Beyond its three-pointed star and four wheels, the Brabus 3.6S Lightweight was not like any Brabus Mercedes introduced before or since its 1988 launch. The 'Lightweight' bit of the name is the key reason why; Brabus has - and surely always will - be known for powerfully built 'bahnstormers, cars as monstrously powerful as they are decadently opulent. Stripped-out track specials are the kind of thing they leave to other, lesser tuners.
But it wasn't always like that. In 1984 Brabus founder Bodo collaborated with SIXT Rental to create 200 Mercedes 190Es with a range of performance upgrades (no, seriously).The ambition was three-fold: first was to create a better performance version of the W201 than the 2.3 16v, second was to give SIXT a USP in the rental market and, of course, to better show off what Brabus was capable of. Buoyed by the popularity of the SIXT project, Bodo went several steps further in 1988 and created a properly hardcore 190E, packing more than 250hp from an enlarged straight six as well as a raft of other performance-enhancing upgrades - including no back seat.
Unsurprisingly, customers didn't really buy into the oxymoronic idea of a pared-back Brabus, and its take on the 190E would become the more traditional '3.6-24', with rear seats and amenities reinstated. But the Lightweight had made an impression, and so in 2008 then PR Director of Brabus, Sven Gramm, commissioned a recreation of the 190 Lightweight.
This is that car. Originally a one-owner 190E 2.6 manual sourced locally to Brabus, it was subjected to a ten-month overhaul to create the 3.6S Lightweight homage. The M103 straight-six was bored and stroked for the extra capacity and almost 300hp. That was in addition to new suspension, the lovely Kevlar-backed Recaro seats, the roll cage and the wheels amongst a whole host of changes. Understandably pleased with what had been created, Gramm used the car for a period before selling it in 2016; it was first registered in the UK in 2017, shown at Mercedes-Benz World and then, well, not really driven very much at all. You may well have seen it offered before.
Which is a crying shame, really, because a bespoke Brabus 190E build with this much power and potential promises to be an incredible experience. The price is no doubt a sticking point, because £100k is a huge amount of money for any kind of 190E; unique Brabus project the Lightweight may well be, but it's neither the original concept vehicle nor one of the Mercedes-built 190E Evo homologations. It is faster though, apparently, and it's hard not to admire the dedication and attention to detail that saw this project come to fruition. Because the world is certainly a better place with this Signal Red 190E in it. Let's hope a new buyer sees the appeal, and it's back out on the road very soon.
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