1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SE

1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SE

I’ve been living with my W126 300SE for several months now. In that time I’ve clocked up about 1,500 miles and taken the car on a few road trips in the mid-Atlantic region. Apart from a couple of initial hiccups (which I wrote about here), it has been a pleasure to own and a real joy to drive. Comfortable, stately and classically good looking, my friends joke that all it needs is a set of ambassadorial flags on the front bumper. It’s true that the 3.0 liter motor lacks the low-end torque made by the larger V8 models – I have to use the kick-down switch at the bottom of the throttle pedal more often than I did in my smaller W201. But once up to cruising speeds on the highway, the 300 behaves much like the 420 and 560. The six cylinder M103 motor is robust and relatively easy to fix (except for the fuel injection system, which can be a bloody nightmare when it goes wrong). And the proportions of the short-wheelbase exterior are, to my eye at least, just right.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SE on eBay

1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6

1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6

When I got my first job out of grad school, I needed a cheap daily driver to commute to work. Everyone told me to just buy a Honda and be done with it. But I knew that wasn’t going to work. I wanted something unusual, safe, classy and preferably German. And that’s how I came to buy a W201. I didn’t really know much about them at the time. But a nice looking example popped up for sale near me, and as soon as I drove it I was hooked. The 190E rides like a shrunken S-class: luxurious, sturdy and solid. The straight six motor is creamy and robust. And the design of the car is really quite handsome, under-appreciated even, especially when seen from the rear three-quarter angle. True, the 190E is not fast, the KE-Jetronic fuel injection system is a real pain when it goes wrong and, owing to the gearing on the old school four-speed automatic, the 2.6 is not as fuel efficient as it should be (the 2.3 isn’t much better either). Still, a nicely kept W201 can be a neat and satisfying entry point into budget-friendly German motoring. Provided you pick a good one.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6 on Central NJ Craigslist

1997 BMW M3 Sedan

1997 BMW M3 Sedan

The first BMW to arrive in our family was an Arctic Silver E36. My dad bought the 318iS coupe from the British telecom giant he worked for, some time toward the end of the 90s. It was a manager’s company car and after three years serving on the fleet it was to be sold off. Ever since then, I’ve always enjoyed seeing arctic silver paint on this generation 3-series. Despite articles proclaiming that silver is the new beige, I think the color really suits the clean, crisp lines of the “dolphin” body shape. But the paintwork isn’t the only thing to admire about this particular car – an M3/4/5 (a four door, five speed M3). The sedan version of the E36 M3 is as fast and finely balanced as the coupe, but adds the practicality of two rear doors. A pocket rocket for those with a family to cart around, these cars are fun and practical, even if they are notably down on power in comparison with their Euro-spec counterparts.

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1991 BMW M5

1991 BMW M5

While I love my W126, I miss the E34 that I sold back in May. Mine was only a lowly 525i, but with its tight suspension and fun-to-use 5-speed manual gearbox, it drove more like a go-kart than I was expecting, when I picked it up on a whim. I hope to own another E34 someday, perhaps one with a bit more grunt than my old car had. So I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on the M5 market for a while now. Values on these cars have risen steadily over the last few years, as buyers looking for a bit of old-school, hand-built M GmbH magic have woken up to the charms of this generation 5-series, with its 3.6 liter inline six powerplant. Of course, this means that an E34 M5 will most likely be out of reach before I can afford one. But for those with cash on hand right now, the last year or so has seen a steady supply of neat examples coming to market. Right now, buyers looking for a tidy, daily-driver quality example can expect to pay between $15,000 and $20,000. Grab one while you can.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW M5 on eBay

1988 BMW 735i

1988 BMW 735i

You don’t see many E32s on the road anymore. Most have been consigned to the junk yard by now. That’s a shame. With this generation 7-series, BMW hewed close to the guiding principles that served it well back in the day, when it offered cars with simple, unfussy styling and a brawny but somewhat subdued road presence. The V12-powered 750iL was marvelous when running right but monstrously expensive to fix when it broke. The “entry level” 735i, on the other hand, was powered by the notoriously robust, inline six M30 engine. Displacing 3.4 liters, it’s the same motor that found its way into the 535i and 635CSi of the same period. With about 208 hp on tap to move around a car weighing about 3,500 lbs, it was no performance behemoth. But it certainly cost less to run than its larger-engined siblings. That makes this nicely kept 735i the perfect candidate for use as an interesting daily driver.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 735i on eBay

1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

The more I stare at the 2.3-16, the more I realize just how right Mercedes-Benz got it with the design of this car. The starting point was already a good one. The stock 190E, with its restrained, angular good looks and taut lines, brought Mercedes’s design language out of the 70s and firmly into the 80s. But the flared wheel arches, revised valences and rear deck spoiler found on the 2.3-16 turn the staid W201 into a car that looks ready to go racing. Which it did, first as a rally car and, when that didn’t work out, at the DTM. Power came from a version of the M102 2.3 liter four pot engine – later enlarged to 2.5 liters in the European market – breathed on by British tuning company Cosworth. But despite the looks and pedigree, the 2.3-16 has never attracted the same kind of attention or following as its obvious competitor, the E30 M3. The market for these is pretty spotty. They don’t appear very frequently and when they do, many of them have been battered and broken by neglectful owners. Still, every now and again a really nice one pops up.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 on eBay

1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 3.2 AMG

1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 3.2 AMG

One of the first cars to be produced following the official merger between AMG and Mercedes-Benz was the 190E AMG 3.2. These cars came with an aggressive bodykit, giving the W201 a wedge-shaped profile reminiscent of the infamous W124 Hammer, and an enlarged version of the M103 six cylinder motor, bored out to 3.2 liters to produce about 234 hp. Only around 200 of these were made, so the chances of finding one today are slim. However, for a time AMG continued to offer an à la carte menu of upgrades for Mercedes customers to choose from. As a result, a number of W201s were specified with an idiosyncratic mixture of AMG styling and performance parts. This 190E for example, for sale near Stuttgart in Germany, combines an almost bone stock exterior with an AMG-modified motor, making for the ultimate sleeper.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E AMG 3.2 on Mobile.de

1985 Mercedes-Benz 500SEC

1985 Mercedes-Benz 500SEC

When I brought home a nautical blue W126 last month, I was pretty chuffed to find a car in such an attractive and unusual color. But ever since then, I’ve been seeing nautical blue Benzes pop up left, right and center. I hadn’t really noticed them before, but it turns out that color code 929 isn’t as rare as I first thought. Still, it is gorgeous, and looks just as nice on the C126 coupe as it does on my W126 sedan. This particular car was spotted by fellow contributor Andrew H. It’s a Euro-spec 500SEC, powered by a version of the 5.0 liter M117 motor unsaddled by US emissions restrictions. That means it should be good for about 250 hp, give or take. Performance won’t be blistering – the SEC is more of a grand tourer than a sports car – but that motor is definitely more potent than the one offered in the US-spec 500 from the same period.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Mercedes-Benz 500SEC on eBay

1991 Opel Lotus Omega

1991 Opel Lotus Omega

The first generation Omega was a mid-sized luxury car offered in Europe by Opel, the German subsidiary of GM, between 1986 and 1993. Sold in Britain under the Vauxhall marque and rebadged as the Carlton, my friend’s dad had a mid spec model when I was growing up. I always thought of it as a poor-man’s BMW 5-series. And I don’t mean that in a bad way: it was actually a pretty admirable car, offering luxury features to the masses like ABS, an on-board computer and a dazzling (at the time) LCD instrument display. I suspect most people by now have forgotten all about them. But there is one very special edition of the Omega/Carlton that enthusiasts of my age could never forget, the one breathed on by Lotus. The British sports car manufacturer took the hottest version of the car, the 3000 GSi, enlarged the 3.0 liter 24v motor to 3.6 liters, added two Garratt T25 turbo chargers, a six speed manual gearbox taken from a Corvette and an aggressive bodykit. The result was a menacing and breathtakingly quick uber sedan, with 377 hp on tap and a top speed of 177 MPH.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Opel Lotus Omega on mobile.de

1993 Mercedes-Benz 500E

1993 Mercedes-Benz 500E

As followers of my posts will know, I love cars that conceal their heightened performance behind austere exterior styling. The 500E is a particular favorite of mine. Around 1,500 of these were imported to the US between 1991 and 1994. Based on the W124 chassis E-class, the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” was the product of a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. The chassis would pass back and forth between the two manufacturers as it was assembled: the car got beefier brakes from the SL, upgraded suspension, a wider track and a glorious 5.0 liter V8 motor. A 0-60 MPH sprint time of about 5.5 seconds, top speed of 160 MPH and total power output of around 322 hp might not sound all that impressive now. But those were very respectable numbers for the time, especially for such a large sedan. By the mid-2000s, the 500E had become somewhat overlooked, passed over by many in favor of the BMW M5. But in the last five years there has been a resurgence of interest in these cars. Values have begun to climb as a result.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Mercedes-Benz 500E on eBay

1991 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC

1991 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC

The C126, the coupe based on the W126 S-class, is a firm favorite around here. And for good reason: the lines penned by famed designer Bruno Sacco have aged very well, and these cars still command great road presence even today. With the C126, you get the stately good looks and bank-vault build quality of an S-class, but repackaged into a slinky, pillarless bodyshape. Collectors might want to park their money in ultra low mileage examples. But I think these cars deserve to be driven and enjoyed – they’re wonderful grand tourers, ideal for covering vast distances while keeping the passengers inside cosseted in safety, comfort and style.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC on eBay

1979 Mercedes-Benz 280S

1979 Mercedes-Benz 280S

Produced between 1972 and 1980, the W116 was the first car from Mercedes to officially bear the name “S-class.” Representing the pinnacle of luxury, safety and German engineering in the period, American customers could choose from several gasoline-powered V8s: a 3.5 liter unit in the 350SE/L, a 4.5 liter unit in the 450 SE/L and a gargantuan 6.9 liter unit in the infamous, high performance 6.9 SEL. But in Europe, the car was also available in base spec as the 280S, powered by a carbureted (rather than fuel injected) version of the M110 2.8 liter straight six.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 Mercedes-Benz 280S on UK eBay

1991 Mercedes-Benz 500SL

1991 Mercedes-Benz 500SL

The R129, produced between 1989 and 2002, is a bit of an odd duck. It’s too old for those in the market for a roadster with modern levels of power and convenience. But it’s not yet old enough (or rare enough) to be of interest to collectors or vintage aficionados. The upshot is that a nice example can be had for relatively little money and it might well appreciate in value over the coming decade, following R107 values through the roof. The 600SL was the halo car of the lineup, with a monster of a V12 under the hood. But the 500SL – powered by a 5.0 liter V8 that developed a perfectly usable 320 hp – is where real value for money can be found. Perhaps not as sporting as one would hope, these SLs nonetheless continue in a long line of high quality boulevard cruisers known for their high precision engineering, longevity and classic good looks.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Mercedes-Benz 500SL on eBay

1980 Mercedes-Benz 230TE

1980 Mercedes-Benz 230TE

For many, the W123 remains the definitive Mercedes-Benz. With an iconic silhouette, invincible build quality and well-deserved reputation for durability, these cars can still be spotted on the road today, serving as daily drivers and usable classics. In fact, there’s a mint condition 300D in smoke silver that I see driven around my neighborhood on a regular basis. Looking like it just rolled out of a showroom, the owner is a young professional who I would guess is in his mid-thirties. Now that is a man with good taste. The estate bodyshape adds a useful amount of cargo space in the rear, making it the perfect choice for a stylish trip to the beach (or the lumber yard). To the uninitiated, they might just look like old wagons, but prices for mint examples can quickly reach into the high teens.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 Mercedes-Benz 230TE on North Jersey Craigslist

1991 BMW M5

1991 BMW M5

The E28 M5 that Carter wrote up the other day was a nice piece of kit. But the E34 remains my favorite version of the M-powered 5-series. Sure, it was heavier than it’s predecessor. But even with the additional heft, the dynamic chassis and dialled-in suspension setup meant it was still a spritely, potent car. It was also subtle, distinguished from lower models only by a few, discreet M-badges, restyled lower valances and unique alloys. That’s no bad thing. Super sedans should be understated, in my view, and the conservatively styled E34 was handsome then and remains so now. That understated exterior conceals a glorious, screaming 3.6 liter inline six, replete with six individual throttle bodies, a motor that was good for just over 300 hp when new.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW M5 on eBay