East Coast vs. West Coast – Pair of 1985 Mercedes 190E 2.3 5-speeds

With BMW M3s going skywards in value, I’ve been fantasizing about picking up a similar car while they’re still at the bottom of their depreciation curve. Unfortunately a good, sorted BMW M5 or Mercedes 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth will still set you back $15-20,000, possibly more for a stellar example. Sooo, what to do on a baby budget? Pick up a version of the first baby Benz, that’s what – and it might be a surprise that these little cars were available with 5-speed manual transmissions when they came out. Check out the first choice, a pale yellow 1985 190E 2.3 for $2000 in Durham, NC.

1985 Mercedes 190E 2.3 right front

Looks like they hit the “German taxi cab had a one-night stand with a Mercedes 190E 2.3-16” aesthetic dead-on. The wheels are actually pretty nice – they approach the look of the multi-spoke wheels on the later Evo cars, and give it an aggressive look, even without any other modifications. Other than that, all you can see from this low-resolution picture is the paint has decent gloss and the car looks in decent overall shape.

1985 Mercedes 190E 2.3 interior

The seller says there’s a suspension squeak in the front, but the car has had significant brake system work, along with some suspension and minor engine bits. It’s a daily driver, so any issues should be well-known. There is no mention of miles, but based on comparably priced cars, this should have around 100,000 miles.

1985 Mercedes 190E 2.3 right rear

If Durham is just too far away, you can head up to Camano Island, about 90 min. drive north of Seattle. There you’ll find a metallic grey 190E 2.3 for a mere $1800. This car doesn’t seem to have the clearcoat failure so common on metallic-painted Mercedes of its age, and the owner says this is a daily driver with clean title that’s mostly been garaged. It has 116,000 miles and wears the standard alloy wheels found on most of its kind.

1985 Mercedes 190E 2.3 left front

Now, people will tell you these cars are slow, that they aren’t that great to shift, or that they aren’t as sporty as an equivalent E30 BMW. But when you step into one of these cars and see the kind of durable, pass-it-down-to-your-grandkids engineering approach they used to build these, that will be a joy of its own.


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