The 1885 Benz Patent Motorwagon is generally considered to be the first production car. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe 190E Cossie represents over 100 years of evolution since then, but could its price make it potentially your next car?
Volkswagen bought the sinking Auto Union from Mercedes Benz in 1965. With that purchase VW gained the NSU K70 - which would become the blueprint for their cars moving forward - as well as Audi, which would become their upscale brand. Much as how Tom Hanks' Saving Private Ryan character's decision to free a German soldier (SPOILER AHEAD) comes fatally back to haunt him in the third act, Audi's subsequent success with their turbocharged, all-wheel drive rally cars killed the development of Mercedes' own 190-based WRC contender.
None the less, the rally circuit's loss became the Autobahn-stormers' gain as Mercedes shifted the development focus of the Cosworth-headed engine from rallying to road racing and the street. The racing version did find success in DTM, with Ayrton Senna chalking up an early victory at the Nurburgring back in 1984. That wasn't the Cossie's only claim to fame either- the 190, running at Italy's Nardo test track, set 12 international endurance records. Sales were not record-breaking, but about 5,000 lucky buyers did get to park them in their garages.
Today's 1987 example currently resides in a garage in the city of Richard Nixon's birth - Yorba Linda - and wears its vinyl body cladding much like the disgraced former president wore his five o'clock shadow- low and swarthy. The base 190 is regarded to this day as one of the best cars Mercedes Benz has ever built. Despite being the smallest of the Benz sedans, it introduced several new technologies, including a 5-link rear suspension that mystified even LJK Setright with its complexity. Regardless, it impressed the legendary scribe enough that he considered the 2.6 version of the 190 to be among his favorites.
The Cossie's spec's are impressive for a car hailing from the era of Bush I, but they still hold up well even today. With twin cams and four valves per cylinder, the 2.3-litre four made its 167-bhp (in U.S. trim) the old fashioned way - by earning it through airflow and reciprocal mass management. The fuel injection is computer controlled, but there's no variable cam timing, per-plug variable ignition timing, or any of those other modern mechanisms for rounding up the ponies. This is a slide-rule kind of motor.
Modest the output may be - and easily embarrassed by modern cars of lesser pedigree - but the car doesn't disappoint when the straight lines start to get all bendy. The Cossie shares the base car's recirculating ball steering, but a quicker ratio and smaller, leather wrapped, wheel help to make the most of the imperturbable suspension. This 104,000-mile car comes with that steering wheel, but without the 16" flat-faced alloy rims that contributed to a remarkable .32 coefficient of drag. Instead, the owner has fitted a set of EVO II 17" rims, a very common switch for the Cossie. In addition to the wheels, the seller lists $4,000 in receipts for engine and suspension work that includes a rebuilt head and timing chain replacement. Most of what he has refreshed represents normal wear and tear for a car of this age, and the Cossie does not show evidence of being mistreated, at least in the pictures provided.
Just like Nixon did, this car calls California home, and that state's mild climate means rusty exteriors and desiccated interiors are less of a concern. Despite that, the dashboard, while not coprolitic, does show evidence of at least one crack along the top of the binnacle. To take your mind off of that, underneath your right hand is a Getrag 260, a 5-speed shared with the BMW M3, and featuring a dog-leg shift pattern that puts first gear out of the H. Beside that sit a pair of heavily bolstered Recaro seats, and even in back the bench is molded for two to take corners, rather than for three to argue over who rides bitch.
Outside, the seller claims the car has had some poorly repaired rear end damage, and says that's common in cars where reverse is where first is expected to be. Yeah, right. Whatever the damage, it doesn't show up in the pictures, so it might be something that you could just live with.
But is the price something that you could also live with? There aren't a huge number of Cossies for sale here in the states, and the ones that are range from basket cases to pristine examples owned by the anal retentive. Prices also are across the board and this one happens to fall about in the middle. That being said, it looks like a pretty nice one. But is it $5,500 nice? Would that price park this baby Benz in your crib? Or does its cost make this 190 about as popular as Nixon?
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