Actually, it would be more correct to say two 190E 2.5-16 Evo IIs, as the first donor car had been hit hard from behind and provided its undamaged motor and interior. The second car suffered significant damage to its roof when it rolled, and was cannibalized for its underpinnings and some other parts.
"I actually started off with the idea of using a 122-hp 2.0-liter 190E motor," Booms explains. "But when my local wreckers told me they had an Evo II, I didn't hesitate." Not all the parts came from the two wrecked Evo IIs though. In the interest of safety, Booms used many new suspension and brake parts, which added to his final bill.
The Ponton body panels were repaired where necessary and adapted to the mix of original and 190E structure with many hand-fabricated bespoke parts. "Actually, only the roof panel was totally untouched," he says. Bespoke sheet metal around the 190E bulkheads and door support areas was hand fabricated to stitch the two generations of Mercedes together.
Those who have ever contemplated such a project will be savvy enough to ask about the wheelbase and tracks of both cars. But just as the 1970s Mercedes 600 and today's Maybach come within spitting distance of each other in critical dimensions, so do the Ponton and 190E. "If you want to be pedantic, the Evo II's wheelbase is exactly 15mm longer, so I just jigged things slightly to center the axles during setup," Booms says.
Open the boot and further surprises are revealed. The fuel filler cap sits behind an adapted 190E filler flap placed vertically up against the bulkhead, while a CD changer hangs on a bracket under the rear parcel shelf. Lifting the modern Mercedes-style boot floor panel reveals an OEM Mercedes-based satellite navigation unit that rises on its own miniature pneumatic strut for loading the CD. The attention to detail is simply awesome.
Most of the Evo II cabin was transplanted into the Ponton. "I had to shorten the dash slightly and fabricate a trim panel to make it look neat," Booms says. "The front and rear seats are all original Evo II as is the center console."
The engine stirs into life with the familiar frenetic rasp of the 190E 2.5-16 Evo II. This high-revver always sounds highly strung and raring to go, a soundtrack that seems totally at odds with the sedate look of the classic Ponton.
On the road, Booms' creation feels just like an Evo II. Its medium weighted power steering, taut but supple ride and crisp handling are a world away from the late-'50s Ponton. It even has ABS. No Ponton has ever gone this fast, but this Mercedes hybrid is capable of 149 mph, and zero to 62 takes 7.0 seconds, a big improvement on the yawning 36 seconds of my school taxi.
The only visual clue that this car is not what it appears to be is the 7.5J and 8.0J x 16-inch AMG alloys with 225/45ZR16 Bridgestones and the lower ride height, but Booms is considering making wider original steel wheels with the appropriate hubcaps to complete the deception.
As an automotive engineer with master mechanic and automotive electrical master diplomas as well, Booms relishes off-the-wall challenges like this car. But it was not a cheap exercise by any means. "If you factor in my 2,500 man hours over the last seven years as well, then this hobby project would cost over 185,000 to reproduce," he says.
As I departed, he told me that he has already started work on his next project, a Porsche-powered, mid-engine classic Beetle. I'll be visiting again in the not-too-distant future.
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
2.5-liter I4, dohc, 16-valve
Five-speed manual, 3.46:1 final drive
OEM 190E 2.5-16 subframe and assemblies
OEM 190E 2.5-16 assemblies
Peak Power: 235 hp @ 7200 rpm
Peak Torque: 181 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
0-62 mph: 7.0 sec.
Top Speed: 149 mph