A 1984 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 ‘Nurburgring’ with an incredible backstory is being auctioned off at RM Sotheby’s St Moritz collection later this month.
In the early ’80s, when the 190 series was introduced, Mercedes had an unmatched reputation for quality and durability, but sports sedans weren’t exactly its forte. To prove the 2.3-16 was a worthy performance car, the Three-pointed Star hosted a Nurburgring Champions Cup, inviting 20 Formula One icons to the Grand Prix circuit to duke it out in a one-make race.
Among the star drivers were Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, the latter of whom won the race. Second place went to the late Niki Lauda. The Mercedes seen here is the very car Lauda drove all those years ago on May 12. A total of 21 vehicles, poached from the production line, were specially modified by Mercedes-Benz Sport-Technik.
Revisions included a revised suspension setup, four-piston front brakes, and a new exhaust system. The well-appointed cabin was equipped with many safety features, such as a bolt-in roll cage, Recaro racing seats with six-point harnesses, and a fire extinguisher. The steering wheel was also swapped out for a smaller diameter part.
Lastly, Mercedes Sport-Technik fitted the fleet with wider wheels and Pirelli P7 205/55VR15 tires. Interestingly, the official paperwork submitted to the German National Racing Commission shows the 21 190Es did not race with the engines listed on their factory data cards.
The dramatic race was filled with excitement. With rain pouring down, the rear-wheel drive 2.3-16s raced around the track, using the advanced multi-link rear suspension to its full potential. While Prost had the advantage of being in pole position, Elio de Angelis knocked the rear of his car after just four turns.
Prost’s bad luck didn’t end there. His long-time on-track nemesis, Senna, managed to steal the lead after an aggressive maneuver forced Prost off the track. Behind the wheel of this Smoke Silver example, Lauda tailed Senna for the final eight laps, with the duo duking it out for first place. Senna would win the race with a 1.58-second lead, cementing his reputation as a versatile driver.
Lauda and Senna’s 190Es were the only two vehicles to retain this unique configuration. The rest were returned to factory condition and sold to Mercedes VIPs or dealers as used cars. While Senna’s 2.3-16 went on to live in the Mercedes-Benz museum, Lauda’s example became the only privately owned example, living with the Iseli Collection for many years. As such, it should command a hefty sale price when it hits the auction block on September 15.
The little sporty Mercedes was powered by a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine with 16 valves. Renowned engine tuner Cosworth worked its magic on the motor, boosting power to 183 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. 0-62 mph took less than eight seconds, while the top speed was capped at 143 mph.
Sadly, because of emissions legislation, US-spec models produced 167 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. In 1988, the Cosworth received a more powerful 2.5-liter engine. This later evolved into the iconic Evolution models, of which just 502 examples were made. Mercedes set incredible endurance records to prove how durable the 2.3-16 was, covering more than 31,000 miles over eight days at the Nardo Circuit while driving non-stop.
If you’re interested, you’d best have deep pockets, as the Lauda-driven 190E is expected to sell for between $450,000-$550,000. The direct successor to the 190E 2.3-16 is the new C43 AMG, a hotted-up sports sedan based on the C-Class luxury sedan.