Carbs Only Diet: A 190 Benz That Barks
Love For The ’80s

This is one badass Benz. A DTM-inspired sports saloon from the ’80s with enough speed and style to still kick tail in the modern day.

You may remember that this Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Cosworth was selected for the Speedhunters #FeatureThis award at this year’s Players Classic show. What Steve Howson has done with this machine is nothing less than spectacular. Incredible detail and a dose of seriously cool tricks, and now we get to feature its ultimate incarnation.

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-1

The ’80s were a crazy time. The economy was on the climb, mobile phones were still a decade away from the average person, and schools were only just getting their first computers.

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-9

On the roads, BMW took the fight to the RS Cosworth with its E28 M5 – the other manufacturers were not even in the game. Mercedes-Benz saw an opening and decided to enter the fray and challenge the masters from Munich and Essex.

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This is the Benz creation – a kickass 190E built with performance in mind. Purists might prefer the early 2.3-16 model for its engine, which was developed and built by Cosworth. But this later 2.5-16 version with its enlarged-capacity four cylinder engine rumoured to having been built by Mercedes-Benz themselves, has more grunt, reliability and power – and that’s not a bad thing.

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Steve got his first taste of the high-spec 190E model back in 2002 when his then boss, who’d just bought a Diablo, put his up for sale. Having come from an air-cooled VW background, within a few miles of driving the 190 he can remember being completely struck by the quality and power.

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If you’ve never clicked with a car before, then your time is still to come. It’s often only later in life that you realise you’ve kind of found your ‘one’. So although he didn’t realise it at the time, the Mercedes-Benz brand was going to play a large part in his life.

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-21

More specifically, it’s always been about the rare Cosworth-infused model for Steve. That first car ended up bent beyond repair after an incident at the Nürburgring, but with the salvage recovered to the UK, the best bits were then swapped over to another similar ’91 2.5-16. That’s not this car though…

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What we have here is the culmination of Steve’s past projects and experience, all put together in another 190E 2.5-16 chassis to form one complete package. There are some subtle mods and improvements going on here – can you spot them?

All Together Now
Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-46

Talking to Steve I can really relate to his build ethos with this car. He makes a lot of sense as he tells me about wanting to keep things ‘shiny side up’, and how everything has to be just right nowadays. Having been through a couple of different cars, he decided back in 2009 that he needed to do a 190E Cosworth properly, and this is it. Some people nail it from day one, but for most of us, as you get older you learn how to do things better and get a greater understanding of what you like.

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-52

Quite often when you first start modifying cars, you have a ‘that’ll do’ attitude. Wheels fit but might not look quite right, seats are bolted in rather than fitted with fabricated or specialist parts, your wiring could start a fire and quite often spraywork is done by a can. But as you learn more, you become increasingly discerning and dedicated to the cause of doing a proper job.

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-4

And that’s what first struck me about Steve’s 190 – it looked just right. And when I looked even closer it just got better. The single CD/tuner head unit might not be mid ’90s, but it feels like it could be.

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Put together with the JBL GTO amp in the boot and some quality speakers, the sounds are taken care of. Again, it’s all too easy to forget that up until five or so years ago there weren’t many factory stereo systems that you wouldn’t think twice about ripping out, and to be honest, I think the manufacturers expected us to. Nowadays they’re so capable, often you don’t need to bother.

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-2

I could look at Steve’s Mercedes-Benz from this angle all day long. The ruler straight, horizontal lines of the front end make it look aggressive, but that iconic grille always adds a touch of class for me. Like the driver would be a badass, yet still open the door for a lady.

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The fit and finish all goes to make the 190 so killer too. Design-wise, the 17×8-inch OZ Racing Futura wheels at the front are so totally on the money – proper split rims with a simple five-spoke design which cues straight to the bodywork’s lines.

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-5

The fit is just about perfect too. Browsing the internet Steve paid a lot of attention to what worked and what he liked, so there’s not a mass of wheel sticking out or crazy camber – just a 25mm spacer to give a nice fit. That allows him to throw the 190 around when he wants, without having to worry about the tyres rubbing the crap out of the arches.

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-6

Steve freely admits that investing in components like the WP Pro eight-pot front callipers and cross-drilled discs made him up his game when it came to the running gear. Now everything under there has been stripped, detailed or renewed. That’s no small feat considering all the work has been done in a small, single garage, and a driveway.

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-8

The small things are the ones that always make the difference. It’s when you’ve done everything else that you find the time to spend a few hours perfectly executing something subtle, like these air intake holes. But yet another chapter has gone by without me getting the party itself. I promise I won’t delay any longer…

Clean & Carbed
Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-27

This is what first grabbed me at Goodwood when we laid eyes on the Mercedes-Benz – bonnet up with a small group gathered around. As it would have originally had Bosch KE Jetronic fuel injection fitted, we were very surprised to see a pair of 48DCOE Webers mounted on the side of the four-cylinder, DOHC 16-valve engine. Steve has tried it all though, and previously he owned a super-rare Mosselman turbo converted car which he just didn’t get along with.

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-23

But why carbs? Surely that’s a step back, right? Well, not so much. Steve actually tried bike carbs first with a modern Megajolt engine management system looking after everything. They were actually easier to set up and maintain than the original basic injection setup, but he was never satisfied with the manifold that he ended up using. So when an incredibly rare inlet manifold became available for the Webers, it was a done deal. Plus they bark, which is always a winner!

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The other thing that hit us was how damned clean it is under there…

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-26

This subtle but substantive detail really is amazing. The whole bulkhead is new and was custom-built to hide some of the wiring and other parts, but still appear factory.

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-14

So there’s a lot going on here for what at first appears to be a simple build – which all goes to back up my theory that as you get older your projects get better. So if at first you don’t succeed, try again.

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-44

Some modifications, however, are more obvious than others – like the Recaro bucket seat and Schroth harness for the driver.

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-49

It might seem odd only having one, but it says gentlemen driver to me. As though passengers don’t really matter…

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-54

From its yellow fog lamps to simply-trimmed tailpipes, this 190 is absolutely bang up to date. At the same time, though, Steve hasn’t hidden or destroyed anything that stops it screaming ’80s.

Steve Howson UKmercman 190 Cosworth-10

This ultimate 2.5-16 has been the result of many years of Steve’s research, hard work and money, so it came as a surprise when he said he was considering selling the saloon. But with garage space at a premium he needs room for the W108 or W115 restomod project in his sights, so it might be time to move on. The 190E Cosworth has been a great project for Steve and we can’t wait to see what he does next.

Bryn Musselwhite
Instagram: Speedhunterbryn

If you’re seriously interested in buying the 190, email me and I can forward your details. 

Cutting Room Floor
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This thing has such a nice look, not to aggressive or to subtle, love it to bits. The way it looks now I'd rather have it than a Mercedes 2.5-16 EVO 2


How do you tidy up the engine bay like that?


I'd love to hear these feature cars. I've no idea how this thing 'barks' on carbs, even with a nice description it'd be cool to have sound too...


I would normally have just looked at the photos of this build but the first few paragraphs really pulled me in. Great stuff!


Clean. Squeaky clean. I'd happily eat my favourite girlfriend off that any day of the week... would love to see it on period Brabus trispoke blades.


Love it, simple and clean! That engine is amazing and the overall feel just screams track time. 
Brother if I had the cash...but this one does give me several ideas now.


The exterior is just perfect. Everything fits the car so well.

The interior modifications however are not my taste. The steering wheel is nice but I know there are more vintage looking radio's with all the features of modern radio's available and that would have looked a lot better then some typical car radio. The shifter looks out of place and so does the seat. It's a contrast how well the additions to the exterior and under the bonnet fit with the style of the car but in the interior the new parts don't blend in at all.

Don't get me wrong though, it's an amazing car and I would do terrible things to own it.


laploutocratie fill, smooth, and paint the engine bay, then tuck the wires.


Perfectly done, excepting that driver's seat


Thanks for the positive feedback veecee8


Thanks for your suggestion @taids. We don't have any audio of this particular car, but we'll keep this in mind for our future features. Cheers!


Wow, I'm not a Benz guy at all but this car is absolutely spot on, gorgeous.


I read this article more than 4 hours ago, I have had an erection for that same amount of time. I need to call a doctor.


Loosen your grip!


Jesus, that's immaculate. Seriously cool though, nice to see something a little different and rarer. There's just something about Cosworth Mercs that does it for me. I especially like the real 90s vibe with the exterior mods, wheels etc - it's very fitting.
I second @taids though, some audio in articles where you talk up the engine sound would be a neat little addition.


"If you’ve never clicked with a car before, then your time is still to come. It’s often only later in life that you realise you’ve kind of found your ‘one’. "

so Speedhunters whats your "one"?


Always loved the lines of the W201, and the Cozzies were the best looking of the series. Finding a nice regular 2.3 or 2.6 has been difficult for a while, because the cars weren't cared for like their S-class brothers. The Cozzies were generally better cared for, but the price typically reflects that. Nice to see this one tweaked to perfection.


i like the tuck they did on the engine bay. this is such a clean ride. i think everything on this is tastefully done. i'd love to have something like this as a daily driver!


As far as cool goes, this might just be... the coolest car, ever.


Was just pre-jetting a pair of 48's for an evo-stroked M10 in Denmark.  They are awesome carbs, so manly!  This car looks like a blast to drive.


Always loved the baby benz chassis. Remember drooling over 190 Evo 2's in the 90s:

And this build, although the wheels are a bit too bling and short on motorsport heritage, I do appreciate the immense attention to detail, incl. the front bulkhead build). Coincidentally, there's also a chap in my country building a mad turbo build based on a 2.5 16v:

PS An audio clip would be def. a bonus, yes.


I just love the 190 mercs,I am glad to say they have lost there drug dealer/pimp image and are looking great with age.My kinda era that i like with oe era parts fitted too.Yes iam getting old but lovin it.....


Wow, that's also very cool MJ86. Thanks for the feedback!


robzor We can't have just one! But all of our current 'ones' are here:


Thanks for the feedback Hotcakes. We'll definitely work on doing this in future!


johnygezony Hmmmm I don't want to alarm you, but...


I've read the articles, but would somebody please tell me Mr Garrett's "one"? And it seems to me Bryn, author of this article, doesn't have "one", but "25" lol.


Taryn Croucher johnygezony  LOL Taryn. You are a brave one to answer this.


robzor Haha! You're right I can be easily distracted. However my 'one' is a short wheel base Beach buggy that I first completed in 1996. Since then it's spent more time off the road, hidden in the back of storage units than on it. I naturally moved through a car buying pattern which took me to bigger air cooled stuff, performance, track and hot rods even. But the buggy has always been there and I realise that the spirit of that car is the truest to me, as much as I'd like to think I'm a race car guy, I'm not, hot rods? I enjoy them... But well. 

Close second is the Volvo estate ;)


Hi all. 

Thank you all so much for all your positive comments. The car's been a real labour of love taking me nearly 5 years to get to this stage. To have it this well received it just amazing! And Speedhunters too? I still can't quite believe it!

Noticed a few people weren't so keen on some of the interior thought process for those interested: 

The seat was a case of function over form. Stock seat looked great but offer little support and with full leather you slide around loads! This seat weighs around 20-25KG less. I chose the Recaro SPG as its fairly subtle with a square-edged look I thought matched the originals. Its also incredibly comfortable! (and I think it looks cool! :)

The gear change is a full on 'home-brew' short shift. Fully brass bushed with extended gear levers so even with the extended shifter in-car its still around 40% shorter throw than stock. The longer shaft was based (very loosely) on a Koenigsegg CCR I once drove which has a REALLY tall shaft that sat very close to the steering wheel - I loved how this felt and wanted to emulate it.

My aim was that these mods - along with the fuel/battery cut offs, fire extinguisher and harnesses gave the inside of the car a bit of a racier feel without loosing any of the feel/quality. Anyway - that was why I did what I did. The seat/harness/shifter were actually the mods I enjoy the most!

Noticed a few people interested in how she's a link to a video I took last year at the rollers. Different exhaust since so sounds a little meaner but you can really hear the carbs roaring at around 27secs.

Thanks again everyone! Steve


Nothing like the growl and nazly sound of these cosworth engines! Great build!


I posted a message on google+ about the sale of this car and for people to check this out




Man, this car is done right.  Old Mercs have been looking really good to me lately!


...with carburators ... awful ... a modern powerfull engine with old-fashioned carbs and evil smelling exhaust !
I`ve made some 2.5-16 with modern "Motronic"-ECU s  - it`s not more expansive .


Love it. So clean and tasteful.


Dude... are you expecting an AMG BITURBO or something?


this is one non-190 evo that i seriously like.


Man, wish I could even consider buying this!


Your car is absolutely amazing!


@rabernd Why is it evil smelling? If anything it'll smell like a hot rod that it is.


@rabernd Only smell would be caused by fuel used and mixture being out. Both those apply to carbs or injection. I've always wanted to retro fit these same carbs to a 3S-GTE so really dig the engine! Whole car is so well integrated, everything ties in and with that many mods is a testament to the owner. Love it, all of it.


SteveHowson Thanks for sharing! Nice purposeful and subtle mods. Love your mix of capability with the work and sense of what works for this car.


Engine porn :o


It's for sale on the 190e forum


rdm5555 Unfortunately that won't help the fact that I can't afford it, and live in Australia!

Thomas Fitzgibbon

Hello Steve. I own a 1987 2.3 16V in Los Angeles. It's been my dream car since 1988, when I first saw one while walking to school. I love what you've done with your 190E, and I may even take a few of your ideas. I'm currently building a manifold to run EFI, and I'm planning to run Ground Control suspension. Aside from that I plan to keep it simple, just like yours. In my humble 1980's biased perspective Mercedes hasn't produced a car since, with squared off edgy body lines and a racing heritage, that impresses me the way the 190E 16V does. Even when I see other Mercedes on the freeway, costing ten timed more than mine, I feel no envy. Thanks for sharing your project with us, Steve. Here's a few photos of my progress with my 190E.


"In my humble 1980's biased perspective Mercedes hasn't produced a car since, with squared off edgy body lines and a racing heritage, that impresses me the way the 190E 16V does. Even when I see other Mercedes on the freeway, costing ten timed more than mine, I feel no envy."
The same could be said about late '80s, early '90s Hondas (depending on the model). I'm also sure other car manufacturers like Nissan of the same vintage would fall in to that category as well.


"Older is better". Really, very nice, and clean car. I hope my W201 project will be a little bit good as this.


Just wanted to let Steve know his car was a huge motivation in completing my car, thanks buddy!


Lil interior shot