Euro Trash: Gray Market 1985 Mercedes 190E

Please understand: I use “Euro Trash” affectionately here. The period in which this gray market 1985 Mercedes-Benz 190E was modified brought together several key components: mesh wheels, body kits and high-end sound systems. I love any car that still wears its period modifications proudly (there’s a big difference between a car wearing high-quality aftermarket parts and one that’s a Pep Boys special), and this 190E is sporting some tasty modifications that are giving me an itchy bidding finger. Find it here on eBay with bids just over $2,500 and the reserve unmet. 

The seller notes he is selling this car on behalf of his boss, who is the son of the original owner. The car was imported for his mother many years ago and then sat in the garage collecting dust after his parents passed away. I’d assume the modifications were made prior to coming to the U.S., from the widebody kit with fender flares to the awesome ATS wheels and front and rear spoilers. I know some of you will cringe at these modifications, but for someone who grew up reading the European parts catalogs and wishing we got half the stuff our overseas counterparts did, this 190E would fulfill many a high school fantasy (the four-wheeled kind).

Although it doesn’t have the Euro-spec glass headlights (and it should – that’d be the first modification I’d make), the rest of this car bears all the signs of being a gray market example. U.S.-market 190s didn’t receive the cloth interior, and I believe cars in our market didn’t have the solitary clock in the gauge cluster, but rather a combined clock and tachometer. Overall, the interior is holding up well and the only thing that would make it better is a manual transmission, which was seen far more frequently on the gray market cars.

This car comes equipped with the 2.3L 8V four-cylinder, the same engine I had in my 1991 example. This is a decent motor despite its small size, with great highway manners and decent fuel economy. The Cosworth-modified 16V models are obviously the hot ticket, but I’d gladly trade some horsepower to own a genuine Euros-spec example like this. The seller notes some recent maintenance, including a drained and cleaned gas tank along with a new fuel pump and battery. Hopefully, the reserve isn’t north of $5K, because while I will fawn over cars like this all day long, their values haven’t increased so much to make them worth much more than that.

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  1. JazzGuitarist54

    Love 190E’s, just think they are great cars. Even thought about getting another.
    That said, there is something about this…maybe it is the wording in the ad, the pic of the Rear Spoiler…I don’t know, something just ain’t sitting right.
    Think I will steer clear of this one

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      I can understand the sentiment, but I’m feeling OK on this one. The spoilers come unglued, esp the three-piece ones where the side pieces are stuck on with double-sided tape. It looks better than I’d expect for being modified way back in the mid-80s.

      • JazzGuitarist54

        I may have mis-read this ad, I thought it was a MB modification, not after market

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Nope…this was definitely aftermarket. The 16 Valves had a factory body kit which was better integrated but I think this one shows pretty well for non-OEM.

  2. BarnfindyCollins

    I think these are the last of the good “baby Benzs”, after 1992 nothing interests me. If I won a raffle of a new one, I’d sell it and buy a 30 year old TE or SL.

  3. Nick

    Nice car with the period vibe though it seems all that stuff is piled on a very base model, not even a tachometer.

  4. BuddyL.

    I not only owned one, but also managed to drive the very first one in New Mexico so many years ago. Technically a very evolved car but if I’d look at it quickly, I’d swear I was seeing a Chrysler K car . . . and that’s not a good thing! Overall, an efficient but soulless design, never approached the “cool” factor of a 180/190 Ponton or a 190 Fintail car – and I’ve owned quite a few of those as well.

  5. Beatnik Bedouin

    Nice cars, but having ridden in so many ’em over the years in different parts of the world, every time I see one – especially if they’re beige – I want to thrust my arm into the air and shout…


  6. Sonny

    Had a imported diesel model till it was rear ended died. Great car and would have one again.

    • ChingA-Trailer

      Had a 190D once too – would never have another unless I was in no hurry to get anywhere and didn’t care how many other motorist behind me I pissed off by how damn slow they are from a stop. Once up to speed they are quite comfortable and mine delivered 39 mpg at 79 mph but my 25 year old Toyota Corolla gets 35 mpg at the same speed on cheap 87 octane regular which costs so much less than diesel, is more reliable and costs less to maintain, so what advantage does a Mercedes diesel that looks like a 30 year old Dodge Aries have??

  7. Bryan Bittner

    When these came out, I remember reading in some slick car porn magazine that MB was ’embarrassed’ at having to make such cars. The were not ‘real’ MB’s.

    In the intervening years the run of the mill 190’s reached their own level and at the same grew in popularity to what we see as the C-class series today.

    I can see having such a car in Europe but frankly, as others point out, why not get an E-class with normal room?

  8. Mike

    Euro or no euro this has the Wrong engine and Wrong transmission. I’ve owned many 190s incl a cosworth. The 8v 2.3 is slow and the slushbox makes it even slower. The interior build on all of them isn’t awesome and all of the 190 engines are a pain if you dont know what you’re doing.

    Bad buy here.

    Better buy would be my ‘89 190e 2.6 with a factory 5-spd with less than 100k on it. it’s three times the car this (flywheel, beefier axles, etc) is and I’d ask 6k.

  9. davew833

    My first 190E was a 1983 gray market that had the very same interior. I can still remember how the cloth seats smelled, and the 3-dial climate control. I think it had manual locks and manual windows too. It had been ridden hard and put away wet, but it was cheap and relatively entertaining…

  10. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    A 190E with the Cosworth engine is on my bucket list.

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