There are nearly infinite avenues to explore in the world of cars. One that has become particularly fascinating as it has evolved is the stance movement. It involves taking a car and focusing on building the cleanest execution possible, fitting rare wheels built to insane specs, and giving the suspension necessary modifications to emulate concept drawings and touring cars. To be as low, as fitted, as cambered, and as clean as you are capable of building is to create a stance car. Bogdan’s 190e is the perfect example and an excellent representation of this style.
A little more than a year ago, Bogdan was driving a Saturn Vue as his daily. After a breakup left him needing something to fill his time, he began looking for a car to buy. During that search, the memories of his interest in cars at a young age came back. With no-one in his family being involved in any way with cars, the inspiration to build something had to come from somewhere else.
Bogdan grew up in Russia until when he was 10, he moved with his family here to the States. As a child, he was infatuated with cars. During his formative years, he pointed out anything interesting whenever he was on the road, collecting hot wheels and model cars, and generally finding cars extremely intriguing, as many of us can likely relate. It wasn’t until that breakup that his real enthusiasm would manifest. Through pain, rather than develop destructive tendencies, he sought to spend his time creatively and allow his emotions to express themselves in the largest artistic project he’d ever considered. This led to a massive, if non-directional, search for a car that would consume his attention.
During some online browsing, he stumbled across old Mercedes Benz models from the 60’s and 70’s. Having the intelligence to know those would be bigger projects than he could handle, he kept looking, but now had Mercedes’ boxy, luxurious, style cemented in his brain. As he kept searching, he also diligently researched. Being only 19, Bogdan didn’t grow up with DTM racing, Touring Cars, Group A rally racing, or any of the series’ that inspired many of us to pursue this era and style of cars. Instead, he found old DTM footage himself and required nothing else to encourage his decision. He needed a 190e.
Months later, he found one. It wasn’t perfect, it needed interior work, maintenance, and a decent bit of rust repair, but it captured his attention. Despite being a novice, he was armed with months of research and a determination to build something that he could enjoy. He arranged to purchase it and took his first steps into a larger world.
It was the boxy, 80’s, European style that caught his eye and the DTM roots that inspired Bogdan to build a 190e. However, the idea for following the doctrine of stance simply came from the massive amount of internet research he conducted during his buying process. Somewhere along the way, fender to lip fitment on vintage wheels spoke to him. With that, he began to plan the work on his new 190e.
Once the car was in his hands, he settled into the painstaking process of making it roadworthy. Rust repair was a major part of his build. He wanted something that was both strikingly beautiful and true to the original designs of the 190e, but didn’t lose the character his particular car had developed through decades of driving. Through no small effort, he cleaned up the engine bay, something many stance builds overlook, sourced the missing or worn interior components, and watched his Mercedes come together. However, it isn’t about the restoration, it’s about creating something that is distinctly his. It needed the right stance, the right attention to detail, and most importantly, the right wheels.
Through some late-night searching, he found the showpiece for his car. Work VSKFs in 17” diameter that would sit perfectly under his boxy fenders. He had discovered the popular, if difficult to find, set of wheels months before buying his Merc and decided he would at some point have a set for himself, but he never expected to find a set on a Japanese classifieds site buried twenty pages deep on search results for an absolute steal. Naturally, he jumped at the chance and sent money overseas with the hope that he would receive his beloved Works.
With stance builds, the wheels are the central focus. They aren’t where the majority of the work is applied (in most cases,) but they are what your eye notices first and what differentiates your car from another on the surface. When Bogdan finally received his dream wheels, he knew a rebuild would be necessary to make them everything he wanted, but never expected the nightmare that would only end after surviving weeks of sleepless nights.
Vintage wheels, especially three-piece variants, are a tough and punishing game to play. When the VSKFs arrived at his door, they were trash specs, covered in a healthy amount of pitting, and displaying that familiar rust Bogdan had come to despise after spending the time cleaning up his 190e. With no real network and just his ingenuity, he had to make a plan that would end with the wheels on his car looking the way he wanted.
Sadly, as many of us have likely experienced, not everyone in the automotive world shares our passion for perfection or sees the intrinsic value of cars. A shop he found run by a recent acquaintance he made at a local car show convinced him they were the right folks to split his Works and cut the welded halves apart for Bogdan to begin rebuilding. In a trusting and optimistic state, Bogdan agreed to a price and handed them over.
Over a month later, he finally heard from the shop that the wheels had been split. When he arrived, he found that the shop had split the wheels incorrectly and cut them in the wrong spot. Horrified and disillusioned, he immediately set to work attempting to rectify the misfortune. It took calling experts to convince them to correct the mistake, which he inevitably had to fork over more money for, and resulted in a valuable lesson that many of us have learned first-hand as well: not everyone in our community shares our diligent research, knowledge, and enthusiasm.
After that ordeal, through no small effort and months of waiting, the morning that faded the nightmare into memory arrived and he at least had his wheel faces and barrels ready for new lips and hardware. With fresh air suspension installed and only a few days before it’s debut show, Bogdan finished the wheels. He experienced a major moment of victory and relief as he watched the tires mount on the VSKFs and finally mate to his car, completing the build.
Riverside, Chattanooga this year was the 190e’s first show, and where I had the pleasure of meeting Bogdan. At 19, he is just stepping into this world. His car and his work, however, speak volumes to his clear passion and meticulous nature as an artist as well as depict the amazing level of growth he has experienced in such a short time. Unfortunately, with Riverside canceled, it was yet another in a string of setbacks he has met during his inauguration into the car world. I can’t think of a more difficult time and more stressful way to find yourself in this world, but somehow, that hasn’t turned Bogdan away.
Finally, after over a year building, cursing, and patiently waiting, his 190e found itself at the center of attention. His acceptance to the Slammedenuff Nashville showcase brought him once again down to Tennessee where this time, everything went according to plan. Better, even. His work, his hours of effort, and a reflection of his personality were there, inside, for all to appreciate. With nothing damping his success, simply being selected for the main showcase and being among builds that have tens of thousands invested and more than a decade of experience on him is no small feat, especially for someone who did not grow up in the car community.
From an extreme low-point, he found his passion in cars. Through struggle and experiences with those who give our community a distrustful nature, he never lost sight of his goals. Even when his moment of triumph was supposed to finally happen, completely unrelated circumstances in the world sullied that accomplished feeling he was owed. But his patience, his optimism, and his unwavering dedication were able to yield a wonderful and surprising result.
A humble man, Bogdan is not the type to expect recognition or seek attention in his efforts. That’s what makes the selection of his 190e for ‘Best Euro’ at Slammedenuff so wholesome. His first ‘official’ show with the car provided Bogdan the gratification he rightly deserved. Nothing could be more appropriate as a welcome to our community after the countless hours of painstaking work he invested in his build. With his trophy in hand, Bogdan has physical vindication that, even through hardships, with patience and determination, life will eventually recognize your efforts.
Now, Bogdan is looking forward to more adventures in his 190e. He is eager to learn and wants nothing more than to become entirely self-reliant as he grows in this culture. His next project will be diving into the engine internals and fully rebuilding the 30-year-old engine. If his pas work is any indication as to what we can expect, his attention to detail will shine through with this next project and begin to take on new levels as he and his car grow together. It’s a never-ending process with us enthusiasts, and even though we may have those low points where we can’t see how anything will ever work in our favor, if we simply remember why we do it, we will eventually experience the victories that keep us going.
Photography: Bogdan Kharitonov @boogie_bk