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

Feature Listing: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 400E

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Over the past 20 years since I obtained my driver’s license, I’ve owned six cars. That’s not a whole lot for someone writing on a car enthusiast site. So when it comes to ownership experiences, my scope is a bit limited. However, the Mercedes-Benz 400E is a car I’m familiar with, as my father owned one for a time during my formative years. Replacing a 1992 190E 2.6 that was totaled in an accident, the 1992 400E that found its way into our household was an altogether different beast. It had the same Mercedes qualities we had come to know and love over the years. This was Mercedes’ first crack at the V8, mid-sized luxury segment and while it might have looked a bit staid when it debuted, is styling has aged well. This 1992 400E for sale in Idaho comes to us from a longtime reader, Max, who has owned his fair share of impressive machinery. Sold new in Hawaii, this car has clocked 114,000 miles and is a rust-free, well-preserved driver.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 400E on eBay

Feature Listing: 1989 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16

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Last Saturday, I went to the local Cars & Coffee with fellow GCFSBer Craig. While there, we met a gentlemen who showed up in a Smoke Silver 190E 2.3-16. Being the Mercedes enthusiasts we are, we had a lengthy conversation about Mercedes we’ve owned and the car amongst us. But revisiting this vehicle in the flesh made me realize what a departure it was from Mercedes of the era. When this Cosworth engined W201 appeared, we were all getting used to the idea of a smaller Mercedes at the time, but were just emerging from the era of the W123 but were still in an age when you could pop on down to your local Mercedes forecourt and buy an R107 SL, a classic design that had been with us for over a decade at that point. So here comes a tuned version of the baby Benz along, designed originally for homologation purposes the rally circuit but wound up competing in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) instead.

These cars competed viciously against the BMW E30 M3 on the track and while the Mercedes wasn’t an outright speed demon in a straight line, they had respectable balance and poise that led them to be a success both on and off the track. These days, they are a downright bargain as compared to what we see E30 M3s pulling in the marketplace. This 190E 2.5-16 for sale by Gruppe H in the Czech Republic is a variant that we did not see in the US market. This engined offered a slight horsepower bump and double-row timing chains to fix issues surrounding the single chains on the 190E 2.3-16 model.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: Feature Listing: 1989 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 at Gruppe H

Feature Listing: 1998 BMW M3 Coupe

While derided by some for being a bit watered down compared to its European counterpart, there is no denying that the E36 M3 was a wildly popular model and widened the appreciation and market of BMW and the M brand. This particular model alone – the BG93 North American 3.2 Coupe – accounted for 11,793 examples produced. That’s greater than the total number of M products that had been imported to the U.S. prior to the E36 (E24, E28, E30, E34, and 850CSi) and doesn’t account for the 10,000 plus 3.0 Coupes, 6,300 convertibles and and 8,600-odd sedans. You’d expect, then, that finding good examples of the E36 would be quite simple as there are some 35,000 to choose from. But the popularity of the E36 M3 was in part its undoing, too. The flood of the cars devalued the market; many fell into hands unable to maintain them or who treated them like a pinball, bouncing them off every curb, guardrail or other cars. Additionally, the E36’s shift towards mass production did have tangible effects on the long term quality of the product. It’s not unusual to see rusty examples with the trim falling off and headlights so nebulous they’re useless. As a result, finding excellent examples of the E36 is somewhat cause for celebration and really nice ones have been finding a greater appreciation in the enthusiast world. This ’98 Coupe is certainly one of the better quality examples out there for sale today:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW M3 Coupe on Providence Craigslist

Feature Listing: 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit L

I’ve spent a fair amount of time documenting the importance of Porsche’s 924 model on these pages, but the first generation Volkswagen Golf was equally if not more important. Like the 924, it signaled the shift for the Wolfsburg firm from its tried and true air cooled roots into the modern age of water cooled, front-engine designs. Taking the design pioneered by the Mini, Volkswagen adopted a transverse engine layout driving the front wheels. To package their new platform, Volkswagen turned to Giuigaro, an ex-Ghia employee who had helped design the swoopy and popular Karmann Ghia. But the shift from air to water cooling needed a new direction, and capitalizing on the wedge designs he had pioneer in cars like the Maserati Merak and Lotus Esprit, Giugiaro made an angular but pretty design with a signature large greenhouse. While not a revolutionary design in either engine, platform or interior/exterior look, the first generation Golf hit the market at just the right time – in the midst of the OPEC-driven oil embargo. The effects were long reaching in the U.S. even though the embargo was lifted in 1974; we adopted a national speed limit, daylight saving time was invented to reduce electric consumption and small, efficient cars like the Golf became popular. Like the 924, in addition to being a sales success in its own right, the Volkswagen Golf was the platform which launched several successful other models. The Scirocco, Jetta, Cabriolet and third generation Passat all came from the original design, along with pretty much every single car VAG makes today. But unlike the 924, appreciation for the original design has been very widespread and the first Golf was even nominated for (and came close to winning) Car of the Century. As cars have become increasingly complex, fast, heavy and expensive, the this 1978 Rabbit brings us back that more simple time:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit L on eBay

Feature Listing: 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo

We’ve often lamented on these pages about when enthusiast cars used to be more affordable. Pick your poison; there were days you could buy a pretty sorted E30 M3 for under $10,000, a clean 911 in the teens, a pristine W113 Pagoda for under $20,000. At least for the foreseeable future, those days have left us, and enthusiasts on a modest budget need to pick and choose between the few remnants of a once vibrant sub-$10,000 market. I’ve spent a fair amount of time predicting and watching the ascension of the 944 turbo – the understated, underrated giant killer from Porsche. It’s been no surprise to see soaring values on clean 944 turbos, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that once again another classic has been priced out of sight. But if you’re willing to prioritize driving over shows, there are still some great deals to be had out there:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Porsche 944 Turbo on Omaha Craigslist