BMW’s second generation M5 followed the same recipe as the outgoing E28; manual transmission, rear-drive, howling inline-6 under the hood. But the E34 was far from a copy of the car that was really credited with being the first super sedan. BMW upped with power first with the 3.6 liter version of the S38; though the increase in displacement was a scant 82 ccs, the result was impressive. BMW Motorsport GmbH fit a new cam, a higher compression head, and a new engine management system to yield 311 horsepower at a rev-busting 6,900 rpms. They weren’t done.
In 1992 M upped the capacity again, this time to just 5 cc shy of 3.8 liters. Even higher compression, a further revision in electronic management, and a few other odds and ends now netted 340 horsepower and 300 lb.ft of torque. Again, they weren’t done. Perhaps tired of Audi cornering the go-fast-5-door market with their 200 20V Avant, in 1992 BMW launched the M5 Touring. Production began in March 1992 and ran through 1995. All E34 M5 Tourings were left-hand drive 3.8 models, and a total of 891 were produced.
BMW opted not to bring the enlarged motor or the M Touring model to the United States, as the 540i took over the top rungs of North American production. But now legal for importation, these rare Ms have been trickling in:
Although Volkswagen started its small 5-door wagon production in the Mk.3 era, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that they finally decided to bring their second generation Golf Variant in the form of the Jetta Wagon. It was part of an unprecedented wave of early 2000s wagon popularity which gave enthusiasts a lot of very nice options. Parked alongside the Passat Variant in dealerships, just like the B5 they were offered with a dizzying array of configurations. There were GLS and GLX trim specs, along with four different engine configurations. Base GLSs got the 2.0 inline-4 rated at 115 horsepower. Stepping up to turbocharged your experience with the familiar 1.8T, here rated at 170 horsepower just like the Passat – although they’re not the same motor code, as obviously the mounting is transverse. Optional was also the ALH 1.9 liter TDi which could return an honest 50 mpg and be mated to a manual (both not really options in the Passat diesel) and for a touch more sport you could kick up to the GLX model, which gave you the 12 valve 2.8 liter VR6 rated at 174 horsepower and 181 lb.ft of torque.
So there were a lot of options in the Mk.4 Variant’s trick bag, but they’re somewhat hard to find in clean, original condition. Today I came across a 1.8T model that just like Monday’s 300TE is a a rather boring color combination, but one that’s exciting to see in this condition today:
Between 1974 and 1977, Porsche produced 1,633 of its Carrera 2.7 MFI models. This was a follow-up to the legendary 911RS model and carried over much of the look and suspension, along with the punch of the 911/83 2.7 flat-6 rated at 210 horsepower into the G-Body impact bumper models. Though not as valuable as the original 911RS (a good example of which will set you back about $700,000 today), the equally limited ‘Euro Carrera’ MFI cars aren’t exactly cheap. You’re still looking at ponying up between $150,000 and $200,000 for a decent example. Cheap compared to the 911RS, yes, but firmly in wish-land for most.
But there’s a solution for the enthusiast. Ryan Snodgrass has produced an extensive history of the model in his work Carrera 2.7. I was lucky enough to get a copy of the Limited Edition version of the book as an early Christmas present. And opening the box was just like it was that gift-giving holiday morning; a let out an audible ‘whoa’ as I lifted the hefty tome from its packaging. The presentation is outstanding; a stark black cover with immediately recognizable bright shades of the early Porsches underscoring that iconic silhouette.
Last week I looked at the oddball LT28 Westfalia Sven Hedin camper. While it was affordable relative to some crazy VW Camper pricing, at the end of the day it wasn’t a really great example. Somewhat surprisingly, another Sven Hedin
popped high-topped up immediately after I wrote up the post. Our reader Daniel spotted it, and not only was it cheaper than the one I featured, it was in much better condition. But it’s not the only offbeat VW Van to appear at that time.
I also noticed what seems to look like a more traditional American-style mini-camper, and I was curious. What it is is a T3 conversion by Jürgens in South Africa. Called the “Mighty Mini Motorised Home” in period literature, starting in the 1970s the company basically strapped what looked like a tow-behind caravan onto the chassis and cab of a T2. Although I couldn’t find much information outside of the brochure, there are a few fan groups devoted to the T2 model. According to that site, Jürgens began production in 1973 and when the T2 was phased out, production moved to the T3. The new T3 chassis offered more space in the back, so the AutoVilla grew to accommodate a double bed over the cab and a bathroom. All this space meant weight, and the already underpowered 2.0 inline-4 apparently struggled to meet the company’s definition of “motorised”, never mind “mighty”. But these South African campers inspired Wilhelm Karmann (yes, THAT Karmann), who liscenced the design and began building the equally ungainly Volkswagen Karmann Gipsy. Karmann even built a few syncro models of the Gipsy. Needless to say, neither the Karmann Gipsy nor the original Jürgens AutoVilla made it to the U.S., but there’s one for sale now in North Carolina:
Though not as familiar as Alpina, Hartge was another tuner who took BMWs to a higher level. Starting in the early 1970s, they similarly modified cars with higher output motors, special suspension and body kits, and even eventually their own wheel line. In 1985 Hartge was granted special production status in Germany, but their volume never approached that of their rivals. As a result, it’s a bit of a special treat anytime a fully modified Hartge turns up.
The E30 Hartge range was fairly similar to Alpina’s C and B range, with designations associated with their engine displacement. From the 170 horsepower H23 to the 210 horsepower H27, tuned versions of the M20 were employed – some with unique individual throttle bodies, bespoke exhaust manifolds and camshafts, and other trick items. But Hartge also stuck the M30 in the chassis, creating this car – the H28 – and an even more potent H35. The H28 was rated at 210 horsepower – a 70 horsepower upgrade from the stock 323i on which the car was based – and also was met with upgraded suspension, differential, wheels and tires, brakes and body kit. Like Alpina, you could buy many of these parts piecemeal from authorized sellers, making fully modified factory Hartges quite rare:
Until quite recently, the best value in the classic BMW M market was the E34 M5. First off, if you’ve never seen a used advertisement for a second-generation M5, you might have missed that these supreme sedans were the last of the handbuilt M models. If you hate movies, you might have missed that a M5 was also an unsung hero in the cult classic Ronin, even if it couldn’t get away from a Citroen and the S8 was more memorable. If you’ve been living under a rock, you might not know that its father – the original M5 – is a lot more expensive today than it was a decade ago.
Yet the second generation M5, while considered a bit softer than the E28, was a potent sleeper nonetheless. And for me, it’s the ultimate M car; not because it’s the fastest, prettiest or most valuable; but because it expresses the ethos of what made BMW great. A Spartan warrior wolf in taxi-cab clothes, the M5 combined literal race-bred technology into an easily digestible package; it was a pleasure to drive fast or slow, it was reasonably reliable (and especially so considering the performance envelope), and yet unlike Porsche Turbos, Lotus Esprits, Chevrolet Corvettes or any other “sports” car that offered similar performance, it was a stealthy package – it was the adult choice. In 1991 if the M5 was graduating high school, it would have been Valedictorian and voted “most likely to succeed”, but it would have gotten my vote for “most athletic” and “prom king” as well – it’s that good. Despite these superlative qualities, a reputation second to none in terms of quality and driving experience, the E34 M5 is just now catching on in the marketplace – and values are reflecting that:
Until fairly recently, “collector-quality Volkswagen” was pretty much an oxymoron unless you were talking about some rare air-cooled packages like the T34 Ghia or a 23 window microbus. But an explosion of 1980s products means that we’ve seen Mk.1 Sciroccos and GTis break $20,000 or more, and even an odd Mk.2 GTi come close to the same amount. If you’re trying to break in to the 1980s collector scene for Volkswagens, you might be a little late to the party. Not much from the 1990s makes the same impression, save one car – the Corrado. Unlike pretty much every Volkswagen ever made, these expensive sport coupes were prized since new and generally have avoided the pitfalls of downstream VW owners who tend to neglect and abuse them. As a result, we regularly get to see all-original, pristine low mileage Corrados that always amaze me. So throw on some flannel and crank the Soundgarden, we’re taking a trip back in time to 1994:
Quintessentially an 80s car (though designed in the 1970s), the BMW 6-series offered performance, elegance, presence and practicality to the 2-door luxury market. While the Mercedes-Benz SEC might have enjoyed a better reputation and the Audi Quattro was technically more exciting, the E24’s resilient staying power has meant that some 30 years after production wrapped these lovely coupes are still eye catching.
While the really nice 6’s to look out for the in the states are the late 635s, this one comes from fairly early in the run. But 1982 was an important year for the E24 – though, not in the States. European customers enjoyed the E28 chassis refinements and a new 635CSi emerged with the M30B34 rated at 219 horsepower. America would have to wait 3 more model years for the 635, and when it arrived it was nearly 40 horsepower down on its Euro counterpart. So this lovely ’82 Euro example not only has the better motor, it has the better bumpers too – and that’s not all:
Of course, if you’re a fan of German cars (and even some who are not), the Volkswagen Westfalia pop-top campers are legendary in their own right. But esoteric fans no there was not just one version of the iconic ‘Camper Van’. Indeed, Volkswagen offered two iterations of do-anything #vanlife in the 70s,80s and even 80s. The Vanagon is probably the best known, but based upon VW’s larger LT platform were also 8 versions of campers with unique features and a bit more space than the traditional VW van.
Top of the range between 1978 and 1989 was this model – the LT Westfalia Sven Hedin. Hedin was a notable Swedish explorer of central Asia, so the eponymous camper was adventure ready. These high-top vans featured similar accoutrements to the T2 and T3 models, with a cooker, fridge, versatile seating and a fixed sleeping area along with copious storage. Where the LT stood apart was incorporation of a bathroom, replete with hot water shower. You could have these Sven Hedins with either PVC or carpeted flooring as seen here, and with either a 2.0 inline-4 gas motor or the lump seen in this model – the D24 2.4 liter inline-6 diesel rated at 75 horsepower.
At the risk of bordering on Passat overload, I want to take a look at another. VW’s radical redesign on the B3 resulted in a unique, angular look at still stands apart from the crowd today. And because the internals were based on VW’s A2 chassis like the Corrado, when the 2.8 VR6 debuted in the sporty coupe for ’92 it was only a matter of time until its four-door friend got it too. That happened in ’93 with the release of the GLX VR6.
To help distinguish the GLX from the 2.0 16V GL and GLS, the VR6 sported badges front and rear indicating the new motivation. 15″ BBS-made wheels hid upgraded 11″ brakes and ABS was standard, as was electronic traction control. The GLX got a unique bumper with integrated foglights, too, as well as a body color integrated rear spoiler on the trunklid. You could opt to have the GLX in Variant form as well – something unavailable on the GLS for ’93. GLXs came standard with premium sound and could be opted with an all-weather package and leather interior – options you couldn’t get on the base model. All this luxury added up in weight, and the GLX tipped the scales a full 200 lbs heavier than the base GL. But it more than made up for it with the extra 40 horsepower and heaps of torque from the 2.8 VR6. This was a two-year only model, as the B3 was shortly replaced with the heavily revised B4; of course, that coupled with VW’s early 90s sales slump means coming across a clean B3 VR6 like this Alpine White ’94 is something you don’t do every day: