Update 7/29/18: After listing in May at $875,000, the seller has dropped the price to $725,000 – still high for the model, but not as far out of line. Will it sell this time around?
I give Audi a lot of credit for bringing the R8 to market. It took a fair amount of gall for a company best known for mid-range all-wheel drive luxury sedans to up and produce a supercar-beating mid-engine road car capable of being used year-round and every day. It’s a feat nearly without precedent. Of course, I said “nearly”.
That’s because BMW pulled off a similar trick the best part of thirty years before Audi did it. And arguably the development of what would become BMW’s fledgling Motorsports division was even more impressive than what Ingolstadt pulled off. The M1 burst onto the scene at a time of economic austerity, global oil crises and came from a company who not only didn’t have a history of producing such cars, but didn’t have connections to others who did (unlike Audi’s corporate Lamborghini partnership).
Speaking of Lamborghini, because of BMW’s lack of expertise in supercar design it was the Sant’Agata firm that was employed to produce the M1. But because of Lamborghini’s lack of expertise at being…well, a company capable of producing something on a schedule, BMW engineers had to first liberate the early molds from Italy and then find someone who could produce the car. Ultimately, it was a combination of ItalDesign in Turin, Marchesi metal working in Modena to build the frames and Karosserie Baur in Stuttgart that stuck the M1 together. Though it doesn’t exactly sound like a match made in heaven, and indeed the M1 was a relative sales flop, it has nonetheless grown to cult status as one of the most user-friendly supercars of the late 1970s:
Another M-Design! I’ve featured a string of these ultra-limited ’94 325iS models built by BMW Individual recently. Today’s VIN ends in 478, produced 40 cars after the one I looked at last June. Visually equipped with most of what would become the M3 in ’95, the M-Design is an interesting footnote in United States E36 production.
Of course, “interesting”, “obscure” and “BMW 3-Series”, when combined in the right proportions, usually equate to dollar signs in seller’s eyes. Asks on these cars often rival or exceed M3 prices. Crazy, right? Who would pay more than they would for a M3 to have less than a M3? Well, some people do. Recently a ZHP E46 coupe traded for $26,000. Scoff all you want, but clearly there is a market for the limited edition 3-series. But since some trade for high numbers, many sellers equate their 3 as priceless. Not the case today, as we get a true market indicator of where a driver-quality 325iS M-Design is valued at:
What is the price for rarity? As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, enthusiasts will sometimes go to extremes to have something just a bit different than the norm. Take today’s Golf. Like the 1989 Volkswagen GTI I looked at a few weeks ago, something odd will stick out to the brand faithful that will probably go unnoticed by nearly everyone else. First off, for the U.S. market, the VR6 was limited to the GTI range. This looks like a GTI with the dual chamber headlights and foglights, VR6 badges and BBS wheels. But another minor detail then rears its head – or, in this case, rears its doors. That’s right, this is a 5-door Golf VR6 from Europe. Look closer and you’ll notice items such as the textured flares, deeper chin spoiler and fender mounted directionals that differentiate ROW A3s. So what will getting into this rare-to-see VW cost you today?
When I first came across this car, just like with Rob’s GT3 yesterday I was pretty sure I’d seen it before. The 1994 BMW 325iS M-Design was produced in very limited numbers, and this one was for sale after another I wrote up fairly recently with similar miles:
Diet M3: 1994 BMW 325is M-Design
However, a quick check of the VINs revealed they’re different chassis; this one is 386, produced 52 prior to the last one we looked at (438). So let’s refresh ourselves on what made the M-Design 3-series special.
Basically, this car was the precursor to the U.S.-spec M3. BMW teased its release with an American version of the Clubsport Coupe; you got the M-Tech body kit, mirrors, steering wheel and shift knob, along with the Anthracite M cloth (0506) and an Alpine White exterior. BMW equipped BBS RC 2-piece wheels with forged centers too. In all, it made for a pretty package even if it was no more potent than a standard E36. Fans claim only 150 were imported which seems about right, though BMW doesn’t have official importation numbers.
Last time around, though the condition was very good the general consensus was that an actual M3 was a better deal at the asking price. How about today?
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:
Update 3/6/18 – What appears to be this same car from July 2016 has appeared on San Francisco’s Craigslist with a $15,000 asking price but little more information. Thanks to our reader Jeff for the spot!
The last time you probably heard the term ‘Tommykaira’, it was ripping around a digital racetrack on Gran Turismo in the late 90s. The name Tommy Kaira was legendary in the JDM car scene in the 2000s with heavy hitter Nissan Skylines and even their own car that got them a place in the Gran Turismo video game series. But before becoming all that, they started off by dabbling in the world of Mercedes-Benz. They took the regular W201 190E and W124 300E and added their own speical touches to the engine, suspension, body work and wheels before reselling them to the Japanese market as the Tommykaira M19 and M30E . Very rarely do I see them for sale because of their relatively low production numbers but recently this M19 has come up for sale a few times on eBay in Yokohama, Japan. So let’s take a closer look at this JDM Baby Benz.
I’ll be the first admit that I’ve never really liked the S5. It felt as though Audi could have done better and didn’t. It’s always looked fat, flat and uninspired to me, and that’s not helped by the engine selections or the color pallet. When it first emerged it immediately seemed to me that it was a direct copy of the E92 BMW, but with much less exciting engines. Don’t get me wrong – the E92 isn’t my favorite BMW design, either. But it somehow managed to have more presence than the A5/S5 duo in pretty much any iteration – especially so when it came to the vibrant M3. It was almost primed to take on the E46 M3, but when the 414 horsepower V8-laden E9x emerged, the S5 was immediately second fiddle. It’s sole trump card over the M3 was that they came standard with all-wheel drive. That’s about it.
So what’s one doing here? Well, occasionally in the sea of gray, dark gray, light gray, black, dark black, silver, light silver or white S5s, a really pretty one emerges for sale. Case in point: this Audi Exclusive Glut Orange example. Suddenly the S5 makes a lot more sense – why didn’t they sell them ALL in this color?
Only a week ago, I looked at a great example of an Audi S8. Granted, it was not perfect; but, the maintenance and ownership ticked the right boxes for proper consideration. Still, the unique Cashmere Pearl paint coupled with the Ecru interior weren’t most people’s favorite, nor were the C6 Speedline wheels the best match for the design. Does the cost of ownership mean you have to accept a good maintenance history at the expense of the color you want? Not necessarily, as witnessed by this Brilliant Black 2001:
It’s easy to lament the U.S. bound 320i. Powered by a fuel injection M10, it managed to kick out only around 100 horsepower in the early 1980s and felt like a disappointed follow-up to the fantastic 2002tii, which was lighter and sported 130 horses. While the smart-looking Bracq-designed E21 ticked the right 3-boxes and scaled his vision down well, the U.S. bound models got the unfortunate impact bumpers that made them look heavy and unappealing. It was like a cute kid wearing orthodontic headgear; you were pleased to meet them, but couldn’t help but feel bad for the way they ended up looking. Sure, there was a sport version of the 320i towards the end of the run, and it looked better because…well, it had BBS wheels and everything looks better with BBS wheels, but aside from that the U.S. 320i was the relatively forgettable holdover until the E30 redeemed the small sporting sedan range here.
But in Europe?
Continuing on the wagon theme, today we’re going to take a look at something in a similar vein – but oh, so very different. This 1994 BMW E34 Touring is in many ways the antithesis of yesterday’s S6 clone; it’s an original European model, it’s very bare bones, and it’s a diesel.
The story behind BMW’s foray into diesel power in the U.S. was pretty interesting. BMW had developed the M21 2.4 liter turbocharged inline-6 diesel in the 1970s with fuel prices rising; it finally launched in the early 1980s with the E28 524td. But you probably best know that motor for its appearance in mid-80s American iron; an attempt by Ford to improve the fuel economy of its large executive Lincoln Continental. The marriage didn’t work; although the M21 was a good motor (especially when compared to GM’s diesel!), gas prices were falling and the economy was recovering by the time it finally came to market. But since BMW went through the effort to get the M21 legal for U.S. shores, they brought the 524td over here, too. It was a slow seller in the E28 lineup; equipped only with an automatic, BMW dealers shifted 3,635 of the diesels.
No surprise, then, that when the E34 launched, the diesel didn’t come back with it. Though the U.S. market didn’t see the M21 in the lineup though it soldiered on. The M21 was replaced in 1991 by a new version, the M51. Now displacing 2.5 liters and with an intercooler in “s” version, the 525tds upped the power from the 114 seen in the 524td to 141 and it had 192 lb.ft of torque at only 2,200 rpms. This motor carried BMW’s diesels through the 1990s, and was available in everything from the 3-series to the 7-series.
So it’s a bit of a treat to see the M51 in North America. It’s more of a treat to see it in a Touring, and in great shape, and hooked up to a manual transmission. Yes, the want is strong in this one!