While the original Brabus suspension kit was in stock, things had moved on in 19 years. Gramm spoke to his contacts at Eibach and Bilstein, who provided more up-to-date solutions. The new springs and dampers drop ride height by 40mm from standard, over 16-inch Brabus Monoblock I alloy wheels with Yokohama 048 225/45 trackday rubber fitted to them.
The tires are available in soft, medium and medium-hard compounds, Gramm explains. The first set were soft and their grip was fantastic, but I got through them in just 2,500 miles. Now I have medium-hards.
To make sure the body stays rigid under the onslaught of this grippy, low profile rubber, and also as a safety measure, Gramm fitted a Weichers rear rollcage and rear suspension tower brace. The big brakes behind the front wheels use 286mm vented discs and four-pot calipers with fast road pads, and stop the car very effectively from autobahn speeds.
Shedding excess weight was a priority, so the rear seat was removed and the fronts replaced with lightweight Recaro Spa Kevlar seats. A Brabus Type II steering wheel provides good grip, and four-point race harnesses and a fire extinguisher system complete the safety equipment.
The speedo was recalibrated to read to 300km/h, and the center console now houses a battery of oil temperature gauges for the engine, gearbox, and rear differential. The car has an oil cooler for each of these components, the rear differential cooler being housed between the rear spoiler and the bootlid.
The 3.6-liter engine was another challenge altogether. Built individually for each 3.6S, this powerplant always started life as a new or slightly used 300E unit. When Gramm finally found one, the block and cylinder head ended up in the Brabus engine shop, where each was stripped and checked for any problems before work began.
The 3.6S’s unique 3,590cc capacity comes from a bore and stroke of 92.2x90.0mm, making the engine slightly over-square. A new steel billet crank is mated to lightened and balanced connecting rods and bespoke KS pistons. Knowing that he would only do perhaps 3,000 miles a year, Gramm opted for the largest oversized pistons to get the maximum displacement.
A local retired mechanic polished the connecting rods so they are not only lighter and perfectly balanced, they also look amazing. The cylinder head was gas-flowed, polished and given bigger valves, three-angle valve seats, and a Brabus high-lift camshaft. Compression ratio is 10.5:1. The air intake manifold was internally polished and eased to increase ram air, while on the exhaust side, a set of tubular headers and a stainless steel Brabus sport exhaust with twin 76mm outlets dramatically reduce back-pressure.
The original 3.6S did not need a catalytic converter; however, Gramm elected to have a pair of 100-cell metal sport cats installed so he can drive the car into urban areas that require the mandatory green sticker.
The positive effects that low weight and good torque from a large-displacement normally aspirated motor were starkly apparent as Uli Gauffres, in Gramm’s car, and me in a W211-based E V12, ran in tandem on the autobahn. As we accelerated, the 2,900-pound 190E 3.6S immediately pulled away while the turbos on the 4,500-pound E V12 were still spooling up. It was a few seconds before we blew by the older Brabus, but it did prove a point.
And Gramm is clearly enjoying his car. But only in nice weather, he says.
Brabus 190E 3.6
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
3.6-liter I6, dohc, 24-valve. Steel billet crankshaft, custom KS pistons, polished connecting rods, gas-flowed cylinder head was gas-flowed, bigger valves, three-angle valve seats, Brabus high-lift camshaft, polished intake manifold, tubular headers, Brabus sport exhaust
Eibach springs with Bilstein dampers, rear shock tower brace
Four-piston calipers with 286mm rotors
Wheels and tires
Brabus Monoblock I, 8x16
Yokohama 048, 225/45
Brabus front and rear spoilers
Brabus Type II steering wheel, Recaro Spa Kevlar seats, four-point harnesses, Weichers rear roll cage