The Brabus 190E 3.6S. Already an evocative moniker, and nick named the ‘Brabus Lightweight’, The story behind the construction is part of its appeal. The mid eighties onward was a hotbed for fast compact German saloons with the Mercedes 190 and BMW E30 fighting for sales and racing supremacy. There were countless iterations of both, each flouting more power and wilder styling than its predecessor – it was an amazing period for German saloon cars.
Brabus wanted part of the action and showed their iteration in 1988, the prototype Brabus 190E 3.6S. A fantastically pure car that pushed the boundaries of a saloon, it had no air conditioning, less sound deadening, a straight six engine bored and stroked to 3.6 litres and amazingly, no rear seats. A wild concept, but just a step too far for Brabus customers, who requested that the air conditioning and rear seats be reinstated in the customer cars. That original lightweight prototype was converted into the first Brabus 190E 3.6-24 with all the seats and air conditioning back in place, which could of spelt the end of the Lightweight.
Luckily, one man fell for it, Sven Gramm, PR Director for Brabus and in 2008 (some 20 years after that fated prototype) he commissioned Brabus to produce another one, staying true to the concept as a two seater with no air conditioning. The build used a donor 190E 2.6E, as would have been done with the original. Under the tutelage of Sven, who spent many an hour searching for components and blueprints in the Brabus factory and storage facility, the 190E slowly morphed into a Brabus 190E 3.6S across a 10 month build period. Original parts were used where possible and bespoke components produced when not.
The result is awe inspiring to say the least. Mercedes Signal Red is the colour of choice and the Brabus has a slightly front down attack stance that suits the 80s touring car style perfectly, matching its track brethren. It sits low and hunkered down, courtesy of a set of Bilstein Sports dampers and Eibach springs. The interior is pure race car, yet with the functionality of a Mercedes.
Brabus was founded in 1977 in Bottrop (Ruhr Area), Germany. It is a high-performance aftermarket tuning company which specializes in Mercedes-Benz, Smart, and Maybach vehicles. Klaus Brackman and Bodo Buschmann established the company in 1977, the name deriving from the combined first three letters of their last names. Brabus became the largest Mercedes tuner, other than Mercedes-AMG which became a DaimlerChrysler affiliate in the 1990s.
LHD, Signal red (MB code 564), Brabus fine leather interior, Brabus Special Equipment includes heavily re-worked version of the Mercedes M103 engine with increased displacement to 3.6 litres, Brabus Front Spoiler, Bonnet, Rear Spoiler, Monoblock 1 Alloys 8.x16 ET35 with Yokohama A 225/45 R16 89W tyres, Eibach Pro Kit, Bilstein sport shock absorbers with 30mm rebound, High-performance brakes with 286mm discs, Weichers Aluminium Anti Roll Cage H Strut, Strut Bar, Special paint 040 black for wipers, door handles, luggage space are grill and rear badge, Signal Red colour coding to lower cladding, mirrors, front and rear bumper, Brabus Sport steering wheel type ll black leather with red spoke, Recaro Spa Kevlar bucket seats including Kevlar backs, 4 point safety belts in red, Brabus 300kmh speedometer, Carbon Fibre gear surround, Gear lever in black fine leather with red stitching, additional Temperature Gauges for oil/transmission/rear differential, floor matts with red leather edge.
Mercedes factory options include Automatic Locking Differential, 70 litre fuel tank capacity, Emission control system, Battery with extra capacity, Fire extinguisher, Electric front windows, Heat insulating glass, Sliding tilt sunroof.
Mercedes Signal Red 564 is a suitable riposte to the usual darker hues found on these teutonic cars and matches the attitude of this one off Brabus Lightweight to perfection. Brimming with confidence and purpose, the black monoblock alloy wheels with their smart silver rims and the glimpses of the roll cage through the rear windows show a proper racing aesthetic. Built into the rear spoiler is the differential oil cooler, a superb bit of engineering design that characterises the complete ethos behind this machine and its purpose.
The paint on this car looks fantastic – deep and rich with none of the associated fading or blemishes normally seen on similar aged machinery. The black trim around the bumper and door surrounds is also in great condition with the car presenting beautifully as a whole.
The luxury accoutrements of a Mercedes are far from your mind when you view the interior of the Brabus Lightweight for the first time. Your eyes instantly fall onto the hugely bolstered Recaro Kevlar race seats with exposed kevlar backs. The red four point harness draw your eyes to the rear of the interior where you spot a half cage that snakes across the rear of the car, finished in naked aluminium. Of course, there are no rear seats in the back, instantly confirming this as a very special car with true racing aspirations.
Racing red details, such as the steering wheel spoke, red leather trim surrounding the floor mats and even the hazard warning light button set this car apart. A quick glance ahead shows the Brabus speedometer, calibrated to 300km/h. Clearly a radio would not be in keeping so in its place is an additional gauge pack allowing you to monitor the oil temperature of the engine, gearbox and rear differential.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
The Mercedes 2.6 M103 straight six was a powerful engine of its time, but Brabus required a far more potent motor and executed a raft of engine modifications. Both bore and stroke was increased to a square 92 x 92mm (from 82.9 x 80.2mm) a faster road camshaft was fitted plus modified manifolds and sports air filter, a stainless steel dual flow sport exhaust system with 76mm straight tailpipes, 2 dual 100 cell catalysts and the fitment of an array of enhanced cooling systems encompassing a modified engine cooler, modified transmission oil cooler with thermo controlled pump and a bespoke modified differential oil cooler in the rear spoiler. The results were 286 bhp and 269 lb/ft of torque, an impressive amount for any type of car of the period, let alone a saloon.
The engine presents beautifully, the exposed components on show, unlike modern engines that are forced to hide under plastic shrouds. Brabus dressed the engine to perfection with red cam covers and the Brabus logo on show, matching the Signal Red paint to perfection. The exhaust manifold is an absolute work of art, as it de-constricts itself from the engine block before disappearing under the floorpan.
It should be noted that the modified engine and the additional weight loses program resulted in the Brabus Lightweight out performing the Mercedes 190 Evo ll, the official homologation special from Mercedes themselves. The Brabus hit the benchmark sprint to sixty in 6.3 seconds before hitting a v-max of 158 mph, three tenths of a second and three miles an hour quicker than the Evo ll respectively.
WHEELS, TYRES & BRAKES
Monoblock in construction, these Brabus wheels are finished in black with silver rims and evoke memories of Mercedes touring cars fighting and bashing panels for track position across Germany and Europe. They are a period 16 inch in diameter with no marks to report across the alloy rims. The tyres are Yokohama Advan A048s, basically cut slicks, with both front and rear axles receiving the same tyre size of 225/45/16.
The high performance braking system with 286 mm discs all round has no trouble slowing this lightweight down and feel strong and true on our test drive.
Brabus PR Director, Sven Gramm commenced this project in 2008 and located a donor 190E 2.6. Sourced locally, it was immaculate, a single owner car, serviced by the supplying Mercedes dealer and in a desirable specification including the 5 speed manual gearbox, heavy duty battery and long range fuel tank. Brabus completed the build in 10 months. Sven enjoyed the car then decided to sell it to its current owner who saw it advertised on the the Brabus Classic website in 2016. It was first registered in the UK on the 01/07/17 and has driven minimal mileage since and even displayed at Mercedes Benz World, proving its historical importance.
The history file is very comprehensive, and includes the original service book and instruction manual for the 190E 2.6. A huge photographic record documents the build in great detail. There is also the full Brabus presentation book, the Brabus advert and other literature from Sabelt, Brembo and Zimmermann. A large collection of press cuttings, reviews and articles completes the history file and the spare key is also present.
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