8,356-Miles, 75-Hours & 3-Days: Introducing Project 190
The Chase

As my fingers hit the keys on my laptop, there is, as you may have noticed, perhaps more pressing issues going on in the world than project car stories. However, since I’ve had plenty of time at home, I thought I’d make use of this by finishing the many half-done items I have on my to-do list – this post being one of them. Hopefully Speedhunters provides a welcome place for escapism, so allow me to share with you my latest financial mistake, AKA Project 190.

As car purchases go, this has been a long and drawn-out love affair. But never let it be said, that buying things you don’t need – with dirt-cheap money loaned from the bank – from another continent, won’t be a fun-filled adventure.


‘Why do you want this personal loan, Mr. Chandler? Oh, a Mercedes 190 Cosworth – what a wonderful machine! Yes, that kind of vehicle most definitely qualifies for our low APR offer. Do enjoy your trip to the Nürburgring sometime in the future.’ 

I’ll add that to the long list of things that HSBC bank has never said to me.

But metaphorically speaking, thanks to a Brexit-inducing 3.3% interest rate – coupled with a five-minute approval process – someone at my bank was quietly encouraging me to live out all of my DTM dreams at the Nordschleife one day.


Pretty much 12-months ago, in the middle of October 2019, after a year or more of chasing this car down, my friend Richard Fisher – who I met via Corey Rosser at Air Lift Performance on shoot way back in 2014 – had 1.) finally agreed to sell me this 190, and 2.) received the paperwork back from the DMV with the correct chassis number on the title, therefore making it eligible for export. Faster than a YouTuber can say ‘like and subscribe’ I was wiring $15,500 to Fish’s bank account.

Quite soon, this very 190 E 2.3-16 would be heading to the UK on a big boat via the North Atlantic. But first, I had to get the car from Chicago to the Port of New York and New Jersey. Charlie from Classic Automotive Relocation Services (CARS) would be taking care of the shipping from the US to the UK. He’d kindly emailed over a quote of $1,850 to transport the car the 800-odd miles to the port. That’s about £1,400, a not-so-insignificant sum of money, but a fair price for covered transport across a handful of states.


Nevertheless, the DIY transportation approach of a flight, naff-all sleep, and a proper drive in the 190 seemed like a much more adventurous way to spend that kind of money. How much were the flights? £1,094 for a return economy coach. Bugger.

But – as you may have guessed from the photos of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 that preface these words – where there’s a will, indeed there is always a way.

Man Maths

Ever the optimist, in what now seems like a bygone era, a phone call to British Airways revealed that 110,000 air miles would get me a business class flight out of London Heathrow at 10:30am the very next morning, arriving into Chicago O’Hare just after 1:00pm on a Thursday. I’d collect the 190 and have to get it to a place somewhere near the port the following day. There was a fairly firm deadline, because at 3:00pm on Friday the warehouse would close for the weekend.

My flight home would be leaving JFK at 7:30pm Saturday, landing back in London by breakfast time on Sunday morning. I’d just have to pay the £669.32 to cover the tax, fees and airport charges. This was much more appealing and would leave around $900 for fuel, food and one night in a NYC hotel. More than enough dollars.

The schedule was a bit silly, but the maths stacked up, and the 12.5-hour drive time made the 3:00pm Friday deadline 100% doable.

The Transporter

If I emailed Charlie at CARS back and paid the $1,850 to ship the car, I knew I’d regret it. Whereas, if I drove the car from Chicago to the warehouse in Newark in NJ, I’d only be left kicking myself if something drastic went wrong. Plus, not going to lie to you here, being able to travel in a fancy lay-flat seat – all for a tenth of the usual cost – pretty much sealed the deal. With some shut-eye on the way, in theory, I’d be able to arrive in Chicago nice and fresh for the overnight road trip to NYC.

Saving time? Nope. Saving effort? Absolutely not. But when would I get the chance to do this again, though? To be honest, never. Not even in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be flying to the United States to collect the 190 I’d been chasing, have lunch with Fish, get the keys to the thing, and drive it straight to New York.

Usually, hanging out with Richard Fisher involves some deep-dish pizza, a Chicago Bulls game, and a quick update on his car collection. This time, all of that was off the menu. After getting collected from O’Hare airport in a fast – and surprisingly working – Alfa Romeo, we got lunch, Fish did his finest Salt Bae impression, we exchanged pleasantries, and the relevant documents to the 190 were handed my way.


With the car started, Mr. Fisher and Niko Vujanovich, like the true car salesman that they are, pointed me in the direction of the nearest ‘gas station’ to fill up the 190’s empty fuel tank. The deal was done. And I felt like a pig in shit.


It was just after 2:30pm and I’d made plans to meet with Prime NYC in Times Square at 5:00am. This would be a race against the clock. For one night I’d be like some sort of weird love child created by Alex Roy and Klaus Ludwig. That’s actually a really whacky thought. Maybe the lack of sleep over the years is messing with my mind. I take that back. Let’s just say that this would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Celebrate In Solitude

I don’t know how old you are, but I was born in the ’80s, and back when I got my driving licence you didn’t search for cars online. Things like eBay Motors, Mobile.de, Pistonheads or Bringatrailer weren’t really a thing – all you had was dial-up internet, MSN Messenger, and if you wanted to buy a car you picked-up a copy of Autotrader, the local paper, Exchange & Mart, or a specialist car magazine. Buying a car was a completely different experience from start to finish.

The internet has changed a lot of things, especially the way that we purchase vehicles. For me, this is a double-edged sword. The world wide web and social media is good, it’s bad, and it can be downright ugly. I reckon 13-hours behind the wheel of a very uncomfortable 190 is about enough time to consider this, so please allow me to explain.


I think we can all agree that first drive in a newly-acquired car is always an interesting time. In fact, I am sure each and every one of you has a few stories you can share about that first drive after collection day. Your senses are heightened; every smell, sound and vibration felt is a piece of communication. Is that smell of burning oil coming from this 1985 Benz’s 2.3L 16V motor? Oh no, it’s that rust box just ahead, being held together by packing tape.


For me, the first hour or two of new (old) car day sees the stereo system turned off completely. Anxiety is peaking. This complete and utter silence – whilst I work out what the ‘normal’ noises a car makes – has consequences. My brain selects overdrive and the thoughts come thick and fast. Was this a good idea? Will I get tired? Why don’t I want to share this journey on social media? Coffee isn’t going to calm my brain down, but it will keep me awake. And petrol. Need more petrol.


The internet has brought me a lot of joy over the years, but, like Mark mentioned in a GT-R update a while back, social media has diluted the new car buying experience. Back when I was a kid, I had a few poster cars. The first was a Lamborghini Countach and the second was a Ferrari Testarossa. These cars were pretty much unobtainable then; you had to be a rockstar or a millionaire to own a supercar in the ’80s or ’90s. At least that’s what it felt like to me. Once upon a time, supercar ownership was a really special kind of thing. And I’d like to think it still should be.


However, things have changed. These days, it’s all a bit too easy to be flash. Cars have become fashion accessories for some. And you know what? I think it’s boring. Adding something fancy to your ‘garage’ every month for likes, subs or to ‘flex on the gram’, only to never drive the living daylights out of it? That’s not for me. All this hype is a turn-off and, rather weirdly, I no longer want to own some ritzy brand new supercar.

Maybe that’ll change someday, but the feeling just gets stronger. Put quite simply, I’d rather have the keys to something older and more unique than the latest and greatest piece of exotica.


My train of thought got swiftly sidetracked as the fuel light came on; I needed to work out how much to add since I was less than two hours from New York and the car needed to be delivered to the shipping warehouse with less than an 1/8th of a tank. The 190 was surprisingly good on fuel, and this, coupled with US gas prices that are cheaper than bottled water, meant the drive to NYC was easy on the wallet.

One thing I would recommend for a journey like this is keeping some cash handy for tolls – just in case you can’t use a credit card. I always try not to eat too much on a long road trip, as well. Not because I’m tight-fisted and don’t want to spend the money, I just find that eating can sometimes make me want to nap.


I messed up my fuel guesstimate and decided to fill up once more just before crossing under the Hudson River. I’ve only hung out in Manhattan a few times and I couldn’t remember seeing many fuel stations, so figured this would make sense. It turned out to be a good decision.


After driving through the Lincoln Tunnel thinking I was making good time and generally winning at life, that soon fell to pieces as I took a wrong turn on exiting. Google Maps lost its bearings and so did I. A quick chat with a friendly NYPD officer got me back on track as I shouted “I am so sorry, sir,” out of the window of the Benz. Ten minutes later and I was meeting with the Prime NYC crew just a few minutes later than planned.


The total journey time from Chicago to New York was just shy of 13.5-hours. Tell you what, the tactical lack of eating, meant I was bloody starving. The promise of a proper breakfast by Edwin and Pravan was more than enough to keep my spirits up. First, we’d grab some photos and head south from Times Square go to a spot Vincent knew.

We’re celebrating project cars at the moment on Speedhunters, so I’ll share the shots Vincent captured along with a plan for the car and a few other SH Garage updates over the next few weeks.


2020 and the various lockdowns have given most of us plenty of time to think. Amongst many other daydreams, I keep going back to the ‘whole old car versus new car’ discussion. I’ve found myself being more resourceful and less wasteful. What does this mean?

Well, despite being an absolute magpie for new shiny stuff, one thing I do know is that you’ll always be able to buy that fancy-pants shit. I guarantee for as long as you and I are breathing, companies will be working tirelessly to sell us ‘the brand new’ and ‘the latest and greatest’. There’s been plenty of discussion about the internal combustion engine and Blake’s recent Honda story delves into this topic.


But – and I hope that I am wrong about what I’m about to type – perhaps we’ve just entered the last decade where you can truly enjoy driving and the freedom it offers. Cars like this 190 E 2.3-16 might not be perfect when you buy them, but the experience is what it’s about. There’s something very satisfying about making the best of what you’ve got, meeting new people, collecting old press releases, learning, fixing and even just looking and being around these old things.

Whilst I shouldn’t be allowed near spanners, I’ve worked with the right shops to make my French tat 106 Rallye drive just how I like. And I’m certainly going to make the most of every single drive in the 190 Cosworth, no matter whether it’s to the shops for some bread and milk, or through a few European countries to get some laps in at the Nürburgring. This car collection might not have been the easiest option, nor the most efficient, but it was definitely a good adventure.

Long live the feeling of being truly free that cars give us.

Ben Chandler
Instagram: ben_scenemedia

The SH Garage on Speedhunters



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Great write up Ben, love a good little story of such.
Look forward to the 190 updates,
Ps rallye sounds well, is it still at p1o?


Thanks Luke. The Rallye's engine expired on the way home from a track day, so is currently at P1O for an engine rebuild. Trying to resist thottle bodies!


Ben, my biggest mistake of my life was removing my itb's for a turbo, it was the funnest most beautiful thing ive ever had. remove the bulkhead sound deadening for extra ear bleeding too, is heavenly


Why resist? You know your life will be better with a set of shaftless ATPower ITBs, I'm pretty sure that's in their guarnatee.


You know your life will be better with a set of shaftless ATPower ITBs

That's exactly what I would go for! One day I will have a TU5JP4 motor that revs to 9,000rpm, but that will be for another project!


Trying to resis ITBs? Maybe your man math hasn't kicked in yet? =)


I'm trying my best to make the man maths work!


ALWAYS go pick up the car and drive it. I've got lots of great memories from road trips after a vehicle purchase. At first I was kind of upset that you removed a 190 from the US, but I got over it. lol


HAHA, Travis! Actually, the car is originally from Europe. The first owner in Germany exported it to Washington and used it there during the 90s. There's a load of history with the car and it's been registered (titled I think would be the correct US term) in various different states. So technically I just brought it back to Europe. New (old) car collection days are the best days.


I've been enjoying all the updates to the SH Garage lately, but I have to admit this has been the best by far. Not for the (which I adore and crave), nor for the adventure/journey (which was great), nor for the pictures (which, as expected, are awesome).
It's the story telling that got me. I truly enjoyed this. Your man math got me literally laughing out loud.


Thanks Ronin. The thing I love about SH Garage is you get to see inside the highs and lows of car ownership and tuning from the team who are dotted around the world. It's been a couple of months since I’ve had a decent road trip, and dare I say, I even miss the crappy food and expensive coffee. Glad to hear you enjoyed the story. I'm not the most organised Speedhunter – Ryan, Paddy and probably Blake can take those medals of honour – but I should have an update on the 190, and a few other projects, in the next two weeks.


Great story! I really miss the old Autotrader magazines. Nothing like picking up one at a 7-11 and seeing what is inside that you can't live without. That is what I miss when shopping for a car today, you'd come across great project cars that someone is desperate to sell because their wife says the car goes or she does. There is no filter for that in today's online searches.


Thanks Marc. You know what? I completely forgot about all the comedy gold and satirical ads you'd read about cars for sale and the sort of wild swap requests you'd see. Haha. I wonder if anyone has a decent collection of those whacky classified adverts.


Really great article, you nailed it on the joy and feeling of being an enthusiaist and the differnce between that simply being an owner. Sharing your enthusiasm and letting it take you on adventures and misadventures that you otherwise might never have had is one of the great joys in life. I'm no doubt completely biased but I'm pretty sure being an enthusiast for the old, the weird, the custom or the rare takes you to far more intersting places, after all that's where the stories are. There aren't many stories in a show room.


There aren't many stories in a show room.

You make a great point in less than 10 words. Could have saved me some time and effort just writing that. I think that sometimes a little adversity makes for better memories. Only sometimes, though!


Great write up, the perfect lunch time read. Congratulations on the new project.

Circa summer 2005, working as a lot grunt at a Subaru dealership just after graduation in Bozeman, Mt. My fellow lot tech was a retired gentleman who was working as something to do. A couple weeks into the job, I hear this engine sound unlike anything I've heard up to that point and here he comes blazing into the lot in a 190E 2.3-16. It just.... that car, the subsequent drives afterwards, were what helped me fall in love with old euro metal.

Appreciate your relatable insight, recently got rid of all social media accounts save for a business-related insta. It was a weird feeling, almost like the lifting of a weight off my shoulders that I never realized was there.

here he comes blazing into the lot in a 190E 2.3-16

Great story, the retired gentleman sounds like he was a very cool cat. After various French hatchbacks and a Nissan Pulsar GTi-R, I got an 8v Mk2 Golf GTi with small bumpers. That was the car that made me really fall in love with German cars. During the first French tat chapter of my life, I also had a B2 Passat GL5, which was actually very cool. However, I didn't fully appreciate it at the time.

Social media is, of course, good and bad. I think that everyone commenting and clicking the 'submit' button here is: 1. An important part of the Speedhunters community. And 2. The likelihood is that these community members are fairly well informed about how the internet works. Your gut feeling tells you when it’s time to tap out.

Sometimes when things don't add up, the best solution is to subtract. And it's great to have a purge on the things in life that don't give you value. I totally understand where you’re coming from.


Ah yes, the drive home after purchasing a new car. can bring out the best and worst feelings of owning a cool old sports car. I specifically remember purchasing a 1991 Eagle Talon Tsi AWD years ago. It was my first boosted car and it felt great ripping through country roads on the way home. I stopped at a friends house to show him and right as I stopped out front it caught fire lol

I stopped at a friends house to show him and right as I stopped out front it caught fire

Good grief, I was not expecting your story to end like that! I laughed out loud. I had to search out what an Eagle Talon TSi AWD is. Google tells me that this is, indeed, one. But not just any Eagle Talon. Oh no, this packs a claimed 500hp. Sounds like it could be extra spicy.

In the kind of strange and odd way that I like the Nissan Z32, I also really like the Talon. Congrats on the excellent car collection story.


The 190E is one of my favorite Mercedes
A driver's car



Great writeup! Been to Chicago many times. Incredible food and music. You drove to Port Newark and didn't come by? (Just kidding!) I live 8 miles from Newark in Woodbridge. Would've broke out the MKIII Jetta and showed you around. Next time. My dad's cousin has a 1986 190E AMG with 500,000 miles on original engine. It is triple black. He lives in L.A. Hope you had a good trip!


Thanks David. Chicago is a very cool place. I actually drove past Newark into Manhattan and then back to the Port. So double apologies. The 190 is, without doubt, one of the best designed, engineered, and well put together Mercedes-Benz models ever made, so it's no suprise a lot of these models have covered an impressive amount of miles. Half a million is a serious number!


Great story. I had the tingly feeling of adventure and anticipation, the whole time I read it. I can relate to a lot of the things you wrote, because I've had a few good road trips with a new (old) car. It could sure be a roller coaster of emotions, ranging from being on top of the world, to sweating bullets over your decision.


Cheers Mikko. Trying to work out what the new 'normal' noises are during new (old) car collection day is my favourite type of anxiety!


Great write up mate.

This is cool as penguin piss,


However, things have changed. These days, it’s all a bit too easy to be flash. Cars have become fashion accessories for some. And you know what? I think it’s boring. Adding something fancy to your ‘garage’ every month for likes, subs or to ‘flex on the gram’, only to never drive the living daylights out of it? That’s not for me. All this hype is a turn-off and, rather weirdly, I no longer want to own some ritzy brand new supercar.

Maybe that’ll change someday, but the feeling just gets stronger. Put quite simply, I’d rather have the keys to something older and more unique than the latest and greatest piece of exotica.

This. Awesome write-up.

That heightened first drive after you pick up your car, or after every modification for that fact, is so recognizable! I sometimes call myself an automotive hypochondriac as must remind myself to simply enjoy the car. I purchased more modern, comfortable cars but always are left with an muted and isolated feeling. So let's enjoy the character these older cars bring to our lives, faults and all!


I can relate to automotive hypochondria. That's a Speedhunters feature in itself!


Enjoyed this write up a lot Ben, you and this 190 definitely deserves the OG tag Currently on it...next up is the newly refurb silver scud I simply cant wait cheers


Thanks Daniel. CSL update 100% incoming.


This seems almost worryingly organised, Ben. Another unexpected part of 2020.


This seems almost worryingly organised, Ben

It did take me a year to put this together! So techincally a 2019 story. Just very late, as per...

Thanks, though. HAHAHA.


It really is the year of anything happening isn't it


This was really a great read. What a story, had me laughing several times. Hats of for flying over and picking it up yourself.
190 Cosworth is such an awesome car.

Hats of for flying over and picking it up yourself.

Cheers Dennis. It was the cheap lay-flat seat that did it.


Epic trip and I commend your commitment! This sort of trip only happens oncein a life time. Thanks for taking us along for the ride.


Glad you enjoyed the story Bansi. The stars aligned, it all made sense, and back then we could hop on a plane at a moment's notice. Indeed, a once in a lifetime trip and experience.


It’s funny, I sometimes find myself thinking maybe I should take out a loan and get a newer car as I’m driving my 190e around, but I know as soon as I had that money I’d scrap that and buy a 2.3 cossie instead.
Something enchanting and quite special about the retro experience for sure!


I had an automatic 1991 model year 190 E with the 1797cc engine, back in 2014, which I really wish I had never sold. It was white and I spend a few days detailing it after buying it from an lady who had owned it from new. I'd love to buy that car back. Enchanting and special. Totally agree, Max.


Excellent story. Thank you for writing this. I bought a 2.3-16 sight unseen from ebay a couple years ago, flew from Salt Lake City to Portland, and drove it 800 miles home. Thus, MUCH of your story resonated with me. Sounds like you've had better luck than me, though!


I bought a 2.3-16 sight unseen from ebay a couple years ago, flew from Salt Lake City to Portland, and drove it 800 miles home

Google Maps showed the journey I did to be 798-miles. You drove further. You win! Your car looks great, btw. Do you have any more photos to share?


Yeah, I've got a few, but I need to get it out and get some better shots. Truth is, I only just got it running (again), so my opportunities for photoshoots have been limited up until now.


Good luck with the progress brother. Thanks for sharing your story so far.


Here's mine after a couple years, by the way.


Great car, well done. I had one of these in smoke silver for seven years, loved it. Everyone thought it was a 190 with a body kit apart from those who knew. Very balanced and can cover ground quickly.


If you know you know!


Like so many entries on Speedhunters, the writing is as exemplary as the photography. Just reading this makes me giddy for the next roadtrip. And you're not wrong - Social Media has made one too many fantasies seem too easy to attain. Much like you, I'll be sticking to the older cars for as long as I can find parts, or until they're outlawed. Thanks for visiting my city on your way home!!


Thanks Louis, apprecite it. There's still a place for a new car in my 'garage'. Just something that's reliable, has warranty and is easy to daily drive. We have a lot of restirctions in London regading emission and congestion zones that are chargeable, so you have to take this into account as well. But there's nothing quite like an older car to put a smile on your face.


Hats off to you mate, great car, great plan and it all came together.


Cheers Jezza. I've started making a few changes to it already and will keep the project updated on Speedhunters over the forthcoming months.


This was one of the best Speedhunters articles all year. Nothing pretentious or drawing out the mundane into something else - a great adventure wrapped around a special vehicle and an exotic locale.

Perhaps I'm a bit biased, as I just brought home my dream Mercedes AMG last week myself. Cheers to dreams realized, sir. Enjoy the Merc.


man super happy that people are actually making old mercedes project cars. usually people just do e30 or other generic 90s car. looking forward to this Project 190 . cheers


These days, it’s all a bit too easy to be flash. Cars have become fashion accessories for some. And you know what? I think it’s boring. Adding something fancy to your ‘garage’ every month for likes, subs or to ‘flex on the gram’, only to never drive the living daylights out of it? That’s not for me. All this hype is a turn-off and, rather weirdly, I no longer want to own some ritzy brand new supercar.

Amen brother.
For me, highlighted by the recent 331mph in a.... I can't even remember what. Who cares. MUCH more excited and energized as a car fan by this story than that one. Love love love. Thank you.