Paul Kramer's 1987 190E 2.3-16
Bob Yoshida's 1994 500E
While many people are obsessed with just one car, there is a handful of a few poor bastards obsessed with them all. For those, life is too short for just one great ride. They need to own them all.
Enter Paul Kramer.
Though I'd only known him for 10 minutes, his automotive palette was vast, ranging from Alfa GTVs to Porsches to Mopars. He's what can be described as a "balanced" motorhead, a person who appreciates the car simply for what it is. It could be a 600-hp 930 or a 38-hp Beetle--Kramer loves them all.
I also learned he can drive the bejesus out of older iron. While following us up a local canyon, he managed to not only stay with our torque-monster BMW 335d, but almost pass us. Considering we outgunned his 20-year-old Merc by a few hundred pound-feet and had twice the rubber underfoot, this was remarkable.
"This is what the 190 16v was made for," Kramer says. "It was designed for the Nrburgring. You know... roads just like this. The engine, gearing and suspension work great up here. God, I love this car."
He went on to mention about 50 other cars he admires just as much. He might have even misted up for a bit.
In an effort to maintain contact and provide support for the world's finest cars, Kramer created Autokennel. Autokennel is a cross between a lounge, a museum consignment house, and a functional garage. It's a place for car guys to just hang, work on their rides or look for something new. Kramer is what you could call an enabler. Talk to him for a few hours and you will find yourself unable to live without your dream car. Paul almost convinced me I needed to get an Escort Cosworth (which I do). The dude is like the Dalai Lama of cars.
Kramer met us with pal Bob Yoshida, owner of the gorgeous 500E. "I always loved this car" Yoshida says. "Paul made it happen."
The result of careful breeding by both Mercedes and Porsche, each 500E progeny was transported back and forth between the Mercedes plant and Porsche's factory in Zuffenhausen. It took more than two weeks to assemble a 500E as each car was assembled largely by hand. Built from 1992 to '94, about 7,000 cars left the assembly line.
Based on the ubiquitous MBZ 300E, the 500E was equipped with a new V8 engine, hydraulic self-leveling suspension, 11.8-/10.9-inch front/rear ventilated brakes, wider wheels and tires and a revised suspension which lowered the car nearly an inch lower than the 300E. The car was also fitted with pronounced front fender flares that lended a linebacker-like profile. The engine was the same unit used in the 500SL but with Bosch's LH Jetronic fuel injection and a redesigned intake manifold that resulted in an additional 22 lb-ft of torque.
The four-speed automatic transmission and rear axle were also sourced from the 500SL. If you could get the car to hook up, 60 mph could be breached in 5.3 seconds with a 155 mph top speed (electronically limited)--not bad for almost two tons of car.
The 500E became something of a poster child for autobahn driving. It excelled at high speed cruising while providing an incredibly comfortable ride. And it looked fabulous while doing it.
Yoshida has been enjoying the 500E for several years with no major issues. Aside from routine maintenance, the car has been rock solid.
1987 Mercedes 190E 2.3-16
The Mercedes 190 16v was a genuine German hot rod. Based on their smallest model, the "baby Benz" utilized a high-strung Cosworth-massaged engine, special suspension and driveline, and cutting edge aerodynamcs. In 1983, on the walls of Nardo, Mercedes sought to prove the car's mettle. After 201 hours, 39 minutes and 43 seconds, two of the cars had clocked 50,000 kilometers with an average speed of 247 km/h, leaving the 190 2.3-16 with three world records and nine international class records.
Mercedes homologated this car to go racing. Its first race was at the brand new Nrburgring racetrack in Germany. In the support race for the F1 main event, a 190E 2.3-16 won in its debut performance, which was great for public relations. Moss, Lauda, Prost and Hill were all beaten by a young upstart driver named Ayrton Senna driving this new Mercedes hot rod.
The 16v had several special features including a Getrag manual transmission with a dogleg first gear and a hydro-pneumatic multilink rear suspension. A factory-installed aerodynamic package consisted of a front spoiler, wheel arches, side skirts, rear valance and rear wing. It left the 190 with a drag coefficient of 0.32 and a 141 mph top speed.
ABS brakes were standard, as well as brake cooling ducts to keep brake temperatures under control. German black leather covered the incredibly comfortable electric Recaro sport seats. There was also a stopwatch, voltmeter and oil temp gauge that backed up the 190's sporting intentions. In the rear, there are only two Recaro seats making this a four-passenger vehicle only.
Options on this one include an electric sunroof, power seats with memory, power mirrors, power windows, headlight washers, the leather Recaros, and an AM/FM stereo with electric antenna. Finally, it also wears very rare (dealer option) 16-inch Lorinser wheels with new Michelin tires. If you want to buy it--it's for sale--the car comes with the original wheels and new OEM Pirellis. The Lorinser wheels are available at an additional fee.
"I've spent years looking for clean and unmolested examples and it's getting really hard to find them. Especially with the manual transmission," Kramer says.
"Recently, the seat motors were replaced, the A/C system was rebuilt (over $2,500 cost), and the rear self-leveling suspension was fixed so that everything operates now. And the original radio was fixed and is fully operational. Plus we did a complete rebuild on the engine using a factory Cosworth head and new Mercedes pistons.
"You'll be hard pressed to find a cleaner example than this one. I found a ton of cars that needed major restoration as well as cars that have never been driven. The low mileage ones were literally rotting apart. And in most cases, the motors were going to need a very expensive rebuild..."
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
5.0-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve
11.8-inch front rotors, 10.9-inch rear rotors, ASR and ABS
* Wheels and Tires
17-inch AMG alloys, 245/45-17
Peak Power: 322 hp @ 5600 rpm
Peak Torque: 354 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
1987 190E 2.3-16V
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
2.3-liter I4, dohc, 16-valve
284mm vented front rotors, 258mm rear rotors
* Wheels and Tires
16-inch Lorinser alloys, 205/55-16
Peak Power: 167 hp @ 5800 rpm
Peak Torque: 162 lb-ft @ 4750 rpm