Having spent his entire life in the construction industry and driven a truck as long as his son could remember, Wilson Tam wanted to commemorate his father’s retirement with a very special gift.
Working as a master technician at Mercedes-Benz San Francisco, he decided to buy his father a brand new E350. Having arranged a surreptitious test drive and ordered the car, Wilson then took a vacation.
Upon his return, the proud son was bemused to find a new Scion XB in the driveway. It turns out his father had already bought a new car, so Wilson had to come clean about his surprise.
After it was delivered, the Mercedes sat unused on the driveway for months, and when challenged his father admitted he found it too confusing to drive with all its switches and warning lights.
Rather than see it go to waste, Wilson took responsibility for the car and decided it might make an interesting project. He’d previously modified several Nissan 240s and Mazda RX-7s, so this would be a new challenge but one he embraced.
His first thought was to get a German body kit and, after shopping around, approached the US distributor for Carlsson. Unfortunately, they went out of business, so he was getting up at 3am to phone Germany.
Eventually, the full body kit arrived including the front bumper, carbon lip, side skirts, rear diffuser and trunk spoiler. These were duly fitted along with a Lorinser roof spoiler since Carlsson didn’t have the option.
The spoiler was originally going to be from Japanese stylist Wald, but a tight deadline for SEMA 2011 meant different choices were made.
The car will also appear at SEMA 2012 in the AiREX booth, along with a C350 Coupe Wilson is currently building. We’d originally planned to call this story “Dropping an E” but our straight-laced management don’t think you could deal with pop culture references. And yet, that’s one of the more remarkable aspect’s of Wilson’s E350 because it uses air suspension rather than coilovers to achieve its lowered stance.
This can often be cause for controversy in the Euro car scene but Mercedes has been fitting air suspension for years to several of its models. This is what attracted Wilson and he now claims the prototype AiREX system he has is better than the OE version for several reasons. Firstly, it can drop lower than stock, plus he has 12 comfort levels, allowing him to get sportier handling without jarring the occupants.
The equipment includes AiREX struts and air bags with two compressors and one air tank hidden under the false floor in the trunk. A second tank is visible in the suede-lined trunk, along with a pair of JL subs and an amp.
The suspension also incorporates front camber plates and rear camber links produced by Wilson’s own Stance Lab, a company that specializes in both suspension components as well as Mercedes tuning and maintenance.
With its low and luxurious theme, the E350 leans toward Japanese VIP style. However, the choice of BBS wheels put it in another camp altogether.
They came about as a result of fitting E63 AMG brakes. With no Brembo GT kit available at the time, this was the best option, but Wilson wanted to ensure they were snug in the wheels. So he approached Memoryfab to build a custom set of BBS LMs. These would have 18" centers with custom stepped-lip 19" barrels. Once the hyper-silver finish was tinted with a black clearcoat, the BBS were fitted with Hankook tires and installed.
Unfortunately, the six-piston front brakes are under-utilized since there were few tuning parts available for the 268hp 3.5L V6 motor. However, Wilson got a custom tune from the San Francisco dealer for F1 tuning. He also added a Remus exhaust and custom intake tubes before painting the engine cover red and white.
Finally, he moved inside, trimming the seats in Nappa leather and diamond-stitched alcantara. The synthetic suede would also appear on the doors, roof, rear shelf and more, creating the high-end ambience this E350 was always intended for.
Next time we see this car, expect it to be wearing new Work wheels and wrapped in Mercedes Mars Red vinyl at the SEMA show alongside the C350 project. Mr Tam doesn’t like to stand still for long, so you can expect his sedan to evolve on an almost constant basis.
2010 Mercedes-Benz E350
San Francisco, CA
Owner Stance Labs, Mercedes-Benz master tech
3.5-liter V6 24v with F1 Tuning software, Remus exhaust, custom intake tubes, ECM air filters, painted engine cover
E63 AMG conversion with six-piston front calipers and 15.5" drilled rotors, four-piston rear with 14.5" rotors, calipers painted white, Technafit stainless steel lines
AiREX struts and air bag system, two Viair 444 compressors, two 3-gallon tanks, LAB front pillowball camber plates and rear camber links, Ridetech E3 digital air management
Wheels & Tires
19x8.5" front, 19x10.5" rear BBS LM wheels with 18" centers, 19" Memoryfab step lips and barrels, stud conversion, BBS lug nuts, 215/35 R19 front,Toyo T1 sport tires
Carlsson front bumper with LED DRL and stainless steel grille insert, carbon fiber lip, side skirts, rear diffuser, trunk spoiler and badges, Lorinser roof spoiler, black painted roof, Monarch puddle lamps
seats in Nappa leather with alcantara centers and diamond stitching, matching stitched alcantara door panels and armrest, roof pillars, rearshelf and visors in alcantara, suede headliner and trunk panels, Carlsson aluminum pedal set with foot rest, door pins and mats, Mods4cars video-in-motion
two JL Audio 12W6v2 subwoofers and 1000/1 slash v2 amplifier in custom enclosures, PAC SOEM-T Audio Interfacing Module
Stance Lab (stancelab.com),