These are always fun. This is a 1987 Mercedes-Benz 230E with a mere 995 kilometers, or 618 miles for us Americans. The story says that it was used as a dealer demo car for a showroom in Germany then stashed into storage until recently discovered. As crazy as it is to see 618 miles, this is about as basic as a W124 gets. The M102 inline-4 with a cloth interior, no power windows, no air conditioning, and a manual transmission. Puzzling at the time, but now as we are entering an era where some covet for basic models with nothing to go wrong, it is tough to argue against this one. Problem is, this one comes with a massive price tag. Like, nice 500E price tag.
There area bunch of oxymorons in the automotive world. Reliable Fiat. Quality Maserati. Leak-free Land Rover. Inexpensive Porsche. Today, we have another one to add to the list: Restored G-Wagen.
Long before the housewives of the world used the G-Wagen as a grocery-getter and mall crawler, this box on wheels was a utilitarian masterpiece. It was meant to be used and abused, and for the first 21 years of production, they basically were. Then in 1990 when the W463 rolled onto the scene, they got very posh, very fast. However, if you still want that utilitarian experience, there are plenty of them out there. To no one’s surprise, people like to have their cake and eat it too. They want old, but they also want comfortable and luxury. That is exactly what this 1991 G230 is. Someone actually went through the trouble and expense of restoring a G-Wagen with a naturally-aspirated four cylinder that made 123 horsepower when new. I guess that is all you need when the speed limit on Nantucket is only 25 mph.
Update 7/08/19 – After raising and lowering the price several times, this very unique “645i Turbo” is back on the market in 2019 for $19,900 today.
I really love how these cars sometimes send you down the rabbit hole. What attracted me initially to this E24 was that it was a European-spec car and it had a pretty high asking price at nearly $23,000. Alone that wouldn’t be enough to warrant a post, especially given that from the first photo I glanced at, it doesn’t look spectacular.
But there’s a lot more than meets the eye when considering this car, and it has a lot more to do with the personality behind it than the current condition.
The name Albert Mardikian probably doesn’t mean much to you. Mr. Mardikian is a partner and the Chief Technology Officer behind ReGreen Organics, a company which deals with a lot of shit, for lack of a better term. I’m not being flippant. They’re an organic solid waste management company.
And it is in this capacity that Mr. Mardikian’s philosophy is particularly interesting when considering this car. He proclaims that he has a “passion for bettering our world”, yet his past would seem to have little to do with environmental improvement. That’s because in a past life Mr. Mardikian was also the proprietor of Trend Imports. Ring a bell? If not, perhaps a perusing of the Tom Cruise movie Rain Man would help you out. Mr. Cruise’s character’s subplot – an importer of exotic cars held up by the EPA – is based upon Mr. Mardikian. Because if you were in L.A. in the early 1980s and you wanted a gray market car, Trend Imports was where you went. And just like the main character in the movie, Mardikian got in quite a bit of trouble for the Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Rolls Royce and other models he imported by skirting EPA emissions laws.
Though his troubles with emissions laws dated back to 1981, Mardikian continued to be the turn-to source for ultra-exotics in the early days of importation. He also built custom convertible versions of some of the most famous 80s icons – Mercedes-Benz 500SECs, Lamborghini Countachs, Ferrari 512BBis, Porsche 930s. How about those replica Daytonas for Miami Vice? Mardikian. And he made more more neat creation – he married the turbocharged M102/6 from the European version of the BMW E23 745i with the slinky shape of the E24, creating his own “745CSi Turbo”:
Yesterday I looked at 1992 Mercedes-Benz 300E for the pure fact that is it the Sportline option that is pretty rare. Though Mercedes made about four billion W124 300Es, it feels like almost none of them are Sportline. Well, when it rains it pours, because I happen to come across the even rarer 1992 230CE Sportline. Before everyone rushes down to the comments and starts typing ”If only it had a manual transmission!”, hold your fingers, because it does. We North Americans were not graced with this model and surely never in the 5-speed even if it had come, so this one is a rare bird to say the least. Somehow, this 230CE Sportline is up for bid outside of Chicago. I just wish it was a better example.
Update 3/6/18 – What appears to be this same car from July 2016 has appeared on San Francisco’s Craigslist with a $15,000 asking price but little more information. Thanks to our reader Jeff for the spot!
The last time you probably heard the term ‘Tommykaira’, it was ripping around a digital racetrack on Gran Turismo in the late 90s. The name Tommy Kaira was legendary in the JDM car scene in the 2000s with heavy hitter Nissan Skylines and even their own car that got them a place in the Gran Turismo video game series. But before becoming all that, they started off by dabbling in the world of Mercedes-Benz. They took the regular W201 190E and W124 300E and added their own speical touches to the engine, suspension, body work and wheels before reselling them to the Japanese market as the Tommykaira M19 and M30E . Very rarely do I see them for sale because of their relatively low production numbers but recently this M19 has come up for sale a few times on eBay in Yokohama, Japan. So let’s take a closer look at this JDM Baby Benz.
In a star-studded lineup from the 1980s, the BMW E23 certainly seems to be always the bridesmaid. I’d wager that even the E21 is more popular than the first 7-series, and that’s saying something. It doesn’t help that the 7, while bearing a resemblance to the other great Paul Bracq designs from the period, never quite seems to be in the right proportions – especially in U.S. form. But today’s example isn’t a U.S. spec model, it’s the more desirable and much more pleasant to look at European model. On top of that, it’s the turbocharged M102 under the hood, cranking out 252 ///Mvious horsepower and 280 lb.ft of torque to match. That was enough to propel the heavy, automatic 745i to 60 mph in the mid-7 second range and 137 mph flat out – numbers that made its competition envious. It’s got lower mileage, condition is great, and overall it appears to be a very nice example. The rarity and obscurity of the model in some part outweighs the less desirable nature of the large chassis among collectors. Yet this car has failed to sell for not one, not two, but now going on five years.
So what gives? Well, there’s only one reason that a car doesn’t sell, and it’s price. The seller of this car has had it for sale on and off again since 2013. We last looked at it almost exactly one year ago:
1982 BMW 745i Euro-spec
Perpetually, bidding runs out of steam between $5,000 and $6,000. That number seems far short of what the seller is hoping for, but we never learn much about what that amount is. A few weeks ago, the seller tried Bring A Trailer. The result? $5,000 in bids. So here we are again, a bit like Groundhog Day, with a new auction for this very nice example of an early 7:
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.
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.
For many, the W123 remains the definitive Mercedes-Benz. With an iconic silhouette, invincible build quality and well-deserved reputation for durability, these cars can still be spotted on the road today, serving as daily drivers and usable classics. In fact, there’s a mint condition 300D in smoke silver that I see driven around my neighborhood on a regular basis. Looking like it just rolled out of a showroom, the owner is a young professional who I would guess is in his mid-thirties. Now that is a man with good taste. The estate bodyshape adds a useful amount of cargo space in the rear, making it the perfect choice for a stylish trip to the beach (or the lumber yard). To the uninitiated, they might just look like old wagons, but prices for mint examples can quickly reach into the high teens.
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.