Motorsports Monday: 1987 Mercedes-Benz 190E

I don’t really feature a lot of Mercedes-Benz race cars not because I don’t like them, but rather there just aren’t a whole lot of them out there. Very rarely do I see these kind of cars come up for sale as opposed to say a BMW E36. There really isn’t a ”go-to” Mercedes chassis for building a race car like the E36 and even cars that do tend to respond well to being stripped out, the aftermarket support is either lacking or very expensive. Although one Mercedes from the past 25 years does seem to be the favorite of the track rats alike, the W201.

This 1986 190E up for bid in Florida doesn’t have much left of its original engine and interior left of it, if any. The car has been totally stripped of basically everything including the original M103 inline-6 engine that was replaced with the next generation M104 3.2 inline-6. A 5-speed gearbox was bolted up to this car and nearly every single piece of the interior was removed to be replaced by the bare essentials.  A single seat, a tachometer and some switches are all that remain inside this W201 that cut the weight to around 2,000 pounds. This doesn’t sound like a half bad combination now.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Mercedes-Benz 190E on eBay

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Motorsports Monday: Niki Lauda’s 1984 Mercedes-Benz 190e 2.3-16v

To celebrate the opening of the newly revised Nürburgring in 1984, Mercedes-Benz organized a friendly, yet still fiercely competitive race between some of the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all time. That means names like Sir Stirling Moss, James Hunt, Alain Prost  , Phil Hill, and upstart Ayrton Senna were among the drives in the field. What were they all driving? None other than the then-new 190E 2.3-16V. All of these cars were slightly modified for the race with bolt-in roll cages and some racing seats but other than that, they ran the cars as-is. The winner of the race was the 24 year-old Senna, which isn’t much of a surprise when looking back now, but the driver who finished 2nd? Nikki Lauda. This is his car he raced and yes, it is now for sale.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Mercedes-Benz 190e 2.3-16v at Auto Classics

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Tuner Tuesday: 1989 Brabus 190E 3.6S

Legendary Mercedes-Benz tuner Brabus has put out a lot of great cars over the years. The majority of the time, they build cars that are like throwing a safe off a skyscraper. Big, powerful cars with giant V8s and V12s that do everything really well, but no one would really call them nimble or lightweight. Today’s car, a 1991 190E 3.8S ”Lightweight” for sale in England gives you a bunch of power with a manual transmission which maintaining a lighter feeling car.

Based off a 190E 2.6, the PR man for Brabus commissioned the company to build a lightweight example with minimal creature comforts for street and track use. What they ended up with was a 3.6 liter M103 with all upgraded internals, stiff suspension, sticky tires, a half roll cage and seats that hurt your hips just by looking at them. (More on that later.) Although built in 2008, this W201 kept its 80s styling and design themes while toeing the line between street car and track car. For as complete and nearly flawless as it is, the price is even more amazing.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Brabus 190E 3.6S at Fast Classics

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1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II

We’ve covered the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II here many times in the past and for good reason, it is a hell of a unique car with a price tag to match. You can get your 1990s DTM kicks on the street all while being in the lap of luxury (at the time) with things like air conditioning and leather seats. This car is not shy, it is not subtle and most importantly for everyone, it is not cheap. When this thing launched in 1990, asking price for an 2.5-16 Evolution II from Mercedes was around $80,000. That isn’t in 2017 money, that is in 1990 money. Just to give it some perspective, factoring in inflation and other things, this W201 would have run you around $155,000 in terms of buying power. Yes, for a W201 190E.  Unfortunately, this 1990 for sale in the Netherlands isn’t cheaper either.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II on Hemmings

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Rotary-powered 1985 Mercedes-Benz 190E

I’m never one to turn my nose up at an interesting engine swap. Usually, they are pretty predictable with throwing a giant V8 into where ever one will fit then calling it a day. Nothing really wrong with that formula, but it is always cool to see different things. Today’s car, a 1985 Mercedes-Benz 190E from all the way in New Zealand, is one of the most interesting engine swaps into a Mercedes, or any car really, that I’ve seen in a long time. This W201 now sports a turbocharged 13B Mazda rotary engine with a handful of modifications putting down over 300 horsepower. That seems different enough for me.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: Rotary-powered 1985 Mercedes-Benz 190E on New Zealand Trade Me

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1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

The Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16V is quickly becoming one of those ”snatch one up while you can” cars. Much like it’s rival E30 BMW M3, these are becoming hot buys in terms of driving enjoyment and collectibility. They aren’t quite at the level of the E30 M3 where people are pulling them out of the bottoms of lakes and selling them as-is for $12,000 yet, but probably in the next few years we’ll get to that point. That’s probably why this 1986 is still for sale in San Diego. Well that, and a few other areas of this car certainly need some attention.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 on San Diego Craigslist

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1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6

When I got my first job out of grad school, I needed a cheap daily driver to commute to work. Everyone told me to just buy a Honda and be done with it. But I knew that wasn’t going to work. I wanted something unusual, safe, classy and preferably German. And that’s how I came to buy a W201. I didn’t really know much about them at the time. But a nice looking example popped up for sale near me, and as soon as I drove it I was hooked. The 190E rides like a shrunken S-class: luxurious, sturdy and solid. The straight six motor is creamy and robust. And the design of the car is really quite handsome, under-appreciated even, especially when seen from the rear three-quarter angle. True, the 190E is not fast, the KE-Jetronic fuel injection system is a real pain when it goes wrong and, owing to the gearing on the old school four-speed automatic, the 2.6 is not as fuel efficient as it should be (the 2.3 isn’t much better either). Still, a nicely kept W201 can be a neat and satisfying entry point into budget-friendly German motoring. Provided you pick a good one.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6 on Central NJ Craigslist

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1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

The more I stare at the 2.3-16, the more I realize just how right Mercedes-Benz got it with the design of this car. The starting point was already a good one. The stock 190E, with its restrained, angular good looks and taut lines, brought Mercedes’s design language out of the 70s and firmly into the 80s. But the flared wheel arches, revised valences and rear deck spoiler found on the 2.3-16 turn the staid W201 into a car that looks ready to go racing. Which it did, first as a rally car and, when that didn’t work out, at the DTM. Power came from a version of the M102 2.3 liter four pot engine – later enlarged to 2.5 liters in the European market – breathed on by British tuning company Cosworth. But despite the looks and pedigree, the 2.3-16 has never attracted the same kind of attention or following as its obvious competitor, the E30 M3. The market for these is pretty spotty. They don’t appear very frequently and when they do, many of them have been battered and broken by neglectful owners. Still, every now and again a really nice one pops up.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 on eBay

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1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 3.2 AMG

One of the first cars to be produced following the official merger between AMG and Mercedes-Benz was the 190E AMG 3.2. These cars came with an aggressive bodykit, giving the W201 a wedge-shaped profile reminiscent of the infamous W124 Hammer, and an enlarged version of the M103 six cylinder motor, bored out to 3.2 liters to produce about 234 hp. Only around 200 of these were made, so the chances of finding one today are slim. However, for a time AMG continued to offer an à la carte menu of upgrades for Mercedes customers to choose from. As a result, a number of W201s were specified with an idiosyncratic mixture of AMG styling and performance parts. This 190E for example, for sale near Stuttgart in Germany, combines an almost bone stock exterior with an AMG-modified motor, making for the ultimate sleeper.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E AMG 3.2 on Mobile.de

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Feature Listing: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

Creating the W201 series was a monumental undertaking for Daimler-Benz. Design and prototyping ran through the early days of the 1980s as the company spent 2,000,000,000 DM in development costs for the small chassis to compete against the 3-series. This amount included construction of a new factory in Bremen to help produce the W201. Bruno Sacco, head of Mercedes-Benz styling in the late 1970s and early 1980s, created a compact rendering of the S-class formula which worked well. The chassis brought new refinement to the small executive market, with multi-link independent rear suspension and anti-dive front suspension, along with increased levels of sound deadening and lower wind noise from the aerodynamic design.

Mercedes-Benz wasted little time demonstrating that the new “Baby Benz” was, indeed, worthy of the three-pointed star. The culture within the engineering department was still very much funded with an open checkbook, so no stone was left unturned to created a sedan of unparalleled quality and without compromise. To prove this point, shortly after its introduction Daimler-Benz took three of the newly launched, high-performance 190E 2.3-16 variant to the Nardo test track in Italy. At a time when not many family sedans were able to exceed much more than 110 mph, the diminutive Benz topped 150. But it wasn’t just for a moment; over ten days, the W201s lapped Nardo at a fevered pace, conquering world records in distance over time. First fell the 25,000 km World Record time, then the 25,000 mile one. Ultimately, along with a slew of class records, the 190E 2.3-16s averaged 154 mph for 31,000 miles – yet still returned over 10 mpg.

That achievement signaled the launch of a new level of small sedan performance which soon would be met with improved models from BMW and other marques. And while those subsequent models would go on to be more famous on the race track, the 190E made its mark nonetheless. Following the Nardo record runs, in 1984 Mercedes-Benz handed the keys for 20 identical 2.3-16s to all the Formula 1 stars of the day. The ensuing chaos was enough to make purists cry, but at least one driver who would soon become quite famous took the race seriously. Just like the W201, Senna’s victory at the Nürburgring signaled to the world that there was a new force to be reckoned with; one which quickly would establish itself as a new, higher benchmark.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 on Washington, D.C. Craigslist

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