Project Chronicle

Author: Jeff,

When I moved to Maryland, I had to leave a few cars behind due to being "in progress" once the moving van arrived. The Isuzu Trooper RS and the Lexus Land Cruiser were among them but had clear expectations of being down south before too long; the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth was far less certain due to needing a wide range of "finish" work.

I had a trip up north recently where I stopped in and visited the Cossie, as it's been parked at my longtime Rhode Island mechanic's shop for the past year. It received a short burst of work wherein the timing chain was replaced and some other mechanical sorting was done, but it still has fuel delivery issues and needs an assortment of work related to the interior: dash replacement, window regulator replacement, factory alarm troubleshooting, and other odds and ends.

I would very much like to see this car home, but it's been almost six years since it came home from the Pennsylvania junkyard. Since I plan for it to go back to my body shop for some additional paintwork before it comes home, we're still likely six months out from completion. It's a drag, but at this point, a few more months is relatively meaningless. 

Author: Jeff,

My 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth has left the body shop after being there for over a year. To say the owners of the shop were glad to see it go is an understatement; there is still some finish work left to do but hopefully, if it does go back, it will be in the paint booth for a day or so and then completely done.

Right now, it is back at my mechanic's for the second phase of mechanical work that will hopefully see the car fully sorted out after starting with the basics of getting it operational, which took place over three years ago. The first order of business was to replace the chain tensioner, a known failure point, and completely devastating to the these engines should it fail. 

Upon inspection, there was a good deal of slack in the chain. This was not entirely unexpected, and I bought both the tensioner and the chain when I acquired the Cosworth in 2018, figuring it would not have been done based on who owned the car last. At the same time, the water pump was replaced along with the thermostat. 

Other updates include replacing crushed sections of hydraulic hard lines supporting the rear load leveling system; these were obliterated when the 190E was moved by forklift in the junkyard. In addition, the Cosworth-specific oil cooler that hangs adjacent to the radiator is an obsolete part that was removed in the salvage yard, stripping the threads on the oil lines in the process. The shop made it work on a temporary basis but the cooler was rendered junk when it was removed as part of the radiator removal process. Incredibly, a radiator shop in Rhode Island that maintains a large stash of obsolete components in a warehouse on the Cape had the *exact* replacement part, and OEM to boot. I'm blown away by that ridiculous stroke of good luck. 

A few more things to button up and then it's onto the interior for dash replacement. 


Author: Jeff,

The 190E Cosworth, which arrived in my garage as a soggy, rotten, trash-filled mess from a Pennsylvania scrap yard five years ago last month, is near the finish line. I've lived in three houses since I bought this car, and I'm hopeful it will be a permanent fixture in my garage sometime in the next six months. 

The bodyshop is buffing out the paint and assembling the body kit. The interior is going back together. And those two details are super gratifying considering I bought a complete spare body kit and interior sometime in December 2018, all with the expectation I would someday have a car worth putting them on/in. 

Today, I ordered a wiper blade insert and two pieces of reproduction hardware for mounting the bodykit doglegs ahead of the rear wheel arches. Truly nitty-gritty stuff, and my body guy should have the car fully assembled by the weekend. Or so we think; there's always something that shows up missing. For instance, I plan on having the lenses replaced on the European headlights because - why not? Well, because, the car will be otherwise mint and pitted lenses will be a serious let-down. 

But don't get too excited: there's still a laundry list of mechanical work to be done before we're truly "done." 

Author: Jeff,

When you see a car finally wearing a consistent shade of paint after years of being naked or otherwise clad in shoddy paintwork, it's a big moment. It's as close to being reborn as a car can be. For the 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth project, this represents a major milestone that hits just shy of its fifth birthday in my possession. 

Smoke Silver has never been a particularly sexy color, but it is a staple of 1980s-era Mercedes-Benz products. The Cosworth came in either this champagne-tinged silver or black, and while the latter is harder to find, I have fond memories of my Dad's 300E that wore the same color. Right now, the car is supposedly looking good but I'm no longer in RI so I can't even view it. But the guy painting is said he'd just like to buff it out a little before turning it over. 

Then we begin interior re-assembly, which is far cheaper to have my body guy do than to have the actual mechanic's shop take on. So, we're still a few days away from it leaving the body shop for good, but it's safe to say the hard work is finally done. 

Author: Jeff,

To say I am tired of seeing my Cosworth in primer is an understatement, but it is (sadly) par for the course with a complete respray of a car that has been painted poorly many times before. 

Right now, the hood is off for some detail work. The remnants of the hood pad have to be scraped off, and then the hood gets primered and painted before the replacement goes on. The side skirts and fender flares all need to be coated in primer and prepped for paint. And once that's done, we will likely be tossed out of the rotation again before the actual paint work begins.

There's a very big part of me that is done with the bodywork stage on this car. Frankly, I just to backburner it for a while, but that can't happen. This project will be more or less done in 2023, come hell or high water. 

Author: Jeff,

There's a point in every project where you begin to feel actual excitement that the end is approaching. For the 190E 2.3-16, I haven't felt anything approaching this in the last four years. From seeing it sitting outside my mechanic's shop for months at a time to waiting for my one-man-band body shop to get me into the garage rotation, it's been difficult to make significant progress at any one time. "Keeping the faith" has undoubtedly been critical to not ever giving up on this long-term project.  

Fortunately, we are in the home stretch for bodywork. The original body kit was actually bolted up to the car on the driver's side for checking fit and how flat the pieces laid on the body, but all I could think about was how good the car looks with its lower cladding installed (The kit was previously torn off by the junkyard employees when the Cossie was waiting for its day with the crusher.) 

The side skirts and door trim pieces are so integral to what the car "is" that even in temporary form, seeing them suspended against the body reminded me of how good this Cosworth will look when it's finally done. We'll prime the whole car next, block sand all of the panels, and then prime it once more before getting a proper paint job. 

Speaking of paint, my body guy grabbed the Smoke Silver paint and set about prepping it for application. That tells you just how close we're getting to finishing this major phase of work. 

Author: Jeff,

The next phase of bodywork has begun on the 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth, and now we are truly counting down until we paint this long-term project. The bodywork phase has been arduous, with the rear quarters basically being rebuilt; the rockers being repaired at all four corners; and the front quarters inside the fenders have been patched up with new metal.

When you sand a car down, it reveals the battle scars and bruises it has encountered along the way. It's clear this 190E was completely repainted, poorly, at one point, and that it has been needlessly repaired with body filler to correct small dings and dents. Quite honestly, this poor car - despite having a history of only two owners and being well-maintained by the first caretaker - fell into cheap car territory wherein it was "freshened up" as cheaply as possible. 

This is not at all surprising for an older vehicle such as this, but it does highlight just how much work a bodyshop does to get a car prepped for paint. I'm going to take a day next week to sand down the primer that will soon be sprayed across the body, as you need to wet-sand the entire car afterwards in order to smooth it out and prep it for paint. It will be a learning experience, and hopefully shave a few bucks off the final bill as well. 

Author: Jeff,

This is a milestone day for the 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth I harvested out of a junkyard in 2018: we have eliminated all rust from the body, save for some meaningless surface spots that will be eliminated during the sanding process.

The rockers are repaired and the rust spots that were revealed when the fenders removed in the lower footwells have also been fixed. There were also small spots in the rear floors underneath the rear bench on either side; those, too, were repaired. The only remaining concerns before we get to paint is straightening out the right front bumper bracket (pushed in from a previous collision) and replacing the charcoal cannister inside the driver's fender which has rotted away. 

I will be putting in some sweat equity on the next phase, working alongside Nelson, the master body man, to sand the rest of the body down and prep it for primer and paint. This will also have the added benefit of saving me some money (hopefully). To know this car will soon be ready for the final phase of bodywork - by far the most painful part of this whole exercise - is a relief. 

There's still another heavy lift of mechanical work to do, but by God, we are nearing the end of this journey to rescue an 80s four-door performance car from the jaws of junkyard death. 

Author: Jeff,

We are nearing the finish line on the bodywork phase of the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth. The rear bodywork was the most labor intensive; the next section are the rockers. 

The rocker issues are twofold: one, there's typical rust that all neglected Mercedes of this era tend to have from the northeast. And two, the rockers were damaged when the forklift from the junkyard moved the Cosworth around the yard. The good news is the rust really isn't all that bad and, because it's hidden by the side skirts and body cladding, the repair work doesn't have to be pristine. It can be effective but not beautiful. 

Before we started this project, I manage to track down brand new rocker panel replacements. They have come in handy already, both for offering section cuts for the specific areas of rust and for using the excess / unused material to fix other small holes. The dented rocker on the passenger side was pulled out using heat and a hammer, and the one on the driver side is much milder which will hopefully mean less work. 

After this "affordable" phase comes with big one: sanding, priming, and painting the car.