Mercedes of Ulyanovsk

Posted: October 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

For those of you who don’t care about cars, sorry. Also, please humor me. This is the stuff that I’m really into. Would it really ruin your life to spend five minutes reading about my mild obsession? No? Thanks. I’ve included pictures, that should make it more bearable. I’ve also included jokes, as usual.

If you know me, you know I’m hopelessly obsessed with Mercedes, especially those from 1974-1995. I’ve spent far too much time filling my head with facts about Mercedes and I’ve stared at enough pictures of them to tell the differences between model years via the shapes of headlights and various bits of metal and plastic trim. Being in Russia is a wonderful experience for the connoisseur of European Mercedes, which were often quite different from those brought to America. Mercedes are extremely common in Moscow, but not so much in Ulyanovsk. Still, though, I have seen a wonderful array of them in Ulyanovsk. For the most part, they are older. Usually, from before 1995, to my delight. Although, that may have something to do with the fact that the Mercedes made from 1996-2002 were complete crap. In an effort to increase profits, Mercedes stopped over-egineering their cars. For example, the E Class of the 1996-2002 era was the fastest Mercedes to rust. Seeing the rust on some older Mercedes here, I’m guessing the later model Mercedes either turned to dust, or their more temperamental nature caused them to self-destruct on the Russian roads. It seems that many Mercedes have “retired” from service in Western Europe only to continue faithfully serving their drivers in the harsh environs of Russia. Nothing is a better test of road worthiness than Mother Russia and her fierce winters.

I'm a little confused. Personal experience tells me that any Mercedes other than a G-Class is useless in the snow and ice. Nothing says fun like sliding backwards down your driveway with you foor flat on the accelerator or getting stuck on the ice on the flat part of the driveway.

There are a few Mercedes by the university. Someone who lives in the apartment building by the local supermarket has a late 1990s C Class, and not a regular one. They have one with the upgraded Kompressor engine. While I’m not a fan of that car at all, and they’re basically the death traps of the Mercedes line, I give credit to the owner for having taste in an autobahn cruiser. Just today I was looking out on the parking lot from my Russian classroom. Amidst a sea of Zhigulis, Sputniks, and Saramas, I spotted a 2004-2008 C Class, again with a Kompressor engine. Again, the standard Mercedes will not suffice. The Russians seem to feel the need for more responsive vehicles.

I suppose the real reason for this post concerns one car that I frequently see near my dormitory, a 1991-1993 190E. Affectionately known as the “Baby Benz,” I have always had some interest in this model. But the car parked near my dorm is not a normal 190E. No, it is a European model with the wonderful black checkered cloth interior that was never available in the United States. Additionally, and more importantly, it the Sportline package. You see, dear reader, when the 190E came out in the mid-1980s, it premiered the most advanced rear-suspension in the world, which later went into other Mercedes models. The Sportline package took a superior driving car and tweaked it even more. The Sportline package was only available on a few models and only in 1992-1993 in America, but was widely available in Europe. The package included wider wheels, lower profile tires, quick ratio steering, a slightly lowered ride height and a specially tuned suspension with shorter, stiffer springs, struts, anti-roll bars, and bushings. Forget BMW, this is one of the ultimate driving machines.

The picture is terrible, but the Mercedes in the dark red car in the back of the picture.

I also generally love the 190E because that model debuted the kind of rims that are on my car and are still used on the damage inducing vehicles in the Mercedes-Benz crash test center. These rims had the lowest coefficient of drag in the era, which reduced road noise and increased fuel economy. At the same time, the holes in the rims were strategically placed to vent the brakes and prevent overheating during heavy braking. Take it from someone whose had the brakes go on fire on their other car, it’s not fun when your brakes overheat (well, that’s because the brake calipers froze on multiple occasions which leads to fires when you drive on the highway. Never trust British engineering).

Stylish and prevents brake fires - a double win.

Stylish and prevents brake fires - a double win!

The 190E also holds special places on my Mercedes wish-list. Well, technically not the 190E. E stands for Einspritzung, or fuel injection. I would love to own a 190D. These were somewhat rare in the US. For the most part, they were naturally aspirated 4 cylinder engines. But, the 190D that I want the most was available for only one year in the United States, the 1987 190D 2.5 Turbo, which was a turbo charged 5 cylinder engine. Clearly, 1987 was the best year for diesel Mercedes in America. Naturally, my favorite in my precious 300D Turbo, which took the 3 litre, 6 cylinder engine normally reserved only for the S-Class and put it in the more nimble and lighter E-Class (technically not called the E-Class until 1990, but that’s not important). The 1987 300D Turbo was the fastest diesel production vehicle in the world when it debuted. While not a racer, it is still adequately powered and still holds true to its roots as an autobahn cruiser. I never get why so many cars have to brake in certain corners of the Merritt Parkway and get frustrated when they can’t accelerate up the hills.

The other 190E related car I want is the AMG 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II. Only 502 of them were made, and they were fully street legal race cars. The car was designed to race in the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft, or German Touring Car Racing Series), the rules of which stipulated that the cars had to be available for purchase by the “general” public. While these are extremely rare and costly, I can always get a regular 190E and pretend that I’m in the extra-special racing version.

I don't think the paint scheme or the spoiler draw enough attention to the car.

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