Junkyard Cosworth Update: Missing Link Found!

When I last reported on the progress being made on my junkyard find 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth, there was a fairly big item on my list of missing components that was stripped out by the junkyard I bought it from. This same item was somewhat integral to the spirit of the Cosworth, and I feared the project would never be what I wanted it to become due to this MIA component. Fortunately, through the “wonders” of social media, this potential hurdle has been cleared – and sets the stage for the 190 to head to my mechanic for what will hopefully be a seamless first start-up. Check out the latest video installment below on the Barn Finds YouTube page, and keep your eyes on this page as the next installment will feature the results of our initial compression and leak-down tests!

When the Mercedes was picked up, there was no hiding where it had been these last few years: it was literally plucked from a back row of a Pennsylvania salvage yard and moved out front so it be pushed into my shipper’s trailer via forklift. The 190E was a bit lighter than stock, however, due to some missing parts. Most I knew about – the 16V-specific radiator was sold off, as were the rear window regulators (resulting in the back glass being smashed to pieces). But when the car arrived, I saw the 16V gas tank was no longer with the car. This was a problem: the gas tank on the 2.3-16 was enlarged from 55 to 70L, in keeping with the car’s track-oriented nature and endurance racing history. It needed the larger tank.

As you can imagine, finding a gas tank for a car of which only 1,953 were “officially” imported (not counting gray market cars) was a bit intimidating. Plus, every other salvage yard did the same thing as the one I bought it from, simply stripping it out as part of the inventorying process. Even if I somehow found another 16V in the junkyard, there’s no way the fuel tank would have been saved. Enter the social media component: an Instagram user found my account via Barn Finds, and then reached out to tell me he had just finished restoring his Cosworth, and had a good tank out of a parts car he would sell. You can bet I snatched that up and sent it directly to Roger’s Radiators in Medford, Massachusetts, one of the few shops in my neck of the woods that still cleans and re-seals old tanks. Job done!

Of course, that’s just one battle of many. The Mercedes is headed to my shop, German Motors in Providence, RI, for a compression / leak-down test, and barring any truly frightening results, its first start-up in over five years. Truthfully, I don’t find it that intimidating, considering the car above was featured on this site as my first-ever barn find a few years back. This 1980 BMW 320 had been dormant for 20 years with the engine disassembled and sitting in the trunk. It was back on the road in about two years, and is a car I’d comfortably drive almost anywhere. The body was (amazingly) in far better condition and spent much less time in a body shop than the 190 ultimately will, but to say I’m not overly worried about the 190’s prospects – which was supposedly a running/driving car when it came into the yard – is a fair assessment. Check out the video below (and my other projects) on the Barn Finds YouTube channel.

And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel here to get more updates on my Mercedes and on other Barn Finds Projects!

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  1. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Fantastic update, Jeff! Nice work in finding that haystack-needle gas tank, that’s great news, I remember you being a bit worried about that for a while. It’s amazing what we can do now with the internet that never would have been possible two or three decades ago. The YouTube video is outstanding, too! Best of luck, I can’t wait to see it at the Barn Finds company picnic this summer! (hey, that’s not a bad idea)

    Like 9
  2. Russell Glantz Staff

    Congrats! Looking forward to seeing it all fixed up! Also, check the channel – you have your first Subscriber and Commenter!

    • Josh Mortensen Staff

      Sorry about that, we had the wrong link in there to subscribe. Try it again and it will sub you to the correct channel!

      Like 1
  3. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Great video and a great find on the tank! I was at a bone yard this summer and saw mountains of fuel tanks! All plastic and none marked. I would think a yard would keep a metal tank as they rust and need to be replaced. Even more so on something rare like your MB. And that 320 is killer!

    Like 3
  4. bull

    Every gas tank around my neck of the woods at a salvage yard gets a hole punched in it to drain any residual gas left in the tank and that tank is left in the car. All the other fluids in the car are drained usually through punching a hole in the oil pan or trans pan and the catalytic converter is removed before the car is either set on the yard or crushed. None of yard around me remove the gas tank from the vehicles.

    Like 3
    • Dave Skinner

      “None of the yards around me remove the gas tank from the vehicles.”

      Due to the toxicity of gasoline, recycling centers conforming to green recycling guidelines remove the fuel tank as soon as possible. It may also be required by regulation in Pennsylvania, but it’s not unusual for yards to voluntarily pull the tank prior to placing the vehicle in the yard.

      Like 1
      • Jeff Lavery Staff

        Exactly. Environmentally-responsible yards are required by state law to safely remove, drain, and dispose of old gas tanks.

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Also, if you hope to sell the motor and trans later on, it’s pretty dumb on the yard’s part to punch holes in sell-able parts.

      • bull

        I guess LKQ in Tennessee is dumb!

        Like 1
  5. Marc

    My 6.3 300sel gave me the exact same challenge in that it too has a larger tank for the much thirstier engine. I finally found a good refurbished one in England.

    Like 1
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Believe me, I thought I was going to have to ship one of these from overseas. Very glad I didn’t.

  6. Stan Mugford

    I can’t believe Rogers is still open!!! I grew up in Malden and have used them several times!!

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      They are awesome guys. Truly know their craft and I suspect the reason they are still open is because they now have a world-wide following.

      Like 1
      • Stan Mugford

        It’s good to see local craftsman continuing to be successful in today’s world!!

  7. Bruce

    Before you put that tank back into the car might I suggest you make Fiberglass Molds of it so that you can make others in the future. That is a complex shape and I bet demand for them is higher than you think. Just having a shape to mold to will be a big help to make aluminum, steel or fiberglass tanks in the future.

    Like 3
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      There would certainly be a market for it, I suspect…or maybe Mercedes-Benz Classic Center would just start making them again!

  8. JC

    Just for your information, my 2,5 Turbo Diesel 190 from 1989 is also fitted with a 70 l tank. So, may be the cosworth wasn’t the only one to have this tank capacity. But they may be different due to the type of carburant ?
    I think it may have been a factory option, since the 2,5 Turbo Diesel 190 from a friend had only 50 liters.

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      This is good info, JC. I have heard you could order the 70L tank on non-Cosworths but very few did. That’s a rare option if you have one!

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