BEFORE THE X-CLASS
Since the debut of the legendary W123 of the mid-1970s, the mid-sized Mercedes-Benz E-Class has been synonymous with quality and technical innovation. Both the W123 and its replacement, the W124, set new standards for safety and achieved legendary status for their bulletproof reliability. When the time came for the W124’s replacement in the mid-1990s, Mercedes engineers faced a considerable challenge to redesign what was already considered one of the best production cars in the world. During that time, Mercedes-Benz was undergoing an image makeover of sorts. Traditionally known for conservative design and understated luxury, Mercedes-Benz design language grew bolder, with an increased focus on sophisticated electronic driver aids and active safety systems.
The new W210 E-Class went on sale in 1996 and was a drastic departure from the angular, understated W124. The bold new front end featured vertical oval headlamps, with separate fog lamps flanking a smaller, yet still prominent chrome grille. The overall shape was softer, more flowing, and more distinctive, albeit somewhat controversial among traditional, conservative-leaning Mercedes buyers. Initially, the M104 twin-cam inline-six carried over from the W124, but from 1997-on, the car featured the all-new 3.2-liter M112 engine, the company’s first production V6. Buyers quickly warmed to the new styling and high-tech equipment, and soon the W210 E-Class was back at the top of the executive car segment.
This one-off 2000 E320 is one of the most extraordinary examples of the W210 we’ve ever seen. This car left the factory as a standard station wagon, but instead of heading to a showroom, it shipped directly to Karrosserie Binz in Germany for conversion into this incredible, one-of-a-kind four-door pickup at the behest of an Atlanta-area Mercedes-Benz dealer. Binz is one of a select few traditional German coachbuilders to survive into the modern era, and they have a long tradition with Mercedes-Benz, with a portfolio that includes estates, ambulances, hearses, with more recent work focusing on limousines and custom tuning. Binz tapped into its wild side for this one-off pickup creation, which the original owner used as a promotional vehicle for his dealership. Rather than simply lopping off the back of a wagon, Binz craftsmen went all-out, stretching the car by 29 inches and fabricating the pickup bed aft of the rear seats. The quality is superb, with a virtually seamless conversion that could be mistaken as the factory’s own work. Features of the transformation include the custom bed with tailgate, tubular stainless steel bed rails, and custom LED lighting in the cargo box. Binz utilized the original wagon rear window, which opens for access to the passenger compartment. The attention to detail is extraordinary, with seamless, factory-quality finishing on the body, interior, and undercarriage. That sort of quality came at a cost – $49,760 to be exact – above and beyond the price of the brand new E320 wagon donor car.
Showing just over 21,000 miles from new, it is in superb condition inside and out, which is as much a testament to the quality of the original conversion as it is to the mileage. The non-metallic black paint is gorgeous and finished to factory standards. The bumpers, body moldings, and sill covers are all excellent and staggered 18-inch AMG Monobloc alloy wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport rubber provide a bit of sporty aggression. The cargo bed features a fully functional tailgate, patterned stainless steel flooring, and textured bed liner for protection.
From behind the wheel, there’s little to distinguish this from a standard E320 wagon. For the rear passengers, Binz seamlessly adapted a pair of front bucket seats, separated by a modified center console. The original tan upholstery is in impeccable condition, appearing virtually showroom fresh. Options include automatic climate control, COMAND in-dash navigation/entertainment system, and all the niceties expected of an E-Class, including power windows, power memory seats, steering wheel audio controls, and cruise control. The wood trim is superb, and the dash, door panels, and carpets are in excellent condition.
The outstanding presentation continues under the hood, where the standard M112 3.2-liter V6 is remarkably clean and looks virtually as-new. The engine and 5-speed automatic transmission are standard Mercedes fare, and the mechanical modifications are minimal – limited to extending driveshaft, plumbing, wiring, and exhaust accordingly with the stretched wheelbase. Limited mechanical alterations ensure the car is easily serviceable with genuine Mercedes parts. Because it utilizes the wagon platform, it features standard self-leveling rear suspension specifically designed for handling heavier loads. As it is under the hood, the undercarriage is remarkably clean, and the modifications are virtually undetectable.
Images courtesy of Hyman LTD Classic Cars