One of the most interesting series-production sports sedans of its era, the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 was a rocket with a devoted following, then and now. It was derived from the popular W201, as it is known internally, a boxy but charming design by Bruno Sacco, nearly 1.9 million examples of which were built from 1982 to 1993.
A brilliant little car, the 190E was made all the more so with a rare production variant powered by a 2.3-liter, 16-valve engine. It had such potential to perform that the Silver Star showcased its littlest sedan at the 1984 Nürburgring Race of Champions. One example, driven in the race by three-time Formula 1 champion Niki Lauda, will be offered on September 15 during the RM Sotheby’s auction at the Grand Hotel des Bains Kempinski in the Swiss mountain resort of St. Moritz.
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Taken right off the assembly line, Mercedes-Benz adapted 21 cars for competition, giving them a revised suspension and exhaust system, four-piston front brakes, a 4.08-ratio final drive, a bolt-in roll cage with fire extinguisher, twin Recaro racing seats, and wider wheels with Pirelli racing tires. All were prepared exclusively for the 12-lap exhibition, a celebratory event that remains the largest gathering of past and present Formula 1 world champions ever assembled.
Five-time title-holder Juan Manuel Fangio acted as master of ceremonies, and driving in the 20-car field were nine of the 12 living Formula 1 champions, along with other then-current and former Formula 1 drivers. Racers, Ayrton Senna, a Formula 1 rookie at the time, and Niki Lauda, world champion in 1975 and 1977 (and soon to win his third title) piloted two of the cars. Senna and Lauda traded the lead several times before the rookie claimed victory by a 1.58-second margin. As the winner, Senna was awarded a brand-new model painted in Blauschwarzmetallic.
Though it’s difficult to imagine now, Mercedes-Benz retrofitted 19 of the 21 cars after the race with their original engines, selling them as used road cars to dealers or brand VIPs. Today, only two cars remain in as-raced condition. Senna’s car resides in the Mercedes-Benz Museum, while Lauda’s car was immediately sold to a private collector. Its authenticity has been verified by Mercedes-Benz Classic, and Lauda even signed the roof in 2016.
In 2017, a comprehensive recommissioning was carried out at the Mercedes-Benz Classic headquarters in Stuttgart, and the car was subsequently acquired by the Iseli Collection in 2018. Accompanied by its vehicle logbook and offered without reserve, this historic competition car, driven by a racing legend, is estimated to fetch between roughly $455,000 and $569,000.
Click here for more photos of the 1984 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 driven by Niki Lauda.
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