2004 Volkswagen Phaeton

The Phaeton is a very perplexing car. It was established as a plan to produce a no-expense spared, world-beating luxury car – and, in many ways at the time, it was world beating. It offered similar luxury and performance to the established German standards – Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class and BMW’s 7-series, but also challenged stable-mate Audi’s A8. Yet it was available on a more Volkswagen budget – at least, in theory. That’s because if you walked into a Volkswagen dealer in the mid 2000s and wanted a basically optioned model, you’d be out about $75,000. For reference, that’s about three times what my expensive-for-the-category Passat cost in 2002. And the big problem with that was how the Phaeton looked, because a bulk of the population wouldn’t be able to tell the two apart.

But that wasn’t the point about the Phaeton. Nor was it that you could get the lighter, aluminum version of what appeared to be the same car from more upscale Audi that would arguably attract much more attention for not much more money. And it was this exact confusion that befuddled the market; why would you ever pay $75,000 for a Volkswagen? The trick came in realizing what you were getting, which actually shared little architecture with the Audi corporate partner. Park a Phaeton next to an A8 and you’d swear they were just about the same car with light badging changes, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

Although the model shared components with the D3 A8, it also shared much more architecture with other side of VAG’s portfolio – the Bentley Flying Spur and Continental. This meant a steel chassis rather than the aluminum space frame, and that meant more weight – a lot more weight. To mitigate this, Volkswagen upped the power slightly over the A8’s V8 to 335 and dropped its axle ratio to 3.65:1. The result was that the BGH equipped 4.2 liter V8 Phaeton could run with the A8 in a straight line – just. To outdo the Audi, then, Volkswagen had to up the luxury quotient in the Phaeton, and they did. Inside of these cars is a simply amazing place to be, with double-laminated glass, hectares of wood and enough leather to make a Village People audience envious. There were heated, cooled and massaging seats, navigation systems, 420 watt stereos and disappearing cabin vents. Shut the door and they’re quiet – eerily, disturbingly quiet, in a “Uh-oh, what broke?” kind of way if you’re used to the People’s Car. Remove the VW badge from the steering wheel, and you could easily be fooled into thinking you were in a Rolls Royce from the period.

But not everyone was convinced, and as a result they sold slowly in the United States. Volkswagen offered boutique colors and wheels to help set the Phaeton apart from the rest of the VW run, but it was only really in Germany that the appeal of the understated Wundercar ever sold in number. Only a few thousand were brought into the United States, this 2004 being one of the claimed 1,433 to make it the first year:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton on eBay

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Rare Righthooker: 1990 BMW 735i SE

The 7-series never really developed the cult following of some of its countrymen or the rest of the BMW lineup. It wasn’t as luxurious as either the W126 or W140 Mercedes-Benz competition. It wasn’t as clever as the Audi V8 quattro. It wasn’t as good a driver as the E30 or E34. There was never a Motorsports division version, and it wasn’t quite as good-looking as its successor, the already legendary E38. As a result, the E32 was – in many ways – a disposable luxury car, much like some of the Audis of the period. They’re mostly gone and forgotten, but every once in a while a really neat one pops up and is worth a look.

I grew up in my formative driving years with a 5-speed 735i E32 in the family stable, and it was a wonderful car. It rode well, it was comfortable, the 3.5 liter M30 was turned up over 200 horsepower and so it was plenty quick. Generally speaking, the U.S. spec 5-speeds are the most highly sought E32s here and it’s easy to understand why. But this particular E32 turns the desirability up a few notches:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 BMW 735i SE on eBay

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1978 Volkswagen Scirocco with 27,000 Miles

Normally I write fairly verbose introdutions, covering the history of a particular model or some interesting tidbit about its history. Sometimes they’re my personal connections to the cars. I’m sure on more than one occasion you’ve wished I’d just shut up a bit so that you can get to the car. Today’s that day, because the presentation and condition of this 1978 Volkswagen Scirocco are so staggering I was literally left mouth agape looking through the photo reel. Enjoy:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay

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1982 Porsche 911SC Targa

You’re really going to have to be a fan of red to like this 911. And not a subtle red; not a burgundy. Not only does this 1982 Porsche 911SC Targa sit with Porsche’s well known, and bright, Guards Red for the exterior, it also has the brightest of the reds in the interior: Can Can Red. There’s some black to break up that interior, and of course the SC Targa itself has plenty of exterior elements to set off the paint, but overall you won’t miss this one and the red definitely dominates.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 Porsche 911SC Targa on eBay

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2004 Volkswagen Passat GLS 1.8T Variant

The Volkswagen Passat isn’t a particularly exciting car to drive. It’s also not particularly exciting to look at. While most people would categorize those as negative attributes for vehicle ownership, there’s a third thing that the Passat isn’t particularly exciting at which I’d wager most would consider a very good thing.

It’s not an exciting car to own.

“But isn’t that a bad thing?!?! you’re thinking to yourself? Sure, when I go out into the garage and see the M3 sitting there, my pulse rate quickens. Scratch that, I don’t even have to go into the garage – endorphins flow at the mere thought of it. And turning the key? All sorts of goodness happens. I’ll spare you the details, but sufficed to say it’s an exciting car to own, look at and drive. The Passat is not a M3.

But it is a vehicle thoroughly devoid of drama, and to me, that’s what makes the Passat a not exciting car to own. Take the contemporary Audi Allroad from the same period for example. The Passat mimics the look and the function of the A6 in nearly every way. It’s not even much slower on a continuum. But Less exciting to own? For sure, and when you’re talking breaking and repairs, that’s a very good thing.

Because let’s be honest for a second; these cars that we love, that we fawn over, that we pontificate about – they’re pieces of metal with a lot of plastic and complicated electrical and pneumatic systems. And they’re not getting any younger. Take my 2002 Passat as a case study; it’s on the verge of being 17 years old and has now covered over 140,000 miles. Yet it’s caused no sleepless nights, no emptying of wallets, not even left me stranded once. It’s just been completely reliable transportation in all weather, with my family, all our goods and a ridiculous amount of various cargo. I’ve had full-sized sofas on the roof, entire Ikea kitchens inside. It’s been a garden gnome full of trees, flowers and vegetables to plant. It’s transported rocks, gravel, dirt, bicycles, strollers, and everything in between. It’s cool on the hottest day, warm on the coldest, the starts everytime and all the electrics work still. Is it without flaw? No, along the way items have broken. But my point is that it offers 99% of the experience of it’s more expensive brethren with 90% less drama. And don’t think my singular experience is unique, because I’ve had two, and the last one – which I sold now 6 years ago with over 200,000 miles on the clock, did the same thing – and still is, with it’s new owner. I saw it just the other day, and it’s a tick under 240,000 without major issue too. And when I look around, what’s the most common older German vehicle I see cruising around me? B5.5 Passats, pretty much everywhere in RI, MA and CT. They’re all still running strong despite the newest now being 12 years old.

And I’d argue that while most will dismiss the lack of ownership drama as not reason enough to be interested, the B5.5 Passat is also a pretty good looking car. Beyond that, it’s also reasonably fun to drive in GLS 1.8T manual form – kind of a bigger GTI in many ways. But as I said, they’re getting older, so if you really like the idea of jumping on the bandwagon a bit after everyone else has, finding a clean example is key – and this 2004 sure looks clean:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Passat GLS 1.8T Variant on eBay

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1994 Porsche 911 Turbo S Flachbau

Not too long ago we featured a 911 Turbo S Package car, one of the rarest and most sought after of all air-cooled 911s. Now, we’ll take a look at the other version of this ultimate 964: a Black 1994 Porsche 911 Turbo S Flachbau (Flatnose), located in Massachusetts, with Light Grey leather interior and 16,400 miles on it.

As the last standard issue rear-drive turbo – I’m intentionally excluding the later GT2 from this – the Turbo S serves as the ultimate expression of the breed melding prodigious power with all of the dynamic peculiarities of the 911’s rear-engine platform. It’s luxurious and refined, while also looking the part of the supercar that it is. Not everyone likes the 968-derived Flatnose, and even I’ll admit it makes for a somewhat peculiar appearance, but there’s no question it will grab your attention. Step behind the wheel and your attention may never leave it.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 Porsche 911 Turbo S Flachbau on Excellence Magazine

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1972 Mercedes-Benz 600

Sometimes cars and people just go together. Cars can mimic someones personality and mannerisms, both good and bad. So when it comes to matching up the legendary Mercedes-Benz 600, a car known as one of the most technologically advanced and complex cars ever, to someone who isn’t an entertainer or a dictator, who wants to own one of these? Enter Dr. Forrest Bird. You’ve probably never heard of that name before, just as I haven’t, but he is responsible for pioneering mechanical ventilators for people with acute and chronic heart and lung afflictions. In layman’s terms, he made the iron lung obsolete and helped millions of people over the years. Not only that, he was a certified pilot by the age of 16, served in WWII and assisted in the Korean and Vietnam wars, took his technology company public on the NASDAQ, opened up a museum, earned a M.D., Ph.D., Sc.D., D.S., started a charter school and just to top it all off, was awarded medals by not one, but two acting United States Presidents. Suddenly the problems of owning a 600 don’t seem so large.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1972 Mercedes-Benz 600 on eBay

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1988 Porsche 911 Carrera Targa Police Car

From a purchasing perspective this car really will only be of interest to serious collectors, but that doesn’t mean we can’t just enjoy what it is. We’ve seen police versions of Porsches before. It’s kind of cool to consider such cars being used for patrol work. They’re certainly better than the ubiquitous Crown Vic in the US. Of course, US police roll in a few interesting coupes as well. I know I’ve seen Mustangs and Camaros pulling people, but those aren’t quite a 911. Given the typically higher speed limits of many European highways I can understand the need for better performing patrol cars.

This one went into duty for the Dutch Rijkspolitie. Based off of a 3.2 Carrera Targa it’s fitted with the standard police lights and sirens and even came with a set of the phone dial wheels, which we rarely see on 911s from this period. This one has a good number of miles on it and we always might wonder about the maintenance and severity of those miles given the sort of usage a police car is likely to see, but I don’t think most buyers would be expecting to use this as a daily driver. It’ll be tucked away and preserved. It’s current condition looks quite good though.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Porsche 911 Carrera Targa Police Car on eBay

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1984 Volkswagen GTI

We’ve had plenty of Volkswagen A1 chassis to look at recently, from the neat Jetta Turbo Diesel we’ll be seeing again soon through the string of very awesome Sciroccos from both the first and second generation. I’ve also looked at quite a few GTIs, from the second, third and fourth generation. But for all that love, I’ve somehow managed to avoid combining the two and covering what is arguably the most famous modern Volkswagen – the original GTI.

Today I hope to rectify that with today’s last-year example of what many consider to be the original ‘hot hatch’. While the U.S. example was somewhat watered-down and had chunkier styling than the truly Spartan 1976 design, it was still a revelation in performance and universally heralded as the benchmark by which all other sporty economy cars would be based moving forward. At a time when there were few do-it-all type cars, the GTI managed to be nearly all things to all people; it got good fuel economy thanks to a relatively miserly 1.8 liter inline-4 with efficient fuel injection. It looked neat, thanks to 14″ alloy wheels, wide fender flared and blacked-out detail work with red accent stripes. It was functional and flexible, with fold-down seats and a (for its size) spacious hatch area to transport goods. It was usable year-round, with front-wheel drive allowing for decent snow traction. And the sport suspension, heavily bolstered seats and close-ratio transmission made the whole package an athletic alternative to the norm, allowing practical-minded men and women to fling their family car through corners with aplomb. Near universal was its appeal, and infectious were the ad campaigns, which in the Volkswagen tradition used short phrases to capture attention like “They’re going fast” and “Serious Fun” – even the oft-used “It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing”.

“So what do Germans do for fun? They love to drive. Preferably in a Volkswagen GTI. Because the GTI is designed to be fun. Not fun in the sense of a dashboard cluttered with all sorts of doodads. But fun in the sense of a precision machine that respects and answers its driver’s every wish.

Hyperbole? Certain, this is advertising after all. But it pointed towards the beautiful simplicity of the design, the functionality of the package, the elegance of the execution. The GTI didn’t pretend to be a Corvette like the Opel GT, or a luxury car like the Passat. It wasn’t competing with Mercedes-Benz, or even really Porsche, on any level. And that allowed the characteristically unfun Germans to let their hair down and have a bit of a ball:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen GTI on eBay

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Tuner Tuesday: 1998 BMW M Roadster Dinan ISR3

Edit 10/3/2017 – I looked at this Dinan modified M Roadster last August, but there was little information and it hung around for quite a while at $25,000. It has now moved on to a new seller who has taken some more photos and raised the price $4,000. Key here though is that the seller confirmed my suspicion that this was the expensive and exclusive ISR3 roadster. Only 50 of these Vortech supercharged 400 horsepower monsters were produced. It has about 1,000 more miles since last year but still looks relatively reasonably priced if you like the color combination and gutsy Dinan modifications – Ed

The other day I was talking with my friend about Turner Motorsports. I first met Will Turner when he was a BMWCCA instructor, just trying to establish his business of selling parts on the side. He and his compatriots all sported E30 M3s; this was, after all, the days before the launch of the U.S. E36 M3. Turner managed to parlay early success in a local modification scene outside of Boston into a countrywide business, and after some time in the club race scene he moved into the major leagues. Success against better funded teams was sometimes difficult, but today Turner is still alive and very much kicking, having become one of the two defacto factory-backed teams running the M6 GT3. To get to that point of factory involvement is an arduous journey to say the least, and few who start out make it.

One other who did was Steve Dinan, who took a niche tuning business from the 1980s into a factory option today. You can walk down to your dealer and order up a fully backed, Dinan modified car. That took a tremendous amount of work and is a testament to the quality of the products on offer from Dinan. They truly take the well-engineered BMWs to the next level, but modifying them to do so can be quite pricey. Take today’s M Roadster, for example. While it wasn’t exactly a cheap car to begin with, with entry level prices in 1998 starting around $42,000. This M Roadster, though, went on to get a further $36,000 in modifications from Dinan:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW M Roadster Dinan S3 on eBay

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