A Mercedes-AMG C-Class might be a common sight today, but not long ago the idea of a tuned C-Class was still taking some getting used to. And before the mid-1990s, Mercedes' smallest sedan was still thought of as a buttoned-up junior executive car that had no sporting pretensions.
The 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II was one of the cars that changed all that, helping propel Stuttgart into contention when it came to small and sporty sedans, upstaging rivals with plenty of flair. In a few days one of these rare machines will roll across the auction block when Artcurial Auctions offers a 1990 example at its Retromobile sale.
It's worth recalling that the basis for the Evo II debuted quite some time before its slightly mad version first arrived. The 190E sedan materialized in 1982 when the W123 range was split into the W201 and W124—the forerunners of the C-Class and the E-Class. The smaller of the two wore 190E badging, serving up engines as small as a 1.8-liter four-cylinder in more domesticated flavors.
But it was the 2.3-16 inline-four model that served as the starting point of a sports sedan version in 1983, offering 185 hp. Soon thereafter Mercedes developed the 2.5-16 version, debuting in 1985 with 191 hp on tap. Things were getting serious.
Fast-forward to 1990, and the W201 range saw the debut of the Evolution II, complete with a giant wing whose height was dictated by rearward visibility requirements. Under the hood was a 2.5-liter 16-valve four-pot, good for 232 hp. The model featured stiffer springs, a wider track, larger brakes, and 17-inch wheels in addition to flared fenders. It was hard to miss in traffic even if the interior remained relatively plush, complete with wood veneers and leather seats instead of something more spartan.
Performance was quick for the time, even though later AMG and Brabus models were able to quickly eclipse its numbers. The 190E Evo II could launch from 0 to 62 mph in 8.1 seconds—about par with large German V8 sedans of the day—and reach a top speed of 155 mph.
The example that Artcurial will offer later this month is number 389 out of 502 built for homologation, and is said to have been purchased from Germany by a lady living in Belgium. The car is reported to have been maintained by a Mercedes dealer near Aachen, receiving some work in its early years, according to documents.
The current consignor bought the car in 1997, using it on rare occasions, according to the auction house, making it a two-owner car today. The one major departure from a stock appearance is the Indianapolis steering wheel fitted by the second owner, trimmed in appropriately early-nineties colors. The Mercedes currently shows 14,424 kilometers, which translates to just 8962 miles.
"The painted body trims have apparently never been removed and there are no signs of damage to the bumpers," the auction house notes. "Inside, the black leather upholstery still smells new, without any pronounced signs of wear, and the dashboard is in good condition. The car's equipment includes a sunroof and heated seats."
Artcurial estimates this Evo II to bring between 100,000 and 150,000 euros on auction day, which translates to a range between $110,725 and $166,087.
The values for Evo II examples have been well tracked since these were new, and as you've probably guessed by now examples with relatively low kilometers are not that rare. This two-owner car is not pitched as being in concours condition, as detailed photos clearly indicate, and may have even seen some things despite its relatively modest kilometrage.
Some cosmetic faults are evident in the full photo collection, including under the hood and under the trunk lid. But it all appears to be there, even if the original steering wheel could be MIA.
It's fair to say this example could be brought up a notch with some attention, if deemed necessary, or left as is. Perhaps this unmentioned fact reflects the fairly liberal estimate range of this example, leaving some room for later cosmetic improvement.
Visit the auction website to view the full list of lots from the upcoming sale.