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25 years ago, the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II thrilled professionals and the general public alike when it was unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show and legend has it that the entire limited run of 502 cars was sold pre-launch, possibly being squirrelled away by international car collectors. The bitter rivalry between BMW and Mercedes-Benz in saloon car racing throughout Europe helped hone the greatest 'touring cars' of the era and the Evo II was pitted against one of the best touring cars of all time, the E30 M3. A compromise was out of the question and the full-race car, developed for Group 'A' using this sports saloon as a basis, went on to acquire legendary status. Mercedes-Benz took the first three places in the DTM championship in the 1992 season with this remarkable vehicle, which henceforth is referred to, in revelation, as the "Evo II".
The engine's output had been raised once again in comparison to the first Evolution model from the previous year, the Evo II now generating 235 horsepower. Top speed was 250 km/h, and the Evo II accelerated from a standing start to 100 km/h in 7.1 seconds. The body had also undergone further refinement on an aesthetic and aerodynamic level and the car's sporting pedigree was emphasised by its muscular stance. In this form, the 190E finally had the match of the M3, and while it was never as naturally gifted as its rival, the brutal and unrelenting way it delivered its performance, and its devotion to technological supremacy, set a precedent for Mercedes performance models that can be traced right the way through to today.
The Evo II's body kit is perhaps the most outrageous ever applied to a production car, and the fact it was a product of the ultra-conservative world of early ninety's Mercedes-Benz is even more incredible. The ostentatious, fully adjustable rear spoiler was aerodynamically perfect and its front splitter would make a decent job of cutting the grass, however, despite outward appearances, the Evo II is a comfortable and tractable daily driver.
The 255th of 500 built, this Evo II Homologation special-edition is no disappointment and exceeds expectations on every level. Firstly, there is the way it looks. Legend has it that BMW redesigned its wind tunnel after seeing the Evo II race car and none of the excitement has been lost on the road car. With its stunning "Blauschwarz" (blue/black) metallic bodywork devoid of any decals, and with number plates fitted instead of sponsors’ logos, it’s arguably even more dramatic.
The build quality is pure Mercedes-Benz at their best and nothing has been compromised. The full-leather sports seats are both supportive and comfortable, the centre console has a full accompaniment of switches including air-conditioning and electric windows and, with only 26,056 miles (41,934km) from new, the interior wears its 30 years almost imperceptively.
All but the first 1,000 of these kilometres were covered by one collector-owner over the last 30 years. Speaking volumes for its ability to be an exciting ‘road-going’ racecar, without the compromises that this usually entails, is the fact that this owner seems to have used this car more than almost any other in his truly world-class collection. But here is an example that offers the perfect balance of low miles and usability, and has been cherished in one of the world’s finest car collections. With growing interest in historic motorsport, has come renewed interest from collectors in the cars that were homologated in order to allow some of the greatest saloon cars of all time to go racing in the first place. This Evo II ranks among the most visually striking of all the homologation specials and warrants pride of place in any collection. But more than that, whilst most of us would love to have an E30 M3 Johnny Cecotto or Robert Ravaglia in our garage, that’s where they would be kept. The 250-16 Evo II deserves to be in a large architect-designed, glass-walled space in your house on a raised plinth lit by pencil spotlights. A piece of modern art, Form and Function in perfect harmony.