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Feature Listing: 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Wagon

Long before “Dieselgate” and the unceremonious admission of Volkswagen about cheating on emissions testing, Volkswagen struggled with the image of diesel. The problem wasn’t as much air pollution – there was plenty of that – but it was that diesels were noisy and slow. How slow? Well, consider today’s 1980 Dasher Diesel Wagon, whose 1.5 inline-4 mill produced a twig-snapping 48 horsepower. Despite the relative light weight at only 2,500 lbs, the Dasher Diesel literally and figuratively lacked spark as it’s near 20-second 0-60 time proved. As gas prices fell and fuel injected gasoline engines became ever more efficient (and powerful), the gap between the fuel mileage to the diesels narrowed as the perceived benefit gulf of purchasing petrol widened. However, nearly 30 years before the introduction of the “Sport Wagon” TDi, you can still see the spiritual basis for Volkswagen’s popular 5-door diesel configuration.

The other day, a gentleman pulled up to me right after I parked my Passat. He rolled down the window and asked if I liked the car, then mentioned that it was lovely. I thanked him and said that I loved the car. Sure, even over a decade on B5.5 generation Passat Variants are a dime a dozen around the streets of New England. But while the B5.5 was by far the most popular choice for German wagons in the early 2000s, it wouldn’t be possible without the B1. Styled by Giugiaro, the new chassis completely redefined the platform for Volkswagen. It was followed by the niche but popular B2 (Quantum in the U.S.), then the odd-yet-cool B3, the more traditional B4 and finally the popular B5/5.5 chassis. With some sadness, the B6 would be the last wagon form of the Passat for U.S. customers, but it went out with a bang – being offered in 3.6 VR6 with 4Motion all-wheel drive. It was about as far from the original B1 as you could get, but the mission of each was the same and they were representative of their times. “We think you’ll agree Dasher is setting new standards for roomy wagons, with elegant appointments and fittings” touted the 1980 brochure, and it’s hard to argue that for some time the Passat was the best value not only in German wagons, but perhaps in family vehicles in total. While they were loved by their respective owner pools, they were also used, and each subsequent generation is steadily becoming more infrequent to see. B5s have already started to disappear while B4s rust away. B3s are downright rare, but not nearly as much as clean B2s. But a clean B1? I’d bet you could count the number of examples in this condition remaining on one hand:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Wagon on Cleveland Craigslist

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Feature Listing: 1999 Mercedes-Benz CL500

In many ways, modern executive sedans – especially the top-tier fully loaded examples fit for the Wall Street elite – have become appliances. They ooze of technology, features and exclusivity but to me the designs have all become too similar. On the surface I can tell the difference between the S-Class, the 7-series and the A8, but they’re really birds of a feather with few distinctive differences. In many ways, leveling the playing field between the big three has resulted in a homogeneous market place full of leisure suit wearing, rhinestone-studded Elvis impersonators. Some may be slightly better looking than others, and some may do a great job. But like a Vegas show that’s run its course, would you really want to own one out of the service warranty when the budget conscious construction, mega complicated electrical systems, suspension and drive train items start breaking? ‘Thank you very much!’, but I’d prefer to look to history for a lesson on how to do it right.

I remember well when the W140 Mercedes-Benz launched. It was a big deal back then, because as they have always the S-Class models represented the absolute best engineering available. The W140 externally was an evolution of the W124 design more than an update of the W126 in my eyes, though the visual similarities were no surprise as Bruno Sacco was at the pen of all three. While the design wasn’t revolutionary, it did bring Mercedes into the current trend and in its own way is handsome. The W140 also pioneered many electronic systems into the large executive market, including cutting edge ABS and Anti-Slip technology, Xenon headlights and near silent interiors thanks to glazed windows. While Mercedes-Benz continued to offer a large coupe version of the platform, unlike the previous generation the C140 featured a completely revised body that made the large 2-door imposing and impressive. All of this cost – a lot – as Mercedes-Benz engineers racked up a reported 1 billion dollars of development costs. Luckily they managed to retain the pillarless design – one of the best aspects of the coupe. The C140 came in a few different engine configurations; under the hood of this CL500 was the same M119 that had powered the legendary 500E. With over 320 horsepower on tap, the 4-cam V8 was capable of providing and entertaining drive even in the quite heavy W140. This particular CL500 is from the last year of production for the 140 chassis:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 Mercedes-Benz CL500 on eBay

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Feature Listing: 2007 Porsche 911 Turbo

There was performance revolution that occurred rather quietly in the mid 2000s. You could argue that it was more evolutionary than revolutionary, but giant leaps in performance were seemingly the norm with every single release of a new model. The Audi S8 had 360 horsepower, and that was a lot – until the M5 had 400. Then the S8 had 450, and the M5 countered with 500 – and Mercedes-Benz was right there, too, with its supercharged V8s. These were power figures normally associated with supercars only a generation before. Heck, by the mid 2000s even the lowly Golf GTi had equivalent power to weight ratios with Porsche 911s from the 1980s. Speaking of Porsches, they had gone absolutely bonkers with their power levels. The last 930 had roughly 330 horsepower – still considered quite a lot in the late 80s – and weighed roughly 3,000 lbs. Sure, the subsequent generations got heavier and more complex as they bathed their occupants in every increasing levels of luxury. But then, the power increased too. By the time we got to the 3.6 Turbo S, power was 380. The 993 added a turbo for quicker spool up and went to even heavier all-wheel drive, yet with 400-450 horsepower, they were anything but slow. Power didn’t change much with the 996 at 410-450 horsepower depending on tune, but delivery was refined even more and they were even faster than the previous generation. The 997 kicked it up another notch, now with 470 to over 500 horsepower on tap – the best part of double the original 930, yet with daily driver tractability, modern convenience and all-wheel drive comfort and security. The 911 Turbo was no longer a widow-maker, but a precise surgical instrument of speed wrapped in a velvet glove with a sugary sweet coating for ease of use.

Another interesting trend was that through its transformation, all of the sudden people really started to appreciate the older cars more. The more complicated the 911 became – and it must in the market, you could argue – the more that people longed for the early days. That was especially true when it came to the changeover to the 996. The softening of the once impenetrable 911 Turbo fortress defenses to allow mere mortals to approach the limits of the car pushed many way; it didn’t help that the 996 wasn’t the prettiest thing to come out of Stuttgart, either. That meant that values started dropping and today these 911 Turbos are nothing short of a miraculous deal. For about the same money as a loaded Camry costs you can get into a thoroughbred rocketship. But if it were my money, I’d eye the successor to the 996; for a slight increase in purchase price, you get better performance, more features and most importantly a better looking exterior:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2007 Porsche 911 Turbo on eBay

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Feature Listing: 2000 Mercedes-Benz G500 Cabriolet

I have to admit, I’m not normally drawn to trucks or even cars that masquerade as trucks. You know that expression ‘It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand!’? They’re right. I don’t understand. They’re loud, uncomfortable, hugely unreliable, rust quickly and accelerate slowly. They get horrible fuel mileage, launch their occupants out when they crash, and aren’t really particularly attractive. And I’m pretty thankful that I’m married to a woman who generally agrees with me when it comes to these things. That’s why I was particularly surprised when she rather unceremoniously announced that she’d be happy to drive around in a Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen. The surprise was doubled because in spite of my claims above, the G-wagen is something I love too.

For the last few decades, the G models have remained effective unchanged. While models like the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota FJ-Cruiser have tried re-imagined retro-rough styling, the Geländewagen marches on as an unapologetic Dinosaur from the late Cretaceous period. Sure, it’s been updated with swanky interiors and more modern electronics and engines. Indeed, you can get some pretty nutter supercharged models if you need to pummel trails that much more quickly. And the Geländewagen has opened up into a new crowd who doesn’t hit the trails, but fits large wheels and blacks out everything. It is one of the few mass appeal, truly do-anything vehicles ever produced. There are plenty of models to choose from, but the ones that always capture my attention are the rare Cabriolets such as this 2000 G500:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2000 Mercedes-Benz G500 Cabriolet at Sun Valley Autos

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Feature Listing: 2008 Audi S4 DTM Edition – REVISIT

If you were to walk into an Audi dealership and spec out a brand new S4, you’d find yourself $60,000 poorer. In fact, that hasn’t changed much over the past decade; the original price on the 2008 S4 shown here would have been pretty close to that amount by the time all the option boxes were ticked, too. However, while anyone can walk into a dealership today and be handed the keys to a new car, it’s not often that you get the opportunity to get into what is effectively a brand new previous generation car. But that’s exactly what we have here, and arguably the DTM S4 is the best of the normal production run. Presented in the signature Sprint Blue Pearl Effect, the DTM edition sported extra carbon fiber bits provided by quattro GmbH. The real treat, though, was underneath – the DTM edition received the same revised differential as the RS4, quite literally turning this car into more of a canyon carver than the earlier models were known to be. Shouty and fantastic, the combination of the high-revving sonorous V8, the 6-speed manual and all-wheel drive gives you the confidence to run this car much faster than legally anyone should. With only 20,000 miles covered and in near perfect condition, the opportunity to get into this package will never be so perfect again – the right color, drivetrain, and the special limited edition model at half the price of a new example makes this one special package indeed – and even comes with a warranty.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 Audi S4 DTM Edition on eBay

The below post originally appeared on our site May 4, 2015:

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