When I last wrote about the 190E in the winter it was about to go back on the road after a long and wallet-bruising restoration - and I was looking forward to getting behind the wheel for the first time in four years. The fact there's been radio silence since then indicates that things didn't go quite according to plan.
It was all so close. I'd arranged a time for collection, paid the bill, sorted tax and insurance - even persuaded my dad to drive me the 50 miles from home to Autoclass in Milton Keynes, the well-respected specialist which has looked after both the 2.5 and several other elderly Mercs for me over the years.
Then at about 5:29 on the evening before D-Day the phone rang. It was Autoclass proprietor James Tait: the Merc had just been taken for its final road test and was sounding like a drunken firing squad under load, so the collection was delayed until they could work out what was wrong with it.
Things escalated slowly as I got on with my summer. The Cosworth-developed 2.5-16 is pretty rare groove, so even finding parts like an ignition coil to swap out took a fair amount of time. Autoclass gradually worked through the obvious failure points - including some of the obscure electrical borkage the Cossie Mercs are known for - only to discover that none of it cured the car. Meaning that the issue was almost certainly inside the engine, possibly a sticking valve. Could they take the cylinder head off?
Like a gambler trying to turn his last £5 into the mortgage payment, I didn't seem to have much choice at this point - short of stuffing and mounting the Merc in a display case. The good news was that the freshly removed head turned out to be fine. The considerably less good was clear evidence of scoring in the cylinder bores, which shouldn't have been causing the sometimes rough-running, but at least we'd found something that was definitely wrong.
So the engine has been removed and sent to a specialist for further diagnosis; it looks like it has already had an overbore so the critical question is whether it can manage another. Six months on I'm actually less close to getting my car than I was last time. I'm not blaming Autoclass for any of this: they know old Mercs as well as anyone. But obscure cars tend to have obscure problems.
I also definitely shouldn't have been so smug about the rising values of the Cosworth 190Es last time. There are going to be several more hefty bills before I'm reunitied with mine again.
Car: 1990 Mercedes 190E 2.5-16
Run by: Mike Duff
Bought: May 2012
Mileage at purchase: 157,000
Mileage now: 161,000 (!)
Last month at a glance: ££££
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