Worth Restoration? 1988 BMW 735i 5-speed

In recent posts, we’ve both talked about the expense of maintaining an old German luxo-barge and, at the same time, the joy of getting to experience their technical prowess. I mentioned in the Alpina B12 5.0 post that I was lucky enough to experience an E32 5-speed upstream of most of the major repairs they would need if you held onto them long enough. Seemingly in response, suddenly a wave of neat 5-speed E32s appeared. But is the allure of the 5-speed status worth overcoming some obstacles to ownership?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 735i 5-speed on eBay

2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet

RS4Cab1In 2008, if you had a lot of money to spend and wanted a powerful convertible with seats for four, chances are you bought an M3. But if you wanted to stand out a bit, the RS4 Cabriolet offered an interesting alternative, with ownership of one of these cars putting you in a very exclusive club. Available only for the 2008 model year, Audi imported a mere 300 examples to the US and they were priced accordingly: an astounding $85,000 when new. For your money you got loud and aggressive, wide-boy styling, grippy all wheel drive, a six speed manual gearbox and a power soft-top to fold away so that you could hear the burble produced by the wonderful 420 hp 4.2 liter V-8. True, they were not as composed as the extraordinary RS4 sedan, but if you were in the market for a convertible you probably didn’t mind, since all convertibles are by nature compromised versions of their solid-roof counterparts.

These days, there are usually one or two RS4 cabriolets on the market at any given time and, owing to the god of depreciation, they can be had for around half their original asking price.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet on eBay

1985 BMW 318i

318E301Since joining GCFSB, I’ve resisted the temptation to write up an E30, mostly out of irritation at the overbaked market for the 80s era 3-series. Although we’ve recently featured some nice examples on the site, I’m tired of seeing so many rusted out, half-finished projects for sale with unreasonable price tags attached. And while there are some admittedly well-preserved and desirable cars out there, I can only stare at $150k M3s for so long before becoming bored. What traditionally made the E30 such an attractive proposition was that it offered all the best features of a sporty German sedan – a sorted chassis, a zippy motor and a manual gearbox – for not a lot of money. But as their prices have climbed upwards, so that even tired examples are no longer very cheap, the allure of the E30 has faded, at least for me.

I’ve relented, however, for the sake of this example. That’s because it’s so nice to see such an apparently clean, well-preserved and original E30 on the market. The price isn’t too bad either.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 BMW 318i on Craigslist

1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SL 5-speed

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The R129 has always been my favorite iteration of the SL roadster. Softer and more modern than the classic R107 that it replaced, but still sufficiently angular that it doesn’t succumb to the awful jelly bean aesthetic of the late 80s and early 90s, the quintessentially Mercedes design remains attractive today; sporty and taut yet elegant and handsome. While most US buyers opted for the V8 500SL or the range topping and magnificent V12 in the 600SL, the car could also be had with an entry level 3.0 liter straight six, as found in this 300SL version. Already a relatively uncommon spec, this car features the especially rare manual gearbox, available only on six cylinder R129s.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SL for sale on eBay

Ultrasport Faceoff: 2005 Audi A4 1.8T quattro v. 2004 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant

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I see B6 platform A4s all the time in DC, often driven by young people in their mid to late twenties. I tend to assume that many of them are hand-me-downs from wealthy parents who live in the affluent suburbs. When equipped with all-wheel drive, these cars make for competent year-round daily drivers ideal for the mid-Atlantic climate, and they still give off that expensive, German vibe even though by now they are relatively inexpensive to buy. But while the overall design remains attractive, I think the standard models can look a bit plain. If, like me, you prefer the sportier looks of the S4, but don’t want to deal with the possibility of the $8k timing chain job that afflicts the 4.2 V8 motor, the next best thing is a regular A4 equipped with the Ultrasport package. Available as a factory option, this added S4-style door blades, revised front and rear bumpers, sports suspension and 18″ multispoke “celebration” RS4-style wheels. So equipped, the ordinary looking A4 is instantly transformed into a sportier, more aggressively styled car. The USP package was available on both sedan and wagon models, and for today’s post I’ve written up one of each.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2005 Audi A4 1.8T Quattro Ultrasport on Craigslist

1986 BMW M635CSi Euro

The other day my wife texted me a picture of an E24 she’d spotted while biking home from work. “It’s gorgeous!” she wrote. I went to have a look at it for myself; you can see the picture I took of it here. It was a 635CSi, parked a few blocks away from the White House with a license plate that read “1LADY.” I can only hope that this means Michelle Obama surreptitiously drives a shark nose when not traveling in the official motorcade. While that particular car was a little worn when seen from close up, with broken bits of trim and some scuffs on the front bumper, even in less than stellar condition it reminded me of just how beautiful these elegant grand tourers are. I haven’t seen or thought of an old 6-series for a while, and that put me on the hunt for a nice one to write up for today.

While I toyed with the idea of featuring a lesser, cheaper model – there are certainly a few knocking around on Craigslist and eBay right now –  ultimately I opted for a car that’s a bit special. This utterly gorgeous, low mileage and mint condition European-spec M635CSi is listed on US eBay, but it’s actually located in Portugal. I’m guessing that anyone who can afford to bid on this car will have no trouble paying for the associated costs of bringing it over.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 BMW M635CSi on eBay

1994 BMW 525i

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote up a 1995 530i. I noted that despite classically handsome styling and a spot-on chassis, the E34 5-series has remained curiously under appreciated, with the exception perhaps of the M5 variant.  At the time, I admitted that the particular example I posted (an automatic with the relatively underpowered 3.0 V8) wasn’t exactly the best of the range. This 525i probably offers a better all round package than the 530i, and is more likely to be attractive to those looking for a cheap but dynamic daily driver. While it’s not in quite the same condition as that other car, this one arguably has a better engine and comes in a better color, with a more competitive asking price. It also features that all important third pedal.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW 525i on eBay

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2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant

Volkswagen is really great at theory, but not so much at execution. They’ve had a long line of really strange marketing decisions which have at times left the company in dire straights. One wonders how Volkswagen will emerge in the wake of the recent diesel scandal, for example, though many other manufacturers like Mitsubishi (you forgot they still made cars, didn’t you? Me too.) are doing their best to usurp VW’s crown as a manufacturing pariah. Yet, Volkswagen has so many debacles it has run its customers through that it should be amazing they come back for more at all. In the early 1990s, they mis-rated the timing belt service intervals on the early V8 quattros. The result was, predictably, a bunch of engine replacements. The 1.8T became notorious for turbo sludge problems, too – rectified with larger filters and synthetic-only oil, but a fair number (including my Passat) had factory turbo replacement. The 3.0 V6? A timebomb of metal shards working their way from the passenger rear of the motor through the engine, thanks to what appears to be an oil starvation design flaw. The 2.7Ts, 4.2s and all of the FSi motors? Known issues, sometimes very large and expensive. Coil packs, unnecessarily complicated PSV systems, transmissions made of glass and clogging sunroof channels? All the norm in your VAG experience. But Volkswagen really outdid themselves by making a complicated system even more complicated when they introduced the 4.0 W8 into the Passat. Sure, it was a test bed for later W12 models, and viewed in that light it makes some sense. But then, the Passat shown here is much more rare than the Bentleys and even some of the A8 W12 models that derived experience from the B5.5. Volkswagen could simply have taken any one of their proven engines and provided the answer to whatever question they were posing when they conceived this vehicle.…

1997 BMW M3/4/5

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The E36 M3 Sedan holds a very special place in my heart and played a large part in turning my attention away from Audis and VWs towards BMW M-cars. Colloquially known as the M3/4/5, one car specifically turned the tide: an Estoril Blue M3 with 4-doors, 5-speeds, and some Dinan bits that was the fastest car I’d driven up to that point. It was smooth, connected, and aggressive, packed in a beautiful sedan that is subtle enough to blend in but aggressive enough to put plenty of distance between it and the base-model E36. I had a chance to buy that car a few years back with 47k miles for $14k but I didn’t have the money. A few years on, this red on black example with similar miles is asking almost $11k more. The red/black isn’t quite as sexy as the Estoril/Caramel combo, but the M Double Spoke II wheels are personal favorites. Despite (or because of?) high production numbers, most E36 M3s have been run hard and disrespected. This one looks to be in great shape but not perfect. Are low-mile E36 M3s chasing the E30s, or is this seller hitting the pipe?

Click for details: 1997 BMW M3 on eBay

1991 BMW 325i

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After the super, extremely, silly low mileage of the gold 325i I posted the other day, we now have a high-mileage black example, this time with the orders of magnitude-better 5-speed manual, that looks perfectly maintained. If you want a blank-slate E30 to perhaps eventually make your own choices on, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better middle ground than this. Nothing’s out of place or modified other than a couple minor 325is upgrades. The perfect daily driver, your first E30, and/or a car to gradually improve and modernize, this looks to be the Goldilocks of the breed.

Click for details: 1991 BMW 325i on eBay