rare example of the collaboration between Porsche and Mercedes. Color options for 500E were fairly limited, and many of the colors were relegated to the usual suspects of silver, dark grey metallic and some other unusual colors such as Spruce Green metallic. However, if you knew someone within Porsche it was possible to request a color not available to the public. Black is one of those colors, unavailable to the common person without a special connection. This makes a color combination of black over black 500E extremely rare, even more rare that this car retains all of its original factory paint finish. A stunning example, it only adds to its Q-ship status and retains an aggressive presence that is lacking from the rest. Pair that with the visceral exhaust note that encourages you to mash the throttle at all times, this unique Mercedes-Benz 500E is the one to have.
Purchased in October of 1993, the Mercedes was sold by Beverly Hills Mercedes-Benz and was purchased by a high-profile supermodel based in Los Angeles, CA. She owned the car for a few years before the stealthy 500E was purchased by famous comedian Red Skelton and his wife, Lothian Skelton. Red hosted the show The Red Skelton Show from 1951 to 1970, applying his special variety of comedy to television, film and radio. He retired from performing live in 1993 when he celebrated his 80th birthday. He and his wife, Lothian, lived in the Los Angeles area until Red’s passing in 1997. Lothian moved to the Palm Springs area a few years later, and would drive the car sparingly. Most of the miles on the car were amassed during the first 8 years of ownership, with the Mercedes-Benz driven less than 3,000 miles between 2001 and 2019. The Mercedes was maintained regularly at the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Palm Springs, California, ensuring that it was in proper driving order if Lothian ever wanted to take the Mercedes out for a drive. When Lothian was thinking about selling the Mercedes, the service manager in Palm Springs Mercedes-Benz recommended that she call Bruce Canepa, saying that he liked these kinds of cars and the quality that it was currently in. Lothian and Bruce struck up a conversation, and shortly afterwards Bruce agreed to purchase her Mercedes.
When the 500E recently arrived at Canepa, there was some disbelief that involved the black over black specification. Supposedly with only a few ever made, seeing one in person was a rare occasion indeed. With not a moment to spare, Bruce Canepa had a vision with the car and immediately entered it into Canepa’s system to receive the “Canepa Difference” process. Comprising of a complete mechanical inspection and service with a concours-level detailing, this process is one of the many aspects why Canepa cars are known for their quality.
The Mercedes received a comprehensive servicing that describes the “Canepa Difference” by the level of work done. Every individual system was inspected and gone through if needed. This included replacing both wiring harnesses, replacing the heater core and air conditioning evaporator, updating the factory stereo to accept iPhone connectivity, a new oil pan gasket and PCV tubes, exhaust tips coated in high-temp magnesium color Keracote, fuel pump and filter replaced, transmission pump gaskets and seals replaced, and front shock boots and bump stops replaced.
It was then decided that a set of BBS Aero II wheels, with the centers painted in Liquid Silver metallic with polished rim lips, would give the car a subtle yet updated look along with other subtle Canepa Design visual enhancements. In the meantime, it was given a complete concours detailing, washing the underside of the car, exterior, engine bay, and cleaning every square inch of the interior. The factory black paint finish was polished with only foam pads and polishes, enhancing the deep luster of the Q-ship sedan. The 18” BBS wheels were added and completed with new Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires in 255/40/ZR18, bringing the look of the Mercedes-Benz 500E to be a one-of-a-kind bruiser. The original set of wheels are still available with this Mercedes for those looking to go back to the originals. In all, the complete servicing and Canepa Design modifications tallied a total of close to $80,000, making this car completely set and worthy of the phrase “needing nothing.”
A Mercedes-Benz 500E is a driving automotive history lesson, showing that manufacturers weren’t always in the business of keeping to themselves. Often times collaborations formed out of necessity for either technical or expertise needs which often created extremely innovative and cool projects. With Mercedes-Benz designing their 500E and the capable hands of Porsche assembling the Q-ships, these are unique, memorable and ultimately fantastic driving cars. With this example being one of the very few painted by the factory in black with a black interior, owned by Red Skelton and cared for since new by his wife, and paired with the Canepa’s tasteful upgrades to update its look, this Mercedes-Benz 500E is one for the history books.