Friday, February 5, 2016

Hund Bein: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16v Cosworth W201

If you believe the self-effacing prose from automotive pundits like Jack Baruth you might get the impression that old cars are terrible and rebuilding a suspension will cost you $12,000 (Canadian dollars maybe?) and the car will still be terrible.  On the opposite side of the racetrack you'll find forum posts describing a similar experience to the hoots and cheers of a crowd of fan boys.  The truth probably lives somewhere in the middle, but you'll have to do it yourself to know for sure.  Pickup this 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190e 2.3-16v Cosworth for $5,000 in SF Bay Area, CA via craigslist.  Tip from Kaibeezy.

 The W201 190E was compact luxury sedan from Germany, but the 2.3-16V Cosworth edition was something entirely different.  Under the hood was a revv happy 4-cylinder married to a dog-leg style 5-speed gearbox that was ostensibly designed so that Mercedes-Benz could go rally racing with the 190E body.  

The 2.3-16V is powered by an M102 2.3 liter inline-4 cylinder engine capped with a Cosworth engineered DOHC cylinder head good for 185 horsepower and 174 ft-lbs of torque.  The Getrag dog-leg gearbox features an offset first gear and gears 2-3 and 4-5 live front to rear for a supposedly better setup for racing...but mostly just caused a lot of confusion at the valet parking stand.  

See another "track ready" German sedan?


  1. These are kinda like the Taurus SHO, and a few other cars of that vintage - they're quick for their time but not fast by later standards, and they lack the lineage and contingent of fanbois that'd get them past that hump.

    The E30 M3, for instance, is in stock form not the most pleasant of real-world road cars, the chassis is a well-tuned example of mid '70s engineering, and you pay a significant NVH penalty for a motor that won't beat a late-model Accord off the line.

    So, you can have this thing for slightly less than the engine in my SHO cost me some years ago...

  2. Dollar for dollar, I'd rather have 6 of this car than one E30 M3.

    Also, old cars are just better. Baruth must be jaded. It's probably not hard to get that way when the newest 500+ horsepower press car is only a phone call away.

  3. Both the E30 and the Cosworth have their place. Totally agree though that "old cars" are better.......generally speaking. Old being relative. I have a hard time thinking of Eighties cars being "old cars" ! Compared to the toasters with wheels today and bloated overpriced luxury sedans foisted on the nouveau riche and clueless ANY E 30 or Cosworth beats 'me hands down.

  4. I'm just going on the record to say that the last $10k in parts Baruth spent refreshing the suspension and bushings on the 190E discussed in the article was gratuitous.

  5. Cars from the 80s are perhaps the last cars I will ever think of as old. The 90s marked a lot of big changes. Airbags, round edged bodywork, traction control, bumper covers, OBD, electronic everything, variable valve timing, pickup trucks as fashion accessories. A lot of cars still had carburetors in the 80s (or at least TBI). NVH wasn't really a big concern on mass market machines in the 80s, and though sound insulation was a thing, it wasn't near as prevalent as it is today, in our world of Dodge Chargers with double glazed windows. I think of the 90s as the period of the fastest development in the history of the automobile. The only thing that comes close in my mind is the mid 70's, when horsepower suddenly took a back seat to economy and emissions, but electronic fuel injection had yet to trickle down to literally every car on the road the way it did in the 90s.


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