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Feature Listing: 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit L

I’ve spent a fair amount of time documenting the importance of Porsche’s 924 model on these pages, but the first generation Volkswagen Golf was equally if not more important. Like the 924, it signaled the shift for the Wolfsburg firm from its tried and true air cooled roots into the modern age of water cooled, front-engine designs. Taking the design pioneered by the Mini, Volkswagen adopted a transverse engine layout driving the front wheels. To package their new platform, Volkswagen turned to Giuigaro, an ex-Ghia employee who had helped design the swoopy and popular Karmann Ghia. But the shift from air to water cooling needed a new direction, and capitalizing on the wedge designs he had pioneer in cars like the Maserati Merak and Lotus Esprit, Giugiaro made an angular but pretty design with a signature large greenhouse. While not a revolutionary design in either engine, platform or interior/exterior look, the first generation Golf hit the market at just the right time – in the midst of the OPEC-driven oil embargo. The effects were long reaching in the U.S. even though the embargo was lifted in 1974; we adopted a national speed limit, daylight saving time was invented to reduce electric consumption and small, efficient cars like the Golf became popular. Like the 924, in addition to being a sales success in its own right, the Volkswagen Golf was the platform which launched several successful other models. The Scirocco, Jetta, Cabriolet and third generation Passat all came from the original design, along with pretty much every single car VAG makes today. But unlike the 924, appreciation for the original design has been very widespread and the first Golf was even nominated for (and came close to winning) Car of the Century. As cars have become increasingly complex, fast, heavy and expensive, the this 1978 Rabbit brings us back that more simple time:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit on VW Vortex

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Feature Listing: 1991 Alpina B12 5.0

I was quite lucky as a teenager to have some pretty serious metal from Bavaria to cut my teeth on. My father had gotten quite into 1980s BMWs, so we had a few 6-series and even a M5 in the house. But it was the “family” car that I liked the most, believe it or not. That family car was a pretty special one as it was an E32 735i 5-speed. The manual in the large body car might be a bit of an aberration, but as a whole package the E32 was a great car. It was fantastic to drive and felt much lighter on its feet than the size would indicate. It was comfortable, too, in either front or back posts, with rich smelling leather, a modern climate control system and a great sounding stereo. It was a car which ate up highway miles with ease, and outside it was quite a looker, too. It managed to look both more substantial and much better proportioned than the E23, finally integrating the mandated bumpers well into a design that was market leading. In fact, the only area I ever really felt our E32 could have used some help in was to have a bit more motor.

Of course, BMW offered a revolutionary motor in the 750i. It was the first of the big three luxury brands to make the leap to a modern V12, and the M70B50 was a pretty impressive motor on paper. With 300 horsepower from 5.0 liters, it was nearly 100 horsepower north of the M30 mill in our 735i and smooth as silk. As the years progressed though, the M70’s power was nearly matched by the lighter M60 and there was somehow a loss of exuberance about the V12 as a new run of V8 motors proved the impressive mainstays. I have always had a soft spot for the twelve though, and to me none are more special than the very limited production Alpina B12 models:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Alpina B12 5.0 on Hemmings.com

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Feature Listing: 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo

We’ve often lamented on these pages about when enthusiast cars used to be more affordable. Pick your poison; there were days you could buy a pretty sorted E30 M3 for under $10,000, a clean 911 in the teens, a pristine W113 Pagoda for under $20,000. At least for the foreseeable future, those days have left us, and enthusiasts on a modest budget need to pick and choose between the few remnants of a once vibrant sub-$10,000 market. I’ve spent a fair amount of time predicting and watching the ascension of the 944 turbo – the understated, underrated giant killer from Porsche. It’s been no surprise to see soaring values on clean 944 turbos, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that once again another classic has been priced out of sight. But if you’re willing to prioritize driving over shows, there are still some great deals to be had out there:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Porsche 944 Turbo on Omaha Craigslist

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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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