Feature Listing: 1965 NSU Spider

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1965 NSU Spider on San Diego Craigslist

Feature Listing: 2000 Audi S4

Circuit Paul Armagnac probably isn’t a name which is familiar with you. It’s not even a particularly famous race track, if I’m honest. But the city where that track is located will be suddenly make sense in the context of this post – Nogaro, France. It was the name of that small city in Southwestern France that was made famous when it replaced the moniker “RS Blue” in Audi’s go-faster lineup. The result was a color synonymous with speed, though few fans of the shade know the origination of the name. Blue was, of course, the racing color of France, so in a departure from the typical country-color orientation, Audi popped the obscure name onto its purpley-blue missiles starting with the B5.

That the tone had previously been assigned only to Audi’s skunkwork quattro GmbH (recently renamed Audi Sport) S6 Plus and RS2 was an indication of the sporting potential of the new S4. Power came from not one, but two KKK turbochargers feeding a 250 horsepower 2.7 liter V6. That power was delivered via a 6-speed manual transmission through all four wheels utilizing a center Torsen differential and rear electronic locking unit. Though the new S4 was neither the first fast Audi nor the first to wear the “S4” badge, it was a departure in that it was the company’s first attempt to really take on the M3 head-to-head. It was comfortable, quiet, and quick in all conditions, and while it may not have been a huge threat to BMWs on the track, in the real world the S4 was arguably a superior car:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2000 Audi S4 on eBay

Feature Listing: 2007 Mercedes-Benz S600

s6001

“It’s more than just a car, it’s a glimpse into the future”. That’s what Jeremy Clarkson said about the W221 S-Class when he first drove one back in 2006. He wasn’t lying. The S-Class has always been the peek into what’s to come for regular consumer cars 10 years later. Options like Brake Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist and a list of other things were standard in the S-Class in 2007 are now part of the marketing campaign touting such features for companies like Subaru. Now if you wanted all these futuristic tech in your car and wanted it paired to a twin-turbo V12 just because…well, why not, you look no further than the S600.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2007 Mercedes-Benz S600 on eBay

Feature Listing: 2006 Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG

Bonkers.

That’s what the engineers at Mercedes-Benz went on the W220, apparently. They were not content with already have a very potent sedan in the supercharged S55 AMG (which featured the same supercharged M113 as yesterday’s E55 by the end of the run, but kicked up to 493 horsepower) or the ultra-luxurious S600 that had a 5.5 liter twin-turbocharged V12 that made the same horsepower as the S55 but even a bit more torque.

So, they combined them in 2005.

The result was the S65 AMG, which with the punched out M275-AMG 6.0 liter twin-turbocharged V12 produced a simply outlandish 604 horsepower and 738 lb.ft of torque. That was enough to propel this 5,000 pound sedan from 0-60 in 4.2 seconds. And while that sounds really quick (and IS really quick), that was not where the S65 excelled at accelerating. It was really on the fly that the numbers started to tumble as the speedometer rose; a quarter mile was dispatched in 12 seconds. No fancy launch program, no trick dual-clutch gearbox, not even really enough tire to transfer that power to the road despite the massive 275-35-19 treads in the rear. This was just pure, unadulterated Victorian-era power. The real number that stands out isn’t the top speed, because like all other sensible German sedans from the time period it was maxed at 155 m.p.h., but how quickly it got there: 21 seconds – 2.3 seconds ahead of a Ferrari 575. If you’re counting, that was about the same amount of time it took an early 1980s Volkswagen diesel to hit 60. And you were able to achieve this speed in what was effectively a modern Swiss chalet, comfortable, quiet and full of all the modern technical features you’d expect from the automotive equivalent of a Brookstone catalogue. But it was expensive, topping $180,000 before the few options you could select – yet today, these physics-defying super executives can be purchased by mere mortals:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2006 Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG on eBay

Feature Listing: 2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG

The W124 500E/E500 was a tough act to follow, but Mercedes-Benz stepped up to the plate well with the new AMG collaboration W210 E55 AMG. The M113 power plant generated an impressive 350 horsepower and 391 lb.ft of torque – more than had graced that legendary W124. In its own way, the E55 AMG became a legend, too – subtle looks offering a velvet wrapper on one hefty hammer. So when it came to replacing it again in the new W211, AMG was forced to turn the dial up a few more notches. It was forced because the market had moved on, and the W210’s power output was no longer competitive in the early 2000s. So forced it was, as in forced induction. The M113 now featured an IHI supercharger, and power increased dramatically. This was no small step for man, this was a giant leap for Mercedes kind. The W211 E55’s power output leaped to 469 hp and it now 520 lb.ft of torque. Of course, it needed those numbers because the competition from Audi in the 450 horsepower twin-turbocharged RS6 and the outgoing benchmark BMW M5’s 400 horsepower S62 V8. Going nuclear on the power level meant AMG needed to upgrade the rest of the hardware, as well. Airmatic adjustable suspension with sport tuning gave the hefty E55 poise in the bends, while 14.2″, 8 piston calipers hidden behind huge split 5-spoke AMG wheels with 245 and 265 section tires kept grip and speed in check. The results were palpable: in a 2003 Car and Driver comparison against its nearest rivals, the new E55 AMG simply outpaced everything in a straight line. 0-60 was dispatched in just 4.3 seconds. 100 came only 5 and a half seconds later. The quarter mile was done in 12.5 seconds. Forget sedans, those were numbers that challenged the Corvette Z06 at the same time, and close to a decade and a half later are still very impressive:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG on eBay

Feature Listing: 1992 Porsche 911 America Roadster

Have you been living under a rock? Then here’s a news story – Porsche 911s are pretty hot in the marketplace right now. Consider yourself updated! For the rest of us, this is pretty old news. And by pretty old, I mean they’ve always been very expensive. Take this 1992 Porsche America Roadster, for example. In 1992, you’d have to plunk down $88,000 just for the base price. Most owners left dealers the best part of further $10,000 lighter. That translates to $151,000 or more today, and if you pop over to your Porsche configuration tool it won’t take you long to realize that amount buys you a lot of convertible Porsche today; you’re only about $20,000 away from the base price on the Turbo. Yet underneath the bulging exterior of the America Roadster was a standard horizontally-opposed 3.6 liter with no forced induction producing 247 horsepower. If you’re counting, that’s a little less than half what the new Turbo offers you.

So what did the America Roadster offer, then? Well, you got the look of a Turbo and limitless sky. You also got the brakes, suspension and wheels from the Turbo to help fill out those wide arches. But to really differentiate the model, Porsche decided to release only 250 of them to the public. That makes them about four times more rare than the already quite-infrequently seen Speedster model, and therefore pretty desirable in the collectable 964 spectrum today. Exclusivity of any special model 911 certainly makes them quite special and helps to separate collector examples from those who just pop down to the dealers to buy an off-the-shelf 911 Turbo:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Porsche 911 America Roadster

Feature Listing: 1989 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

While our author Nate has been on sabbatical, I have to admit we’ve had a dearth in coverage of his favorite subject – the Vanagon. Slow, boxy and rust prone, there is plenty to poke fun at every time a Vanagon comes to market. But to me what’s amazing is the package that the Vanagon offers. There’s a simplistic utility to the model which belies its near-universal appeal and recognition. And it’s hard to argue with the adventure aspect which comes with ownership, but also opens new possibilities to life. Over the past few years my wife and I have discussed touring the country and visiting the National Parks with an Airstream. They’re seriously vintage-chic these days, so buying a good condition one can be prohibitively expensive to being with. Then, you need a vehicle to tow it with, quite literally doubling the complexity of your journey. This makes the Vanagon an interesting alternative for many adventure seekers, as you get a different version of camp couture in a package capable of bring you to the next site on its own. Today’s 1989 Vanagon Westfalia is just that sort of package:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia on Cleveland Craigslist

Feature Listing: 1970 BMW 2800CS

In the movie Eight Mile, Eminem’s character was engaged in a rap battle. Stick with me, this is going somewhere. Challenge after challenge fell to Eminem’s funny yet cutting commentary in response to attacks on his character and upbringing, but when it came to the final he had to go first. There was an awkward pause where it seemed as though he’d choke, but then in a brilliant stroke of cunning, Eminem launched a barrage of insults – on himself. By taking away the enemy’s typical weapon, there was no response but to accept that he was just a great rapper. “Here, tell these people something they don’t know about me” Eminem taunts as he hands the mic to his opponent.

So, let’s discuss the 3,200 lb elephant in the room. Being an E9, this 2800CS has had rust. It also has a branded title, thanks to an accident in its history at a time when the value of these cars was fairly low. But do you know what? The previous owner and the seller combined efforts to keep this beautiful classic going. It’s been upgraded and attended to, and while it still has needs it is far from a project to run away from. This is drawn into sharper contrast as its replacement, the E24, has been steadily gaining value. Seemingly heading towards the cusp of being unaffordable for many enthusiasts, the highlights of the 6 series are shared with its predecessor; shark-like nose, a beautifully low waistline that elongates the silhouette, a sweeping roofline that it just perfect in execution. In fact, with so much attention focused now on snapping up E24s before they too become unobtainium, it’s the perfect time to consider this E9:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1970 BMW 2800CS on eBay

Feature Listing: 1999 BMW 323is

The BMW Car Club of America isn’t exactly a tough to join organization. Fill out a form, pay your dues, and you too can receive an honorary doctorate in BMW ownership. Heck, for a while if you bought a new BMW they automatically signed you up for the club! However, it’s not the joining that is particularly noteworthy in this discussion. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve got a fantastic magazine that is filled with a tremendous amount of useful information and reviews. But where the BMWCCA membership really shines is when you’re selling your prized car, and you see it all the time with older models. As a BMWCCA member of a no longer new car, you’re probably more diligent about oil changes. You may even be engaging in preventative maintenance. You’ve likely documented all the work you’ve done. And, more often than not, you’ve taken very good care of your car. Downstream, these little (or not so little) things add up.

Now, finding an E36 for sale isn’t particularly a rare event – they’re everywhere, and most are pretty cheap. As I said in a recent M3 article, there are quite a few cheap and tired options to fit any budget. But a well cared for, maintained and tastefully modified E36? Now, that’s reason to take notice:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 BMW 323is on eBay

Feature Listing: 1988 Mercedes-Benz 560SL

For a few years in the late 1970s, two seeming decapitated dinosaurs roamed the roads of America, the last of a dying breed in the great Convertible Ice Age. First was the now ancient Beetle cabriolet, designed originally in the 1930s and relatively unchanged until production ceased – sort of – in 1980. Your other option if you wanted top-down motoring in the U.S. was the Mercedes-Benz SL, but while it made the Beetle look like a horse-drawn cart, in reality it wasn’t a particularly sporty car at that time. American manufacturers had withdrawn from the market in 1977, and the still relatively small companies of BMW, Audi and Porsche had only tin tops. If you wanted a luxury convertible in 1977, the Mercedes-Benz R107 was your option.

Then the 1980s happened, and suddenly the gas crisis, economic stagnation and concerns over sun exposure suddenly ended. People who liked convertibles were no longer viewed as social pariah with a death wish, and the SL shined as a perfect example of success and excess. Like most V8s from the late 1970s and early 1980s, the SL’s V8 had suffered from environmental restraints which resulted in the 380SL. With a mere 155 horsepower on offer from its engine, the 380SL was hardly the match for its near 3,500 lb. curb weight. That was finally rectified in 1986 with the introduction of the much upgraded 560SL. Now the M117 delivered the power that the prestige of the SL demanded; it gained 72 horsepower and nearly 100 lb.ft. of torque, and gave the model a new lease on life. While the R107’s production cycle lifetime doesn’t scare the likes of the Beetle’s 50 years, in a marque with the storied history of Mercedes-Benz it is the second longest produced model. That alone should lend some credibility to its staying power, and today these models have finally gained the respect they deserve:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Mercedes-Benz 560SL at Auto Source Group