Hi again everyone. As many of you may know, I recently traded my 1998 BMW M3 Sedan for one of my lifelong dream cars. I figured I would take this time on my snow day to tell how I was lucky enough to acquire my favorite car yet- my 1987 Mercedes 190E Cosworth- at the age of 18.
I've told my automotive story here on Oppo a few thousand times, but if you haven't read it and have some spare time on your hands, feel free to click here. Very long story short, I grew up very much a car enthusiast, and with some good knowledge of the automotive market, some good bargaining, and some well-timed sales, I managed to work up from a $3800 Dodge Neon Track car to a low-mileage E36 M3 with next-to-none out of pocket.
As the beginning of winter rolled around, I decided I was done with the M3. It was very pretty, and very entertaining, but it had its own issues. For one thing, I had bought it with the full intention of autocrossing. 50/50 distribution, a limited-slip, and a renown suspension would have made the M3 the ideal car for the job. But considering my car was spotless, very rare in it's color combination, and low mileage, I would have felt too bad abusing it. Also, it was quiet. I had deleted the resonators in hopes of making it loud without spending thousands on exhaust (I usually don't keep my cars long enough to justify this) but it simply didn't; this was a problem, because I like loud. Much to the chagrin of many of my friends, who all loved the car, I listed it and waited to see what would happen.
I began to get the odd offer and question, but never got very much interest due to the car solely being listed on craigslist, (aside from the one guy who said you'd give a number once you saw the car, came in your E36 318i and test-drove mine WAAAY too aggressively, and then disappeared. I hope you enjoyed your ride in a real E36 M3, and may it be your last) where a 250,000 mile example for $4,000 could be easily found next to my 100,000 mile example for $11,000 (in the craigslist world, for those who are unaware, mileage and condition are irrelevant- if their cousin has one he bought for $2500, your M3 is worth $2500).
Despite dialing the car in for the upcoming New England winter with some Blizzaks and cheap aftermarket wheels, I was still very ready to sell. I wishfully posted the car on a few forums, thinking that maybe, even though it was the dead of winter, someone might be in the market for a clean, unique, low mileage M3 and have the cash for it.
Surprisingly, it was amazing in the snow.
Since I sold my first car three years ago, the first words out of my mouth upon sale have always been "The replacement will have a turbo." Every time. (Having just purchased my fourth car, guess who still hasn't owned a turbo?)
With my typical craving for forced induction in full force (Hah.), I began to list the M3 as not only "For Sale," but also "For Trade." Originally, I was fairly broad in my desires, and even mentioned possible trades for a B5 S4, a well-done Neon SRT-4 plus cash, a Mazdaspeed Miata, a WRX, or various others. However, as I decided I wanted rear seats (to cart my friends around) and rear-wheel drive (to have fun doing so), I narrowed my trade options down to one car- An S14 240sx.
An S14 for sale locally that I still lust after
For anyone who doesn't know, the S14 is the last 240sx we got legally here in the states. It vaguely resembles the ever-famed S15 chassis that people are getting sent to jail for importing, although has none of the performance to back it. Power came from the KA24DE, which was, literally, a truck motor. So why did I want one? Because finding an S14 that HASN'T already had the boring KA-plant swapped over to an SR20DET was almost as hard as finding a friendly B5 S4 owner had been.
The only problem with that was, there are no clean S14s. The majority of the cars tend to have anywhere from 150-200,000 miles, and the mileage on the SR-engines typically found in them are typically mileage unknown, since they're chopped out of lost causes around the world and sent over here to the US (since we adore them, perhaps excessively). Even the ones with low mileage were typically trashed, since the owners usually throw in the turbo motor, some boost gauges, and weld the diff, and they're a drift star for 5 minutes until they their rear-quarter panel is taco'd as the car sits against a light post in the Walmart parking lot.
"Don't tell dad!"
As I continued the pointless search for a good S14, I actually got some good offers on Bimmerforums for possible trades. One guy offered to trade what was essentially a carbon copy of my car, except a 325is, with tons of aftermarket parts, and higher mileage, plus cash. I passed, since I was looking for something new and different. I then got an offer for a modified E30 325i, but that didn't have an airbag (a requirement placed by my parents, for my own safety. Fair is fair). Someone offered to trade their Clownshoe M-Coupe, if I put $13,000 on top. I even got an offer for a Spec Miata, complete with three sets of wheels, the stock motor out of the car, and a crate motor in the car. I had some awesome trade offers coming my way, but nothing with rear seats, and the few people that were contacting me to buy the car outright kept disappearing for weeks at a time.
The Miata was cool, but obviously no rear seats
One day, after a particularly dry week in terms of offers, a guy messaged me on Bimmerforums asking if I still had the car and would be interested in trading it for a Mercedes 190E 2.3-16v, the Cosworth.
For those of you who read my, "Bring it Back Home to Daddy!" story (linked at the top of this post), you'll know that I nearly bought a Cossie for a first car, and after watching it sell and immediately appreciate I thought I had lost all chance of ever owning one again. These cars had incredible history, originally built for Gruppe B, but were axed by Mercedes in anger when the UrQuattro changed rally forever. AMG engineers secretly continued development for the DTM series, realizing the potential of the car. Upon testing, the Cosworth broke 9 speed records, and reigned king on the DTM circuit for years, until BMW became jealous and made the M3. And with a story like that, who wouldn't want one?
So thankfully, that was extremely incorrect, and I would go on to buy one of these legends. I promise, because I have one right now.
We chatted back and forth via Private Messages, and things actually started to look good. The car was reasonably low-mileage (110,000), had all records, and was in supposedly good shape. Okay, he had my attention.
I should clarify one thing before going any further; Here, in the US, we got the 2.3-16 in two colors; Blue-Black Metallic, very similar to the DiamondSchwartz found on the E30 M3, and Smoke Silver.
I hate Smoke Silver.
The only place that fits Smoke Silver properly is an elderly retirement home in Boca.
It's like it was meant for it to be Blue-Black, and Smoke Silver was just to appease the elderly. Just like how you could either have a Dogleg 5-speed or a 4-speed Auto.
I asked some big questions, including what recent maintenance had been done, whether the car was a manual or an automatic, and whether the Hydraulic SLS airbag suspension was completely broken, like they usually are. I also asked for some pictures.
I waited a bit, pondering the idea of a Cosworth. Definitely not turbocharged, but potentially fun regardless. I'd be losing a lot of straight-line speed from the M3 to the Mercedes, but I'd potentially be gaining a lot of touring-car fun instead.
Ding. The pictures had arrived.
It was smoke silver.
I texted my girlfriend, who had been my primary advisor of what to buy next throughout this process, and simply informed her that this car was a definite "Nope" despite what I had just informed her about the history of the Cossie and the recent inflation in their value.
Thankfully, she's awesome, so I received a million reasons why I should swap for the car. And naturally, she was right. Plus, it had a new clutch, so we could dive deeper into her lessons of how to drive stick.
Although that wasn't an issue in the end, she was driving the M3 without hesistation and flawlessly in 10 minutes. We were both loving it.
My phone dinged again. More pictures. This, however, was not the same car.
Different wheels. Much lower ground clearance. Very tough stance. And stickers. The stickers, proudly displaying the same exact graphics that emblazoned Senna's car back at the Nurburgring in 1984, told me two things; one, this guy was an enthusiast. And two, Bri was definitely right. I needed this car.
Phone calls were made, dates were arranged, and the swap was planned. Just a couple weeks later, my Dad and I stripped the Blizzaks and Brand-X wheels off of the car, threw the OEM Contours and Ventus V12 Evos back on, and left to meet the owner at a mutual location in New Jersey.
The first half of the journey went with only slight issues. One lady cutting across two lanes on the highway to get off and sending a passing Jeep Liberty into a wobbly, near-disastrous frenzy, and the horn on my car suddenly protesting. (Side note; Is it just me who experiences strange electrical gremlins every single time I'm on my way to sell a German car? It's like they're mad at you). My dad's avoidance maneuvers and also his repeated pressing to clean the contacts solved both issues, and in Newark we stopped to switch seats, so I could drive my M3 one last time.
This would have been all fine and dandy, except a massive snowstorm was coming from the South and decided to meet us the second I merged back onto I-95.
Now I should clarify something; I now think of myself as a decent driver; with the M3 on Blizzaks, I thought I was god's gift. With the M3 on Summer tires in a couple inches of fresh powder? Never again.
After struggling, slipping, skidding and sliding all the rest of the way to the meeting location, we sat and waited for the Cossie to arrive.
I heard it before I saw it. That's always a win, in my book. It rolled into the snow-covered lot, rear tires spinning (it was on Dunlop Direzzas- so not much better traction than the M3) and the owner climbed out.
It looked magnificent.
And also, extremely small. The M3 dwarfed it.
Talk over exactly what was included on each side of the swap and discussion over the mechanicals ensued for a bit, but it eventually became impossible; it was too cold and too snowy to really get anything done, and neither party saw a purpose in a test drive when neither of us were going to be able to leave the parking lot.
We went inside, did the paperwork, swapped keys, and the deal was done. My dad and I, plus an extra set of wheels with tires and assorted other parts, left New Jersey in the Cosworth Mercedes I had wanted for so long.
"I don't know what to do with my hands."-Ricky Bobby
For size perspective, I'm 5'10"
I actually insisted that he drove. What with his rallying past, and my being simply an 18-year-old punk who thought he was amazing at driving due to splurging his entire bus-boy budget on some decent snows, I had a feeling that was the best way to make it home intact.
I was right. The highway was barely plowed, we spent the majority of the 6 hour drive doing 30, in 5th gear, with the tires spinning, and sideways, while all hell broke loose around us. Easily, the most tiring and draining drive I didn't participate in.
But eventually, we got it home. And as an added, bonus, in one piece. I unloaded the various parts, brought it to get the M3's Blizzaks slipped on the next morning, and drove it for the next two days.
Then, whilst pressure testing the cooling system, the radiator gave out. And since the radiator made for the 2.3-16 DOHC is discontinued by all sources, the car was stranded at my school for the past week while I waited for the radiator to arrive, and now that it's here, it's the SOHC example, which doesn't fit. The correct radiator is inbound though, and I'm looking forward to having the little screamer back on the road.
So what did I learn? S14's are usually garbage, I can't stay away from German cars, Summer tires are bad in the snow, I can't drive, and if your girlfriend is going to offer you automotive advice, you better take it, because they know best.
And also, if she's going to inform you why you should buy a classic, DTM homologation car instead of a riced-out Nissan, you probably have done well.
Thanks to everyone involved in this story, because not only would I not have the awesome car that I have now, but I wouldn't be able to add another interesting chapter to the crazy story that has been my life of high-school car ownership.
Hi Dad. Thanks for keeping us alive.
Official Modifications List:
-SLS Bag suspension deleted. Swapped to Bilsteins with cut E400 springs, one inch higher in the rear.
-Cats and Resonators deleted. Some sort of aftermarket muffler as well.
-Stoptech Rotors with EBC "Red Stuff" pads are in the basement, awaiting warm weather for installation. They came with the car.
-Stock wheels (15x7) with Toyo Proxxes RRs. A very serious tire that I'm looking forward to using.
-Evo I wheels (16x8) currently installed. Had the Direzzas on them, now have the Blizzaks.
-Camber Plates, from Poland, I believe it was 3 degrees in the front, 2.5 in the rear.
-Waaay more toe than a streetcar needs
And for comparison: