Double Take: Mercedes-Benz 300SE

Double Take: Mercedes-Benz 300SE

I planned to leave the W126 300SE alone for a while since I’ve posted quite a number of these over the last few months. But I couldn’t resist when I noticed not one, but two really nice examples pop up on eBay this week. While these short wheelbase, six cylinder cars are often overlooked in favor of the 420 and 560 SEL, they offer all the class and sophistication of the larger models with somewhat lower running costs, making the 300 a nice entry point for W126 ownership. They certainly don’t have the power of the V8. But on the plus side, the M103 motor is famously stout and will run forever without needing too much work. The only real weak spot is the headgasket, which tends to need replacing every 150k miles or so. I’ve test-driven a few of these recently myself, and I was pleasantly surprised by the driving experience. The 3.0 liter engine provided more shove on the backroads than I was expecting, certainly enough to get the car moving, even if it won’t win any drag races. And out on the highway it cruised effortlessly, which is what these cars are all about.

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

Triple Take: 1987 Porsche 924S

Triple Take: 1987 Porsche 924S

If you wanted to dip into the Stuttgart catalog in 1987, Porsche offered you a slightly less expensive option with the reintroduction of the budget-friendly 924S. For about $2,000 more than a loaded Audi Coupe GT, you could treat yourself to a real Porsche! And unlike the original 924, the “S” designation really did add some substance to the bargain offering. Though the basic shape and dashboard were retained from the 2.0 version of the late 1970s and early 1980s, little else was. The 924S instead was effectively a 944 underneath; minus the flares, but with the important upgraded suspension, brakes and 2.5 liter Porsche motor installed.

While the 924S was a sales success in general, it was particularly so in the United States; over half (9,137) of the 16,669 924Ss produced were sold here despite it only being available for two of the three production years! Yet the 924S has never really been accepted by the Porsche world, and few aspire to save up enough to buy one. That means, generally speaking, they’ve remained the most affordable way into a true Porsche. Despite that, it’s not uncommon to find well loved, lower mile and very clean examples up for sale today. For your consideration, I have three Guards Red with Porsche script examples from the 1987 model year to compare – which one is the best bargain Stuttgarter?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Porsche 924S on eBay

Signature Color Face-Off: 2004 v. 2007 Audi S4 Avants

Signature Color Face-Off: 2004 v. 2007 Audi S4 Avants

The S4 Avant is no stranger to these pages, offering enthusiasts a “have-your-cake-and-throw-it-squarely-at-that-M3-owner’s-face-too” package which combined functionality and sport in a very discrete wrapper. Well, for the most part they were discrete; most were ordered in shades of gray because a fair amount of people ponying up new were conservative with everything but the money they were paying for this small executive wagon. Lightly optioned, an S4 Avant was north of $50,000 in 2004, a price today that would having you knocking on the A7 and S6’s base price. That sticker shock masks that the B6 and B7 represented a huge price increase over the B5 generation; out the door, the cost on average about 20% – 30% more only 3 years later – but then, they offered a full 90 horsepower advantage over the twin-turbocharged V6 with that awesome 4.2 V8, which of course could still be combined with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Subtle though the exterior colors may be, the performance on tap was anything but.

But some enterprising individuals chose the vivid colors which had become the signature of the model in B5 form. Nogaro Blue Pearl Effect was, of course, the go-to for all things fast Audi since it was originally called RS Blue on the original super Avant RS2. But a nearly equal amount were requested in Imola Yellow, a staggering, retina-burning banana-toned shade that seems initially out of character with a family wagon, yet raises the cool-bus level to 11. Though Nogaro was replaced in the B7 chassis refresh with Sprint Blue Pearl Effect, Imola carried over for the end of the V8s.

Today, I have one of each – so which is your style?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Audi S4 Avant on eBay

BMW 635CSi Face-off: High mileage US-Spec vs. Low mileage Euro

BMW 635CSi Face-off: High mileage US-Spec vs. Low mileage Euro

With its sharply raked front fascia, long hood and tapering rear end, the E24 6-series is arguably one of the most beautiful BMWs ever made. The grand tourer first arrived in the US in 1977 as the 630, powered by a 3.0 liter M30 engine that produced a not-terribly-impressive 176 hp. While a series of improvements and changes to the lineup would improve things little by little – the 630 was replaced by the 633 in 1978, then the 635 in 1985, and an M6 would arrive in 1987 – the American models would remain saddled with performance-sapping emissions equipment and engines with lower compression ratios than their European counterparts. It wasn’t the end of the world: the E24 was not really about out-and-out performance anyway. Instead, it was for loping across vast stretches of road in comfort and style while conspicuously showing off your wealth. The US-spec 635CSi appeared 1985, bringing with it the 3.4 liter version of the M30 engine and Motronic engine management. Still underpowered in comparison with its European cousin, it was at least significantly torquier than the 633 it replaced. And the performance gap would close almost entirely by 1987 when power output on US-models was bumped to 208 hp. For today’s post, I’ve selected two lovely looking examples of the 635. Both wear Bronzitbeige Metallic paint and come equipped with manual gearboxes. One is a high-milage US-spec example, the other is a low-mileage Euro-spec car with a significant price premium attached.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 BMW 635CSi on Hemmings.com

Tuner Tuesday – Values in the RUF: 2002 Porsche 911 Ruf 550s

Tuner Tuesday – Values in the RUF: 2002 Porsche 911 Ruf 550s

RUF is a name which is among the most highly respected tuners in the world, creating legendary power, looks and speed among a series of cars that was already quite potent. But they’re very expensive cars, too – fully spec one out from Ruf, and you can easily double the price of your Porsche, sometimes more. These are not machines for mere mortals.

Yet value can still be found in, and today I’ve got 1,100 horsepower to prove it. This Double Take looks at two 2002 911 Turbos, both of which have been upgraded with the RUF 550 kit. Which is the winner?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 Porsche 911 Turbo Ruf 550 on eBay

Double Take M-Sports Wagon-off: 2017 BMW 330i xDrive Individual v. 2014 BMW 328i xDrive

Double Take M-Sports Wagon-off: 2017 BMW 330i xDrive Individual v. 2014 BMW 328i xDrive

There’s an entire sub-culture of automobile enthusiasts that MUST have everything wagon. And for those people, there have long been many options to choose from – expect recently. Since the 2000s, the number of wagons available to U.S. fans has dropped off a cliff so that today precious few are left. I detailed what I felt was the height of the market last year over at The Truth About Cars.

Today, enter the marketplace and there are very few options left. The staple Audi A6 and BMW 5-series wagons have left the market, as has the regular A4. Sure, today you can finally get an all-wheel drive Golf Sportwagon that was promised for so long, but outside of that, you’re left really with the Allroad, the expensive and numb (but potentially ridiculously quick) Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon, or the BMW 3-series.

Options for the 3-series have dwindled as well as the price has increased. From rear-or-all-wheel drive a few years ago with multiple engine options, only two remain – you have a choice or gas, or diesel. The Sports Wagon has gotten pretty ridiculously expensive, too – starting at $43,000, it’s not hard to break $60,000 when you start to add options (which you’ll see below). Even more ridiculousl is the naming convention, to the point of I’m not sure what the word order is in the title of these cars anymore. Seriously, consider our first example – the “2017 BMW 330i xDrive Sports Wagon M-Sport Individual”. Or was Individual first? Or M-Sport second?

Nevertheless, these wagons remain popular among sport-minded German car freaks who need to carry more than just themselves. Today I have two interesting blue options to consider – one a special-ordered Individual in Laguna Seca that is brand spanking new, or a lightly used Estoril Blue Metallic example.…

Double Take: 1995 Porsche 968 6-speed

Double Take: 1995 Porsche 968 6-speed

A few weeks ago, I took a look at a trio of Porsche 968 6-speeds. One was a rare 1995 model; only 259 were sold from that model year. As is often the case with 968 Coupe 6-speeds, the asking prices of two of the three were quite high and they still linger on the market, unsurprisingly. Well, today we have another double take of ’95 specific 6-speeds – how do they measure up to the last three we looked at?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Porsche 968 Coupe on eBay

Double Take: Mercedes-Benz 300CE – One cheap, one not so much

Double Take: Mercedes-Benz 300CE – One cheap, one not so much

To some, the W124 might look like just another Stuttgart taxicab. But to those in the know, the 80s/90s era E-class stands for all those traits that once made Mercedes-Benzes the best cars in the world: over-engineered, incredibly safe (for the time) and remarkably durable, capable of cracking over half a million miles if properly cared for. While I’ve written up a number of sedans in the past, I haven’t posted many coupes. That’s a regrettable omission; the coupe offers all of the aforementioned characteristics only repackaged into a stylish, pillarless two-door body shape. The 300CE, produced between 1987 and 1995, was built on a slightly shortened version of the sedan chassis. Initially powered by the SOHC 12v, 3.0 liter version of the M103 engine – good for about 180 hp – cars sold from 1990 onwards came with the DOHC 24v M104 motor instead, pushing output to around 217 hp.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 300CE on Ft. Myers, FL Craigslist

Double Take: 1991 Audi V8 quattro

Double Take: 1991 Audi V8 quattro

You know when you watch a horror film and the protagonist sees a door ajar with a strange light, noise or smell emanating from behind it? Despite the obvious warning signs and 100% metaphysical certitude of impending doom, they creep towards their demise as if unable to escape fate. As a viewer, I’m often baffled by their behavior.

But then I think about the V8 quattro.

There is nothing – and I mean nothing – that makes the V8 quattro a sensible choice for a car. Parts are hard to find, they seem needlessly complicated, and the reality is that now some 26 years old and vintage, the cutting edge of technology for 1991 is pretty easily outpaced by a Honda Civic. There are prettier, more significant, faster and more economical Audis, if you have the itch.

But like the open door, I’m always drawn to looking at them. So, cue the scary music and dim the lights, because we’ve got a twofer of 3.6 quattro action coming at you!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Audi V8 quattro on Central New Jersey Craigslist

Double Take: 1996 Porsche 911 Turbo

Double Take: 1996 Porsche 911 Turbo

Could it be that there might actually be some value to be found on the 993 Turbo market? It has seemed like an impossible dream for a while as prices continued to elevate, but as I look around now I’m starting to wonder if there’s been a shift. Granted, we’re still not talking about inexpensive cars; after all north of six figures remains the norm. But we’re getting closer to crossing that magic barrier. I first had an inkling of this last summer when I featured this 911 Turbo and thought all things considered the price wasn’t bad. It wasn’t cheap, but it felt like prices had moved down a step. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but I think now we need to give them a little more attention. The two we’re going to look at here aren’t the only two Turbos on the market right now, but they’re two that stood out to me the most. I’ll begin with the cheaper of the pair: a Black over Tan 1996 Porsche 911 Turbo with 80,533 miles on it located in Denver.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Porsche 911 Turbo on eBay

Porsche 968 Coupe Roundup

Porsche 968 Coupe Roundup

The Porsche 968 Coupe 6-speed is a fairly infrequently seen package, but one that is generally considered to be the “ultimate development” of the water-cooled transaxle 4-cylinder models. Only about half of the cars that were imported to the U.S. were Coupes (4,242 sent to North America, 2,234 of which were Coupes), and when equipped with the 6-speed manual the number dwindles to just 1,811. That puts production of these models on par with the E28 M5 in terms of rarity, and the group of enthusiasts who enjoy them are about as avid if not moreso. However, they also often overvalue their cars in the marketplace, making them expensive options relative to the performance on tap.

Today I have a group of no less than three 968 Coupe 6-speeds for sale – a rare Christmas treat to see. Which is the winner of the group?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Porsche 958 Coupe on eBay

Almost S: 2001 and 2003 Audi A6 4.2 quattros

Almost S: 2001 and 2003 Audi A6 4.2 quattros

After the legendary run of turbocharged inline-5 motors ended for U.S. customers in 1995, Audi would not deliver another S6 to these shores until 2002. When it arrived, it came in only one form – the popular Avant package. While many rejoiced that this was at the very least an option, it was still pretty expensive and not everyone loves the fast five doors (crazy though it may seem!). But Audi came very close to offering S performance in the special package which was the A6 4.2 quattro. There were many variants of the C5, and ostensibly the 6-speed manual 2.7T was the “sport” option for the chassis. But the top of the heap 4.2 40V offered you the ART/AWN V8’s torque and 300 horsepower with instant throttle response starting in 2000. Underneath the 4.2 carried a special aluminum subframe. Additionally, the all-aluminum engine was joined by specially flared fenders and hood in aluminum, “door blades” that would later be seen on S models, plus optional 17″ x 8″ Speedline (later changed to forged and polished “Fat Fives”) wheels and upgraded brakes and pads. Suspension was lowered and stiffened with the 1BE sport springs and struts in the optional Sport Package; a 20mm drop was accompanied by 30% stiffer springs, 40% stiffer shocks and larger sway bars. The combination gave a menacing appearance to the C5 that wasn’t really present in the narrow-body 2.7T. Today, the argument over which is the better chassis still rages in multiple fora, and while tuners usually love the twin turbo manual option, many others prefer the velvet hammer 4.2 which really was a defacto S6 sedan Audi never brought here:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Audi A6 4.2 quattro on eBay

Double Take: Iconic Blues – 2016 Porsche 911 GT3 RS

Double Take: Iconic Blues – 2016 Porsche 911 GT3 RS

This post is aimed at a pretty specific audience since the 2016 Porsche 911 GT3 RS itself is already a niche vehicle and the two we have here further shrink that niche with their very bright exteriors. I love Porsche’s pastel blues and here we have two of the best and most well known that have been offered, each coming from a different era in Porsche’s history. Mexico Blue and Riviera Blue. Both were paint-to-sample options for the GT3 RS and add an additional layer of cachet to what is already a very high demand machine. The asking prices are, of course, absurd, but given how few of each of these must exist I suppose it is the price that must be paid to own such a potential icon. Let’s begin with the older of the two colors: Mexico Blue:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: Mexico Blue 2016 Porsche 911 GT3 RS on eBay

No Reserve Boost: 1986 and 1987 Porsche 944 Turbos

No Reserve Boost: 1986 and 1987 Porsche 944 Turbos

It’s easy to get lost in a sea of low mileage, crazy asking price 1980s cars – they’re out there, and in reality not particularly hard to find. But then there seems to be a gulf between the cars that are above average with sellers hoping to capitalize on market trends, and forlorn project cars in need of more help than their value. While it would be wonderful to contemplate the salvation of every single example, it’s simply not economically viable. Nor, too, is the idea of just buying the best example in existence and paying a ridiculous premium.

Look in the right place and there is still a happy medium for enthusiasts. Today I’ve located two quite affordable options of 944 Turbos. The miles aren’t crazy, the condition of both is quite good, they each have unique options that make them appealing in their own way. And, each is a no reserve auction. So which is the one you’d want to take home?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo on eBay

Tuner Tuesday Double Take: Rauh-Welt Begriff Porsche 911s

Tuner Tuesday Double Take: Rauh-Welt Begriff Porsche 911s

Among tuners Rauh-Welt Begriff occupies a somewhat unique space. The works of Akira Nakai are polarizing due to their very unique looks, but what sets them apart from most tuners is that they largely consist of cosmetic modifications. Not all fall into that category – as evidenced by one of the cars we see here – but by and large when we come across a RWB modified 911 the suspension and engine work is minor relative to the complete change these cars undergo in their appearance. Not everyone loves them; in fact I’d say the vast majority find them distasteful. Yet, there is serious attention to detail in these builds and for those that are fans they make for some of the most jaw-dropping 911s you’re ever likely to come across. The work is done by hand and Nakai-san is known to work tirelessly from arrival until the work is completed. While the appearance may be polarizing, we do have to admit that they mimic the wild creations of Porsche itself. And I think that is where much of their appeal lies: they are very unique yet maintain their connection with the marque from which they came.

The two we have here display those polarizing looks quite well along with showcasing the sort of design RWB has applied to the respective models upon which the builds were based – in this case the 964 and the 993. The first began as a 1990 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 and unlike many RWB builds has plenty of power to go along with its aggressive looks:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Porsche 911 RWB Turbo on eBay