Words & Photos by Henry Phull
There’s something about 90’s Mercedes-Benz models that remains appealing to this day… whether it’s the sharp, classic lines or those bold square headlights, I’m not entirely sure, but there’s certainly something I love about them, I just can’t put my finger on exactly what it is. Therefore, it should come to no surprise that this is the third W201 that we’ve featured on Slam Sanctuary, and possibly the best yet, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. Connor Hollamby’s 190E has been around for a while, but he’s recently changed things up for the 2017 show season and I completely fell in love with the car again a couple of months ago when he fired over a few sneak-peek photos (whilst he was test-fitting his new wheels). This is one of those cars that will no doubt see a lot of attention throughout the rest of the year, so I made my way up to Connor as soon as possible for my chance to photograph it in the lush Surrey hills.
Aged just 21, it’s a breath of fresh air to see such a young guy interested in classic cars, especially when we’re in an age where it’s much easier to finance a newer car and bolt on air ride. This obsession with classics comes from his father, who has been modifying cars since before Connor was even born, notably American hot rods and such. However, he’s also owned several Mercedes-Benz W124 coupes over the years which stuck with Connor… “They were always my favourite, the comfort of the older Mercs is crazy – big, wide, sofa- like seats – and they go on forever!” he recalls. Daily driving his first ever car, an ’03 Ford Fiesta, along with his work delivery van, he wanted a project car he could start playing about with.
One day Connor was browsing the internet for photographs of modified W124’s and reminiscing with his dad, when they came across a W201 190E in the States, brown in colour and sitting on BBS RS’. They both thought it looked awesome, and Connor’s dad suggested he buy one, lower it, and just enjoy it. So, with a car in mind, they started searching for a suitable candidate. One finally came up, just down the road in Staines, and was listed for £1,200. Unfortunately, Connor only had £700 to spend on a car at the time, but he rang the seller and asked if he’d take the low-ball offer. To his surprise, his offer was accepted! To make sure he didn’t miss out on this one-time deal, all plans were dropped and he found himself en route to pick it up. Only 18-years old at the time, he didn’t even know how we was going to get the car insured in the long run – he just knew that he had to have it.
The Merc in question was a ’91 190E 1.8 petrol model in Arctic White. The car was in fairly good condition and was clearly well looked after, with the previous owner doing little miles in it at a time. Connor paid the bargain price and was on his way home in his new 190E. Almost immediately, he was on eBay searching for lowering springs. A few days later, 40mm springs arrived… “I’ll never forgot the day I put them on and stepped back and looked at my cousin Ashley. The result was hardly any different, and absolutely gutting – we both knew it had to go much lower! The disappointment on my face said it all – so it was back to the drawing board”.
It wasn’t much later, that Connor took his chances and opted for the old-school method of chopping springs, for a quick budget drop. All this was happening whilst the car was sat up and before he’d even insured it, too. He swiftly purchased a set of W211 wheels (now his Winter wheels) and drove the car around for a year or so. It wasn’t until he attended Players Show 9.0 that he realised that the only way forward was air ride, with its unrivalled practicality.
Connor went on and purchased himself an Air Lift Performance V2 digital management package and four universal air bags, with plans to to build his own brackets and “just make it work”. A month later, after lots of hard work on the driveway, the 190E was bagged. Driving it for a while, he was not entirely happy with the way it sat and still wanted to achieve a bigger drop. Connor modified the top mounts, which helped massively, as well as removing all the bump stops and then shaved down his custom bag brackets which gave him those all-important extra few millimetres of travel.
Connor was finally happy with the drop, and treated the car to a set of 16″ Mercedes-Benz Centra wheels which he ran for another season. It wasn’t until early this year that he completely changed his plans, yet again, and decided to go for a ‘fitment’ look, rather than tucking rim which he had done previously. Clearly, the wheel setup was going to be a deciding factor on how well he was going to pull off this look. Connor also went about rolling his arches all round in preparation.
It just so happens that his good friend Joe had a set of BBS RF’s laying around – they were in a bad way, but after securing them for a good price, Connor set out making them fresh. The barrels were sand blasted and powder coated. New lips, hex nuts, and bolts were sourced all round. All built up, the RF’s are 17×8.5 ET-8 up front (185/35 tyres) and 17×9.5 ET-9 (195/40 tyres) on the rear. Being 5×120 (BMW PCD), Connor also purchased a set of adapters to allow for Mercedes-Benz fitment. I think you’ll agree that the outcome is breathtaking – the car sits perfectly.
With the exterior finally looking as he had dreamt, Connor turned his attention to the interior. Originally black cloth, he amazingly found someone to swap the seats and door cards for a rare multi-colour Rosso ‘Arcade’ interior (with some extra cash their way), which really looks the part and is a well suited contrast to the white paintwork. He also has plans to install a wooden Nardi steering wheel very soon, too. The air ride components (air tank and compressor) are secured in an old-school suitcase in the boot, also with storage for cleaning products which is a nice touch.
Apart from adding a Bolts Bolts USDM lighting kit, used to illuminate his amber indicators at the same time as the headlights, Connor has done the right thing by not going over the top with this build. It’s so easy to ruin a classic car by doing too much, but he’s got the balance just right… a 190E doesn’t really need anything more than this to shine. Naturally, with the car being his main hobby, Connor has a few ideas up his sleeve for the future, such as tidying-up the engine bay and possibly adding a more powerful motor, but time will tell. For now, I’m sure he just wants to get out and enjoy the car with its new look.