Like the Volkswagen Cabrio, the 944S2 Cabriolet isn’t a car that gets a lot of press on these pages. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the makings of a classic. Like the Cabrio, it sold in small numbers in the tight times of the early 1990s; Porsche claims it sold only 2,386 in the United States. And it has a potent power plant in the revised 3.0 16V inline-4; pushing 207 horsepower and 208 lb.ft of torque, it was nearly as potent as the first generation Turbo without the inherent lag or accompanying bills. Yet it shared the same perfect weight balance with the rear-mounted transaxle, Turbo brakes and larger roll bars along with the integrated Turbo-look nose and tail. The S2 also received the new “Design 90” wheels that helped to bring it in line with late 928S4 and 964 models.
However, the 944S2 Cabriolet has always been overshadowed. First, for the sporting drivers out there, most will be seeking the clean lines of the S2 Coupe. Then there is always the more popular 911 Cabriolet, but it’s real competition is the later 968 Cabriolet. With more power, revised looks and a 6-speed manual, those late 968s are by most accounts the ones to get. But to me, that means that a clean 944S2 is a better value while offering you most of the experience of the VarioCam. Let’s consider this beautiful LM3U Velvet Red Metallic example:
1989 was a pretty important year for Porsche. It served as both beginning and end. As the final production year of the 3.2 Carrera (and the 930) it marked the end of the classic 911. With that end came a new beginning with the almost entirely newly designed 964. Its looks still showed a clear relationship with the 911s that preceded it, but it was reportedly 85% new and its rounder lines were a clear evolution of the design. Its underpinnings were decidedly more modern and refined as well. It was an important year.
Porsche had done something a little strange though. When it debuted the 964 it chose to be doubly bold by making the model release an entirely new model altogether: the Carrera 4. So for all intents and purposes 1990 was the year things really got rolling. The Carrera 2, possessing the traditional rear-drive 911 layout, finally made its debut in Coupe, Targa, and Cabriolet form. Unless you really have a desire for all-wheel drive in a 911, or would like to use your Porsche for winter duty, the Carrera 2 probably is the 964 you should be seeking. The Turbo is great as well, though much more expensive.
So here’s a nice example from an early model year: a Forest Green Metallic 1990 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Coupe, located in Miami, with Tan interior and 101,162 miles on it.
When it came to the late 1980s, Audi’s monopoly on the all-wheel drive market was coming to an end. Not only were new turbocharged pocket-rockets being born seemingly every day, but Mercedes-Benz had introduced their new “4Matic” designed by Steyr-Daimler-Puch. While you could make a pretty convincing argument that Audi’s design was superior in extreme conditions, there was at least one aspect of the Mercedes-Benz that trumped Ingolstadt’s design – you could get an automatic.
Now, to most enthusiasts that probably sounds like a bad idea. But when it came to selling car – especially expensive luxury cars – the overwhelming majority of buyers wanted the car to do most of the heavy lifting. Audi’s response was the next generation of quattro drivetrains; like Steyr’s system, with a series of clutches in the center differential that helped to transfer power and allowed the car to be mated to an automatic transmission. That transmission – the ZF 4HP24A – was a derivative of the 4HP24, the same automatic found in the V12-equipped BMW 750 and 850s. Like the Mercedes-Benz, Audi employed Bosch ABS and a locking rear differential. But unlike other Audis with their manual- or electronic-locking rear differential, the V8 quattro used a Torsen rear differential with helical gears which would automatically split torque in up to a 3:1 ratio to the wheel with grip.
But the V8 quattro wasn’t only about its unique new form of all-wheel drive. The moniker obviously indicated there had been a change in motivation, too, and indeed the V8 launched a new all-aluminum 4 cam, 32 valve V8 displacing 3.6 liters dubbed the PT. Rated at 240 horsepower and 254 lb.ft of torque, it was the most powerful Audi for sale in the late 1980s and brought the brand to a luxury level it had previously not competed at. In the U.S., these mega-Audis were met with mixed success. The 1990 launch of the V8 resulted in reasonably good sales; Audi sold 2,823 between late 1989 and the end of 1990 which represented over 10% of their yearly sales. Consider that the legendary Quattro never even broke 1% of Audi’s annual sales here; in its most successful year Quattros comprised .62% of the overall sales for the company.
But it was downhill – sharply – from there, as Audi nearly left the U.S. market and top-flight executives hit a notoriously bad sales patch. That meant that in total only 3,868 V8 quattros were sold in the U.S. This might be one of the best ’90s left:
Update 6/15/18: After not selling last year with a $14,500 Buy It Now, the Alpina B10 3.5/1 part of this duo is back up for sale having finally been washed at the same asking price. Will it find a buyer this time around?
Just because it’s got an exotic name or badge doesn’t mean it’s automatically out of your reach. That’s the lesson for today’s twin E34s. If you’re willing to undertake a bit of a project you can certainly save money up front. Just like we saw with the S65 AMG Andrew wrote up, the initial cost you pay only going to be part of your total outlay but for the price of a small economy car, you can grab another league of luxury, performance and exclusivity that a Nissan Versa could never dream of matching. So which of these project E34s is the one you’d chose, or are both busts?
About a month ago I checked out a really nice and really gold 1984 Mercedes-Benz 500SEC. That was a European-spec car with all the nice upgrades over the North American-spec’d cars at the time but as you might have guessed, carried a hefty price tag at $35,000. Today, we have another C126 that wasn’t originally destined for American in a 1990 560SEC. This car comes to California from Japan in a non-factory paint color and some other interesting touches. The price? Probably not as high as you might guess.
Update 5/18/18 – After failing to sell last year at nearly $8,000, this sweet and rare 1990 Audi 90 quattro 20V with some fantastic period-correct BBS RS wheels is back on eBay with an opening bid at only $4,000!
Just as they had with the development of the 10V Turbo for their top tier products, Audi’s work on the Group B, Sport and later RR 20V Quattro (along with the creation of the original S-series cars soon after) trickled down into the rest of the range, but only in a very limited fashion. The 7A 2.3 liter 20V motor was the beneficiary of that racing work, and it was at the time a pretty impressive unit. Out of 2.3 liters, Audi squeezed a very reliable 164 horsepower with a screaming 7,200 RPM redline. While it’s true this was down on peak power to racing motors like the M3’s S14, the adding of the second cam and a modern EFI engine management also yielded nearly 160 ft.lb of torque.
So why does everyone claim that this car was under-powered?
Weight. The luxury-oriented B3 was most popular in Coupe form, where at 3,300 lbs in 1991 it was in need of a diet. It was 30 horsepower down on the BMW, and weighed 500 lbs more, with a more frontward weight bias. A performance car this did not make, and the result was that the expensive Audis leisurely gained speed. Despite the near 50% power increase over the outgoing Coupe GT, a stock B3 Coupe Quattro shared near identical 0-60 times and cost $10,000 more.
But if you were a clever buyer, you could get slightly better performance out of the 4-door variant of the naturally aspirated double overhead cam inline-5. That’s because concurrent with Coupe production, the motor and drivetrain was offered in the slightly lighter 90 quattro 20V:
It probably isn’t a surprise that the ”Man in Black” Johnny Cash also liked in his cars in black. It might be a little bit of a surprise that the romantic outlaw musician liked his black car to be a Mercedes-Benz 560SEL. I have to admit I didn’t expect a man with an image like Cash to choose such a fancy car like a 560SEL, but I suppose the W126 will make believers of us all. Cash purchased this vehicle new in 1990 which meant he would have been 59 years-old at the time, so it’s not like he was in the prime of his lawless ways, but image is everything and I guess in the pre-internet days it was a lot easier not to be seen. Nonetheless, this is what is claimed to be his last car and now it is up for bid in Tennessee. Fair warning, if you are expecting a prime example 560SEL, you aren’t going to find it here.
It’s generally safe to say that we all like RUF. Their full builds can be spectacular both in appearance and performance, but almost any RUF to wear the badge, or simply share the name, possesses upgrades that make them very desirable. We very rarely see any related to the 964 so when we do come across one it’s always worthwhile to pause and take a closer look.
This is a 1990 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Cabriolet that was sent off to RUF for a “full” CR4 conversion perhaps around the year 2000. Like many conversions what exactly is meant by “full” might be a matter of debate, but in this case the engine does appear to have been blueprinted by RUF with horsepower now at 330. That engine likely represents what buyers will care most about. From the documentation it looks like the owners of this car purchased it from RUF in May 2000, but it’s not clear when that means the conversion itself actually occurred. Maybe there is other documentation to support that. It then was imported into the U.S. where it has resided ever since.
I am going to return here to a long time favorite of mine: a Slate Grey Metallic 1990 Porsche 911 Carrera 2 Coupe with only 23,863 miles on it. Here the Slate Grey Metallic exterior, which is the part of this 964 I most strongly prefer, is contrasted with a Linen interior. I’m not sure I’ve come across a similar example. Most have had Burgundy interiors. If I’m honest, I prefer the Burgundy, but there is something about the brightness conveyed by this Linen interior and I can see how it would be appealing. And unlike many of the Linen interiors we see on either a Cabriolet or a Targa this Coupe should be a little easier to keep clean since it is more insulated from the elements. Both exterior and interior look in nice shape and I think this looks like a nice early 964.
I have said this before and I guess I will say it again, just when I think I have seen it all, something else surprises me to no end. What you are looking at today is a 1990 Mercedes-Benz 560SEL modified into a hearse to resemble a small, ornate Japanese Buddhist Temple. To my surprise, this W126 isn’t in Japan. It is Raleigh, North Carolina of all places where it will be up for auction at the Raleigh Classic Car Auction. I have many questions and not a lot of answers, so let me try to make sense of what is going on with this wild thing.