1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SL 5-Speed

Fresh off last weeks bit of random Mercedes-Benz facts about the 1990 300E that came in both a 2.8 and 3.2 liter, I’m back again with some information that might be useful every once in a blue moon. From 1990 to 1993, you could purchase a 300SL with a dogleg 5-speed manual gearbox. Yes, the same dogleg from the 190E 2.3-16v cars. You might think this is the best news ever, but not so fast. This gearbox in this car has often be described as sloppy at best and really isn’t an enjoyable experience. The throws are long and vague, with any hope of fast gear changes being wishful at best. Rumor has it that there were only 166 examples of these 5-speed cars bought to North America which make this a pretty rare car to say the least. But if no one wants it, does this make it valuable?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SL on eBay

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1991 Audi V8 quattro 5-speed

Back to big Audis! The early 1990s were, as I’ve described in the past two posts, a period of change for the Ingolstadt firm as they closed down production on the Type 44 to introduce its new replacement, the C4. That led to a dizzying assortment of models from the one chassis. There was the aforementioned 100 and 100 quattro. You could move up to two turbocharged models, too – the 200 Turbo gave you 165 horsepower through the front wheels, and the new-and-only-for-91 in the U.S. was 200 20V quattro. Europe and the rest of the world got even more options; production lasted right up through 2006 in parts of China, where they even made a crazy long-wheel base 4-door convertible version of the Hongqi.

But the top of the heap for the U.S. market was a derivative of the Type 44, the D11 chassis. Of course, that was Audi’s foray into the top-tier luxury market with its new all-aluminum 32 valve double-overhead cam V8. Body revisions to the front and rear along with flared fenders made the V8 quattro seem like a completely different car to the slab-sided 100. V8s had, and have, serious presence. Big news, too, was that for the first time Audi was able to match its all-wheel drive quattro setup with a new 4-speed automatic transmission.

For die-hard Audi faithful, though, for a short while you could still opt to row-your-own with the 240 horsepower 3.6 liter V8 singing to your right foot. These manual V8 quattros are legendary because of their rarity and that they are the only car Audi brought to market with twin Torsen differentials. The combination of a more rearward weight bias, big and instant torque from the V8 and those clever diffs made for one of the best driving experiences in a big sedan from Audi:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Audi V8 quattro on Grand Rapids Craigslist

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2004 Volkswagen Golf GLS TDi

Continuing on the diesel theme from yesterday, let’s take a look at another no spark Volkswagen. Again we have one that flies below the radar but is worth a lot more than you’d expect. The pre-scandal TDis have a serious niche following. While not quite as set-it-and-forget-it as the 1Z, the derivatives – first the AHU, then the later ATD/AXR and other models similar to today’s example, were nonetheless high-mileage warriors. Rated at 100 horsepower and 177 lb. ft of torque, performance wasn’t outstanding – 0-60 took a few ticks over 11 seconds, it’d take a half minute to hit 100 and top speed was limited to 115 mph. But then you weren’t really buying this car for it’s straight line acceleration. What you were buying it for was notable longevity and, of course, fuel mileage. At a time when the standard 2.0 inline-4 struggled to return about 30 mpg at best and the 1.8T was no better, the premium for the TDi gave you 33 mpg city and over 40 on the highway. You could stretch it even farther on a tank if you were careful. Impressive? Well, for the time, it was one of the very few diesel motors you could buy in the U.S. and set the stage for the popularity of the Mk.5 models.

As we saw with the Jetta Wagon, the ‘GLS’ trim moved upscale and included nicer wheels and interior bits. But just like that Jetta, the combination of a 4-door Golf, GLS trim, the turbo diesel motor and a 5-speed manual are quite hard to come by:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Golf GLS TDi on eBay

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Outstanding E32 Face Off: 1988 BMW 735i and 750iL

Such was the depth of BMW’s great designs from the 1980s that often the E32 is overlooked. Unlike the E23 it replaced, the scaled-up Claus Luthe-inspired design really worked and the heavy-weight look of the 5-series in a fat suit was met with more aggression, yet still elegantly. As you’d expect from a car intended to challenge the W126, BMW threw the kitchen sink at the 7-series, upping not only the technology, luxury and interior materials utilized in the E32, but the engine offerings, as well – the M70 and later M73 V12s beat Mercedes-Benz to the market with silky smooth and powerful twelve cylinder motors that were the trump card with the Trump types.

Yet while popular and well built, finding good examples of especially early 7s has become quite difficult. Today we have two interesting examples to consider. Both are far from original, though each in their own way is compelling. For those who like subtle speed, there’s a M70-powered, low mileage 750iL Alpina B12 5.0 clone from Japan. If you’re a little more in-your-face and like to row your own, there’s a Racing Dynamics-inspired 735i 5-speed. Which would you choose?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 750iL Alpina Clone on eBay

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Roll the Dice? 1990 BMW 735i 5-speed

Okay, let’s get this out of the way first. This is certainly not the nicest E32 on the market. With 190,000 miles on the clock, there’s plenty of evidence of the 27 years that have passed since it entered service. The leather is tired, the pinstripe is faded and under the hood looks quite dirty. It’s got blacked out windows and sits on wheels some three inches larger than the stock units. It’s not the best color combination, nor is it the biggest motor available in the chassis. So why the heck is this 735i up here? One reason – the transmission. Like Audi, BMW took a gamble that a few select drivers in the early 1990s would want to row their own gears, so for a brief period you could opt for a 5-speed manual in your large executive sedan. This is one of those original cars, but is it worth a roll of the dice?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 BMW 735i 5-speedon eBay

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1980 Porsche 928

When I was about my son’s age (he’s just turned 5, amazingly), my father took me to the Porsche dealership. Rows of new arrivals from Zuffenhausen lined up, a cornucopia of Easter egg-colored speed machines. In 1983, the low, organic, flowing shapes of the 911 and 944 stood in vast contrast to the bulk of three-box designs that proliferated the marketplace. But there was one shape that really stuck out to me – the 928.

In 1983, Porsche hadn’t yet abandoned its hope that the 928 would ascend to the top of the Porsche model lineup, and because of this I don’t remember seeing any 928s outside. Where I did see them was inside the showroom, where I distinctly remember one residing. My father was taken by the 911 (still is, to this day), and perhaps it was a father-versus-son stereotypical response, but the air-cooled model looked old and antiquated. The 928 was, both literally and figuratively, the antithesis of the 911. Water-cooled, front-engined, Grand Touring. It looked like a spaceship both inside and out. Clearly, this was the future I was witnessing.

Yet the 928, for all its press and relative market success, never caught completely on. It was never able to wrest the crown from the 911 as the signature model for Porsche. But what is perhaps most surprising to me is that it is one of the few cars that today, over forty years gone from its design phase, that unlike basically every other car model produced in the 1970s and 1980s, it still looks futuristic today. Okay, admittedly, the plastics have aged, tiny wheels with big, comfy side walls are no longer the norm and flush-fitted windows, lights, locks and antenna would clean the design up significantly. But compare this design to a few contemporaries, for a moment – the 1976 Chrysler New Yorker, the Toyota Cressida, or the Fiat 128. Three different nations, three different versions of the present, none anywhere near as revolutionary as the design that sits here:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 Porsche 928 on Hemmings

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Worth Restoration? 1988 BMW 735i 5-speed

In recent posts, we’ve both talked about the expense of maintaining an old German luxo-barge and, at the same time, the joy of getting to experience their technical prowess. I mentioned in the Alpina B12 5.0 post that I was lucky enough to experience an E32 5-speed upstream of most of the major repairs they would need if you held onto them long enough. Seemingly in response, suddenly a wave of neat 5-speed E32s appeared. But is the allure of the 5-speed status worth overcoming some obstacles to ownership?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 735i 5-speed on eBay

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1991 Audi V8 quattro 5-speed

I’ve had the good fortune to own some pretty interesting cars in my lifetime, but one of the most complex automotive relationships I had was with my late 1993 V8 quattro. It was a car that I had lusted after since they were effectively new. There was just something about the shape, the way it sat and the mystique. Coming from a 4000 quattro, in many ways the step up to a V8 was the ultimate out of the box Audi in the early 1990s. It drove like the 4000 in the tight bits, but was so much better on the highway. Plus, it had what the 4000 lacked – power, thanks to the 4 cam all-aluminum V8. Even the automatic didn’t bother me all that much overall. But, at the same time as I enjoyed automotive bliss in the theoretical ownership of this V8 quattro, the reality of day-to-day ownership was quite different. If Alfa Romeo built a German car, it would be the V8 quattro. First, it was hugely complicated. There were computers controlling everything, and in the great manner in which Audi and Volkswagen developed their late 1980s computer technology, it worked great until it didn’t, at which point the car would be thoroughly incapacitated. One day, during a rain storm, the “convenience controller” failed, opening all of the windows AND the sunroof and not allowing me to close them. Needless to say, it was less than convenient. Second, it hemorrhaged fluids. We’re not talking a little bit, either – full on “Oh, I’m sorry, did you want me to keep that $20 a liter worth of hydraulic fluid IN me?” hemorrhaging. Oil, coolant, transmission fluid…you name it, if you could put it in, it would instantly come out. It tried to kill me, too. Not just once, either. See, that fluid loss resulted in a buildup of oil gunk. Where does the oil gunk build up, you ask? On the throttle. This normally isn’t a problem, unless once in a while you opened the throttle. Then, it became a problem, as the throttle wouldn’t close. Again, not a problem so much on a 4000 quattro with all 115 stampeding horses, but in the ’93 V8 quattro, there were 2.5 times that amount – 276 horsepower with even more torque launching my 3,900 pound missile down route 195. Leaks presented themselves in other odd ways, too – like, for example, when I got a self-imposed flat tire at a winter driving school. Out came the tools to jack the car up, no problem. However, when I went to retrieve the spare, a sad sight awaited me – the trunk had leaked into the spare tire well apparently, resulting in the space saver spare being thoroughly embedded in 10 inches of tire well shaped ice cube. In story generation alone, the V8 quattro was by far the Professor Emeritus of my car history. Thirdly, no one knew what it was when you went to get a part. Allow me to present a theoretical trip to the parts counter – even at an Audi dealer…

Parts Guy: Hi, what kind of car?
Me: Audi
PG: What model?
Me: V8
PG: No, not what engine, what model.
Me: V8
PG: They made a model named V8?
Me: Yes
PG: (turns to other Parts Guy) You ever hear of an Audi V8?
OPG: He probably means A8.
Me: No, the A8 is the model that replaced the V8.
(both look confused)
PG: Okay, what year?
Me: 1993
PG: Audi made cars in 1993?
Me: Yes. Not many.
PG: Okay, the computer tells me that your car doesn’t exist.
Me: It’s outside. Would you like to see it?
PG: No, maybe I can cross reference the part. What do you need?
Me: The transmission control unit.
PG: ………………
PG: ……….. (turns to other PG and looks confused)
Other PG: Ah, you should probably just go to the dealer.

Fourth, when eventually you convinced someone who supplied parts for your non-existent car that it really was real, inevitably the part would be expensive. Really, really expensive. And, on backorder, or no longer available. It made repairs length and always have at least one comma in the price estimate. That estimate was almost always below what it actually cost to get it running again, and when it did run again, inevitably there would be something still wrong that would need to be fixed on the next trip to the mechanic.

Yet, more than any car I’ve previously owned, it’s the one I’d want back.

It was that good. So when one of the 72 5-speed cars pops up for sale, it’s always time to take notice. The officially imported 5-speed cars were all 3.6 PT engine cars, meaning a bit less motivation than the later 4.2 motor. However, they’re lighter and they’re the only Torsen center/Torsen rear differential car Audi brought to the U.S.. This is a rare opportunity to own one of the few remaining:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Audi V8 quattro 5-speed on Burlington Craigslist

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1991 Audi V8 quattro 5-speed – REVISIT

If last week’s ’93 V8 quattro wasn’t rare enough for you, I’m kicking it up a notch today. Back in March, a rare bird in the German car world popped up – one of the original 5-speed V8 quattros came up for sale, and unlike most it was in excellent condition. However, with 181,000 miles on the clock and an asking price which was semi-astounding at $17,500, it was no real surprise that it didn’t sell. Fast forward to today, and that lovely example is back up on the block with a massively cut asking price to $10,499. That’s still very strong money for a D11, but all things considered if you want an original 5-speed V8 quattro in good condition, there just aren’t many options for you. I think it’s still unlikely to find a buyer this round, but my guess is it’s getting close and there are a bunch of V8 quattro fans biting their lips right now…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Audi V8 quattro 5-speed on eBay

The below post originally appeared on our site March 27, 2015:

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1986 Mercedes Benz 300E

It seems like just yesterday I was handing over the keys to my Audi S4 Avant to a happy buyer, thus setting me off on my journey to find my next vehicle. In reality, yesterday was actually late April. Here we are in the dog days of summer and I’ve yet to pull the trigger on a new ride, but not for lack of trying. I’ve driven a number of cars over the past couple of months, some new, some used, and I still have yet to feel that magic connection that I’m looking for. I’ve crossed cars off my list that I’ve long lusted after, E46 BMW M3/E36 M3, and some that I wasn’t a fan of until recently, 540i/6, E30 325i. Though I was rather dead set on getting my first BMW, I’ve been seriously considering a Mercedes lately. On the upside they’re more affordable in this current market, on the downside it’s really hard to find a desirable model with a manual transmission. So, when I came across this 1986 300E with a 5 speed manual the other day, I was immediately intrigued. When I saw that it was just 45 minutes away from me, I picked up the phone and got in touch with the seller. He told me that he had a buyer coming to check it out but if the sale fell through he would let me know. It was a long shot, but wouldn’t you know it, the car remained available and I went to check it out yesterday.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Mercedes Benz 300E on Craigslist

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