We caught up with Mica Dori and her custom engraved modified Mercedes 190E to learn all about the build and what’s next for it.
Cars, and especially modified cars are an expression of oneself. Whether it turns us into the racing driver we always knew we were, adds to the street cred or just acts as a perfectly sensible way to burn time and money, any project car is a pursuit of the ultimate car that says everything about you, without saying anything at all. a
Very often, like our view of ourselves, a modified car is never finished, there’s always imperfections that could be improved or new components that could be added, as ever, we’re our own worst critics. Overcoming her own internal battles through a unique type of therapy only cars can offer, Mica Dori took the bull by the horns and gifted our eyeballs with this stunning engraved modified Mercedes 190E.
A soft spot for the 190E
As a tattoo artist, Mica is no stranger to intricate design and hours of dedication to create a masterpiece. And it’s in a tattoo shop where she worked many moons ago that her 190E obsession began. She explains, “There was this old couple that lived locally and they went past the tattoo shop at the same time everyday in this white 190E.” This familiar stock Mercedes became something of a passion and she found herself glued to the window every time they drove by. So, at the first opportunity she got, Mica found her very own white Mercedes 190E.
Just like the couple’s car, it was stock apart from a replacement steering wheel. Mica professed she was looking for a completely stock example so this was a crafty bargaining chip to knock £100 off the asking price. With just enough money to buy, fuel and MOT the car, this was Mica’s first steps towards this incredible build.
Modified plans for the Mercedes 190E
To begin with it was a daily driver for a couple of years so naturally, “I always had a spare outfit and a graffiti can in the boot.” As a true artist at heart, merely modifying a car wouldn’t be a true reflection of Mica, but she didn’t have a clear vision of this engraved beauty when she first embarked on modifying the car.
Deliberating what to do with it, an idea sparked and she wondered if her tattooing skills could be channeled into engraving. “It started with the window trim, I took it off and bought an engraving kit off Amazon thinking, ‘how hard can it be?’” With no prior experience or solid plan in mind, Mica sat down and started engraving. Although metal is a slightly different medium to skin, after some familiarization, she quickly got the hang of it.
“The window trim looked sick when it was back on the car so I gradually took parts off and started engraving them.” Talking with Mica, she makes it sound straightforward, she looks at engraving metal in the same way as tattooing people. She even says engraving aluminum is the closest feeling to tattooing skin. Whilst most of the designs are patterns, there’s a few hidden words and phrases dotted around the car. Look closely and the rear window trim says “big d*ck energy” which is definitely a prerequisite of owning a car like this.
Thanks to hundreds of hours of engraving over the past few years, Mica’s now got the process down. It starts with removing whichever part is up for engraving treatment, getting it polished and then it’s just a matter of hours – or days, depending how big the part is – before it’s transformed into a unique piece of art.
Engraving the modified Mercedes 190E engine
The biggest part of the build so far was engraving the engine. “One summer I decided that’s what I was going to do so I didn’t stop until it was done. I didn’t have any social life, I was just focused on finishing the engine.” In total, Mica reckons it took between 400 to 500 hours to complete.
With the help of Nic, Jake and Ellis at 187 Automotive, the build has grown mechanically alongside the design work. During the build, Mica moved her tattoo studio to 187, so constantly surrounded by art and cars, the project flourished with long hours after work. As the number of engraved parts grew, so did the modified elements of the car. The stock engine was replaced with a M104 3.2-litre unit. At first, they weren’t sure if the new engine would even fit but there’s always a little wiggle room to squeeze in a new power plant. Before, it was sitting at 220bhp and now, pending dyno confirmation, Mica reckons it’s around 260bhp. It was installed with future upgrades in mind too so there’s potential for turbo in the future.
Externally, one of the early mods was an Airlift V2 air ride setup. The lowrider, chola vibe is what inspired the car’s nickname ‘Papi’, hence the plate adorned with its name. At the back, 187 fitted all red rear lights with heckblende which is a great contrast against the arctic white paintwork. It’s got custom front and rear bumpers and the AMG side skirts were modified slightly to allow for a side exhaust. Mica wanted the rear to have clean, uninterrupted lines and this meant the exhaust had to go. It’s details like this that set an artist’s car apart. And of course, the main attraction: the engine. So it can always be the center of attention, we don’t need to tell you that Papi’s got a custom bonnet.
Inside, the interior has been suitably pimped out in a red and white theme with oxblood red leather seats and white seatbelts. The stock gear shift has been replaced with a knuckle duster, the steering wheel spokes are engraved and there’s a custom 187 horn button in the center. Both interior handles are engraved with the left saying “Mo’ money” and the right finishes the phrase: “Mo’ problems”.
There’s fewer areas to engrave inside so Mica hand painted the headliner to make it pop in the same way. Where possible, she’s planning to replace wood components with aluminum to increase the engravable surface area inside. Essentially, anything that can be engraved will be and anything that can’t will be swapped out to something engravable.
This modified Mercedes 190E project has been Mica’s outlet to deal with difficult times in her life so she plans to keep it forever as a monument to overcoming these challenges and channeling it into creating something truly incredible. Over the coming years this 190E will undoubtedly reach a stage where every conceivable aspect is engraved. Ultimately, Mica says, “I want to drive it as a daily again, shooting 3 meter flames out the side.”