The Marvel that's Oettinger Tuning

The Marvel that's Oettinger Tuning

“Oettinger, that’s a VW tuner!” Well, yes they are but there is so much more to the story. This story begins in the small garage of the Oettinger family in Frankfurt, Germany. It was there where their son Gerhard Oettinger started tuning VW beetles after WWII. Having a mechanical engineering degree he had been a test engineer working on Daimler-Benz aircrafts during the end of the war. He quickly outgrew the family garage and moved to Friedrichsdorf, just outside Frankfurt where Oettinger remains till this day. Oettinger started out as OKRASA which stood for Oettinger Kraftfahrtechniche Spezialanstalt. Translated to English this means; Really Aggressive and Special Cars done by Oettinger. In the racing world this meant; the ultimate Volkswagen Beetle tuner.

What started with building faster Beetle engines developed in a close working relationship with the Wolfsburg factory. By 1974 when the Golf was released, Oettinger had become an influential player in the German automotive aftermarket. VW had given him access to the Golf Mk1 six months before it’s official debut. When the car went to market, Oettinger’s tuning programs and conversions accompanied the cars.

In the late 1970’s Oettinger’s OKRASA was offering 1.8 Liter and 2.0 Liter conversions for the Golf GTI. More importantly it had 16 valve cylinder heads in production even before the think tank in Wolfsburg considered this as an option. The OKRASA cylinder heads where in fact so good that it became the solution of the French department of VW. They were very concerned about the Renault 5 that Marcello Gandini was designing. VW of France had asked the men in Wolfsburg for a more powerful GTI and, OKRASA delivered.

Their 16 valve cylinder head retained the standard cog-tooth belt drive, so it required no modification to the block itself. It ran the second camshaft via a gear and belt off of that cam. This was all very in line with Oettinger’s philosophy, Oettinger believes that the construction of a high-performance vehicle lies not in pushing every aspect of the vehicle to its limits, but harmonizing all parts to create a better automobile without destroying what was created at the factory and came from the minds of the designers.

They did more great things (although it’s hard to top the creation of the world’s first series produced 16 valve engine head), like adding Audi to the roster and changing the name to Oettinger Technik GmbH. They also did a couple of Mercedes-Benz engines. And they did it in an spectacular way. The guys who came up with the Golf GTI 16v before VW did, are the guys you want to start tinkering with your M102 engine.

Something happened in September 1983 at the Frankfurt Motor Show that got people who drove a 2 Liter 16V Oettinger Golf really excited and then a bit later not so much anymore. 1983 was the year the Mercedes Benz 190E 2.3-16 was presented to the world. 1984 was the year it got launched. The fact that the “Oettinger crowd” was disappointed wasn’t because the W201 was a bad car. It was great, just civilized compared to Oettinger’s brutal GTI 16V. The crowd turned to Gerhard who isn’t the sort of men to let his clients down, so he went to work.

The Mercedes-Benz 2.3-16 M102.983 engine is based on the 4L 8 valve 2.3 Liter M102.985 producing 136 Hp (101Kw). The British firm Cosworth developed an outstanding cylinder head for this engine, made from light alloy using Cosworth’s unique casting process. They further added dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. These 16 valves were developed to be the largest that could practically be fitted into the combustion chamber.

This all didn’t Impressed Gerhard Oettinger and his team. They took a M102.983 and increased the displacement of the engine to 2.6 liter (2593cc) thanks to a crankshaft with an extended stroke of 90.5 mm instead of 80.25 mm, re-machining of the cylinder head and forged bowl pistons. This tune up resulted in 211 Hp instead of 183 Hp or 167 Hp for US models. The torque was also increased to 286 Nm. When they presented their masterpiece in 1986 the Baby Benz could now sped to a 100 Km/h in 7.1 seconds and in 27.6 it would take it all the way to 238 Km/h. The 2.6/16 as it was badged would set you back around DM 66.000,- or EUR 33.000,- but you would own the meanest naturally aspirated W201 on the market at that moment.

Right around this time Oettinger put another tuning program in the market for the W201 based on the M102.961 4L 2.0 Liter 8 valve. The engine was turned in a 2.3 Liter with 148 Hp and 215 Nm of torque. Quickly followed by another tuning program for the M102.961. This time they turned it in a 2.4 Liter with 159 Hp and 220 Nm of torque. This all had to do with emissions and tax brackets. An added bonus to this tuning meant the long fifth gear of the DB transmission could be fully used due to the power that was now available. The car was capable of 210 Km/h and could go from 0-100 in under 10 seconds.

In August 1988 Mercedes launched the 190E 2.5-16 with a 204 Hp (150 Kw) M102.990. And again the Friedrichsdorf motor magicians responded with a different crankshaft of 94.5 mm and dropped it in a M102.983. The Oettinger 2.8/16 was born. It now had 215 hp and a torque of 275 Nm. The gen 2 model accelerated from 0-100 Km/h in less than 7 seconds and ran almost 240 Km/h. The versions without a catalytic converter produced 225 Hp and a torque of 280 Nm. Once more they had the meanest naturally aspirated W201 on the market.

When Mercedes introduced the M103 engine in 1984 it was received very well. The engine came in a 2.6 Liter and a 3.0 Liter version and the big Mercedes tuning companies started developing tuning programs for it. AMG developed a 3.0 Liter version with 223 Hp (165 Kw) and 282 Nm of torque and a 3.2 Liter version that you can read about in our article about the 190E 3.2 AMG. Brabus took it a bit further with the 3.6-12 and 3.6-24S.

Companies like Carlsson and Vaeth soon followed with their M103 3.6 Liter versions and companies like Mosselman and Lotec started developing turbo tuning programs. Oettinger decided to see what they could do with the 6 line M103. Their 3.6/12 as it was going to be called was 3607cc in size. The Brabus 3.6 was just 3565cc and the Carlsson and Vaeth 3525cc. Besides having the biggest engine volume there was a chrome-molybdenum crankshaft and some forged pistons. They did some machining of the head and modified the exhaust manifold. With a compression of 10:1 it now produced 240 Hp and 355 Nm of torque. Tame compared to the 272 Hp and 290 Hp of the Brabus engine but also a lot cheaper at DM 83.558,- or EUR 41.779,-. Half of what a Brabus would set you back.

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