So you want an affordable, distinctive yet practical car for your daily commute? Yesterday I suggested there might be more fun to be had for less money than the Golf Harlequin. Well, here it is: the Z3 3.0i Coupe. While the ‘clownshoe’ isn’t quite as spacious as the Golf, it does add a dose of practicality to a fun-to-drive and very unusual package. But while the market focuses on the M products, the more rare to find Z3 3.0i is an affordable option that will help you stand apart from the crowd.
Produced in Spartanburg in February 2002, this Topaz Blue Metallic example has seen better days, it’s got quite a few miles, and it’s an automatic. But that means it’ll be about as cheap as a clownshoe comes. Is it worth the price of admission – or, at the very least, is it worth the savings over a M?
The majority if the time I check out a Mercedes-Benz W126 it is either a 560SEL or a 300SD. For good reason though as if you wanted the ultimate luxury car short of Rolls-Royce/Bentley, you went with the 560SEL. If you wanted a car to literally last you a generation, you bought the OM617-powered 300SD. But if you wanted a compromise of both models, Mercedes gave you that option towards the end of the W126 life-span from 1988 to 1991 with the 300SE. It was the tried-and-true M103 3.0 inline-6 paired to a standard wheelbase sedan that saved you over $20,000 if you selected the 300SE for $53,000 versus the $74,000 you would have paid for the 560SEL. Now that the majority of these cars are sneaking up on 30 years-old, you don’t often see them in really nice condition. Fortunately, this example painted in the rare Willow Green up for bid in Connecticut is in really nice condition and probably won’t cost you a ton of money either.
Buying any used car carries some sort of risk and gamble. Probably even more so with a used German car because of the potential disaster that some cars may bring. The majority of the time, you trust yourself to form an opinion if the car is worth it based off what you understand and what the seller is telling you about the car. Most of the time this works out pretty well for both parties involved. Generally as the stakes get higher and the cars get more expensive, the more due diligence is done with research and inspections. Sometimes you can sniff out a car pretty quickly but other times you might need a really keen eye to see what is really going on. For today’s car, a 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300CE for in Brooklyn, maybe isn’t all that is presented to be by the seller. Let me explain why.
A few weeks ago I checked a wonderful Signal Red Mercedes-Benz 560SEC. I explained that on some Mercedes, red looks pretty good and suits the car well. Other cars, like sedans, red is a pretty tough sell for me. Encase you haven’t noticed by now, this 1991 300E that I am looking at today is painted in that same Signal Red. It is a very clean W124 that has under 100,000 miles and I really dislike it. Let me tell you why.
I’m going to continue on the M3 theme, and again we’re looking at a ’95. Just the other day, I pointed out how the E36 M3 – even in ‘diluted’ USA form – was a great value for a driver-oriented enthusiast compared to the E30 M3. But that’s not true of all E36s. There’s the Canadian M3 – essentially, a Euro import with all the verboten goodies we didn’t get here, one of which we saw sell last year for $65,000. There the M3 GT, which also upped the ‘special’ quotient quite a bit on the mass-produced M, and also will cost you a pretty penny. But for U.S. specification collectors, there’s really only one option in the E36 catalog: the Lightweight.
Over the past few years I’ve written up several of these cars as speculation has continued to grow that this will be the next logical step in market capital following the E30. Asking prices have been, at times, what most would consider outrageous for the E36. But never quite this outrageous. I hope you’re sitting down, swallow and move the drink away from your computer. Consider yourself warned.
I’ve been ignoring the 944. It’s not that I have changed my opinion, or no longer love the thorn-in-Porsche-purists collective sides. But after spending plenty of time telling everyone what an incredible value the 924/44/68 series are for a while, I just capitulated that the market was unwilling to lift these well-built sports cars to a level which they deserve to be. Or, at the very least, I really felt like they should be on level footing with models that were their contemporaries; the Turbo, for example, which still regularly trades well below Quattro and M3 prices despite superior performance.
Yet while my attention swayed, some light has been shed on the model. As insane prices continue to reign in Munich and the Quattro has begun to rise precipitously over the past year, what was once a sure-bet value has commenced rapid appreciation – at least, in some cases. The high-water mark recent was just set with a 66,000 mile Grand Prix White 968 Coupe which sold for $36,250. That’s big money for the big four-cylinder. While not every single example is going to similarly take off, the writing may be on the wall.
So today I’ve got two 944S2 models to consider. Down on power (211 v. 237 with VarioCam) and a gear from the later model, they’ve always played second-fiddle to the Turbo S/89 Turbo models and the updated 968. Both are presented in the neat color of Baltic Blue Metallic. One is pristine, and one’s more of a project. Which is the one to grab?
Almost a month ago I checked one of the best Mercedes-Benz W126s I’ve ever seen in a Concours-level 1987 560SEL. Today, we have another outstanding 1987 W126 that isn’t quite Pebble Beach-ready, but it is damn close. This car comes to us from South Carolina dressed in Smoke Silver Metallic with the rare burgundy leather interior in a condition that isn’t often seen. And oh yeah, it’s a diesel too.
It has been a little while since I’ve featured a W123 so today is as good a day as ever. Today we have a 1979 Mercedes-Benz 300D up for sale in Seattle, Washington. It sports the great color combo of Pastel Blue (with the matching hubcaps) and blue MB-Tex interior. I’m partial to all things W123 (I own one) and I love to see them when they’ve been cared for extensively. Luckily for everyone, this nice W123 looks to be so.
At the beginning of the 1990s, pretty much everyone was stepping away from twin-cam inline-4s. While they had been the rage in the 80s and “DOHC” was nearly as popular as Miami Vice, buyers demanded more power and refinement. Sure, you could make 200 horsepower from a high-strung four-pot; but making it tractable for daily driving, passing emissions, and reliable? That was another ball-game. As a result, most major manufacturers went to larger displacement 6- or 8-cylinder motors in their small performance cars.
Everyone, that is, except for Porsche.
Porsche dialed in the 944S2 a bit more with updated 928-inspired looks and a new ‘VarioCam’ adjustable valve timing on the 3-liter inline-4. Now with 237 horsepower and an impressive 225 lb.ft of torque, it roamed the sports car elite field like a small dinosaur. Porsche added another speed to the mix, but since this was a relatively expensive 4-banger coupe based on a twenty year old design, they didn’t sell particularly well. A total of 2,234 Coupes were imported between 1992 and 1995; the last year was the worst seller, with a scant 259 making the journey. This particular last-year example may just be the best one left in the country:
File this one under another great Mercedes-Benz that you usually see with hundreds of thousands of miles on but for whatever reason has almost none. This 1984 300SD shows a crazy 11,300 miles and looks every bit the part. You can totally see why people plunked down almost $40,000 (over $93,000 in 2017 dollars) for these when they are new. It’s frugal, handsome, secure, has enough to power to get out of its own way and all this won’t cost you a fortune to keep going. Except this car, as you might have guessed, will need a small fortune to take home with you.
Engine: 3.0 liter 5 cylinder
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Mileage: 11,300 miles
Single owner SD through 2015.
Rare 904 Midnight Blue with Creme leather.
Spectacular preservation from new.
Spotless engine bay.
Runs and drives beautifully.
What is there to say about this car? I overwhelmingly prefer the gen 1 (1981-1985) W126s over the later ones even though they do look a little more dated, but I think that’s the beauty of them. Give me a clean set of 14 inch Bundts with a OM617 and I’m as satisfied as I can possibly be in owning a car. This is a great color combination with the Midnight Blue and tan interior even with those terrible North America spec headlights.
Like I said, all this is going to cost you. $35,000 is a ton of money for any W126 but it’s tough to fault the seller for asking it. The market for clean golden-era Mercedes diesels isn’t slowing down but I wouldn’t bet on this car gaining anymore value once you start driving it. As I’ve said before, miles don’t scare me one bit so I’m really not the guy that this car appeals to.…