There are some obvious links to yesterday’s ’86 Golf in this 1990 Cabriolet. Beyond both being Volkswagens and based upon the Golf platform, they both have low mileage. Above and beyond that, they’re also both the base models of the lineup for their respective year.
In 1990, the Cabriolet was broken into three trim levels; base Cabriolet, the “Best Seller” we looked at recently, and the triple white “Boutique” model at the top. All shared the basic underpinnings with the 94 horsepower Digifant 2H 1.8 liter inline-4 and 5-speed AUG (010 3-speed automatic was optional) and 9.4″ front vented rotors and rear drums. The only differences came in the Boutique’s leather interior and wheel options; the Best Seller having the teardrop 14″ alloys in all silver, while the Boutique’s insets were color-matched white. You could also opt for package P24 in the Best Seller, which gave you both air conditioning and cruise control. Option package P60 in the normal Cabriolet only got you the first option – outside of color, the only selection you could make for the 1990 model year to the base model. In place of 14″ alloys, you instead got 14″ steel wheels with trim rings shared with the 1990-1992 Jetta.
But just because this model isn’t a higher-specification model doesn’t make it desirable, because here condition, color and mileage trump all other considerations:
Update 8/22/2017 – Asking price on this M3 Convertible has dropped to $99,995.
I bet more than a few of you think I have it out for the E30. And, true enough, it’s not a chassis that gets nearly the press on this site that it does on others. Perhaps it is the culture which has emerged around the Cult of E30, maybe it’s just jealousy at the plethora of options and availability of parts that are both none existent in the E30 world.
Most likely, it’s because I like to be a little bit different than the crowd, and truth told that’s a hard thing to do in the E30 world.
But I have the potential solution for my problem right here.
The first water-cooled entrant into the Volkswagen world had remarkable staying power, just like its air-cooled brethren had before it. Construction of the first models began back in 1974, and though the convertible version didn’t begin production until five years later, the renamed (but largely unchanged) Cabriolet wouldn’t wrap up production until an amazing 1993. Granted, by that point the Cabriolet was more niche model and nostalgic throwback than practical transportation, but nonetheless it was an impressive return on investment in the chassis design that 19 years later it was still being produced. And, if you want to count the reworked South African version, technically the Mk.1 was still available for sale until 2009!
What we have here is one of the later U.S. specification Cabriolets. In 1988, Volkswagen updated the look of the aging model (which, incidentally, had just been lightly refreshed in 1985 and renamed Cabriolet from Rabbit Convertible) to the “Clipper” models. Signature would become the four-headlight grill, deeper and smoother front fascia, wider fender flares and side skirts. The Cabriolet became the first Volkswagen model to sport an airbag as standard in 1990, too, as well as a new knee protection bar to the lower portion of the dashboard. 1990 also marked the change from the ex-GTI CIS motor to the Digifant electronic fuel injection. The more upscale models, like this “Best Seller”, also received the 16V model “Teardrop” alloys making for a slick looking package:
Like the Audi Cabriolet which preceded its introduction, the TT Roadster lives in a strange no man’s land; traditional Audi folks usually aren’t very interested in them, and those from outside of Camp VierRinge (who generally hate Audis to start with) really dislike the TT. Most decry its lack of sport car attributes and claim it’s just a poseur for hairdressers and trophy wives.
That’s a shame, really. The 8N chassis might not make for an M3 killer, but it was a serious step up from the Cabriolet if you enjoy canyon carving. First off, it came with more power – in any configuration. While the B4 had droned on with the reliable but not powerful or exciting 2.8 liter V6, the 8N got turbo power from one of two 1.8T motors initially. Later in the run, as with the R32 they added the 3.2 liter VR6, and yes – you could get that in convertible. Unfortunately in the first gen TTs, the big horsepower came at a cost – it was a bit nose heavy and only available with the admittedly trick but also complicated dual-clutch DSG box here. So, if you’re really in need of the 6-cylinder powerplant, your better bet is to look towards the second generation TT; better driving dynamics were mated with the option for a 6-speed manual there.
But all is not lost on the first gen, because the 225 quattro is the real gem of the lineup. And, it’s quite affordable, all things considered. Towards the end of the run, they were heavily optioned up and even available in some wild colors:
The E36 M3 is frequently regarded as the awkward middle child between the classic E30 and the accomplished, grown-up E46. As a result, it doesn’t usually command the kind of values attached to its older and younger siblings. But I think that one day, mint examples of these cars – which are increasingly thin on the ground – will be sought after as classics. The E36’s “dolphin” bodyshape marks an important transition point in BMW’s design history, as the angular lines of the 80s would begin to give way to the rounder, softer shapes of the late 90s and early 00s. The trademark four round headlights are still there, but now set back behind glass panels, and the dual kidneys are now more gently integrated into the front nose, all for the sake of aerodynamic efficiency. The M3, available during this period as a coupe, sedan and convertible, was externally distinguishable from the standard model range only by more aggressive front and rear valances, revised side skirts, and rounder side mirrors. But under the hood was a spritely and free-revving 3.2 liter inline six powerplant. Infamously down on power in comparison with the Euro market S50, the S52 motor in the US-spec car was nonetheless good for about 240 hp and, when combined with the lithe chassis and sharp manual transmission, made for a lively and fun car to drive. The E36 M3 may not have been an out-and-out track monster like its predecessor, but it was fast (for its time), practical and easy to live with on a day-to-day basis.
The Mercedes-Benz SLK usually doesn’t get a lot of love from enthusiasts and I totally understand why. The first generation was a competition with the BMW Z3 to see how cheap they can build a small roadster made completely of flimsy plastic. Speaking of those two cars, it brought back fond memories of playing Need for Speed: High Stakes on my computer back in 1999. I blame that game as well as Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit for my European car addiction. But back to the SLK and the lack of second-hand attention these attract. The second generation R171 was a big improvement over the first generation, but the front end clip had a strange pig nose look that turned off a lot of people. The interiors were still a bit disappointing with lots of plastic and sub-par materials from what you’d expect from a proper Mercedes roadster.
Now in the tradition of post-2000 Mercedes, they sent this car off to AMG to make it fast and make it expensive. What came back was a little Mercedes with big everything. Big engine, big wheels, big brakes and of course quad exhaust tips. Mercedes stuck with the tried and true 5.4 liter V8 M113 that made 360 horsepower and 380 lb·ft of torque. Keep in mind this is in a car that weighs a little under 3,400 pounds. Mercedes officially said this little SLK will get to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds but some magazines had these hitting them in the 4.5 range. Now that some of these AMGs are hitting their teenage years, what should you expect to pay for one of these mini-rockets? Lets find out.
Model: SLK55 AMG
Engine: 5.4 liter V8
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Mileage: 125,280 mi
Price: $14,990 Buy It Now
2005 Mercedes Benz SLK55 AMG for sale!
Like earlier’s Audi TT, BMW’s first successful foray into the roadster market came in the 1990s with the Z3. The Z3’s styling was less aggressive and more organic than the original “Future Roadster” – the Z1 – had been, but initially motivation wasn’t much better. However, when BMW decided to stuff the E36 chassis full of the higher-power M-product motors, they instantly created a hit. Rear drive only with a singing inline-6 and attached to a manual transmission, they were affordable sports cars that offered a very high fun quotient even if they were not the most refined product, style or substance-wise.
At the same time that the M Roadster and M Coupe debuted in North America, planning was already underway for the Z3’s replacement. The new E85 Roadster and E86 Coupe debuted as a fresh face to replace the 90s-era Z3 in the early 2000s, but almost immediately the styling was considered controversial. There were hard edges, curves and cuts integrated into the exterior, and the traditional driver-oriented dashboard was gone, replaced by a more modern flat-cockpit layout. Much like the original Z1, it didn’t look like anything else on the market at the time, and reception was mixed.
Dynamically, though, it was hard to argue that the Z4 wasn’t a vast improvement in refinement over the Z3. The rear suspension was updated with a new multi-link setup which handled power (and bumps) significantly better than the outgoing E36 chassis with E30 bits. A stiffer structure meant more overall composure. And though the interior remained plastic-heavy, the new generation of dashboards looked much more upscale and modern than the dated 90s pieces. Yet the biggest change lay at the end of the run, as it had with the Z3, as starting in 2006 BMW installed the legendary S54B32. Providing 330 horsepower to the rear wheels and trick M-differential via a 6-speed manual, the limited production M Roadster and M Coupe also corrected one of the perceived flaws of the normal Z4 lineup by retaining a hydraulic steering setup.…
While Porsche’s upstart 356 and the breathtaking Mercedes-Benz 300SL were Germany’s first real post-War sports cars, they weren’t the only attempt to capitalize on the economic recovery. But far from being just a recovery, West Germany’s “Wirtschaftswunder” – economic miracle – aided by the Marshall Plan and a focus on strengthening the border states of the ‘Iron Curtain’ meant that capitalism manifested itself in new ways. Cashing in on a re-emerging middle class with newfound wealth and prosperity, companies like BMW and Volkswagen launched new sportier versions of their small, economical sedans. The 700 Coupe and Karmann Ghia, launched in 1959 and 1955 respectively, might not have had the power of Porsche or the Gullwing, but still brought sport and style to a much larger market. Both designs utilized existing technology to create a rear-drive, rear-engine two-seater that still was budget friendly.
However, they weren’t alone in the market. Auto Union’s main production lines in Chemnitz lay firmly in Soviet control, so it was the DKW brand which shouldered the responsibility of rebuilding the company. That would bear the 1000SP in the late 1950s – a lovely, but not particularly sporty, personal coupe and convertible. Prior to its merger with the Volkswagen Group in 1969, though, NSU – a firm more known for its pre-War motorcycles – had ventured into small sports cars. The result was the legendary Prinz and TT models; small, efficient, fun to drive rear-engine sedans. NSU branched out in 1964 and offered the world’s first rotary-powered limited production convertible in an attempt to ascertain if the technology was applicable to normal production. With technically a mid-rear design, it was a revolutionary alternative to the BMW 700:
I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for color. My eyes gravitate towards shades I don’t usually see, and this E46 certainly caught my eye. At first I was sure it must be a BMW Individual car like the Messing Metallic M3 I looked at earlier in the year. But no, this is a standard color, believe it or else. Sonora Metallic wasn’t often selected, as I frequently look that these cars and have never seen it (to my knowledge). Coupled with the Natural Brown leather interior and a 5-speed manual gearbox makes this 330Ci an appealing to look at yet quite affordable option for top-down German motoring:
On Monday, I looked at a W124 cabriolet – a model I believe won’t witness a huge spike in value over the short term. While I do think the values will hold strong where they are and, at the very least, keep up with inflation, if you are hoping to make tens of thousands of dollars in a quick flip, there are probably better options. Today’s car, the Mercedes-Benz 190SL, is one of those options.