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Feature Listing: 2009 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet

If I’m honest, I was a bit disappointed with the Larz Anderson Auto Museum German Car Day. The main reason why was that in some ways it turned in to a new car show, with basically brand new models turning up on the lawn. As an enthusiast, I’m torn in two different directions by this. The positive side of me says that I should embrace all enthusiasts irrespective of their origin. After all, if I walked in to a dealer today and purchased a brand new M4 I’d feel pretty proud of it too. But the cynical side of me says sure, but I can drive down the road to the dealership an see the exact same car. It wasn’t just BMWs, though – there were brand new Audis, Volkswagens and Porsches present too. In fact, the number of new or very close to new cars seemed to outweigh the number of cars more than 10 years old. Am I just a curmudgeon? Perhaps, and considering I showed up in a relatively new car maybe its hypocritical of me to question other’s presence there. But it seems as though, in part, the generation of enthusiasts that is currently emerging in this soundbite, disposable world is just looking for what is newest and flashiest. Want to go fast with the top down? It doesn’t come much flashier than the 911 Turbo Cabriolet.

But I’m not talking about this 2009 Turbo Cab. No, I’m talking about the brand new 991.2 Turbo S Cabriolet. With 580 horsepower on tap, there isn’t much outside of a S1000RR that can keep up – and if you’re in launch mode, you can leave the bike behind off the line. It’s full of technical highlights and gadgetry that will make any silicon valley executive proud to call it their ride of choice. But there are two very big reasons why I’d choose this older 997 model over a brand new car. First is the price; with no options selected, the base Turbo Cabriolet stickers at $170,000 with the S commanding a further $30,000 premium. Despite nearly new condition, this 997 is available at half that rate as it’s no longer the biggest, baddest or newest stick on the market. But the second reason has more to do with that stick.

You can’t get a manual transmission.

Much has been made of this and truth told the newest automatics truly are amazing. But as the classic Porsche mantra has been driver engagement, and it’s hard to claim a manual is less engaging than an automatic no matter how quickly it shifts. This car may not be the last turbocharged drop-top from Porsche, but it does seem to currently seem to signal an end of an era at the company, and if history has told us anything about the cars from Stuttgart it is to pay attention to those changes:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2009 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet at Sun Valley Autos

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Feature Listing: 2008 YES! Roadster Turbo

Many enthusiasts – this author and, in general, all of the writers at GCFSB included – complain that cars have gotten too complex, too heavy, too isolating. An increasing reliance on computer controls to save poor driving skills and reign in huge horsepower certainly produces impressive numbers on the track. But, somehow the charts of ‘Ring lap times, superbike-embarassing 0-60 times and dyno numbers has taken an important aspect out of driving – the driver. However, at the same time that there has been an explosion of horsepower numbers and proliferation of computer controls, there has been a backlash of simple, enjoyable cars to drive. Models like the Elise proved you didn’t need a 10 cam, quad turbocharged V20 to go fast. Utilizing a relatively cheap and reliable inline-4 and adding lightness, the Elise takes the electronics out and relies on you paying attention to everything that is going on in the car to go fast – yet, fast it goes. Similar cars like the Ariel Atom, Opel Speedster/VX220, BAC Mono and, yes, even the Mazda Miata have followed the same recipe. But we’ve got one today I’m betting you probably have never heard of in the YES! Roadster Turbo. As the engineers from Lotus did, the team of Funke and Will from YES! took some proven parts from the Volkswagen and Audi catalogue and dropped them into the middle of an aluminum frame, added some spice and styling that channeled the Audi TT, Opel Speedster, Lotus Elise, the Spyker C8 and a little Lamborghini inspiration and produced one cool little package:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 YES! Roadster Turbo on Auction 123

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Feature Listing: 1991 BMW M5

It is always a bit of a treat to look back at some alumni of the GCFSB pages, especially so when it’s a lovely example of a special car that was snapped up by one of our enthusiast readership. For years we’ve banged on about the E34 M5, a conundrum of the M lineup. It’s got all the right DNA to be a classic, yet like the similar 944 Turbo has generally languished in value compared to similar products. That may sound like a broken record on these pages, but it’s a tune which is both catchy and sweet-sounding for BMW fans because it means they’re getting more car for their money. Recent market activity in 2015 has started to remix the tune, though, and E34s have been on the rise. Hagerty currently places top value on 1991 M5s at $42,000 – steep sounding given what they’ve traded for over the last few years, but perhaps more in line with their legendary build quality and performance especially when considering their siblings. But in terms of overall value, let’s consider today’s Jet Black 1991. It is nearly 100% original, fully documented, accident free and has under 100,000 miles on the clock – and currently represents the best value of the original M-car experience:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW M5 on eBay

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Feature Listing: 2001 Mercedes-Benz S430

Right now, the least expensive car you can buy in the United States brand new is the Nissan Versa Sedan, which rings in at a very budget friendly $11,900. For that you get such amenities as wheels, seats, mostly translucent glass and an engine. Sounding a bit like a sewing machine with a hangover, the Versa’s 1.6 liter inline-4 struggles to produce 109 horsepower. Inside are cheap plastics, cheaper fabrics, and plenty of toxic new car smell. Okay, I’ll admit it does come with a warranty which, judging by the used Nissan products I see covered in soot and broken down around me, you’ll probably need at some point. You know those commercials for the toy (Flashing Lights! Realistic Siren Sounds!) you always wanted when you were a kid that they made seem so cool, but if you were lucky enough to get one you found out it was pretty much complete crap and broken immediately? Claiming that you’ve achieved something in buying the Versa as a new car is pretty much the same thing. I’d say it was a toaster on wheels, but I wouldn’t want to insult toast.

On the other end of the spectrum is the luxury executive market. Cars in this realm are crafted to be silent but perform like Swiss watches; powerful, smooth and seamless. They are expected to bathe you in luxuries; supple leather, the tactile feel of real wood – an airy feel of a ski chalet in Saint Moritz, but with the computing power of NASA and the convenience features of a Brookstone catalogue. They are made to have presence but not in a showy, pay attention to me way; more often, a regal, stately suit to brush the pedestrian cares of life away as you isolate yourself from traffic. They’re transportation cocoons spun by silk worms, and as such if you’re budget says “Versa”, they’re thoroughly out of your price range. Or, are they?

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Feature Listing: 1985 Mercedes-Benz 380SL

Hard to believe though it may seem with today’s plethora of topless options, back in the early 1980s your selections were quite limited. Bucking the belief that the convertible would be killed off, Volkswagen emerged with a Rabbit Cabriolet that featured a massive rollover hoop for protection. Porsche entered the fray in 1982 as well, bringing back the cabriolet model that had been missing since the 356. But the only choice if you wanted a luxury convertible was the Mercedes-Benz SL. From 1971 to 1989, this car was the undisputed king of open-air motoring, and for good reason. This weekend, I walked by a Buick Cascada and thought “Wow, that looks cheap”. Though the 1980s were accused of being the era of rampant consumerism, the reality is that it was a very narrow window of incredible products. In the 1970s, for a new car to last a few years and maybe up to 100,000 miles was semi-miraculous. Yet suddenly in the 1980s we as consumers were presented with a number of cars that would run for three times that amount with little difficulty. They started every time, were mechanically well engineered and even got reasonably good fuel economy. It was the brief period where the engineering overtook the penny pinching accountants, when cars were made well and to a standard that would last. By the 1990s, cars had become much more disposable again – the reality of keeping a car company afloat, unfortunately. But looking through the photos of this 1985 380SL, I happened across the sticker bearing the signature of Gottlieb Daimler. The sticker is a bit worn and peeled around the edges with a slight discoloration, but on that sticker are the words “a DAIMLER-BENZ product”. That meant something in the 1980s, because these were simply the best engineered and constructed cars in the world. You were buying one for a lifetime of service, not two years of commuting. They were expensive, but they were the benchmark by which all others were measured. I still remember when the Cadillac Allante debuted in 1986, aimed to compete against this very car. Now, by that time the R107 was 15 years into production and probably 20 years from original sketch, so it was pretty tired as designs go. But Car and Driver compared the two and walked away saying that the Mercedes-Benz was still the car to get. You know what? They were right, because here we are 31 years later and this 1985 380SL still looks lovely, fresh and ready for top-down action:

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