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LanEvo Reader
4/7/13 11:22 a.m.

Hi, guys.

I'm back at the GRM forums after being away for a few years. Over the last 2-3 years, I've been working on a project car that I'm very excited about. I'm starting this thread to detail the build of my 190E 2.3-16 project car for vintage racing.

My goal is to slowly turn it into an early DTM replica ('86-'87 seasons) for use in VARAC Group 70+ and other vintage racing. I may also enter it in NASA GTS and possibly SCCA.

The bulk of the build is being done by Guten Parts + Service (GPS) in South Orange, NJ. The car is going to race under the "GPS Motorsport" banner. We've been working in close collaboration with DENT Sport Garage (DSG) in Norwood, MA. Not only do the guys at DSG have lots of experience building rally and hillclimb cars, but they are Cosworth specialists. In fact, one of the co-owners of the shop (Alex Grabau) is largely responsible for turning me onto the idea of building up a 190E 16v. Without Levent at GPS and Alex at DSG, the build would never have gotten off the ground.

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:23 a.m.

After driving and instructing at BMW CCA events for some 10 years, I finally decided to try my hand at wheel-to-wheel racing. For a variety of reasons, I decided to go with the 190E 2.3-16 (Mercedes's answer to the E30 M3) and start off with vintage racing.

After searching for over 1 year, I finally found a clean California car with zero rust, no accident damage, a strong engine (180psi across all 4 cylinders), and the coveted close-ratio Getrag box with dog-leg 1st.

Here's the 16v as it rolled into Guten Parts in March 2010:

The wheels are vintage Carlsson alloys that Levent found for me. They're made by Ronal and are pretty much identical to the ones they made for Hartge. They're staggered 16x7.5" front and 16x8.5" rear. They're gorgeous! We actually had the wheels months before we found a suitable project car.

One of the first upgrades we did to the car was to replace the stock sliding calipers for 4-piston Ate calipers from a 400E sedan. Sadly, the Carlsson alloys had to go. They were a tight fit to begin with, and there was no way in hell they'd ever clear the new brakes.

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:24 a.m.

One of the first jobs we tackled was to strip some of the useless crap out of the car. First off, the a/c system had to go:

Then we tackled the SLS system. That involved removing the engine-driven pump, oil accumulators, and miles of tubing. Here's Levent removing the lines:

Here are the oil accumulators we pulled:

Finally, the SLS pump itself:

We weren't able to remove it completely, but we pulled out the guts and sealed it with a custom aluminum plate:

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:24 a.m.

When we got the car, it already had the SLS system disabled and the OEM stocks and springs had just been replaced with some fresh H&R Sport springs and Bilstein Sport dampers. We'd keep them for now. An eBay search lead us to some Eibach swaybars. Here's a comparison between the OEM rear sway and the Eibach (powder-coated orange):

Installing the front swaybar was relatively simple. But the rear bar install was a major PITA; it basically involved dropping the whole rear subframe! But we did it.

Since the Carlsson alloys had to come off the car, the search was on for suitable replacements. I went to a local swap meet and scored a set of new-in-box Racing Dynamics RGS alloys in 17x8" ET30 with the correct bolt-pattern (5x112") for the Mercedes. We had some custom centering rings made and test-fit them to the car...

Looks like they're going to be a tight fit. The good news is they clear the 4-piston Ate calipers...barely!

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:25 a.m.

One of the major problems with the 16v compared to the M3 is the lack of space for proper rubber. I'd kill for some box fenders! Unfortunately, we're not allowed to add the Evo I or Evo II fender flares, since they involve cutting the sheet metal, which is expressly prohibited under vintage racing rules. This was our first significant set-back; we were counting on mounting Evo II flares to clear the rubber we had planned to run.

To make a little bit more room for tires, we installed the AMG front fender spacer kit. It's a series of bolts and urethane spacers that flare the front fenders out to gain some extra extra clearance. They were needed to fit optional AMG alloys.

Here's the front part of the kit, where the leading edge of the front wheel arch meets the trailing edge of the front bumper:

Here's the rear half of the kit:

Here's the new position of the front fender:

Doesn't look too different, but it buys you almost 1cm of extra clearance under the front fenders. Too bad there's no similar kit for the rear.

Meanwhile, I was able to get a hold of a pair of 4-piston Brembo calipers for my car. These were OEM fitment on the 190E 2.5-16 Evo II (which was never available on this side of the pond), but they were available in the USA on the very early 500E sedan and a handful of R129 500SL roadsters. The Brembos are significantly lighter than the cast Ate calipers and only a bit larger. Here's a comparison:

While I was at it, we also found a straight set of R129/Evo I alloys in 16x8" ET34. They're pretty heavy (and have a face only a mother could love), but they're a perfect fit and clear the Brembo brakes with room to spare. We put some Hankook R-S2 rubber on them for the time being.

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:25 a.m.

After all the basic work was done, we took the car to my home track, Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant (Ste-Jovite, Quebec), for a workout. Here are a few pics from the car's track debut in August 2010:

As you can see, we had some serious body roll to contend with, despite the upgraded suspension (H&R Sport springs, Bilstein Sport dampers, and Eibach swaybars front & rear). With body roll this bad in slippery conditions and low-grip street tires, I shudder to think how the car would corner on R-compound tires in the dry!

The track work really displayed the car's numerous strengths and few (but significant) weaknesses. The engine and gearbox were a peach. High-speed stability was excellent. Braking was phenomenal. However, the rear of the car was very, very difficult to control in the corners. It would start to load up, then lose grip without warning. It happened so suddenly that the ensuing slide was almost impossible to gather up. The fact that the LSD was totally worn out didn't make things any easier.

Clearly, something was very wrong with the rear suspension and would need to be sorted before our next track outing. The rear diff was also in dire need of a rebuild. The season was over, so the car was basically mothballed until the end of the winter.

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:26 a.m.

Now that we finally have the car in good running condition, we sent it up to DENT Sport Garage (DSG) to get started on the cage. The car is being build specifically for historic racing, but I wanted the cage to be SCCA compliant as well as to meet the rules for NASA GTS. We decided on a 6-point cage fully contained in the passenger compartment (not extending past the front or rear firewalls). Tying the cage in to the front strut towers and rear shock mounts would have lead to a much stuffer chassis, but it would bump us out of the classes we were considering.

We settled on a basic 6-point design without any extraneous bars (to keep weight down). As much as this is a historic race car, it will still see most of it's use in an HPDE setting. I strongly prefer to drive my car to and from events, so we designed the cage such that I can still fit some race tires in the back seat area...4-door sedan FTW!

Here's how things look right now...

As you can see, the main bar is mounted very far back in the chassis. This was done for several reasons. First, we wanted the foot-box for the main hoop to tie not only into the frame rail, but also into the rear cross-member. Also, we wanted to move the weight back in the chassis and clear up room for my lanky-ass limbs.

A related goal was to mount the seats as low as possible in the chassis. I'm 6'2" and like to sit very upright in the car. Due to the funny shape of the W201 190E floorpan, we decided to integrate the seat mounts into the cage itself. You can see what I mean here:

This weekend, Alex installed the window net using the Bimmerworld mounting kit with the flex tube. And he started work on painting the cage...

Coming along nicely.

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:26 a.m.

While the car was in storage over the winter, we got in touch with Jay at Ground Control. Turns out he's a closet W201 fanatic and had some ideas for what we could do with the car. We decided to build a custom coil-over conversion using linear Eibach race springs and double-adjustable Koni race dampers. Here's what Jay came up with...

Prototype front strut from Ground Control vs. stock

Strut housings done and power coated GT3 Orange

Prototype rear suspension set-up

We decided to keep the rear suspension a separate shock and spring design (rather than a true coilover) due to packaging issues. We already have very little rear fender clearance. A true coilover would require even lower offset wheels, and we just don't have the rear fender clearance to make that work. More on our fender woes in a later post...

We also found a pair of FIA-approved race seats complete with aluminum mounting brackets. I bought these from a fellow BMW CCA--NJ Chapter member who advertised them on our local forums.

Recaro Pole Position seats (before cleaning)

I'm not too crazy about the color of the seats (I wanted black). But they're light, FIA-approved, were local to me and offered at a fair price. So I jumped on them. They cleaned up pretty nicely and don't look too bad.

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:27 a.m.

OK, I know this is a really minor issue, but it was bothering me.

I've never been a fan of the huge chrome grille up front. IMNSHO, it makes the 16v look like a dowdy old man's car, rather than the DTM beast it is. I wanted the car to have the "shaved" Euro look, and that chrome grille had to go.

Levent at Guten Parts + Service found us a pair of brand new OEM grille surrounds to play with. He had his fabricator fill in the holes for the hood ornaments by welding in metal (not just smearing on body filler), then sent them out to his powder-coaters where they were done up in black semi-gloss:

I think the finish came out gorgeous; similar to BMW's "Shadowline" trim, which is exactly what we were going for. I'm very happy with it. Will add more pics once it's on the car.

While we're on the topic of bling, Levent ordered me some Bosch Euro headlights. I much prefer the single-piece glass lens rather than the multi-piece plastic monstrosity mandated by the DOT. I'll probably throw some Lamin-X on them before my next track event.

And to round out today's lesson in bling, those three-piece reverse mesh alloys sitting under the grille are vintage Epsilons. They'll be going on my old E30.

I just can't control myself

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:27 a.m.

The Ground Control front struts are in:

Rears will go on tomorrow. Then the car will be corner balanced and get a 4-wheel alignment. Should be able to pick it up by this upcoming weekend.

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:28 a.m.

Here's the steering wheel that's going in once the work is done...

It's a vintage AMG steering wheel made by Momo. These were used in the 190E DTM cars. Found one in great condition from a member on the 190rev forums.

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:29 a.m.

Putting the new interior in.


Seats/nets installed...

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:30 a.m.

Had the bushings and links replaced...it was getting sloppy!

Next step will be to lengthen the shifter rods to shorten the throw. But that project will have to wait until after the Mosport weekend.

Now, there's only the diff left to finish off. Should be able to pick up the car this weekend as planned. w00t!

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:31 a.m.

I've had a very difficult time finding a wheel and tire package that does what I need it to do for this project. The W201 chassis has tiny wheel wells to start with, and things have gotten even tighter after swapping in the coilovers. Since we're building the car for vintage racing, we can't just cut out the fenders to make room. On top of that, I'm running the Evo II Brembos, which adds yet another dimensional constraint to the picture.

After trying out a whole bunch of different wheel/tire combos and spending literally thousands on wheels that didn't quite work, we've finally found a combo that looks promising:

These are 2-piece BBS RX II 503 alloys in 17x8" ET35. They're a bit heavier than I would have liked, but at least they fit properly. The tires are 225/45-R17 Continental Challenge semi-slicks, which are re-badged Hoosier endurance racing tires (basically R5's with a harder rubber compound). They should hold up well for HPDE and amateur racing.

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:32 a.m.

Did some head work. Replaced the timing chain and guides. Had the valve timing adjusted, which meant all new shims. Some of the shims had to be machined down to the perfect size:

Had the valve cover powder-coated. They managed to match the factory paint color:

Also, I bought another set of Evo I alloys (16x8" ET34). I gave up trying to make 17" wheels work for now. The combination of Evo II brakes (300mm rotors; 4-piston Brembo calipers) and stock fenders is simply causing too much headache. That really limits my tire choices: not much available in 225/45-R16 these days. I picked up a set of Yoko A048 tires. I know these are hardly the best R-comps around, but they're the best I can do for now. I'll revisit 17x9" wheels after the season is over.

Finally, I've started working on fabbing some plates to mount my SPA GT mirrors. I'll admit this is race-car bling, but I like the look!

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:33 a.m.

Just had the wheels refinished in GT3 orange and added some cheesy graphics. These were taken at GFest 2012, an annual car show held at the shop that's been doing most of the work on the car):

Equally ridiculous vanity plate:

I got the car onto the track (NJMP--Lightning) with the NY BMW CCA. The car is FINALLY running right! We were able to pass most of the early M3's (E30 and E36) running in the instructor group...except for one guy with an insanely fast E30 M3 2.5L stroker. Not bad, considering I've got a bone stock (165 hp) engine under the hood. With twice the HP and 25% more rubber on the ground, the race-prepped E46 M3's were out of reach.

Found a fellow lunatic to play with:

Dicing with the Bimmers:

Look, ma ... no body roll!

Well, that's it for now. After two years of work, things have finally started coming together on this project. The suspension and tires are working beautifully. The engine is strong. The car feels great!

Javelin MegaDork
4/7/13 11:38 a.m.

Aw man, I am by no means a Benz fan, but this is a cooool build!

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:39 a.m.

I had the car up at Tremblant with the BMW Club of Quebec. It was Canadian Grand Prix weekend, so attendance was pretty light and everyone had plenty of track time. The weather was gorgeous: sunny, dry, and not too hot.

Anyway, here's the 16v in action at my favorite track:

You'll notice in some shots it looks like the car is smoking a bit. That's because I hadn't seated the dipstick properly and some oil was splashing onto the headers in left-hand corners. Unfortunately, that session was the one where the track photographer took the coolest pics!

Also, in a few of the pics it looks like the car is squatting hard under acceleration and rolling quite a bit. It's funny, but it feels good from the driver's seat, so I was pretty surprised when I saw the pics. I'll have to check in with the guys from Ground Control to see what they think. May need to reconsider my spring rates.

All in all, it was a great weekend. I drove 450 miles to the track, did 7 or 8 hard sessions on the track over the course of 2 days, then drove the 450 miles back home. The car ran like a top, despite the oil leak for that one session (totally my fault).

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:40 a.m.

I mentioned that the car felt a bit understeery at Tremblant last time out. So I took it in to a local race shop that opened recently (Bulldog Motorsports in Clifton, NJ) for another alignment. After a lengthy discussion with a couple of guys who have experience on the track with the W201 chassis, my goal was to be able to dial in between 3 and 4 degrees of negative camber up front.

Turns out I had -3 degrees camber in the rear but only -2 degrees in the front. Plus, there was a massive amount of toe-in up front. The GC camber plates don't have a provision for caster adjustment, so we were stuck with whatever we had. Luckily, it was in the right ballpark.

We were able to dial in lots more negative camber up front, but really weren't sure what our goals should be in terms of toe. Considering the suspension design and weight are grossly in line with an E36 M3 on Ground Control suspension, we figured that would be a reasonable baseline. That meant a bit of toe-out.

This is what we ended up with:






I haven't tried it out on the track yet. But just driving around a few on-ramps and things you can definitely feel the front end is much, much sharper on turn-in (I'm sure the toe-out has a lot to do with this). And the car feels more neutral overall; the balance has shifted from gentle understeer to slightly tail-lead.

We'll see how it does on a real circuit: I'll be at Calabogie with the folks from BMW Club of Ottawa next weekend (July 20-22, 2012) and then at Summit Point with the BMW CCA NJ Chapter the following weekend (July 28-29, 2012).

Can't wait!

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:42 a.m.

Getting her ready for a new season. First event of 2013 is this weekend at NJMP.

Replaced all the rear suspension arms and bushings. Fresh Yoko R-comps. This time I'm trying the Medium compound. Had a second set of R129/Evo I wheels refurbished. New Toyo R1R summer tires for wet track use. Fresh Brad Penn PG-1 20w-50 for the crankcase. Wix filter element. Flushed the trans with Amsoil MTG 75w-90. Flushed the diff with Amsoil Severe Gear 75w-140. Flushed the brakes with Wilwood 570. New Carbotech race pads. Another 4-wheel alignment

Ready to go!

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:43 a.m.

Ok, so I know this is cheesy, but I couldn't help myself.

I wanted a large, vintage-style, mechanical watch to go with the project car. I was looking for a 44mm German aviator-style watch with big, easy-to-read numerals. And, of course, it would have to go with the blauschwarz & GT3 RS orange color scheme of the car.

I finally found what I was looking for with the Seagull M222S. For some reason, it looks very yellow in this pic, but it's more orange in real life:

Pretty good match to the car, right?

Those of you who are watch nerds probably know the Seagull brand. They make a very high-quality movement, which is a copy of the classic Swiss ETA/Unitas 6497. Sapphire crystal, exhibition case, thick leather strap, etc.

For under $300 shipped, it was a real bargain.

LanEvo New Reader
4/7/13 11:48 a.m.
Javelin wrote: Aw man, I am by no means a Benz fan, but this is a *cooool* build!

Thanks so much! This is pretty much the only Benz I like, too.

Bubs New Reader
4/7/13 1:08 p.m.

Your effort has certainly yielded some amazing results. Keep up the good work!

sethmeister4 Reader
4/7/13 2:00 p.m.

This is awesome!

Winston HalfDork
4/7/13 2:05 p.m.

I love these cars, and yours is really sweet!

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