Tag Archives: 190

Air by OCD – Matt Payne’s 1992 Mercedes-Benz W201 190E

Words & Photos by Henry Phull


The Mercedes-Benz 190E has been a hit with petrolheads ever since they were used as touring cars and seen throughout legendary motorsport events. However, with the sought-after Cosworth models now out of most people’s price range, the spectacle has turned on to the standard 190E’s, which back in their time would’ve looked like any normal boxy German saloon car, simply blending into the landscape. What owners are doing to them now though, is quite remarkable. Who’d have thought dumping one on the floor and adding some larger wheels could make such a basic car look so appealing? Even though they’ve been a popular vehicle of choice in the modified scene ever since the late 80’s/early 90’s, the demand has massively grown over the last couple of years in the UK show scene… One of our favourites being Matt Payne’s Arctic white 1992 W201 which we’re showcasing today. Although we’ve already featured a W201 this year, Charlie Wheeler’s static 190D (click here to check it out), we’re switching things up and taking an alternative look at how things can be done using air ride, with Matt’s simple yet effective build.



Matt has been interested in cars for a long time, mainly through family influence. Since he was 17 years old he’s been following the car show scene, attended local meets and helped out on cars with his friends. Training as a Volkswagen technician certainly played a huge part in his ever-growing fascination with cars and predominant obsession with VW’s. In fact this led him onto starting his own business, Only Charged Dubs (OCD), who predominantly specialise in VAG cars – G40/G60 forced induction, air ride, servicing and much more.



The car that really got his company noticed was down to Matt’s third car, a Mk2 Golf which started out as a ‘1.6 Driver’, which he fully restored and eventually converted to a G60. After two years of daily driving, something more modern was required – a Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo… This really helped OCD grow as a recognised business.. it was the ultimate car to show off their air-ride services to a ‘general’ audience, not forgetting the development of OCD’s custom Polo platform air ride kit which put them on the map.



So why the Mercedes-Benz you may be asking? “I’ve never been a huge Merc fan, but I’ve always had a soft spot for any modern classic car… late 70’s, 80’s & early 90’s cars just have that square boxy look that I love” he tells us. The Fabia had been around for nearly three years, so Matt decided it was time for a new OCD demo car, whilst he could still drive the Fabia daily (although this has now finally been replaced by a bigger Audi A6 C5 Allroad, on custom air of course). “The 190 seemed to be a new modern classic, and after seeing a couple bagged and thinking we could get a cheap kit for it, I bought this one.” Matt explains.



Matt found the 190E through eBay, it was a completely standard 1.8 8v petrol, but the head gasket had gone due to lack of use and the exhaust had fallen apart inside so it ran way too slowly for his liking. The all-important paint, however, is original and came up incredibly after a good detailing session and machine polish/seal. It was an ideal base for OCD’s demo car and it meant they could create something from a completely blank canvas.



“We needed it to be on the floor, looking OEM+ and really show off what OCD and air suspension can do. Not just the usual brands of air & wheels!” he explains. Only Charged Dubs are well known for their custom air work, not just bolting on the usual ready-made kits which are widely available. This car is a fantastic example of what is possible when you think outside the box.



The air setup on Matt’s car was created completely from scratch, after trying out a cheap kit that was available for the platform and realising it was “crap”. The team at OCD got to work on creating a better solution, including new front arms, bag mounts and a custom BC Racing damper kit with camber top mounts, allowing for adjustment all round. “Our kit is a full comprehensive suspension kit, this replaces the OE front arms with no other modifications required. The only thing that’s needed is 2 holes drilled in the rear upper spring seat to allow the air bags to mount up.” Matt reveals.



This allows the body of the car to drop as low as possible with no rubbing or catching – now that’s what we like to hear! “This allows much better air bag pressure when driving, allowing a much nicer drive – it really feels like factory still and just floats along the roads.” he continues. After fully testing the setup, OCD’s kit is now manufactured and available for the W201 platform – get in touch with them for more information.



Along with the custom front LCA’s and bag mounts, Matt opted for Universal Air ‘AirHouse2’ bags front and rear, 3/8″ air lines all run by dual Speciality Suspension 28″ & 24″ air tanks, two Air Zenith OB2 compressors, an AVS 9 switch box, Zaetech Digigauge and wireless touchbox. “The main piece is the RideTech BigRed manifold that really makes the car bounce!” he chuckles… this really has a different effect to airing up and out in comparison to a lot of other products on the market – making it that extra bit cooler! All this has been built into a beautiful boot installation which is a superb demonstration of hard lines and fabrication which OCD are known for.



With the car on the floor, Matt wanted to get the wheels right. They’d already gone custom with the air ride, so why not go the same way with the wheels? The outcome was a set of Mercedes-Benz ‘Barrock’ wheels, a Mexican hat-styled wheel originally found on W123’s. OCD had their machinist precision cut the wheel faces and matched to a BBS RS 16″ face bolt pattern, allowing them to go for 16″ to 17″ ‘bubble’ step up lips, resulting in 17×8 up front and 17×9 rears. “It’s a slight mod that no one really notices over the custom wheels. Which I like, it adds even more to the OEM+ look of the car and really suits the car well.” Matt explains. These are paired to 195/40 tyres up front and 205/40 at the rear, a tasteful amount of stretch.



Interior-wise, Matt preferred to keep everything original, similar to the outside of the car. “I wanted black as it doesn’t age as much and appears to be quite rare in the old 190’s”… The only elements out of the ordinary that you might notice are; the Zaetech Digigauge air pressure display which is neatly installed into one of the blower fans and the chunky AVS 9 switch box used to control the ride height. Sticking to a manual air set up just seems so right in a classic car like this – a modern looking digital controller wouldn’t look at home in the W201.





We’ve seen the Merc at several car shows this year and it’s unsurprisingly turned a lot of heads. Matt and the team have put just the right amount of modifications on the car. Only air and wheels you may ask… What more could you possibly need on a classic car like this? Matt has put his touch on an already beautiful shape. As well as putting the car on a set of BBS RS for a few shows to change things up, the custom Barrock wheels do suit it perfectly. From now, not much will be happening with the Merc other than a little more colour coding to the boot build over the Winter. Matt mentioned he may even regrettably put it up for sale in the new year to make way for another OCD demo car. Despite the name ‘Only Charged Dubs’, the 190E demonstrates that they really can tackle any sort of air build, whether it’s a ‘dub’ or not. We’ll be finding more about what they get up to with an exclusive shop visit, so check back to Slam Sanctuary soon.



More info on Only Charged Dubs:

Only Charged Dubs website

Only Charged Dubs on Facebook

Only Charged Dubs on Instagram



Refining a Classic – Charlie Wheeler’s 1993 Mercedes-Benz W201 190D

Words & Photos by Steph Clarke


We’re continuing the static, daily driven theme this week with Charlie Wheeler’s Mercedes-Benz W201 190D, and unlike Chris Phillips’ Lexus IS (click here to check out the feature), this isn’t one of those cars that I can say I’ve always seen about at shows and meets, as Charlie has owned the Benz for a just over a week! The car was predominantly built by the previous owner, Nic Stubbs with the current styling majorly being down to him, but we couldn’t resist capturing the car as it is. Myself and Charlie actually work next door to each other, and I noticed he’d just picked up the new motor on Instagram so It was only a matter of time before I was going to get a proper look at it. But due to some resurfacing work that has been taking place over the last few days, we’ve been having to park randomly elsewhere, so it wasn’t until the day of the shoot that I really had a chance to see the 190D in all its glory.



Charlie’s car history has been heavily dominated by Volkswagens throughout the past 5 years of being seriously interested in cars. Having owned a Mk4 Golf and Mk1 Caddy where clean paintwork was the focus, and more recently a Mk1 Jetta 1.6GTD which went down the low and poke route. I don’t think Charlie will mind me saying, ended up being more of a ‘beater’ than a show car as “it would fall apart wherever and whenever” he admits.



Even with a relatively small car history, having his own workshop/barn meant engine swaps and interesting mechanical jobs were constantly being carried out on other vehicles, so there was always something exciting to be working on. With his Jetta project almost coming to a tearful end after a recent accident which led to the front end being cut off and a new one welded back on, Charlie decided that was the last straw and it spurred on the want for something a little different.



Charlie remembered a story told to him by his dad from back in the day involving his granddad cruising about in a Mercedes-Benz 190 over in Portugal, which got him thinking about the idea of a 190E or something similar. The hunt began for a Merc which led him to be let down by several cars that were either too expensive for what they were, or destined for the scrap yard.



After a brief involvement in the car market world, Charlie finally come across Nic’s 1993 W201 190D 2.5 Diesel automatic in Dunkelblau – which is a very deep, almost black blue with nearly all original paint. Just the bonnet and boot lid have been resprayed previously.



This is where some people will agree to disagree with the whole ‘bought not built’ argument. Charlie purchased the car as you see it, with the only real mods being wheels and suspension already in place. With wheels that work so well on the car, Charlie had to get his hands on it, a platform for him to build and expand on. For now though, I had to shoot the car as the combination works so well on this classic.



So, the wheels are OZ Futura’s in 17×8 up front and 9’s at the rear finished in silver with polished lips teamed with 195/40 and 205/40 tyres, not a crazy amount of stretch, but justified enough to suit the fitment. Futura’s really do look at home on almost anything and here used to keep that classic ‘gangster Mercedes’ vibe.



I’m just going to say again that this is daily driven and static and we don’t live in a very forgiving part of the country for smooth roads, so I tip my hat to Charlie for sticking with it straight off the bat.



To get the Merc sat how it is, BMW E36 front struts were installed, which are shorter than the original items although luckily still a direct fit. The original rear shocks have stayed, with the springs chopped allowing for the appropriate drop. I don’t know what people’s thoughts are on cutting springs these days, as I feel a lot of people do it but then won’t admit to it. With a huge increase in people running air or those who prefer to run coilovers, both options aren’t always affordable to everyone. Being a plumbing and heating engineer on minimum wage means keeping things on a budget…



I’ve run cut springs myself on a previous car for a couple of years and I haven’t killed myself or any puppies! I suppose it’s all dependant on how low you go. Charlie said that the Mercedes actually drives really smooth considering, a lot better than his previous Jetta which was on coilovers. Whilst driving to one of the locations for the shoot it involved multiple speed bumps which were tackled with ease, although I’m not sure the story would’ve been the same if he had any passengers!



Charlie has always gone down the static route and like those who go to the extreme, breaks into a smile when getting asked about whether the car is on air ride, even getting the odd appreciative comments from the older generation that we bumped into during the shoot.



Elsewhere, the car has been left as it was from the factory. Wood grain on the dash and centre console, cream (and questionably stained) seats, the bare minimum amount of switches, all straight from the 90’s with a different colour front arm rest that must’ve been fitted by a previous owner somewhere down the line.



Future plans for the Mercedes include overhauling the interior with a wooden Nardi steering wheel and grey or cream leather to bring it a bit more up-to-date, binning the slightly mismatched and tatty fabric interior it has now. Charlie is also debating about switching to an air setup, as right now he is unable to get up his driveway!



If air ride doesn’t go to plan, he’ll be tearing up his existing driveway to make it more low-friendly, now that’s dedication! After all that and it’s still a keeper, Charlie is also thinking about an engine swap with a 3 litre, straight-six M103 engine from the W124 for a bit more grunt.




Before I bought my BMW E30, I was tempted by a 190 myself, so I immediately had a soft spot for Charlie’s car when I first laid eyes on it. Being this low on a set of lovely wheels just makes it all the more appealing. Part of me hopes that Charlie will continue with the static life, but if it looks how it does now and is more suitable on air for his day to day travels and disaster driveway, then so be it. There’s no grudges from us here! Having owned the car for such a short period of time means there’s plenty of scope for progress and future mods, all of which I look forward to seeing.