My Mercedes-Benz 190: Flat taxi with a snack counter

Everyone who knows me knows I’ve been a car nut ever since I was a kid. It all started when I was around six years and had a neighbor who was an American soldier stationed in Germany. The soldier drove a Ford Mustang and I always hung around whenever he worked on it.

The passion I developed for cars back then has stayed with me to this day. That`s the reason why I went looking for a nice W190 model two years ago. It was my wife who got things started here by mentioning the name Rieger, a tuning specialist that offers spoiler sets. It was while visiting the Rieger website that I came upon my flat taxi with a snack counter in October 2015 (snack counter is what I call the rear spoiler on the car). The car was in Koblenz and belonged to a man in his late 40s.

A work in progress with many defects

I made a few phone calls and the 190 was then brought over by the owner for us to look at a week later. Our joy didn’t last long, however: After looking the Baby Benz over, it became clear to me that what was standing in front of me was a work in progress with several defects (both optically and technically) that the previous owner had failed to mention on the phone.

The paint job wasn’t an issue for me because I had already turned my passion into a career at Daimler, where I work in the paint shop in Plant Section 54 in Rastatt. No, the problem was that the car also had countless bumps and dents, and there was more oil in the engine compartment than in the engine. It doesn’t matter, I said to myself, and then proceeded to take a test drive with the 2.6-liter 6-cylinder engine.

Unfortunately, this only confirmed my first impression: The car couldn’t live up to its original 160 hp output. Once again, my wife came up with a great idea. She said we should quickly figure out approximately how much it was going to cost to fix everything that was wrong and then suggest a new price to the owner – a price that I in fact ultimately ended up paying for the Baby-Benz.

30 dents and plenty of paint damage

Luckily, I also had Marco to turn to – a colleague of mine at Daimler who also works in the paint shop in Rastatt as an auto body mechanic. He put his amazing skills to work to bang out what seemed like 30 dents – so at least the body of my little Benz was now looking smooth. Thanks again, Marco!

I had to handle the next big job myself: The 190 had a lot of paint damage, but I didn’t have the color number for the model. Fortunately, a painting company found out the number for me and I was able to get down to work. The color had a very high proportion of mother-of-pearl in it, so I was worried that it might be possible to see the areas I painted over later on. That didn’t turn out to be a problem however; you couldn’t see anything after I finished.

Then it was time to start polishing. The hood, the roof, and the trunk lid looked like they had been cleaned with a wire brush. I therefore had to work on the surfaces with wet sand paper before I could apply the polish. It took me four hours just to get the hood looking good and scratch-free.

I noticed each time I started a new job that regardless of whether it was an electrical or mechanical job, or what part of the car I worked on, somebody who had no idea what they were doing had already done something before me. Still, one grows with one’s challenges…

On to the engine, the underbody, and the chassis

After around a year of working on the car, I was finally able to turn my attention to the engine in the spring of 2017. Once again, I was lucky to have a friend and colleague who could help me – this time Ronny, who works in the reworking department in the assembly hall in Rastatt. Ronny was actually trained on a 190 and knows every screw in the car. Ronny was simply amazing – he completely disassembled the engine in no time and then sent the cylinder head to an engine shop for a complete overhaul.

After that, he really got down to work. I nearly panicked when I saw how the underbody had been stripped of everything except the fuel pump and filter! He simply took everything out.

I went about painting the axle parts that were in good shape, the new parts that I had bought, and all the engine components. It sounds simple, but you have to understand that some parts looked truly horrible after 28 years of operation. I used a sandblaster first and then I started spackling and painting. Ronny examined everything closely and my shopping list kept getting longer and longer…

Ronny’s better half, Carola, also came around a lot and helped out wherever she could. For example, she painted the brake calipers and removed rust film. Thanks again to you, too, Carola!

One night my cell phone beeped at around two in the morning. It was Ronny, who had finished rebuilding the engine and had sent me a short video of the first test run. I was so happy when I heard that engine purring like a little kitten – it was so quiet!

Inspection passed, first ticket received

The young vehicle inspector was dumbfounded when I showed up at the inspection agency with the car that Ronny and I had put so much blood, sweat, and tears into. Not only did he realize that my Benz was older than him; when he saw all the things we had done to the Baby Benz, he told me I was crazy – and to be honest, after all that work I had to agree with him.

The inspection was a cakewalk for me and my flat taxi. I was as proud as could be afterwards – and then drove directly into a speed trap with a camera after 150 meters! When you look at the picture, you can see how happy I was – and the fact is that driving that car is loads of fun and a real kick. Still, anyone who loves cars knows that no matter how much work you put into a vehicle, there’s still always something else to do.

Over the next few years, I plan to redo the interior upholstery and make some small improvements in the engine compartment and to the technical systems. But it’s all going to be worth the effort, especially when I think about all the great things my flat taxi and I have already experienced together. For instance, we went to one of the biggest tuning events in Karlsruhe, where I was excited to see how young people would react to my old Daimler – and was surprised in a very positive way! Most knew that the car was a 190 and an EVO remodeling job. Some people actually thought it was an original ;-)

No driver assistance systems or any other assistance Systems – just pure driving

It doesn’t really matter to me what people think of my Benz. After all, I’m the only one who has to like it – and I do. I’ve yet to see another that looks quite like it. When I see it beaming at me, freshly washed in the sunlight, I simply feel happy and proud to own such a car. My children also love the 190. I go with my oldest son to tuning events and I take my youngest son (three) for drives on country roads, with him shouting out: “Daddy, this is great! Let’s do it again!”

I think it’s especially nice that my 10-year-old daughter is also very interested in the Benz and hopes I never sell it. After all, she’s planning to drive it herself in seven years. And, really, I have absolutely no plans to sell the car. Driving it is simply too much fun, and that’s what counts for me. No driver assistance systems or any other assistance systems: No, it’s just pure driving.

The best thing about driving my Benz after all the work I put into it is to see and feel how all of that time and effort have paid off. Still, car nuts like me are never done, which is why the next project awaits me in my garage. It’s an American muscle car, an AMC Javelin, and it was built the same year I was born: 1968. Whether or not this will be my last project remains to be seen. Probably not, though ;-)

One thing needs to be made clear, however: I can only practice this wonderful and time-consuming hobby of mine because I have the right partner by my side, a partner who always supports me no matter what. So my biggest thanks go out to my wife!

This article was written by Joachim Starck, who’s had car fever since he was a boy and has been working for more than 20 years in the body paint shop in Rastatt. Because his job doesn’t have much to do with tinkering with cars, he pursues his passion in his free time. He’s been doing repairs on all his cars himself from the beginning and has changed and upgraded both technical systems and exterior components. Thanks to their dad, Joachim’s three children are also now car nuts.