Motorsports Monday: 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit Swallowtail

There are very few race cars that I instantly fall in love with. A vast majority of them I see as very cool or with unique aspects, but often I’m left feeling as though I would do something – or many things – very different than the builder. But the moment I laid my eyes on this Rabbit, I fell instantly in love. Now, truth told I had already been thinking about an early Volkswagen race car – this time around, my thoughts lingered on some of the Scirocco SCCA racers. Hunkered down with all-too-awesome gold BBS magnesium wheels and a deep air dam, they just look spectacular to me. That feeling instantly transferred to this Rabbit. One of the earliest imported to the U.S., it’s the desirable Swallowtail model which looks much closer to the original Giugiaro design than the later U.S. built examples. There’s something that’s so pretty, so delicate about the early Golf/Rabbit design. It was refreshingly different from what Volkswagen had produced up to that point, but it was also purposeful in its design. With light weight and a dose of sport, these early Rabbits paved the way for what would become the performance arm of Volkswagen, centered around the A1 based GTi. But even before the GTi hit these shores there were plenty of racers that saw the opportunity to race the Rabbit on a budget. This early build was competitive right through the 1980s; in fact, I bet with the right driver it would still be close to the front today:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit on eBay

Motorsports Monday Budget Racers: 944 v. 325is

Let’s be honest; going to the track is a bit of an addiction. Few make it out the other side without having at least contemplated heavy and expensive upgrades to their cars. The symptoms of the illness vary from patient to patient, but most exhibit similar characteristics; starting with a somewhat sporty road car, the owners quickly engage in a series of modifications that will make them “faster”. These modifications nearly always degrade the everyday usefulness of your road-going machine, and ultimately no matter how much you modify a street car, it will still be a compromised design. You simply can’t create a track weapon that is road-legal without some compromise. The result, then, is bobble-headed enthusiasts driving their barely-suspended, over cambered and too loud cars around looking – let’s be truthful – a bit of a fool. What’s a smarter option? Well, if you really want to drive faster on track, you find a slow car that someone has already made into a racer. First off, you’re getting into a more pure track car. They’re not road legal generally, so all of the goodies that make life bearable on the street are gone making them lighter. If the build was done right and well, you’re probably saving a lot of money, too. But the real benefit of getting a slower car is that you’re doing more of the driving – ask any racer, and most will say that extracting maximum performance from a slow car is more rewarding than allowing the computers in your GT-R to obliterate the pavement for you. Two of the most popular German cars to hit the track in are here today – the venerable E30 in 325is form, and the iconic Porsche 944. Which will hit the finish line first?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 BMW 325is on eBay

1991 Audi Coupe Quattro with 17,000 Miles

For me, it’s been a week of some unappreciated cars, and the Audi Coupe Quattro ranks up there as one of the most unappreciated Audis. But unlike the wild turbocharged wonders that were available in the rest of the world, the U.S. market received only the 7A inline-5 20 valve motor. Basically, it was a 16V Volkswagen motor with one more cylinder; with a 7,200 rpm redline, the sonorous 5-pot put out a respectable 164 horsepower. That wasn’t much less than the E30 M3 had and matched U.S. bound turbocharged Quattros – but the power delivery was such that the car didn’t feel fast off the line, and the weight didn’t help. The B3 was hefty, saddled with improved safety options like PROCON-10, anti-lock brakes and a stronger platform, it was also decidedly more luxury oriented with electric seats, sunroof, windows, air conditioning and even an electronic lock for the differential in the rear. It was the 1980s Audis all grown up, but the impression left in many enthusiast’s mouths was that it was a bit soft and a bit slow. Ironically, the 7A even gained a bad reputation amongst enthusiasts as an underpowered unit that lacked torque – but a look at the original power numbers prove it was the most powerful of the non-turbo, non-V8 cars Audi offered at the time. 1992 would see a switch to the B4 platform with the V6 power unit and the end of B3 production; slow sales and a high price meant the Coupe Quattro was removed from the U.S. bound lineup after only a reported 1,500 made it here. Despite their perceived lack of sport, the legendarily stout Coupe Quattros served many of their owners well and many are still kicking around. Only one, though, is in the condition of today’s example:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Audi Coupe Quattro at Sutherland Auto Sales

1990 Volkswagen Passat GL

If the twin B4 Passat GLX VR6 Variants from the other day are a dwindling supply, the odds of running across a serviceable B3 Passat GL today are just about slim to none. While they were fairly expensive at the time, the 2.0 16V motored GL was seemingly a throw-away mid-level luxury car. It was quickly replaced at the top of Volkswagen’s food chain by the short-lived B3 GLX VR6 model – and in general, enthusiasts prefer those. That makes sense since they’re quicker than the early cars – but it also means that the odds of running across one of Volkswagen’s grill-less sedans or wagons is a rare occasion. It’s still neat to see them, though – even though they weren’t the fastest, best looking or best equipped Volkswagen, there were neat and innovative design elements that were incorporated into the B3. It was a huge leap forward from the outgoing Audi-shared B2 platform, a slick design which looked sportier, more angular and aerodynamic, and leagues more modern than the Quantum:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Passat GL on eBay

10K Friday: Practical Performance Edition – S4 Avant v. 944 Turbo v. S600 v. Passat TDi Variant v. M5

One of the things I love most about these 10K posts is the breadth of selections and ideas that I dream up to try to pull together. Today’s thought was about practical performance – what’s the most your can buy for $10,000? As a result, we have quite a diverse selection to make it through today, ranging from a 2.0 TDi gas sipper through a 5.5 liter, twin-turbocharged V12 torque monster. In their respective ways, each is a great car (at least, in premise) and probably defines its category. What’s your favorite of this group?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Audi S4 quattro Avant on eBay

1991 Audi 80 quattro RS2-spec

In the realm of German cars, Audi seems to be the unappreciated marque when you go back a few generations. But even then, amongst the leper colony of Audi products that no one wants, the Audi 80 quattro is close to King. I say close to King, because truth be told I think there are even less appreciated products from this time – the front drive Audi 100, for example. But go to 1991, and within Audi all enthusiasts are generally interested in is the 200 20V quattro, the Coupe quattro, and occasionally someone will mention the V8 quattro 5-speed. The 80 quattro, though, was one of the smartest options if you wanted a robust, small all-wheel drive sedan. True, the switch from B2 to B3 gained a fair amount of weight and not much more power from the NG 2.3 liter inline-5. It felt, if anything, a bit slower off the line than the 4000 quattro had been – a car not noted for it’s straight line dominance. But its unpopularity ironically made it quite popular as a tuning platform; after all, it does share some DNA with the much loved RS2. In this case, the builder of this car has thoroughly upgraded this B3 to new levels of power and performance:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Audi 80 quattro on Classic-Audi.co.uk

Dwindling Supply: 1996 and 1997 Volkswagen Passat GLX VR6 Variants

The Volkswagen Passat has always been a bit of the odd-man out in the Volkswagen lineup. Not as wildly popular as the Golf or as trendy as the Jetta, the Passat has alternated between the smart choice if you wanted quiet and capable German luxury to the odd choice if you just wanted to be a bit different than the norm. Volkswagen also can’t seem to make it’s mind up on which platform it wants to utilize with the Passat; the B1 and B2 generations, for example, shared their DNA with Audis. But with the B3 and B4 generation, Volkswagen moved to its own bag of tricks and developed a new Passat which mixed items from the Mk.2 and Mk.3 Golf chassis. For the B5 and B5.5, once again Volkswagen turned to the upscale Audi platform and the Passat was more popular than ever – effectively, it was a budget Audi A4, right down to the same powertrains and all-wheel drive systems. As effective as the B5/5.5 was for sales, when the B6 launched it was once again a return to the Golf chassis for the new Passat – and now we hang in limbo with a U.S. specific B7 Passat. But if the B5 and B5.5 were popular as a smart and upscale choice for budget Audi fans, the B3 and B4 seemed a bit odd. First there was the B3, with it’s grill-less design. I always thought it was pretty cool, personally, but apparently it offended actual buyers so much that Volkswagen redesigned the car and in 1993 the car received new body panels and a normal grill. That didn’t seem to bring with it massive sales, though – the Passat was still quite expensive and effectively the same size as the Jetta it was sold alongside. There was really only one trump card that the Passat had – denied the Golf Variant in the U.S., it was the only Volkswagen wagon you could buy here at the time:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen Passat GLX VR6 Variant on eBay

Wednesday Wheels Roundup

Time for another wheels roundup, and this time I’m focusing on some rare steering wheels. I have one for each major brand here. The Audi Sport Italvolanti wheel is simply an awesome period piece for an early Quattro and a rare find. It matches the Audi Sport colors from the beginning of the WRC run and would definitely suit a car with brown leather. The Ruf wheel goes down in my book as one best looking wheels out there – I simply love the elegant and simple look of it! The Atiwe wheel is one that I have to admit I don’t think I’ve seen before and would certainly help to set your 80s Benz apart. Speaking of setting apart, the Momo Benetton wheel is one of my all-time favorites. I would love to own a Harlequin Golf just to be able to install that wheel. And then there is the rare Petri 2002 Turbo wheel; a very cool period piece even if it is a bit pricey. Which is your favorite for your dream ride?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: Italvolanti Audi Steering Wheel on eBay

Forbidden Fruit: 1996 Audi S6 Plus Avant

There are plenty of drool-worthy cars that we’re not allow in the U.S.. Yesterday’s Callaway Turbo GTi got me thinking about some of the rare Mk.2s, like the hugely awesome and super rare Golf Limited. But I’m mostly known for my love of Audis, and every time I think about importing a car from Europe, it’s not the RS2 or B5 RS4 that catch my attention. I’m always drawn to the relatively unknown bad boy from quattro GmbH – the S6 Plus. With some revised trim, larger brakes and wheels, a 6-speed manual and a turned up V8 under the hood, this might just be my ultimate grocery getter:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Audi S6 Plus Avant on eBay

Tuner Tuesday: 1978 Mercedes-Benz 350SL Euro-Spec Lorinser

While there are some great tuners from the 1980s whose designs seems classic and timeless, there seem to be many more whose designs are massively polarizing. For every spectacular Ruf, AMG and Alpina that’s out there, there seem to be an equal or greater amount of Gemballas, Stroseks, DPs, Koenigs and Tresers. The modifications they undertook were expensive and generally outrageous. It also seems that often they were discarded by their deep pocketed builders once they were no longer in fashion – if they ever were. But even if they weren’t the most attractive, they’re still cool timepieces to look back on a decade that defined excess through conspicuous consumption. I can’t help but wonder what the trends of today are that we’ll look back upon with the same attitude as we judge the 1980s. One of the tuners that seems to skirt between garish and great is Lorinser – not so wild as the Testarossa vented Koenigs, but generally I’d say not as good looking as the AMGs, either:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 Mercedes-Benz 350SL on eBay