“As a tattooist, what better way to make my car a representation of myself than to tattoo it? Even its heart, you know?”
I could leave the article there, to be honest. Because nothing I say will sum up Mica Dori‘s Mercedes-Benz 190 E better than how she does it herself. But obviously I’m not going to leave it there, because someone needs to share the incredible details on this rolling work of art.
I teased the car after my recent visit to 187 Automotive in Wales, where it was built. Papi, as the W201 is affectionately known, is a seamless blend of automotive cultures and styles, one that blew me away when I saw it at FittedUK 2022 for its big reveal.
Mica’s 190 E has more in common with Chicano lowrider culture than it does with European Mercedes modifying scene, yet it’s decidedly more restrained.
Externally, the car has had a full respray in Mercedes-Benz 147 Arcticweiß (Arctic White) with a custom body kit adding depth to the 190 E’s profile.
W201s are very well proportioned three-box saloons, and this kit ramps up the aggression of the shape without going overboard. Notice how smooth the 190 E’s rear is, free from disruptions across the strong horizontal lines.
Fully red taillights and a red heckblende (the matching trim between the lights) are partly responsible for the minimalist, defined tail.
But in my eyes, the lack of an exposed exhaust at the back of the car is what really sets it off.
Does a 190 E need a side-exit exhaust? No, it doesn’t. Does a side-exit exhaust make Mica’s 190 E infinitely cooler? Yes, it does. Especially as it’s been integrated so smoothly into the deep side skirts.
Papi sits on a set of custom Work Carving Head wheels, stepped up from 14- to 17-inch with engraved faces and wild Mariachi centre caps.
The wheels tuck nicely into the arches thanks to a custom-built air suspension setup controlled by Air Lift Performance 3P management, as well as adjustable camber arms built in-house at 187 Automotive.
100-spoke Dayton wire wheels may have been a step too far for a Mercedes, but these Carving Heads are a ridiculous design which suit the build to a tee. Who’d have thought the ideal set of wheels for a Euro/West Coast lowrider mash-up would be a set of of Japanese split rims?!
Behind the multi-spoke faces are a set of AMG 4-piston callipers.
The interior of Mica’s W201 is just as special as the bodywork, full of custom touches.
In fact, every single surface and panel of the interior is bespoke.
The Nardi steering wheel has been engraved by Mica herself in a heavy nod to Chicano lowriders, with a brass 187 Automotive badge replacing the horn button. White seatbelts tie the cabin to the exterior of the car, whilst the knuckle-duster gear lever adds a bit of ‘f**k you’ aggression.
Papi’s interior is from a 190 E Cosworth, and has been retrimmed in ox-blood leather with suede inserts on the door cards. I’m not usually a fan of red leather in a white car, but the near-burgundy shade used here works well against the neutral white paint.
More engraving work features on the door handles of the 190 E, front and rear…
…clearly taking inspiration from the crossover between West Coast car and music culture. You have to look up to see the most impressive part of Papi’s interior though.
A script mural, hand-painted by Mica herself, elevates the cabin beyond what a ‘simple retrim’ can offer, no matter how good the leatherwork. Yet another example of Mica’s creative personality on display.
And even then, the bespoke headlining absolutely pales in comparison to the attention to detail and effort that Mica has put into the metalwork on the car…
…as evidenced by these lads who were walking away after getting a close look at the engine bay. That’s a dropped jaw if ever I’ve seen one.
It’s a totally understandable reaction though. Just look at that six-cylinder jewel on display through the bonnet cut-out.
I’m not even going to try to play it cool; this is arguably the most impressive engine bay I have ever seen on a show car.
I was absolutely stunned when I saw it for the first time, and even now I can still feel my amazement looking at these photos.
What you’re looking at here is a 3.2-litre Mercedes-Benz M104 engine that has been stripped, cleaned, polished and engraved to a standard that would put some jewellers to shame.
Mica did every bit of engraving herself, learning and improving her technique as she went. We’re talking over 500 hours of work here.
Every ancillary has been removed and received the same treatment before fitting. Parts such as nuts, bolts and mounts which weren’t polished and engraved have been zinc, copper or chrome-plated in Mica’s quest for perfection.
I like to think I have an eye for detail, but it’s safe to say I was overwhelmed when looking at the minutiae of Mica’s work.
Would you have the patience to engrave a several-hundred kilogram block of metal for no functional reason for over 500 hours? I know I wouldn’t.
500 hours. That’s over 20 days with a Dremel in hand, grinding dot after dot after dot after dot after…
Every angle you look into the engine bay at reveals another part that’s been polished, plated or engraved. I’m surprised the fan belt isn’t hand-painted to be honest.
Mica is also one of the friendliest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in the UK car scene, and she was more than happy to walk me around the car for an in-depth chat before covering it up after setup night.
“My car looks the way it does because, as I get told a lot, I’m a little bit flamboyant, and I wanted my car to be a representation of myself. I want people to look at my car and know it’s mine.”
“I think a lot of people in ‘the scene’ build what they think others want, whereas I did exactly what I wanted, to be truly special for myself, you know?”
“Being creative and having a creative flow makes me who I am. I can’t leave things be, I have to put my own spin on them!”
Sunday was reveal time to the general public, and the reception was about as wild as you can imagine.
Upon realising just what was in the engine bay, the crowd rushed in to get a closer look. Of course, being a British crowd, everyone was very polite and let one another take photos without getting in the way. Unless they were in front of me, that is.
Couples such as Mica and Nic don’t pop up that often, and the results of their partnership speak for themselves.
“Having me and Nic together, we’re both creative people, we spur each other on to do that little bit extra all the time,” says Mica. “You know one of us will be like ‘C’mon let’s go home now it’s 2:00am!’ Most people will do a 9-5, but why not do a 9-9 and keep going?”
This Mercedes-Benz is definitely what it was intended to be: a show car with as much attitude as its owner. I really can’t wait to what Mica does next.