Barn find | Mercedes-Benz W201 2.3-16 Vorserie (pre-series)
Which old car enthusiast has never dreamed of a barn find? How would it be to open the gate to an old garage and finding something long forgotten? Just imagine seeing the dust of decades dancing in the early morning light and inhaling the dry air.
Well the days of finding a classic car by chance are over, because most garages and barns have been treasure hunted already and are empty now. Today treasure hunting is more of a virtual game, as we are trying to find beautiful bargains that only had one caring owner, super low mileage and a full service history with all the dealer stamps in the right places. On top of that, a folder containing all the invoices is more than welcome and considered the icing on the cake.
However, while looking for such cars you sometimes stumble upon advertisements containing information that doesn’t really make sense.
This happened to a friend of mine, who found a well used (and abused) 1984 Mercedes-Benz 190E with 184hp advertised as a “donor car”. The vehicle looked like a half-decent tuning attempt from the late 1980’s: lowered, then-cool SEC look grille, lots of fake wood inside and full set of 16V aero parts.
So far, so good. But wait a minute… what? Mercedes-Benz 190E from 04/1984 and 184hp? This is impossible, because the 16V could be ordered only half a year later at Mercedes-Benz dealerships. Therefore, it must have been a conversion and was considered to be interesting as a part donor for the own 190E 2.3-16. It never hurts to have a few spare parts stacked away, does it?
After a not-so-enlightening phone call to the owner and figuring out it was only a 15 km drive, the trailer was hooked-up immediately and the GPS fed with the address. Most readers might be able to relate to this kind of spontaneous thinking. 😉
The seller was an elderly gentleman, who had just purchased a brand-new SLK. He was very friendly and inquired, what the young man may want to do with this old piece of junk car?
“I have a car exactly like this one and want to have some spare parts for it.”
The seller wanted to know if he also had a Diesel?
“Err… no. It’s an early 2.3-16, very similar to this one.”
Shaking his head, the elderly gentleman asked whether it also had a transmission that you have to shift the wrong way around and left Roland speechless as he turned away to open the hood…
… which of course helped to conceal a major grin, when he not only found the correct engine and transmission, but also a VIN featuring this combination of letters and numbers: WDB201034. In addition to that, the papers of the car do not have a Allgemeine Betriebserlaubnis (ABE), which proves that it really is a pre-series vehicle.
Without any further bargaining, the vehicle was bought “as seen without any warranty”. The deal was sealed with a handshake and the car immediately loaded onto the trailer. Back home, the research began…
A 2.3-16 specialist confirmed, that there have been 40 pre-production (Vorserie) cars: three for Nardò, 20 for the Nürburgring and 17 for press, promotion, pictures and exhibitions. The vehicle pictured here is likely one of the 17, with engine number seven.
With the information gathered so far, the W201 16V Club e.V. was contacted. They confirmed, that it is not only one of the pre-production cars, but number 26 produced as ordered by 292 (Deutschland, Sonderbedarfsfahrzeuge) and delivered on April 27th 1984. Therefore it is possible that it might be the Geneva exhibition car. Unfortunately, Mercedes-Benz didn’t confirm the numbers until now. Let’s hope the history will be clarified soon.
The car doesn’t have the usual corrosion, but suffered damage to the body from an accident on the left front and right rear. There are a few rusty spot where the body gave way to the forces of the accident, but the axles, brake lines and other body panels are rust free.Unfortunately there is no information about the accident whatsoever. The elderly gentleman never knew what gem he had in his hands and wasn’t interested in the history of the car at all.
The interior is not in the best shape either, but with the help of a good upholstery shop, it is possible to bring it back to the old glory. However, the car is complete and features all the 2.3-16 specific bits and pieces. The fake wood should be removed however…
To wrap this post up: the car is up for sale, but will only be sold to somebody who is going to restore it. Parts raiders need not apply! If you are interested, you can find more pictures and the contact data over here at mobile.de.
The car features period-correct Pioneer TS-1615 speakers…
… and a sticker of roughly the same vintage. The origin and meaning of the sticker is uncertain, as of now.
The car seems to have fond memories of a certain event 30 years ago 😉