Literature introducing the 1993 Cabrio in the United States reads “Few automobiles can claim to be instant classics; the thrilling new 300CE Cabriolet might be one of them.” Considering how owners and fans covet them and the high prices they still command, this statement is absolute truth decades later today.
In the United States: 1993 – 1995 model years.
In Europe: 1992 – 1997 (in some markets only) model years
BACK AFTER A 20-YEAR HIATUS: THE FOUR SEAT MERCEDES CONVERTIBLE
Not since the 1971 280SE convertible (see slideshow for picture) had there been a true 4-seat Mercedes-Benz ragtop. After a 20 year hiatus, prototypes were developed off the hardtop coupe version of the company’s midsize 300 series models codenamed the “124 body” platform (introduced in sedan form for 1986, wagon form for 1987, and coupe form for 1988).
Engineering of the convertible took place from 1990-91, and was introduced to the world at the 1991 Frankfurt Auto Show. Factory production of the first 124 body Cabriolets officially began December 1991 and European markets received the first Cabrios, built as 1992 models. Since introduction of the Cabrio in the United States was pushed back later into the 1992 calendar year, U.S. versions were first available as 1993 models.
Floors, transmission tunnels, windshield frames, door frames, even the convertible top storage compartments were engineered to provide extra body rigidity lost by convertibles. Engineers did their homework thoroughly, as all automotive reviewers gave the 300CE Cabrio high marks for no cowl shake, creaks, or flexing over bumps. Like the 300CE coupe, 8-hole style wheels were standard on all Cabrios upon introduction.
ENGINES POWERING CABRIOLETS
3.0-liter Inline 6 cylinder (1992) – The first Cabrios, built as 1992 models for sale in Europe, were badged as “300CE – 24” Cabriolets. The 24 nomenclature referred to the 24-valve cylinder head version of the 3.0-liter inline 6 cylinder engine equipped on coupes only since 1990. Horsepower was 217, torque was 195 foot-pounds.
3.2-liter inline 6 cylinder (1993-1995/97) – For 1993, the 3.0-liter was enlarged to 3.2 liters on all 124 body models, and retained 24-valve cylinder heads for better air intake. While the increase in engine displacement did not change the horsepower rating (still at 217 hp), torque jumped from 195 to 229 foot-pounds…enough to make a noticeable different in low end grunt off the line. For the 1993 model year, this model was still badged the “300CE” in the U.S. but was known as the “320CE ” in Europe and Japan. For 1994-on, all models with this engine became known as “E320” cabriolets (see further below for details)
2.2-liter inline 4 cylinder (1992-97) – A 220CE / E220 Cabrio model was sold in Europe and other markets from 1992-97, and featured a 2.2-liter 4 cylinder that produced 150 horsepower. This was never brought to the U.S.
1994: A NEW FACE AND A NEW NAME (SEE SLIDESHOW FOR PICTORAL DETAILS)
A second design update to all 124-body models caught fans of the marque off guard. Mercedes had already given 124 body sedans and wagons a traditional mid-life style update four years earlier for 1990. And even mid-life style updates were somewhat new to this car company that sometimes was known for leaving various models in production eighteen years with zero body panel changes.
Larger, one-piece headlights that were consistent in design with the new 1992 S-class sedans and 1994 C-class replaced the square-in-rectangle headlights that dated back to 1986. A new grille was integrated into a slightly revised hood that wrapped around it, rather than being bolted on to the end of the hood. (See slide show for examples). Finally, European and U.S. models looked the same.
To avoid confusion that had grown from number-based model badges sounding too similar, (for example: the 300E, 300CE, 300SL, and 300SE actually represented vastly different offerings in the lineup), Mercedes marketers created a more uniform badging system.
All 124-body models would now be known as the “E-class” and would have an E followed by number reflecting engine size accurately. Additional letters such as T and C that had designated wagon and coupe bodies were gone. Suffixes that existed to reflect an engine larger or smaller in size than the model number (ex: 300E 2.6) were no longer needed. Thus, all 124 body ragtops were renamed E320 Cabriolets through the remainder of their production run.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EUROPEAN AND U.S. CABRIOS (SEE SLIDESHOW FOR PICTORAL DETAILS)
While 124-body Cabriolets were introduced early in 1992, they were sold as ’92 models in other parts of the world before being introduced later that year in the U.S. as ’93 300CE models. Early Cabrios were badged as the 1992 “300CE-24” through Europe, and as the “320CE” in Japan and England.
For 1994, Cabrios in all markets uniformly became the “E320 Cabrio”, the same as in the U.S. Headlights which previously differed (other markets featuring one-piece glass headlamp assemblies vs. the square-in-rectangle look developed for the U.S) were now the same worldwide.
While all U.S. versions were equipped with 4-speed automatic transmissions, 124-body Cabrios sold in other markets were equipped with either Mercedes-Benz’s new 5-speed automatic transmission or 5-speed manual.
And lastly, while the last year 124-body convertibles were sold in the United States was 1995, they remained for sale through the ’97 model year in some European markets.
Depending on condition and miles, 1993-95 Cabrios can fetch anywhere from $15,000 to almost $40,000 today.
TO VIEW OTHER ARTICLES BY THIS AUTHOR, CLICK HERE http://knotmove.com/classic-cars-in-newark/sean-connor