Last week I looked at a 2008 Mercedes-Benz S550 with little over 2,700 miles on it and quite honestly, wasn’t all that impressed. Maybe because it was a modern car that was only 10 years old, but the low miles didn’t really blow me away all that much. Today, we have a 1985 380SL that has just 1,500 miles on it. That’s it, exactly 1,500. I don’t know why or how this car only managed 1,500 miles, but that’s what I’m seeing. The problem is, like the S550 from last week, this car just isn’t doing it for me.
Audi landmark Quattro has finally moved beyond cult status and into the greater automotive consciousness as a desirable model. That creates many problems, though. The first of these problems is that there just aren’t many Quattros out there. Audi only imported 664 examples of the original, meaning you’re statistically a little better than twice as likely to see an E28 M5 cruising around than you are a Quattro.
But in actuality, you aren’t. The chance is probably more akin to three or four times as likely, if not more. That’s because of the second problem – though the Quattro existed as a cult car since new, the fact is that for a long time they were pretty cheap. Pretty cheap cars generally don’t make collector cars, or at the very least receive collector treatment. You can see that in the M5; cheap for a long time, plenty have high miles and are basket cases though from the start they were touted as collectable. But the Quattro? This was a car intended to live in harsh conditions. Oh, and they didn’t apply any undercoating, or even fender liners. Problem three creeps into every seam on the car.
And then there’s an unpleasant truth: in its original U.S. form, the Quattro wasn’t a stellar performer. Toting around 2,900-odd pounds of early 80s tech, the lag-prone engine developed only 160 horsepower. The result was a car that could be caught off-guard by most economy hatches: 0-60 in 7.9 seconds, the quarter mile in 16.1 at 85. Forget the typical Camry or Accord joke; this is the kind of performance you get today from a Hyundai Accent.
Of course, the Quattro wasn’t about straight-line speed, and cars from the 80s all fall short compared to modern technology. This car, then, is more a time-warp to another dimension. A personal expression of devotion to rock-flinging rally monsters and television stars that liked to do things a bit differently. And those that have survived have been loved by their owners. Often, they’ve been upgraded, too, with later parts that solve the performance gap to their original European form. The result? Wow:
In a recent post about a 1986 Volkswagen GTI, I covered the changes and what made the early 8V GTIs unique from the Golf lineup. But I made a mistake, and I’m happy to admit it. In my defense, so did Volkswagen, though. I stated in that post that early GTIs were limited to Mars Red LA3A, Black L041, and Diamond Silver Metallic L97A. That information is backed up by Volkswagen’s official GTI brochure.
Here’s a white one.
The 1990 up GTI 16V had Alpine White as an option, but I struggle to remember seeing one earlier than that, and all the catalogs don’t list it as an option. Yet here it is and it seems to be original:
I wrote the other day about the approaching warmer weather and the joy of top down driving. That was as an introduction to a Cabriolet but I know not everyone is interested in the full top-down experience. Especially the associated weight gains or lack of rigidity that goes along with it. Or perhaps you’re more interested in an air-cooled 911 regardless of the model. In either case, this 911 may suit your needs a little better: a 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Targa, located in California, with only 26,900 miles on it.
Of course, from a performance standpoint this Carrera Targa isn’t going to match a 996 Turbo Cabriolet. And the price may end up more or less the same so performance per dollar certainly is way down. But a classic like this isn’t just about the performance. It’s about feel and connectedness and the sense that you, the driver, ultimately are in command. For some that is enough to turn them away from any water-cooled 911 and toward these classics. For others the allure of 415 hp simply cannot be passed up. Options are good!
Continuing on the theme of basic Volkswagens, as I mentioned in the A2 Jetta post I have a soft spot for the Golf. I’ve twice owned them; my last was a ’98 K2 4-door and my first Volkswagen was just like this car. It was a 1986 Westmoreland-built Golf. Compared to most of the cars that come across these pages, the Westmoreland Golfs aren’t really very special. They were very basic models. But they were also unique in their trim, and they were only built in the configuration you see here for two years. Of course, that really only matters to Golfphiles, but it’s a neat bit of trivia, anyway.
I covered the details of these models when I last covered a Westy Golf back in July, 2017. Basically, the easiest way to tell them apart from German builds are the wheel covers and the grill with sealed-beam rectangle headlights. That particular ’86 was mega impressive, as it had only 44,000 miles. Well, today’s ’85 has even less:
I’ve been using my 1983 Mercedes-Benz 240D with a 4-speed manual as my primary driver for over year now and really enjoy almost every aspect of it except for one big thing: It is ungodly slow. The North American spec 240Ds were blessed with a conservative 67 horsepower and 97 lb⋅ft of torque when new and after 35 years I’m going to guess it lost a few precious ponies. This results in me using the accelerator pedal as an on-off switch the majority of the time. Don’t get me wrong, around town the car is totally fine. On the highway? I’m traffic’s worst nightmare. If I am at the front of the line at a stoplight and the speed limit on the road is 55 mph, I might as well be hauling a car full of puppies to the pound because that is how people look at me. It takes somewhere in the 15-20 second range to accelerate to 60 mph depending on the grade of the road and Peggy in her minivan on her way to soccer practice has no patience for me. Other than that, everyone loves the car. But what if the 240D was even slower? Say hello to the 240TD.
This German-import 1985 240TD up for bid in Arizona is equipped with everything my 240D has, including the same 4-speed manual gearbox, but with the extra weight of the wagon. You can see where I am going with this. Thankfully, this W123 estate is actually nice enough where you can pick and choose your 0-60 mph battles and not feel bad if you hold someone up for an extra second. Although at the current price, is it worth it?
I will admit here I am really stretching the boundaries of what makes sense for a double take. I had already come across this Nutmeg Brown Metallic 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe and wanted to write it up because of its fairly rare and unusual exterior color. I like darker metallic browns a lot and we almost never see them outside of a few years in the 70s and 80s. I’ll admit that brown isn’t the most appealing car color for many, but in the right circumstances it can work quite well.
Then I came across a much newer 911 in a very similar color and thought, why not? So if you are a fan of these dark brown exteriors this might give you a sense of your options and, what for me is perhaps the most interesting aspect of this, the relative cost and performance that’s available to you. Let’s look at the Nutmeg Brown Carrera first:
This is starting to get a little bit silly. As I mentioned in my most recent feature of a Turbolook Carrera Cabriolet, we’ve seen a decent number of these 911s, also known by their M491 option code, come up for sale recently. I wasn’t really looking to post more of them. But then three all popped up for sale within a few days of one another and there are a lot of similarities among them. I still wasn’t entirely sure about posting them, but honestly two of them are so interesting and unique that I simply could not pass them by. Given how similar they all are it made the most sense to bring them all together into a single post.
One piece of good fortune: among these three cars we have a representative of each Carrera model so regardless of which model M491 you’re looking for we’ve got you covered! The similarities: All three of these Carreras are in exceptionally good condition and sit with very low mileage. All are from the earlier side of 3.2 Carrera production, meaning they have the 915 5-speed transmission. Two are for sale from the sale seller, presumably as part of the same collection, and come with a few questions, but have crazy unique interiors. All three have very high prices; high enough that when I first came across the Coupe we’ll see below I thought the seller had misidentified a 930. And I still thought the price was too high!
Anyway, on to the cars. I’ll show them all before any discussion and in ascending order by price:
I’ve been featuring a lot of really pristine cars of late almost entirely thanks to their low mileage. The reality is these cars are actually pretty few and far between. The overwhelming majority of cars, even German ones that hold a special place in our hearts, are used on a daily basis to rack up the miles and in turn, the wear and tear. But today’s car, a 1985 Mercedes-Benz 300SD up for bid in California, managed to defy the norm and not only rack up a bunch of miles, but stay almost perfect in the process of doing so. How so? Well, it probably took the perfect storm.
If you find yourself desiring a classic 911 from the ’80s you’re immediately presented with a few decisions. The first of which, while seemingly the most straightforward, can actually present the biggest quandary: which model do you get, the 911SC or the 3.2 Carrera? Both are great and their similarities in design and performance are such that either model should fulfill your desires. But let’s say you’re set on the 3.2 Carrera. You want the improved performance and slightly more refined feel. You still have one more decision to make: would you rather find one of the earlier models (1984-1986) utilizing the long-standing 915 5-speed transmission or a later model (1987-1989) with the newer G50 5-speed transmission? It seems a minor detail, but the transmissions do make a difference. Most drivers find the G50 to be the nicer shifting of the two and it is a more stout transmission to begin with, a point that certainly could make a difference 30 years from new. However, the G50 also is heavier and typically the prices for the later Carreras, in part because of that transmission, tend to be higher. If you’re thinking strictly about adding one to a collection the G50 probably is the one to get. For a driver? It’s not so straightforward.
Generally speaking, unless you’re very patient most of these decisions will be made for you since you’re typically best off by buying the best available option from these years. A well sorted 911SC is likely to bring you more joy and fewer headaches than a 3.2 Carrera with some issues. Sometimes, however, the options are such that you really can have your choice and, in fact, in our case here your choice really is distilled down almost completely to the different transmissions.
Here we have two Grand Prix White 3.2 Carrera Targas with pretty similar mileage, pretty similar asking prices, and seemingly very similar condition. Both also are located in the same general region of the country. The only real differences are the interior color and the model year. Let’s proceed in chronological order and begin with this 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Targa, located in Miami, with Burgundy interior and 103,000 miles on it.