When enthusiasts think of custom coachwork and Germany, one name usually springs to mind: Karmann. Most identifiable for their combination with Ghia’s designs for Volkswagen, Karmann produced not only their eponymous creation Karmann-Ghia in both Type 14 and Type 34 configuration, but also the Beetle convertible. Volkswagen’s association didn’t end there, though, as the first Rabbit Cabriolets, both versions of the original Scirocco and the later Corrado were all built by the firm. So, too, were some of the first Porsche 356, 911 and 912 models, along with the 914. BMW, too, turned to the firm for ‘Big Coupe’ production, from the 2000CS to the E24 6-series. But when it came time to take the top off of their small cars, BMW looked elsewhere.
From Osnabrück BMW headed into the heart of the enemy’s home to Stuttgart, where Karosserie Baur was located. Baur was the company that BMW turned to when plans with Lamborghini to produce the supercar M1 fell through. Baur would later be the home that the infamous Group B Sport Quattro and Porsche 959 were produced in. In short, Baur was responsible for some of the most significant designs in German motoring and has plenty of expertise in factory-quality experience. It should come as no surprise, then, that they were the company that BMW selected to produce the first 3-series convertibles.
Taking the roof off the car seems simple enough; just grab a saw and go, ‘How hard could it be?’ Well, not so fast, as structural rigidity rears its ugly head. Beyond that, in the 1970s government nannies were indicating that the idea of a topless car was going to be outlawed, leading many manufacturers – including all of the major U.S. brands – to abandon the idea. Baur’s solution to the problem was to create a roll hoop ‘Targa’ model, which as we know from Porsche models offered multiple roof positions while simultaneously solving the issue of structural rigidity and occupant safety. But Baur wasn’t able to utilize the ‘Targa’ nameplate, as Porsche owned the copywrite of the title. Baur instead called the new partially topless 3-series the Top Cabriolet, shortened to TC. BMW offered these as a full-factory option and maintained the warranty, as these cars were expensive in period – a 323i like this one hit the market at the equivalent of $18,000 in 1980 (about $53,500 today) and selecting the Baur TC1 option added some $6,000 (about $17,000 today) to the price.
While Andrew and Craig have been the typical purveyors of all-things Mercedes-Benz over the past few months, I’m always drawn to the clean, simple and classic look of the 70s and 80s MB products offered in the rest of the world. Today’s 1982 280SE is a perfect example of this. A W126.026, this European specification S-Class is powered by the M110 double-overhead cam inline-6 which was never offered to U.S. customers. Admittedly, the engine looks a bit lost in the bay you’re used to seeing V8s in, but it’s a proven unit with adequate power – 185 raging ponies, to be exact. However, the 280SE is the short wheelbase model and with European bumpers and missing some of the heavy luxuries, performance should be on par with some of the U.S. spec early V8s, if not better. Even if buying the short wheel base, six-cylinder model may sound a bit ego-deflating, these Euro-spec cars always get my attention:
First year model. Undiluted European specification. Rare non-sunroof. Rare air condition delete as well. Paint to sample. Pascha interior. Clean history. Under 100,000 miles. Overall great condition. Were these the statistics for a model named “911”, the price would be through the roof already. Yet while enthusiasts bemoan the increasingly unreachable air-cooled variety of Porsches, their water-cooled brethren remain steadfastly affordable – at least, for the time being. Let’s take a look at this 1982 European-specification 944:
Carlton emailed me over the break with his stunning 500SEL AMG. While this car has mileage befitting it’s age and the patina to match, it is being sold as an authentic AMG equipped vehicle. The best part is that it is a NO RESERVE auction! With a little over a day to go, it’s currently at a bit over $8k!
quote from the seller’s listing:
All I can say this is one fantastic Mercedes! I have owned many rare and unique cars and I can honestly say this one might be one of the neatest cars I have ever owned. I get many thumbs up. This AMG has presence! It has been a southern car for a majority of its life, hence no rust at all. For being 28yrs. old it is in very good condition. The paint is in fair shape and has a couple of flat spots in it. Also if you look at the front fender it has a spot of cancer the size of a half dollar. The rear window is delaminating, which is common with this vintage. This is a real AMG with all AMG parts stamped and verified. I have done all preventive maintainance and have added some performance inhancements. This particular Mercedes has the AMG catalog thrown at it with a no cost approach from the original purchaser. Below is a list of AMG options installed and the maintainance I have done. **********euro vehicle, eBay does not recognize VIN. It’s a 1984*************
full body kit
tubular exhaust headers
5.4 liter modification to version lll
AMG 3pc Areo’s(new Toyo tires)
full leather treatment including dash and all surfaces your body touches
Recaro Ideal C seats(fully functioniing)
matching wood console
full door wood kit
AMG rear logo
champaigne cooler center console(not working, but cool non the less, all parts there)
timing chain, rail, guides and tensioner
plugs, wires and valve adjustment
recharge A/C and replace belts
all fluids flushed and replaced
stainless 2.5 exhaust with X pipe into dual Magnaflow exhaust
As good as the pictures came out, this AMG is 28yrs old and shows some pantina. The exterior shows well, but I was going to have it painted. The dipped chrome trim has some paint flaking off, along with the front grille. The front spoiler has a crack in the middle, holding up well, but needs repair. The interior has been restored to like new condition. The leather is in fantastic shape with minimal wear. Most of the interior wood is in decent shape, excluding the dash trim pieces. To make this stand tall next to the leather I would have all wood restored. Mechanically this car is strong! I took it out the other day and ran with a Mustang GT. The top end seems endless! All service has been performed by a Mercedes Master tech and is spot on. This summer I took it to Atlanta and back with temps pushing 90 with the A/C blowing cold and the temp needle holding steady. There are a couple problem areas that will need attention. The first is the transmision. I’ve had it looked at and the tech said it is fine, it just shifts a little soft for me, I hear you can adjust it. Never tried. The vaccum needle bounces around at idle. Probably a vaccum line some where. Also the driver side and passenger side window switches are going bad. They work, but require a little force. This AMG is a piece of Mercedes history and I guarantee it is one of few optioned like this. It deserves to be restored and driven and definately appreaciated. There are a couple reasons I’m selling it: I dont get to drive it like I should or have the time to put into restoring it, secondly I’m buying a car I sold years ago and it’s for sale again, you know how it goes, wife say’s I can only have so many toy’s. Who ever wins this auction will be gettiing a great car and a piece of Mercedes and AMG history!
While this car needs some attention to be perfect, it is a great looking period piece and I hope it finds a loving new home. Good luck with the sale Carlton.
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