Feature Listing: 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit Convertible Wolfsburg Limited Edition

In the early 1980s, there were precious few options for open-air German motoring. Sure, there was the tried and true Mercedes-Benz SL; a luxury car aimed more at boulevard cruising and polo club grand-standing than the Sport Licht moniker would indicate. Porsche’s 911 Cabriolet was certainly more sporty, but also too expensive for most to contemplate as a fun second car. BMW and Audi? The latter was over a decade away from having a factory convertible, and the former took until the mid-80s to introduce its drop-top 3-series. For the plebeians, then, the only real option was Volkswagen’s Rabbit convertible.

Rabbit Convertibles were produced by Karmann in Osnabrück, Germany – about a two and a half hour drive west from Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg plant. As they did with the Scirocco, Karmann’s distinctive badge adorned the model, here on the front fenders. The intensive construction process laden with chassis strengthening and bespoke items like the added roll-over bar meant that VW’s normal production line couldn’t handle the task. Although these were the heaviest of the A1 models, compared to today’s metal they were downright lithe; a manual early Convertible like today’s, even with air conditioning optioned in, weighed less than 2,300 lbs. While never the most powerful in the lineup, the light weight and manual transmission made the original Rabbit convertibles one of the more entertaining ways to experience compact German engineering and open-air motoring in the notoriously malaise early 80s.

While the persona surrounding the model, and more generally the people who bought the model new, tends to steer away from the typical ‘enthusiast’, the Rabbit Convertible has nonetheless moved solidly into collector territory. It’s a smart-looking, practically packaged and fun to drive convertible that can be run on a budget, fit four people in relative comfort and generate smiles throughout. In a world of increasingly serious automobiles, the Rabbit Convertible and Cabriolet models were just simple fun.…

1985 Audi Coupe GT

The 1985 Audi Coupe GT debuted the aerodynamic B2 refinements in the 2-door version of the Type 85. Just like the 4000CS quattro I looked at the other day, smooth bumper covers front and rear were met with wide molding and new rocker covers. DOT-required 9004 halogen lights replaced the upright quad-rectangle arrangement on 1984 models, and the new grill sloped to meet stainless trim which surrounded the car. Inside was met with a revised dashboard with new softer-touch plastics, a leather covered steering wheel and few other changes. Mechanically, just as with the 84-85 4000 quattro, there were very few alterations between pre-facelift GT and the ’85. The same KX 110 horsepower inline-5 and 5-speed manual (3-speed automatic available) drove the car, but the ’85 up wore the same 4×108 hubs and brakes (in front, at least) as the quattro.

As with the 4000 line, most of the manual bits available in early B2s disappeared, and in you bought a late model it probably came standard with power locks, mirrors and windows. Most GTs also came equipped with a sunroof (manual and pop-out) and the rear wiper. Today’s example follows that convention minus the rear wiper. The package proved to generally be considered more than the sum of its parts, and in 1985 Car and Driver tested eight GT cars and proclaimed the Audi Coupe GT the best package available, beating ‘sports cars’ like the Supra, Mustang, and Camaro. One of the 3,586 sold in 1985, this Alpine White example reminds of a more simple time when you could drive a car at 10/10ths and still remain (mostly) at legal speeds:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Audi Coupe GT on eBay

1988 BMW M3

It’s only been a little over a week since I last looked at an E30 M3. A 297,000 mile example with extensive rebuild work, it brushed up against $40,000 in bidding in the no reserve auction.

Clearly, M3 mania hasn’t died down all that much.

Sellers have taken note; at any given time, there are a plethora of E30 M3s available on the market. Today’s search yielded no less than eight examples on eBay; average asking price? About $64,000. But that’s nothing compared to the nine that Enthusiast Auto Group have, including no less than five Sport Evolutions. If you have to ask….

But not many sellers are laying it out on the line. If the market really is plum crazy for these cars, why are more people not rolling the dice and taking market value? For example, if a nearly 300,000 mile example hits the best part of $40,000, what would a much lower mile example bring?

We’re about to find out.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW M3 on eBay

1987 Audi 4000CS quattro

If you really want to stand apart from the E30 crowd and don’t have a ton of money, one of the best ways is the B2 Audi. Like the E30, it was available in many forms and brought interesting and innovative technology and designs to the small luxury market. There was the stylish and sport Coupe GT, the economical 4000S, or the fan-favorite, do anything 4000 quattro.

Okay, you’re not likely to win a drag race against their Bavarian countrymen unless the weather is quite inclement. But build quality was great, they’re all fun to drive in their own unique ways, and each one of them really makes you feel special – especially the growling inline-5. These Audis are universally loved by their owners and misunderstood by nearly everyone else.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Audi 4000CS quattro on eBay

1987 Volkswagen Jetta Coupe with 5,581 Miles

In 1987, there were quite a few Jettas to like (as Jettas go, that is). If you absolutely had to have a trunk, you could grab a turbo diesel for its last year until the 1990 Ecodiesel arrived. The “GL” trim package gave you power options like windows, mirrors, locks, and even a power antenna – remember when breaking antennas off cars was a hoodlum pastime? Your GL would even come with a ski sack! There was the new Wolfsburg Edition, which gave you all the options of the GLI without sport seats – so you got the special Pirelli P-slot wheels, deeper spoilers, and even a power bump to 105. Did I mention the GLI? For good measure, there were two that year, with the 8V bowing out to the incoming 16V model.

This car is not any of those trim levels, though. This is a plain-jane Jetta; steel wheels, the lowest power available, and manual everything (except, predictably, the transmission). So why look at it? Well, two reasons – and they both open. Oh, and it only has 5,581 miles, too.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Volkswagen Jetta Coupe on eBay

Diet M3: 1994 BMW 325is M-Design

Just prior to the launch of the E36 M3 for North America, Canada got a special run of European-specification M3s. However, they weren’t alone in terms of custom E36s available. 1994 also saw the United States get a pretty unique, and quite limited, E36 model.

It was the 1994 325is M-Design. Fans call it the M-Tech, and it was very similar to the Clubsport Coupe that was available in Europe.

While underneath this was basically a stock 325, it was still pretty special. It included nearly all the items that the M3 would have outside of the motor and brakes. You got the M-Tech body kit, mirrors, steering wheel and shift knob, along with the Anthracite M cloth (0506). Many (if not all) were painted Germany’s racing color – Alpine White. Additionally, the M-Tech included a cool set of 17″ BBS 2-piece wheels. They were referred to as Style 29s, but were actually a multi-piece version of the forged BBS RG wheel. A limited run of only 150 (according to fans, BMW isn’t sure) were produced by BMW Individual with a $4,700 premium on the base price of the 325is.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW 325is M-Design on eBay

1986 Porsche 944 Turbo

The market rage surrounding BMW’s M products and their lesser stablemates and all things Porsche air-cooled continues to mask one of the best all-around performers of the period – the Porsche 944 Turbo. This was the car which brought supercar performance to the masses in a package that was both reliable and practical. Perfect balance meant you could approach the limits of the chassis, and it rewarded you for doing so. Over 200 horsepower gave you super-human acceleration normally reserved for small-batch thoroughbreds. And there was even a race series to give the 944 Turbo the credentials to back up the Stuttgart crest on the hood. They were exceptionally well built using high quality materials, and quite a few people who owned them treasured their foray into the exclusive world of pioneering Porsche forced-induction. The original purchaser and steward of this 951 appears to have done just that:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo on eBay

1984 Volkswagen Jetta

The Volkswagen Jetta, for most, isn’t the most exciting vehicle. Nor, if I’m honest, was it the most exciting Volkswagen product in 1984. In the hierarchy of collectable Volkswagens from that year, in fact, I’d wager that a stock 1984 Jetta comes just about last in a ranking of desirability within the brand’s lineup. Beyond the fact that there was a GLI high performance model, there was the Scirocco, the Rabbit Convertible, the GTI, and of course the popular Vanagon. Heck, I’d bet there’d be a bigger draw around a clean Quantum than a Jetta.

Okay, maybe that last one was a step too far. The Jetta, even if it’s not the fastest or best looking Volkswagen product, still has quite a devoted following in each generation – and those that love the A1 don’t exactly have a glut of examples to choose from. When they’re found, they’re usually forlorn as the residual value on standard Jettas has remained so low in comparison to other models. You’re not likely to find a clean example even with needs. But a restored and rebuilt model? Surely that would just be too expensive to even contemplate?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen Jetta on eBay

1987 Audi 4000CS quattro

You either get old Audis, or you absolutely don’t.

It’s something I’ve never quite understood. Put a 1985 Audi 4000CS quattro next to a 1985 BMW 3-series, and the Audi looked more slick. The interior details were certainly on par with the BMW, too. Tech? Sure, the Type 85 had basically all the same gadgets that came on the E30, too – which is to say, not many. Electric windows, sunroof, power antenna, power locks were pretty much standard fare in the marketplace by that point in the near-luxury class. The Audi was reasonably quiet going down the road, fit five in a pinch, had a reasonably sized trunk and got reasonable mileage – though admittedly the “power of six, economy of four” idea of the inline-5 worked out generally in the ‘economy of a 6’, power of a 4 direction. The quattro also featured fully independent suspension, 4-wheel disc brakes and sway bars front and rear. None of this was particularly revolutionary at the time.

What was somewhat revolutionary, though, was what Audi had done in 1983. No, it wasn’t the introduction of all-wheel drive; the Quattro had already been on the market for a few years, and in all honesty the Jensen FF well and truly beat it to the technology by a full decade and a half. Unorthodox, though, was taking that basic supercar (for the day) platform at plunking it in the more reasonably priced 4000 model. Removing the turbo and boxflares reduced the asking price by over 50%, yet you got 90% plus of the Quattro’s performance and driving experience. For an entire generation of rally enthusiasts and VW fans, the 4000 quattro was legendary even while it was still on sale. BMW owners would quip that it was slow and underpowered (apparently, in that case, never having driven an early 318i); Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts would counter that the W201 was better built.…

Double Take: 2001 and 2002 BMW M5 Dinan S2s

“Dinan’s latest work of art, he has not only fixed a car that wasn’t broken but also sought to perfect a car that everyone considers to be as close to perfection as is humanly possible: the BMW M5”, Car and Driver wrote in 2002. Dinan had, at that point, already made a reputation for themselves as the premier BMW tuner in the United States to the point where they became offered straight from the dealer. Considering that’s just occurred for Alpina here, the endorsement of the level of engineering from the California firm was resounding. Yet that is in part because Dinan’s modifications are far from just slapping a badge and some wheels on a car and calling it done. Take, for example the M5 S2.

Dinan took what many considered to be a very highly developed 4.9 liter V8 in the S62 and went old-school to up the power; and up it a lot, he did. There was no supercharger or turbocharging here; revised intake and enlarged velocity stacks were met on the other end with tubular headers and a bespoke exhaust. Each throttle body’s bore was increased, too. These changes required a reflash of the computer, but were both lighter and more powerful. As in 76 horsepower more. That’s the best part of a 20% gain on a motor that many considered to be close to peak performance! Dinan further upgraded the suspension, brakes, wheels, and final drive, along with adding a lighter flywheel. As a result, the new S2 was, well, about 20% better than the already awesome M5. But that perfection cost, and it was more than a 20% increase. A lot more.

On top of the M5’s $73,400, if you wanted a fully spec’d out S2 you’d tack on $36,000 to the price. For that amount, you could have grabbed a nice 330Ci in addition to your standard M5!…