For a few generations, Volkswagen fans were denied the cream of the crop for Volkswagen products. It took several years to finally get the original GTi to these shores, and then it wasn’t quite as hot as the European version. The second edition might have sported twin cams and 16 valves, but Euro customers got the addtional option of a supercharged, all-wheel drive version. There were plenty of cool options missing from the U.S. lineup in the 3rd generation, too – including the 2.9 liter VR6 Variant Syncro. So there was a bit of rejoicing finally when the all-wheel drive hot hatch was finally added to the U.S. lineup after the initial launch in 2003. Sporting the same 3.2 VR6 found in the TT, unlike the Mk.1 TT it was 6-speed manual only. It was also only available as a 2-door model, with special body kit unique to the R32 and dual exhaust to help announce its sporting intentions. With the best part of 240 horsepower on tap, it certainly seemed like the ultimate Golf and the sound generated from the narrow-angle 6 was mesmerizing. While heavy weight meant it wasn’t considerably quicker than the 1.8T models, it nonetheless has secured a spot in U.S. fans hearts as the top trump from the Mk.4 generation:
If you pop on to the Audi USA configuration site, it’s easy to shake your head at how expensive it seems the range has gotten. The A3 is the cheapest product you can buy, but at $33,000 without options it’s hard to see how this gussied-up Golf is affordable.
Yet, relative to where Audis used to sticker, that price is downright cheap.
Take this 1987.5 Audi Coupe GT Special Build. At the end of the run, Audi sold approximately 850 of these B2/B3 hybrid Coupes to the U.S. market. While things like the suspension and basic body were unchanged, the Special Build got the NG-code 2.3 inline-5 that was seen in the later Type 44/C3 and B3 chassis cars with 130 horsepower. The gearbox was also unique to the Special Build, having beefed up drive shafts (for some unknown reason, as the existing ones were already overbuilt). The Special Build was also the only front-drive B2 to carry 4-wheel disc brakes – again, shared with the B3 instead. Inside, the Special Build got a special digital dashboard in a slightly different hue than the ’86 Coupe GTs with digital boards had. The interior fabric was updated to the Savoy Velour (also from the B3) instead of the B2’s Kensington Velour – this was signified by a triple stripe instead of a dual stripe. To help distinguish the limited cars, the exteriors featured a “dipped” look; window surrounds were body color as were mirrors and spoiler, and if you opted for Alpine White (L90E) the Ronal R8s were also painted body color. As with most later GTs, the Special Build came relatively loaded with few options, though most don’t seem to have the rear wiper selected for some reason. Sunroof, leather steering wheel, power windows, power defogging mirrors, cassette stereo and power antenna, cruise control and a trip computer were all standard. Only heated seats, a rear wiper, leather interior and an automatic transmission could be optioned.
The price for this “heavily optioned” exclusivity was $20,600, and you’d be hard pressed to leave a dealer for much under $21,000 after delivery charges. Inflation corrected from 1987 dollars to 2020 dollars, that’s about $48,000. A brand new A5 coupe starts at $44,000 today and has many more amenities standard. Is it any surprise that we see so many more luxury vehicles today than what we saw in the 1980s?
Let’s go back to the beginning of Type 44 production today and take a look at this Audi 5000S. To me, this car represents just about the least appealing model in the lineup for 1987. No turbo, no quattro, automatic, Almond Beige Metallic – it really doesn’t get more yawn than this. “But it’s a ‘S’ model“, you say. Ah, but continuing on the theme of Audi’s unconventional naming strategy in the U.S., there was cleverly no non-S model for a few years – everyone got a participation trophy.
As it turns out, there were a lot of ‘everyone’. The new 5000, which started selling in the U.S. in 1984, was a massive success for Audi. In fact, it was far and away the most successful model they sold in the 1980s. And while we love to see turbos and quattro and manuals, it was specifically this car – gold Audi 5000S front-drive automatics – that sold in droves. Audi sold 48,057 5000s in 1985, for example. Only about 20% were Turbos. And the quattro model didn’t launch until very late in the year. Even when it did, they similarly never accounted for more than 20% of sales of the Type 44.
Still, ~40,000 doesn’t sound like a big number. But consider Audi sold a total of 26,000 other cars between the Coupe, Quattro and all 4000s the same year. And the 5000’s proliferation wasn’t just over one model year. From 1984 to 1988, Audi sold 171,494 Type 44s in the U.S. and was really only limited by the November 1986 airing of the 60 Minutes debacle. This ’87 is representative of how a majority were delivered, but is not indicative of the condition of most today:
Every once in a while, a car pops up that I’d just love to know more of the history of. Case in point; today’s 2000 BMW 323i. This was the second year for E46 in the US, and frankly the very early E46 323i models were pretty plain. But that’s not the case today, and this one was special ordered from BMW Individual in Dakar Yellow. From there, it gets a bit stranger, because the ticking of special options didn’t seem to continue….
Following up on the low-option GT4 and the high-option but low desirability 924, here’s one that’s firmly in No Man’s Land: a 1998 Volkswagen Golf GL.
In roughly 1999, a local-to-me European car business turned up with something quite unusual. It was a pastel blue 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit. There was nothing particularly special about it; it was a base model with steel wheels. It wasn’t unusually optioned. It wasn’t a GTI. In fact, there was only one really remarkable thing about it – it had only 5,000 miles on the odometer from its single owner, and was in close-to-new shape.
The story went that the original owner had suffered a heart attack when the car was quite new. The widow had left the car in the garage, untouched by all but dust, until finally an estate sale liberated the single oil change bunny. The condition was certainly astounding, but to me the asking price at that time was, too. The seller was looking for $5,000.
It was pretty cool that the car was like a new fifteen year old car, but then cars had come a long way since 1984 in 1999, and the collector market on the Rabbit hadn’t really taken off. In 1999, $5,000 would have bought you a very nice 2.0 16V GTI, after all.
Fast forward to today.
It’s been over twenty years since today’s equivalent to my parable was new in the dealership. Like my memory, it’s a very basic Golf in very good condition with very low mileage. Similar to my story, cars have come a very long way in the past twenty years, and a quick jaunt in this buzzy, basic, and slow Golf will quickly remind you of that. So has the market on a clean, low mileage base Golf taken off yet, or is this doomed to a similar fate as my Rabbit – to sit and wait for just the right nostalgic buyer? Because that clean Rabbit today? Well, it’d probably sell for $20,000 on the right day. This Golf, though?
Increasingly as some of our childhood (or, adulthood) heroes get priced out of sensibility for weekend warrior on a budget status, there are still some bastions of hope for the shoestring enthusiast. One of the best must undoubtedly be the underrated Porsche 924. As Sciroccos, GTIs, 944 Turbos, Quattros and the like take off in value, here lies a plethora of well-cared for, well-built and fun-to-drive cars that have good parts accessibility, reasonable repair costs and surprising amounts of practicality. Sure, it’s ‘just’ a 924, and Porschephiles will probably poo-poo your choice. So, too, will most of the rest of the automotive world. Their loss is your gain. Try as they might, outside of some very special 924 Carreras, these models that helped to keep Porsche afloat in the 1970s and 1980s still haven’t caught on with collectors.
So here’s a late ‘early’ 924; the clean design that kept the lights on at Porsche. Certainly it’s worth a look?
You can say that all examples of a model are the same regardless of color, and I will respect that as you opinion. But let’s be honest, they’re not. Pull up to a stop light in a black M3 and sure, some will take notice. Pull up to a light in a Phoenix Yellow Metallic example, and – love it or hate it – you’ll get attention. Which brings us to today’s car…one of the ultra-rare 850CSis originally imported to the United States.
Though they’re all the same specification, of the 225 imported here, one is a bit special. That’s because it was ordered through BMW’s Individual program in Daytona Violet over Lotus White and Daytona Violet leather. I think I’m in love!
While we’re on the subject of modified cars, this Quattro that I looked at back in February is back on the block. If nothing else, it’s nice to look back to a time just before lockdown – and the car isn’t bad, either!
Today’s post is not about how revolutionary the Quattro was. I’ve written plenty of those and I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about it. So instead, today’s post is more of a philosophical question.
At what point do modifications become sacrilegious?
There seem to be several camps of automotive enthusiasts; one seems to always be wrapped up in the biggest, brightest, and fastest things to come out. Another group embraces the history of automobiles and celebrates most who love the cars. And then there are the preservation people. They’re a very special group who deem it necessary to fault someone’s vision or personal preference in their expression of automotive enthusiasm.
Perhaps we transit through these groups as we age. I can certainly remember a point in my life where I was part of the newest and fastest group. I can remember moving into the second group as I attempted to modify my car to be a personal expression. And, more recently, I’ve found the appeal of originality much greater. I’ve certainly even poked fun at or criticized my fair share of cars. Which brings us to today’s example of a 1983 Quattro.
Having just looked at a few modded fails, I think it’s relevant to remind ourselves that not all modified cars are in bad taste! And where better to start than one of the most popular classics that people like to customize; the BMW 2002.
A few months back I took a look at a wild Zender-bodied example that pulled it all together rather well, if a bit extreme:
1973 BMW 2002tii Zender Widebody
Today’s example is one year newer and a lot more tame, but no less shouty. This example has undergone the knife and come out sporting Turbo-style flares, an M42 DOHC inline-4, and a host of other mods all draped in Porsche’s Miami Blue. Does it pull it off?
If you haven’t noticed, prices of the 996 GT3 have been on the rise over the past few years, and consequently, it’s no longer the budget Porsche special that it once was. But Porsches being Porsches, there are of course options! Probably smartest if you like the GT3 look but don’t have the GT3 budget is an Aerokitted 996, like the one I looked at in July:
2000 Porsche 911 Carrera 4
At about a quarter the cost of a real GT3, you’re getting a lot more than 25% of the experience. However, there are also homebrew options, too, and this particular C4 coupe went a step further. Or perhaps a step too far. Or a few miles too far. You decide: