Wrecked Exotic: 1987 Mercedes 190E 2.6-16 Cosworth

This one breaks my heart, the one that’s perpetually obsessed with vintage German super sedans (which is different from the one currently distracted by broken Isuzu Troopers). This 1987 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 is a shadow of its former self, which was built to go head-to-head with the formidable BMW M3 of the same era. Now, engine-less and saddled with the highly undesirable automatic transmission, its future looks dim. Find it here on eBay with a Buy-It-Now of $2,995 or best offer.

The 2.3-16s were breathed on by none other than Cosworth, following Mercedes’ request to build a vehicle capable of competing on the rally stage. Those plans stalled, but the engine was built; Mercedes then turned to DTM, where it met its foe in the E30 M3. While many enthusiasts will tell you the BMW delivered a purer driving experience, the 190s built for the German Touring Car Championships were no slouches. The civilian version was obviously slightly de-tuned, but still found their way into many enthusiasts hearts. The air dam, side skirts and rear spoiler were all standard fare for the 2.3-16.

The interior featured four bucket-style seats, heavily bolstered up front. The driver’s area also incorporated a unique gauge pod in the center stack, below the HVAC controls. Mercedes did offer a manual transmission in the more sporting W201, but a surprising number of them still pop up with the automatic like this car. The seller notes that the desirable Cosworth-blessed drivetrain is already gone, with the slushbox left in the car. It’s not surprising to see one in this state, as unlike the E30 M3, the 190 hasn’t risen to the point of desirability that even total basketcases with an automatic are rescued and refurbished.

The interior shows plenty of evidence of weather exposure and general neglect. The seller says you can find another engine on eBay if you wish to restore this 190E the right way but it would still require a transmission swap to do it correctly (well, unless you prefer the automatic). The listings for replacement engines range from $995 to $1,250 here on eBay. While not crazy high, you’re still miles away from being done and rough-but-drivable 16Vs can be had for the low teens. So tell us: which way would you go? Rescue this abused 2.3-16V or a buy a better one to begin with?

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  1. redsresto

    A fitting air freshener for the setting…

  2. Stephen

    BMW builds cars for people who love to drive, Mercedes builds cars for everyone else.

  3. Karl

    I think I would try to get a better price using make an offer and then save this cars life with an engine and transmission from eBay.
    Karl from Australia
    (Currently toughing it out in Crete!)

  4. Patrick S Newport Pagnell Staff

    Let your imagination run wild:


  5. Joe

    I took a short but fast drive in an automatic in Orlando around 1988. Hopped on I-4 and gave it the long toe. HEY NOW!!!!! I was driving a street-built Pantera at the time so was used to real speed. The 16 valve had it. I guess I wasn’t expecting the pace. BIG hustle for a 2.3.

  6. Three Pedal Steve

    It’s crazy that these 16v cars are so undervalued. This car is the reason BMW created the M3. Prices on e30 M3’s holding strong at $40K and far more produced. Maybe if it actually wore an AMG badge?

  7. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    I’m always on the lookout for these cars. This is the worst one I’ve seen so far. There are a lot of overpriced, really nice ones but even average condition ones the sellers are pricing too high.

  8. Stephen

    These were never as popular as the M3 for one simple reason:
    BMW builds cars for those who live to drive, Mercedes builds cars for everyone else.
    You can still get a manual shift BMW, Mercedes hasn’t had one available for quite some time.

  9. Ben

    Sadly, my wife’s ex husband had one of these with the 5 speed. He claimed to be a car guy, but never knew what he really had. All he would do is complain about getting parts. He destroyed the car in a drunken fit one night and sent it to the scrap yard. He cried like a baby when I told him how much money he threw away.

  10. Ralph Sweet

    I had a 1988 190E 2.3 16 valve Mercedes when I was in Kuwait bought it in 1993….it was 2 tone maroon with black leather interior 5 speed trans…. it had AMG ground effects installed… I drove at 220 clicks out on 7th ring road…it handled well and was fun to drive cuz it was a regular crotch rocket

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