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Mercedes Benz 190 Cosworth

Published: 24th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mercedes Benz 190 Cosworth
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Fancy owning a motorsport legend for road and track use? Paul Davies looks at true classics that made their names on stages and circuits, and still provide fine drives today

Where would we be without Cosworth? Founded in 1958 by Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth, the engine development company’s products powered a whole string of racing Fords, from the 105E -based Formula 3 engine to the mighty Formula DFV which netted no less that 155 Grand Prix wins. Along the way came the rallywinning BDA, the DFX that took 10 Indy 500 victories, and the Pinto-based YB that powered the Sierra ‘Cossie’. But it wasn’t all Ford. GM’s Ascona and Manta 400, the Opel-Vauxhall XE of GM Lotus single-seater fame, and the Chevrolet Vega (really!) all sported 16-valve, aluminium, cylinder heads designed by Cosworth. As did the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16. Way back, Mercedes almost invented motor racing. They dominated thirties and fifties Grand Prix with the ‘Silver Arrows’, and then withdrew after the Le Mans disaster of 1955. They dabbled in rallying with the big SLC coupes of the late 1970’s and then signed ’79 World Champion Ari Vatanen; the new ‘small Merc’, the 190 due in 1983, would have been the weapon of choice – with help from Cosworth. Only, the story goes, when the engineers at the three-pointed star learned what sporting rivals Audi had on the drawing board – namely the turbocharged, five-cylinder, four-wheel-drive Quattro – they wisely got cold feet and threw the towel on the sun bed. Vatanen rushed off to the bank with a smile on his face (and an Opel contract) and M-B ended up with a fine road car that (also ultimately) became a racer. The 190E 2.3-16 made its debut in 1984, Ayrton Senna winning a one-model race at the Nurburgring to promote its launch. With the almost trade-mark Cosworth light-alloy head, with four valves per cylinder operated by twin overhead camshafts, the engine developed 185bhp against the 136bhp of its eight-valve sibling. Strapped down suspension, fatter roll bars, a limited slip differential, smart seats and a wing on the boot completed the package.

Top whack of 143mph was pretty good for a fourdoor saloon of the age. In 1988 engine capacity grew to 2.5-litres and power to 202bhp. Also debuting in 1984 was the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft, the DTM, the German Touring Car race series. Private entrants, with help from tuners such as AMG, soon got the Mercedes-Cosworth to the start-line, but the competition, particularly from BMW, was tough. The story was the same in the European Touring Car Championship, where Alfa Romeo and Rover were also playing. Mercedes got more serious in 1989 when they produced an Evolution 1 version of the 2.5- 16, with high-revving, short-stroke, cylinder block (developed by Cosworth, of course!) along with uprated brakes and suspension, and more aerodynamic aids. An Evo 2 version appeared the following year. Three times Le Mans winner Klaus Ludwig followed a DTM runner-up spot in 1991 with outright victory in the series for Mercedes the following year, Kurt Thiim and Bernd Schneider completing the 1-2-3. In 1993, Roland Asch and Schneider bagged 2nd and 3rd, before the Cosworth-Benz was superseded by the first of the C Class saloons. Understandably the 190E never went topline rallying, the Group 4 and Group B competition of the first half of the eighties would have been far too tough for a big(ish), production based, saloon. Likewise, if you can bag a good one now you’ll find it’s much more at home as a fast, reliable, tourer than a ‘bharnstormer’.

Mercedes Benz 190 Cosworth Summary


All 190 models (1984-1993): 1.87 million; 2.5-16 Evo 1: 500; 2.5 Evo 2: 500


Engine: Four-cylinder, in-line, with 16-valve light alloy head. Four valves per cylinder operated by twin, chain driven overhead camshafts. Bosch K-Jetronic injection on production cars. Kugelfischer mechanical injection and dry sup lubrication on EVO engines.
Power: 2.3-16 (2299cc) - 185bhp; 2.5-16 (2498cc) - 202bhp; 2.5-16 EVO 1 (2463cc) – 194bhp; 2.5-16 EVO 2 (2463cc) – 235bhp.
Gearbox: five-speed Getrag. LSD on 2.3-16,
ASD (electronic traction control) on 2.5-16.
Drive: Rear Wheels.
Suspension: Front struts, rear five-link independent.
Anti-roll bars front and rear.
Brakes: Disc all wheels (ABS).

Claim to fame

Front runner in DTM and ETCC. German touring championship winner 1992. Also holder of three world records in 1983 with 50,000kms covered at at average of 154.06mph.

Famous names

Ayrton Senna, , Volker Weidler, Roland Asch, Klaus Ludwig, Dany Snobeck, Bernard de Dryver, Kurt Thiim, Bernd Schneider, Franz Klammer, Peter Obendorf. Brits John Lepp and Roger Eccles raced a Swinford Motors 2.3-16 in the 1986 Tourist Trophy at Silverstone but did not finish.

Where to buy

Independent Mercedes specialists such as Cheshire Classic Benz ( and also Classic- Benz ( Pistonheads web site ( lists several cars at last check.

What to look for

Cars are 25 years old-plus, so rust must be a problem but otherwise the baby Merc in bullet-proof. Getrag gearboxes can be stiff and notchy (but that’s no problem) and suspension bushes wear and rear arms bend with ill-treatment.

What to pay

Prices vary. £3000 will find a leggy 2.3-16, and £10,000 a really tidy, low milage, 2.5-litre car. EVO models can be pricey but, again, vary – we’ve seen £20k and £40k for these!


Mercedes Club: The Mercedes Benz Club (official): http://www.mercedesbenz-

Maintenance, tuning and sport

There are some good indys around to look after your older Benz, such as James Leigh ( and TEC Automotive ( Parts For Mercedes ( has a good catalogue, including some upgrades. If you want to take to the race track, classic saloons or the Britcar series is the place to be.

Competitive Rating: 6

Classic Motoring

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