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.
While the regular 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth had originally been intended to be a rally car, by the time the company got to producing the “Evolution” models they were fully embroiled in the DTM war of the late 1980s. Massive wings mounted trunklids, fenders flared, and engines roared to new heights of power. While most probably associate the E30 M3 as being the pinnacle of this period, the wildest road-going warrior was the 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II. Mercedes-Benz made 502 of these cars, replete with AMG-tuned motors and enough wings and flares to make an M3 jealous. It should be no surprise that these cars hold a special place in enthusiast’s hearts and they’ve led the market in value because of their very limited nature:
We’ve featured the 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II a few times in the past couple months. Today we have another one that takes an already pretty bonkers car and turns the dial up a few more notches. This Evo II in California is another one of the 502 made that found it’s way stateside and of course, carries a mid-six figure price tag. But like I hinted at, this one has a few extras that turns the car into a pseudo DTM car for the streets. So let’s check this rare W201 with a little extra something out.
In an effort to capitalize on the market, we’ve seen increasing numbers of E30 M3s come to market – and the most highly sought models are the specials like this 1988 Evolution II model. We saw this car come to market in March with a $100,000 Buy It Now price. Some details were wrong and it failed to sell. It’s back 6 months later, and at least one detail – the exhaust – has been reverted to a more stock looking system; a nod to the greater demand (and value) of originality. But fitting that exhaust, along with a few other minor changes, will cost you $5,000 apparently as the Buy It Now has been increased to $105,000 now. We’ve yet to see a really clean E30 M3 break into the 6-digit price range, but they’ve been close. Is this the one?
The below post originally appeared on our site March 22, 2015:
Is there a better known name across multiple marques than Cosworth? From the DFV formula one engine to Can-Am, Touring Cars to Rally, I can’t think of a more versatile or storied engine supplier. Just the other day, Paul took a look at an expensive and questions asked 1986 190E 2.3-16V Cosworth, and that got me thinking about some listings I’ve run across. Today, then, I have an interesting question and two very different cars that share one word – Cosworth. Both are legends in their own right and both are rare to see in the U.S.; and each for each model I have a valuable original and a replica. Which would you choose?
We’re an odd group, enthusiasts. Normally you’d assume that we’d be excited to see each and every example of rare cars that pop up. Sometimes, even semi-rare cars excite us. Occasionally, it’s just a plain-jane base model that’s not often seen that will peak the interest of the masses. Yet the excitement usually isn’t there; instead, what results is a form of cyber-bullying as every keyboard warrior attempts to find each and every wrong detail with a particular example. It could be something from small details – paint chips, a scratch, a rust bubble to things that are downright esoteric; my complaint, for example, that the RS2 color “RS Blue” appear correctly on B4s instead of the more commonly associated Nogaro Blue. It could be omission of mechanical details, incorrect listing information, a slip of the fingers in typing in a VIN. Seriously, does it matter? Well, it does when it comes to top-dollar collector cars. In the case of today’s car, the second E30 M3 Evolution II in as many weeks here on the site, my microscope attention focuses on the wheels:
While as of late I have not been a huge fan of the early M3 market or the resulting insanity involving all-things E30, I have to admit a very soft spot for the box-flared high-revving wonder. I’ve loved the E30 M3 since I first learned of their existence; trips to the track in the early 1990s with my father only heightened my respect for what was really one of the few track-ready cars out of the box. Back then, it wouldn’t be uncommon for half or more of the instructor group to be zipping around the track in one of the many M3s that would turn up to hot lap. I even remember one of the first times I got to lap around Lime Rock was in a M3. On the back straight (No Name, which ironically is named and isn’t a straight) I looked over at the first kink in horror as the driver, a soft spoken friend of my father’s, whipped the M3’s engine into a frenzy above the indicated redline. Surely, pistons would emerge from the hood in just a moment – but they didn’t, and with reckless abandon he flung the car into the uphill, barely lifting off the throttle for turn-in, then cresting the hill with a touch of opposite lock and the wheels spinning. That’s what the M3 did – it turned otherwise normal, law abiding individuals into hooligans. But it was because of the natural balance, the race-bred motor and the success on the track that this car encouraged you to drive it at 10/10ths. Or even, occasionally, 11/10ths – plenty have encountered hard objects in their lifetime. But now, these cars are no longer the go-to track rat they once were; they’ve become collector royalty – and few are as collectable as the special editions like this Evolution II:
Let me go on record as stating that I personally have no problems with replica cars. Especially when you consider the price of exclusive originals or cars that are non-existent, tributes and replicas offer people the opportunity to see cars they would otherwise never get to experience. Several of the Auto Union Grand Prix cars, for example, have been built as exacting replicas of the originals that no longer exist; see them in the flesh, and they’ll make your spine tingle just as much as if Nuvolari or Rosemeyer had piloted them originally. But then there’s a secondary tier of making replica cars that are either just expensive or hard to come by; Sport Quattros, S2s, AMG and Ruf models as well as the exclusive RS have always been popular, and an increasing trend over the past few years has been replica M3s. Of course, when the real deal is only a few thousand dollars, making a replica isn’t economically viable. But prop the price up to near six figures, and suddenly the pain and expensive of creating a replica becomes not only popular, but perhaps even lucrative:
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I generally try to stay away from the E30 crowd, mostly because I really don’t think the current values on the M3 are justified. For under $10,000, it was a great track car. For under $20,000, it was a great occasional driver and memory of fun times in the DTM. At $30,000, it starts to become a show car that you’re not willing to drive to the store. Past that, it’s pure speculation and there seems to be no end in sight. Likely, that won’t be the case but if the Hemi bubble taught us anything it is that there will always be something new for people to latch on to. Of course, I watched a Mecum auction this past weekend and saw a Hemi Barracuda hammer for a few million dollars, so I guess the market on those cars still hasn’t returned to anything resembling normal.
Will the E30 M3 drop back down? Well, it can’t stay on this trajectory for long, that’s for sure. Cars have tripled in value in the past two years, a trend which is simply unsustainable. They’re no longer values – they’ve become the absolute top of the 1980s BMW market outside of the ultra-exclusive M1. And why? Don’t get me wrong, the E30 M3 is a cool car. But exclusive? They made 16,000 of them, for goodness sake. Compare that to some other notable BMWs – 450-odd M1s, about the same amount of pre-war 328s, or 250 507s. To put that even into more perspective, BMW made only about 6,000 E24 M6s and a scant 2200 E28 M5s. Rarity isn’t on the side of the M3, but few have ever accused the automobile market or enthusiasts with any sense of sanity, so the climb continues. Now, in my mind there are some E30 M3s that deserve the attention and loftier prices, and the Evolution models have to be one of the most deserving. With a touch more power and a little less weight, the M3 Evolution was closer to it’s track-winning relatives than the standard production M3. As they only made 500 of each run, they’re rare to see – but the market is such that for some who got in at the right time, they’ve reached their stop on the crazy train:
Care to roll the dice? From what I can tell, this 1991 BMW M3 appears to be an Evo-spec car, though it is not listed as such. The red trim, graphite wheels, spoiler lip and claim of 215 hp all fit in with the Evolution model. Amongst the already expensive world of E30 M3s, the Evolution models carry extra clout and command more money. Either way, these M3s are continuing to increase in value with seemingly little regard to condition, location, and sometimes even originality. Today’s 1991 example looks Knight Rider ready with it’s black-out look and red accent trim:
Engine: 2.3 liter inline-4
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 185,000 mi
Price: Reserve auction, $22,000 opening bid
Desirable 1991 E30 M3 Coupe,original S14 215 HP Engine(aprox 5k miles on rebuild)Nogarro Silver 16″ M Wheels, excellent body/paint/interior,never tracked,maintained,pampered,loved by devout BMW M3 enthusiast-reluctantly for sale due to personal reasons.
I question, in some regard at least, what “devout” BMW M3 enthusiast would put such a car up for sale and start the bidding at a high point despite even higher mileage; but then offer so precious few details and poor pictures. Even so, the car appears to be in good shape given the mileage, so it’s possible that it was well maintained. The engine is listed as rebuilt, which if done properly saves the future owner $10,000 plus in bills. With lots of miles already on the ticker, this won’t be a museum quality car, which leaves you free to add some more of your own (s)miles. That’s good news with a car like the M3, since they were meant to be driven and not parked. While darker colors aren’t my favorite on the E30, the contrast of the wheels and red striped trim give the car a unique feel that some of the earlier graphite cars fail to achieve. I’m not a fan of the blacked out kidneys, but that’s a pretty easy fix. The larger question is if this is indeed an Evolution model, or just a copy cat. I was under the impression that the Evo models didn’t receive fog lights and had a slightly larger front spoiler lip, but it’s entirely possible the front air dam was swapped out at some point given their propensity for meeting curbs. Care to weigh in?