There aren’t many ways into a limited production car, built for homologation purposes, with a genuine motorsports connection, within our self-imposed budget cap. The Cosworth-head version of the W201 190E is a pretty rare car, and it takes quite a bit of luck to find one with a manual transmission that hasn’t been neglected or subjected to questionable modifications. With a couple of thousand made – a quick search shows production of somewhere in the 2-3000 range – and some of those equipped with 4-speed automatic transmissions, and plenty with over 200,000 miles on them, it’s worth a closer look at this Mercedes 190E 2.3-16 for sale for $4500 in Vancouver, WA.
So what’s the catch? Well, it’s got a salvage title, so you’ll want to be very diligent in your pre-purchase inspection. On the bright side, the car is said to have a full service history, and a recent set of H&R Cup springs and shock absorbers up front paired with a fully functional, leak-free self-leveling rear suspension. In addition, the car has received 16″ Evo 1 wheels and home-market headlamps. The seller does not mention any upgrade to a later double-row timing chain and tensioner, nor what led to the salvage title, so the service records should help there.
Shown in Pearl Black, the paint is said to be worn through in a couple of spots, and at 167,000 miles you should watch for smoke from general engine wear. Other possible weak points include rust in the lower body areas, lower steering and suspension ball joints, and valve tapped adjustment. On the bright side, the seller uses this car as his daily driver, so he’s hopefully debugged it as needed.
As you can see, the interior is in decent shape for a used car of its age, but there’s a split on the driver’s seat base, wear on the driver’s seat bolster, and splits in the dashboard. The leather looks a little dry, so the whole interior would probably be well-served by a good cleaning and leather treatment. At this point, it might be more fun to source the correct home market fabric (or entire seats) and redo the interior as it would have been elsewhere. It’s hard to understand why sellers of enthusiast cars in which the engine is a key selling point do not show a picture of the engine, but the condition of the rest of the car is compelling enough to make it worth a closer look. How many chances does your average person get to drive a car with a dogleg manual transmission?