Spring has sprung and convertible season is here. I type this as I look at my window to still see snow, but the calendar tells me it is officially spring so I’ll just go with that. What better way to start the warm seasons by picking up a relatively inexpensive roadster that won’t kill you in repairs/maintenance and maybe even make you a couple of dollars if you hold on to it long enough. If that is your goal, the R129 Mercedes-Benz SL320 might just be the perfect car. Fortunately, this 1996 up for sale in Maryland checks in with just under 94,000 miles and is a really good deal. How good?
By 1995, the BMW 325i had long established itself as the benchmark by which all other sedans were judged. Though it had only appeared in the United States for the 1992 model year, Europeans had access to the E36 as early as 1990. That meant they by 1995, the model was in need of a refresh and BMW was happy to oblige. But as the U.S. market was occupied by the M3 launch, the new non-M range-topper’s appearance would have to wait until 1996.
When the 328i did arrive, it was very much a case of ‘meet the new boss’; while not a fresh design, the light updates were met with more power to continue the 3-series’ reign at the top of the sales charts. The revised M52B28 was installed, and though it was more evolution than revolution, it was pretty good at spinning the needle thanks to 15% more torque than the M50 (207 v. 181). That meant real-world power and acceleration were at your hands, and matched with a manual gearbox the new 328i’s 0-60 time dropped into the low 7-second range. The changes carried over to the popular convertible range, which offered considerably more 4-seat sport than either the Audi Cabriolet or the E320 Convertible. At over $41,000 out the door, perhaps it should have, but then that price guaranteed that the drop-top 3-series would be prized by those lucky enough to order them.
Today, finding an E36 for sale isn’t very hard. But with the newest nearly 20 years old, finding a good one can be. These days, fewer and fewer appear like this very low mileage, well equipped 328iC:
Last week I checked out the unfortunate CL550 Cabriolet that made no sense to me in a number ways. Today, we have something that in practice is very similar to that car, but totally on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to quality. This is the Mercedes-Maybach S650 Cabriolet. The ultra-luxury S-Class convertible that rivals the Rolls-Royce Dawn in everything, including price. This Maybach S650 Cabriolet is a S65 AMG Cabriolet that keeps all of its power and adds another level of luxury and most importantly for this car, exclusivity. Just 300 of these cars will be produced by Mercedes and just 75 of them coming to North America. But for this price tag, is it worth it?
This is a new one for me. A car so far gone, so decrepit, so haggard that it’s only salvageable parts are maybe some gauge cluster faces and one windshield wiper arm. All of this for the price of a new Mercedes-Benz CLA250. I’m not joking and neither is the seller of the 1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL in Ohio. What once was a beautiful Mercedes-Benz convertible, is a now crumbling under the weight of it’s own rust. I’m not sure where to being or where to end with this 190SL but I do know that the price, $32,950, is well, a little optimistic in my opinion.
A few months ago I checked out a really unique 2000 Mercedes-Benz SL500 with the Designo interior package. Outside of the garish red and black leather, there was one major thing would chase me away from this car: the giant crack in the carbon fiber trim. It wasn’t so much as there couldn’t be anything done about it, but rather it would cost $3,000 to replace that piece of trim that surrounded the shifter. Much to my surprise, this same car is back up for sale many states away with an increased price tag of almost $3,000 and that same crack is still there, although hidden really well with some clever photography angles. Honestly, at first I thought this was a different car and it didn’t have any flaws in the carbon fiber. Then I compared the mileage and knew it wasn’t just dumb luck to find two nearly identical cars. While it might have been in the right market range at the original $11,900 ask, good luck trying to sell it for $15,000. I just don’t think the market is there for this odd ball with a wart.
The below post originally appeared on our site September 4, 2017:
Last week I checked out a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL in Hellgrün which is a lovely, as well as much cheaper, alternative to the big brother 300SL. Well, today we have the big brother and believe it or not, it also is a 1957 in Hellgrün. Just to top it all off, it was owned by “The King of Hollywood” Clark Gable and has just 1,368 miles. But, as you might have guessed, this 300SL comes with a much higher price tag than the 190SL. Much, much higher.
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 2/8/2018: this rare Convertible M3 continues to surface, this time in a reserve auction format. But the seller lists the car for $93,995 on their website.
Prior update11/22/2017 – Asking price on this M3 Convertible has dropped to $94,995.
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: