Junkyard Cosworth Updates: Examining the Rust

Recently, I introduced you to my latest project: a 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth that I found in a junkyard in Pennsylvania. After literally spending an hour calling yards that had parts for a 16-Valve listed on car-part.com, I figured out the yard had the whole car and I took the plunge of this rusty, non-running basketcase for under $1,000. Now, with it living in my garage for two weeks, it’s become clear this project is going to take many years.

I knew going into it that the 190 had rust – the yard told me as such, and took pictures of the worst of it – or so I thought. The back panel between the taillights is all sorts of ugly, which you can see detailed in a video on the Barn Finds YouTube channel, which we’ve linked to at the bottom of my original post. In addition to that back panel, I’ve discovered significant rust in not one but four different areas of the car, all underneath the 190 in places where dirt, sand, and water tend to collect. This is in front of the rear wheel on the driver’s side, underneath the back seat.

And this is on the exact opposite side, just in front of the rear wheel on the passenger side – and this gaping hole explains why the insulation padding under the seat was soaked! Obviously, this all needs to be repaired but I’m hopeful I can find a junkyard locally willing to chop up a 190 with better jack points than mine. The other rust areas of concern include the driver’s side fender and the jack point on the passenger-side front. These are common trouble spots on the 190, but the factory body kit tends to accelerate the development of rot on the Cosworth cars. By the way, if you want to see more frequent updates, follow me on Instagram.

As we all know by now, this Cosworth does not yet run. I’ve not been able to do much with it until I get the positive battery cable fixed, as that was cut off at the end by the yard to presumably (crudely) remove the battery. Once that gets here I can at least get a battery in the car and move onto a compression test. As you can see here, I haven’t been bored: I picked up a spare body kit in Connecticut with some parts I needed, and others I’ll just put on the shelf until I do.

Until next time, when we’ll hopefully have that positive battery cable in hand and can see what happens with a twist of the key. Be sure to check out the video above where I show you just how rusty this 190E 2.3-16 is, and be sure to subscribe to the Barn Finds Channel while you’re at it.

Like This? Get Our Daily Email


  1. sparkster

    Google rancho cordova ca mercedes parts. Huge area in California outside of Sacramento. I went there after striking out for Mercedes C250 rear window in So. Cal. Extremely knowledgeable folks there on the Cosworth Mercedes

    Like 4
  2. sparkster

    Phone number (916) 638-3876
    3600 Recycle Rd
    Rancho Cordova, CA 95742

    Like 2
  3. John

    Hang in there. If this hobby/ sickness was easy everybody would do it. Keep the vision, it sure helps in the hard times.

    Like 7
  4. Evan

    You’re either far braver than I am, or a glutton for punishment. If this was my project, I’d look south or west for a base 190 and swap in all the good bits from this car.

    Like 3
  5. James Sterrey

    Hang in there Mate. I’ve repaired similar rust in a relatively valueless W123. I suggest buying a medium range mig welder and viewing it as a long term project. The difficulty/craziness of a project correlates strongly with frustration initially, but ultimately in satisfaction too.

    Like 5
  6. Gaspumpchas

    Do you know if the engine is ok?? Did the junkyard take any care removing the gas tank or did they cut everything? You may wannna check all of this out before you go throwing more money at it. Not trying to be a wet blanket–reality might buy you a better car that’s further along. Like one of the guys said, there’s a reason its in a junkyard. Good luck.


    Like 4
  7. davew833

    Good luck with your project! I just took on a somewhat similar project– I bought a 2000 SLK230 AMG convertible that’s been sitting somewhere and systematically stripped of parts since 2003. The good news? It runs and has less than 12,000 miles. The biggest challenge is that somewhere along the line the radiator support and attached assemblies were crudely chopped out. After I get a new one welded in, it will just be a matter of reassembly, but there’s a LOT missing.

    Like 1
  8. Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

    My assumption is the car was repo’d due to paperwork showing the owner being regularly sued for child support and the fact that a lien was reported on the car when the second owner took possession. Yard claimed it was a running / driving car when it came in, and given they knew I wanted a long-term project, there’s little reason to lie about it.

    I think some of you guys must like to have your projects done in six months and never cost any real money to own. I’m quite the opposite. They take years and keep me entertained for a very long time. The money is predictable and only comes out if I choose to tackle a certain phase of work.

    Obviously, I hope the motor is good…but if it isn’t, we’ll just rebuild it.

    Like 6
  9. Superdessucke

    Good work. You paid less than a grand but a lot of people are spending 10-20 * more for similar basket cases.

    I hope that this story serves as a cautionary tale to those folks, who are in my opinion ruining the hobby. Maybe it will show them that it is not as easy as it looks to fix this stuff. I wish you luck sir!

    Like 2
    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Thank you, sir. Yes…..I’ve never paid top dollar for a car. Never bought anything finished. Would rather spend as little as possible up front and pull the ejector chute if it looks like the market is turning on a car, without ever having ponied up for a big purchase price. Everyone assumes spending the most you can up front is the right way to go. Sure, if you just like blowing through large wads of cash at once!

      Like 3
  10. conrad alexander

    Better get out the ol’ welder

    Like 1
  11. taxijohn

    Over here in the UK that would be a good one, nothing a welder won’t cure. Good luck & a worthwhile project. Those knocking it are probably the ones who want to see a profit from everything, the classic car job isn’t like that it’s about pashion enthusiasm & fun.

    Like 7
    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Exactly. Even easier if I get some good metal from a junker to swap in. Thanks for the kind words!

      Like 2
    • TreDeuce

      The English and some Canadians are notorious for taking on terminal projects and making them hum & shine.

      Most of us in the US would never approach a project like the Merc discussed here. Kudos to those skilled and indefatigable Brits.

      Like 2
  12. ACZ

    If you’re over 50 years old, there might not be enough time to finish this one in this lifetime.

    Like 3
    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      LOL. Sure. I finished a Euro-spec 320 that had been sitting on a farm in Connecticut for 20 years with the engine in the trunk in two years. I’ll write up a post soon.

      Also, I’m 36, so no worries regardless…

      Like 5
    • taxijohn

      Each of those rot points shouldn’t take more than a couple of days & plenty of mugs of tea!!! The thinking out the best procedure will probably take longer than the job! and warming your hands on the mug of course!!

      Like 3
  13. scottymac

    I know nothing about Mercs, but after leaving the Ford section in my local Pik-A-Part, I was strolling through the foreign section and came across a surprising find, 2002 or ’03 230C Kompressor with a five speed. Figured M-B gave up sticks a long time ago. Must have been mechanical failure, body didn’t look that bad.

    Like 1
  14. KevinR

    I commend you for your willingness to tackle such a project. I personally wouldn’t take it on for two reasons. One, I am 56 years old and aware of a time horizon on my life. Two, I much prefer driving the cars than working on them.

    The beauty of the car hobby is that there is a place for people at all levels of skill and interest.

    BTW, I never expect to turn a profit on a car. I am not a dealer and I find that insisting on being able to make a profit on resale means you can miss out on a lot of great cars.

    Like 4
    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Well said, Kevin. That’s why it helps to have other cars to drive. ;-)

      Thanks for the comments.

  15. Wendell

    There is a clean white 190 for sale down here in Evans, GA for 1200 bucks, been for sale three years now. Might be able to get it cheap and strip everything you need…

  16. Richard

    Hate to brutally honest, but I see no reason whatsoever to get excited about ANY 190 Mercedes. They were the entry level Mercedes for many who wanted a MB but could not afford the “E” or “S” class. If one wanted to restore a “real” Mercedes, I would recommend a 190SL, 240-280SL and of course, a 300 Gullwing/Roadster.

    The 190, debuting in 1984, was never respected for craftsmanship/durability like the W123 cars (220D, 240D, 300CD/TD & 300D).

    • TreDeuce

      MB effete snobbery?

    • taxijohn

      Yes they were entry level merc’s but still nice cars & more style (in my opinion) than a Ford/Vauxhall or any other big volume car in that same market sector. Me i’d go for a pre ’90 volvo or a lada.

      Like 3
      • PatrickM

        I’ve seen “merc’s” a couple of times here. Merc is an abbreviation for Mercury while MB is for the Benz

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Do you have any idea what a Cosworth is? I’m guessing no. This video might help. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAr5pN8-FEY

      Unlike the W123, the 190E 2.3-16 was an actual homologation car built in extremely limited numbers. I don’t disagree with you on the run-of-the-mill 190s, but chastising a version of the same car that Senna drove to international fame and acclaim is a pretty uninformed opinion.

      Like 3
  17. Jason

    Reality bites lol

  18. Sean Taylor

    The 190 was a great car in its day and a pleasure to drive. This 190 is well worth the effort with the Cosworth motor it should really hum. Look forward to seeing the restoration progress and 1st impressions when you get it running.

    Like 2
    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Thank you, Sean. I agree.

  19. Claus Graf

    Rust? You should see my 914…..

    Save the Mercedes!

    Like 2
    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      It’s all about perspective, isn’t it? ;-)

  20. taxijohn

    Merc’s as an abbreviation obviously means different things in different places! Over here in europe it means Mercedes Benz. But i think we all know what is being referred to here.

  21. scottymac

    PatrickM – Coming from a Ford guy – CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT.

  22. Richard

    Jeff said:

    “Do you have any idea what a Cosworth is?”

    Yes, I am fully aware of what a “Cosworth” is. I have been driving MB for 40 years & currently own 10 of them in my collection.

    Enjoy the restoration! I have done several restorations on MB, Jaguars & Rolls Royce. Different stokes for different folks. Enjoy your car!

  23. #69pace car Member

    Way to go Jeff. I think that everyone has their opinion on what to save and what not to and they are welcome to share that. What makes this site so special is that people can go on and tell their story of rebuilding a car that they like or love regardless of what other people think. I am just about to start a project on my 1983 Pontiac firebird that has been in my garage for the last 20 years after a blown engine. I intend to swap in a 350 engine in place of the v6 2.8 that it came with although some may think I’m crazy but have had the car from when it was a year old. Good luck Jeff.

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      We’d love to share your progress! Feel free to drop us a line with some photos, details, etc….and good luck in your project as well!

  24. Bryan Cohn

    I’m curious, for example, why buy a battery cable from Germany? Its a battery cable, its not anything fancy. There are only so many options for ends, surely a properly made one could be found in the US, no? Ok, it might not have MB part numbers but it also doesn’t cost 11ty seven dollars and take 3 weeks to obtain. Same with the radiator. Some measurements and the location of the inlet and outlet and with some hunting you’ll find an aluminum radiator that fits, is WAY more efficient that original and your fixed for a couple hundred dollars. Fan shrouds are a non-issue as well in the aftermarket, it just takes some fabrication skills to mount.

    I guess my question is, are you trying for a “correct” restoration or a repaired, safe, cool car you can use, drive and enjoy? Surely the latter as there is no upside to the former other than spending WAY too much to get to your goal.

    I love the 190 Cossie, drove one way back in the late 90’s while looking at cars to replace my DOA Saab 900. It was a blast, you’ll really enjoy driving it when finished.

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Bryan, I’ll be candid: I truly enjoy the parts hunt and I like correct cars. I also am severely lacking in the “skills” department as it relates to fabrication, so I like to know I am using the parts that originally were installed on the car. It’s peace of mind and also knowing I’m less likely to find a surprise.

      The positive cable is NLA from Mercedes and I could not find any US-based sellers on eBay with the parts. One vendor in Germany had several listings for battery cables, so that’s where I went.

      In a previous life, I’d have driven up to a junkyard, seen how the part came off and brought it right home to install. Sadly, with a 15-month-old at home, my time is not as free as it once way and my junkyard visits are few and far between any more.

      Like 1
  25. Howard Collins

    When these first came out I was working at Mercedes Dealership in Tacoma Washington in the Body Shop as an assistant Forman. We got one of the 1st ones to arrive in the state. One of the salesmen let a guy take it one a test drive. 2 hours later it got towed to our shop with dents on every panel but the roof! Come to find out, the guy that was driving it wouldn’t have even qualified for financing to buy it! TOTALLED!

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks. Don't post your car for sale in the comments. Click here to get it featured on the homepage instead.


Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.