Feature Listing: 1990 BMW M3 Sport Evolution

While the name “Evolution” become synonymous with Mitsubishi’s WRX-fighting Lancer for the X-Box generation, the term had much greater meaning for racing fans in the 1980s and 1990s. That was the period where homologation really took off; in order to be eligible to race, the FIA stipulated a certain amount of vehicles generally matching the race version of a car would have to be produced. This resulted in some great race-inspired production cars, and in order to best each other on the race track manufacturers would be forced to modify those cars. In order to have the modifications legal to race, the maker would have to introduce those significant changes to the road-going model, too. Those changed models would be termed “Evolution” to differentiate their model changes. As a result, enthusiasts ended up with ‘Evo’ versions of the Ford RS200, the V8 quattro, the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 and, of course, the M3.

The M3 Evolution I was first introduced in 1987 with only a slightly revised motor. The Evolution II followed in 1988, and signaled the first real changes in the lineup. Major alterations to the aerodynamics, bodywork, chassis, and engine netted more power, more downforce and less weight for the FIA-regulated 500 units sold to market. Iconic even within the impressive normal M3 production, these fan-favorites generate feverish bids when they come to market.

But there is an even more desirable variant: The Sport Evolution. BMW Motorsport GmbH maxed out its E30 development in an all-out attempt to dominate the world’s racetracks. A new 2.5 liter S14 cranked out nearly 240 horsepower, while the same ‘add lightness’ recipe was prescribed; lightweight glass and body panels were met with adjustable front and rear spoilers. Signature 7.5″ wide BBS wheels were now darker Nogaro Silver and 10mm closer to the body thanks to lower suspension, while special Recaro seats kept you firmly planted inside from the g-force they were capable of generating. It was as if BMW took all of the best aspects of the E30 and distilled it down into an even more pure form. Produced only in Jet Black or Brilliant Red, 600 of these super M3s were rolled out to fans and remain arguably the most desirable model in the run:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 BMW M3 Sport Evolution at Lusso Fine Motorcars

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Eclectic Slide: 1989 Volkswagen Transporter Syncro Double Slider

Boy, it’s been a bit too long since we looked at a Volkswagen Van. In fact it’s been over a year since I last looked at a Vanagon. For shame! Because while I often lament the lack of good 1980s Volkswagens to consider for these pages, there are predictably two models you can find at any time. One is the Cabriolet.

(crickets chirp)

Okay, admit it. While you tell your Corvette-owning friends that the Cabriolet was a travesty you’d never be seen in, they’re actually kind of neat and certainly have their place. After all, what other cheap manual German convertible can you buy….a Boxster?

The other model that’s ubiquitous with 80s search parameters is the T3. They occupy an interesting subculture within the German automobile ownership community. And once in a while, one pops up that I really take notice of:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Volkswagen Transporter Syncro Double Slider on eBay

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Another Almost Alpina Alumnus: 1988 BMW 750iL “Alpina B12 5.0”

I wish that I had better news for you. I’d love to say that I’d found some hidden gem no one else had discovered, and that it could be yours for a song. Today is not that day. Instead, what we unfortunately have is another case of mistaken identity. To add a bit of insult to injury, it would seem that it’s quite intentional.

Back in May of 2017, I looked at two E32 BMWs. Both were modified, non-original examples. One was a 5-speed 735i sporting some Racing Dynamics bits, and the other was a clean and low-mileage 750iL that had undergone a full cosmetic Alpina B12 5.0 makeover.

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

Kudos to the then seller, it was accurately represented. It looked great but needed to be cleaned up a bit, but despite low mileage and all the original Alpina goodies, it sold for pretty budget price – just a bit over $5,000.

Well, it’s back. It’s cleaner, better photographed and there are also some clever changes and omissions in the current advertisement that have apparently sold bidders on a bill of goods that I’m pretty confident the car can’t write:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 750iL “Alpina B12 5.0″on eBay

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Euro Touring: 1994 BMW 525tds

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!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW 525tds on eBay

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1988 BMW 535iS

The main problem with yesterday’s 745i is that, while on its own it’s a neat car, you can grab many other more desirable BMWs from the same period for less money. The perfect case in point is today’s 535iS. Effectively, this was the U.S. version of the M535i – a M5 without the M88/3, for all intents and purposes. BMW sold about 10,000 M535i models making it a quite successful recipe. Equivalently, the iS model was specific to the North American market and gave you the look of the U.S.-bound M5, with deeper front and rear spoilers, M-crafted sport suspension and sport seats. It, too, was quite popular – between 1987 and 1988, just over 6,000 examples sold in the United States alone, and of those, a little more than half were the preferred manual variant.

While M5 prices have gone somewhat crazy, the 535iS remains quite affordable to most enthusiasts. You get superlative handling, great looks, fantastic reliability and build quality at a fraction of the price of the Motorsport version. And when you add a few choice mods, boy do they look the part:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 535iS on eBay

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GCFSB Alumnus: 1982 BMW 745i

In a star-studded lineup from the 1980s, the BMW E23 certainly seems to be always the bridesmaid. I’d wager that even the E21 is more popular than the first 7-series, and that’s saying something. It doesn’t help that the 7, while bearing a resemblance to the other great Paul Bracq designs from the period, never quite seems to be in the right proportions – especially in U.S. form. But today’s example isn’t a U.S. spec model, it’s the more desirable and much more pleasant to look at European model. On top of that, it’s the turbocharged M102 under the hood, cranking out 252 ///Mvious horsepower and 280 lb.ft of torque to match. That was enough to propel the heavy, automatic 745i to 60 mph in the mid-7 second range and 137 mph flat out – numbers that made its competition envious. It’s got lower mileage, condition is great, and overall it appears to be a very nice example. The rarity and obscurity of the model in some part outweighs the less desirable nature of the large chassis among collectors. Yet this car has failed to sell for not one, not two, but now going on five years.

So what gives? Well, there’s only one reason that a car doesn’t sell, and it’s price. The seller of this car has had it for sale on and off again since 2013. We last looked at it almost exactly one year ago:

1982 BMW 745i Euro-spec

Perpetually, bidding runs out of steam between $5,000 and $6,000. That number seems far short of what the seller is hoping for, but we never learn much about what that amount is. A few weeks ago, the seller tried Bring A Trailer. The result? $5,000 in bids. So here we are again, a bit like Groundhog Day, with a new auction for this very nice example of an early 7:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 BMW 745i on eBay

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Mystery Solved?: 1987 Alpina C2 2.5

Back in February, I took a look at very hot item in the marketplace – a clean, European-spec BMW E30 modified by Alpina.

Or, at least that was what was claimed.

Further research pointed out some problems. I found it to be a car I looked at two years ago in 2015, then listed as a 1986 C2 2.5. The VIN was transposed incorrectly, but the stranger item was that the year was wrong. Stranger still was that a tremendous amount of the car didn’t seem to work. Yet it was a lot of Alpina for the money even as an automatic, as it was relatively clean and priced well below other similar E30 Alpina asks.

Well, here we are some ten months later and it’s popped up in a new listing with a new seller. We’ve seen that before, so no big surprise there. As I started to look through the listing, though, I was struck by just how lazy it was. Okay, there were new photos, but none of them were detailed. The VIN is filled in with “1”s. Then I got to the text, which is a near-carbon copy of the last listing. I say near for two reasons – one, the current listing cut and paste the prior listing….twice. So, halfway through the details, you start all over again!

But perhaps that was done to distract you from the one detail which was added to this listing. Cleverly stuck in after the copying of the prior listing, just before all the fees you’ll need to pay, was a second change and the line which finally answers the questions about this car:

Note this is an Alpina clone with correct Alpina numbered engine.

That’s a pretty frustrating statement to bury in the end of the listing. The ad listing has, for the last several years, maintained how rare this car is and they’re just now getting around to admitting it’s not a real example? That’d be understandable if the owner just figured this out, yet they’ve continued to list the car as a legitimate example outside of that one line stuck in there. Despite this it still looks like a nice example and appears to wear a lot of expensive Alpina items, but this is certainly a case of caveat emptor.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Alpina C2 2.5 Replica on eBay

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1983 BMW 528e

My recent coverage of the 5-series BMWs seems timely. Just last week, I looked at a 1982 BMW 528e. Since it’s been so short a time, I won’t reiterate the major highlights of the model again – click HERE if you’d like to read those details. So why look at what many consider the least excited E28 so quickly again?

Well, in part it’s because of what occurred this past weekend. If you weren’t paying attention, a stellar 1988 BMW 535i came up on Bring a Trailer. It was probably the most impressive older 5-series I’ve seen in a long time. So it was expected to bring pretty big numbers when the auction closed, and like looking through the picture gallery, it didn’t fail to disappoint. The final bid was $50,000 – unfathomable to this point for most of the E28 lineup.

Admittedly, the example I have today isn’t as nice. But it shares many things in common. First, it’s not a top-flight model, though again the Eta motor isn’t what many would prefer. So what does it have going for it?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 BMW 528e on eBay

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Double Euro Content: 1991 Volkswagen EuroVan

As much as I like to talk about the high prices being fetched for Corrados, GTIs and Sciroccos, the reality is the biggest numbers being asked and pulled from 1980s and 1990s Volkswagens are the vans. They’re not something I generally cover, but once in a while one pops up that is surprising and worth note. Today’s is no exception.

What attracted my attention first was the year – 1991. Of course, the main problem there is that in the U.S. market, the Eurovan didn’t launch until 1992. Volkswagen of America was still selling the niche and expensive T3 at that point. So was this a case of a transposition error or just an uninformed seller?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Volkswagen EuroVan on eBay

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Federally Fixed: 2001 Audi RS4 Avant

From time to time, we look at European-market cars. Considering the number that were brought here through ‘Grey Market’ channels, we actually get to sample the more original versions of these cars on a semi-regular basis. But that pool of Euro candidates dries up once you crest the 1986 model year. And for that, you can thank the ‘Fed’ and their kill-joy laws, right? Well, sort of. But left to their own devices, they likely would have never done anything. So why did the government get all antsy in the mid-80s to put an end to importation of what amounted to a pittance of cars? For that, you can thank Mercedes-Benz.

It turns out that Mercedes-Benz was more than anyone annoyed by the second-hand importation of its more powerful and prettier European-specification cars. To a lesser extent, BMW was also losing market share, and the two importers – who, it should be noted, paid a fair amount of money to the government in importation duties and taxes on the sale of their cars – claimed they had lost in the vicinity of 50% of their sales to the alternate European crowd. Now, in a true ‘Free Enterprise’ market, one would have looked upon these complaints and said “Well, Mercedes and BMW, produce better cars at a lower cost for your consumers and you’ll solve the problem!” But, of course, the United States is not a free enterprise market, and there are lots of regulations and rules which have been in put in place in part by high-paid lobbyists for certain industries. Mercedes-Benz and BMW had these lobbyists on their side, and the importers did not. As a result, in 1988, the Motor Vehicle Safety Compliance Act was passed. Also called the Imported Vehicle Safety Act of 1988, it’s what you know better as the ’25 Year Rule’, which basically excludes you from individually importing any car on your own unless it’s really old. Many of the perfunctory reasons behind the “safety” aspect of H.R.2628 – they didn’t have DOT-mandated safety headlights, the bumpers didn’t meet U.S. regulations, they weren’t emissions compliant – have since been eliminated, but the law remains. Even if the car is effectively identical to what’s sold here – and many of today’s Euro cars are – while it’s possible to petition for an exemption for certain models, it’s neither easy, nor is it cheap. And that means that since 1988, fans of the hottest models have an agonizing 25-year long countdown until it’s “easy” to import a car they want. And even then, it’s not really very easy, so most U.S. based fans even if they claim they’re interested are just too lazy to actually go through with it.

So that leaves it to a few official importers to go through the not unsubstantial task of locating a car, shipping it overseas, paying heavy duties, and filing all of the paperwork associated with importation. And you can, despite what many claim, legally import car newer than 25 years old to the U.S.. It’ll just cost you:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Audi RS4 Avant on eBay

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