Last week I went on and on about a beautiful 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SE and how it was quintessential classic Mercedes styling and durability. Timeless is a word that maybe comes to mind, but no car person will ever look at that the W108 and not be able to tell it was the late 1960s or early 1970s. Maybe that is a part of the aura around it. It’s a car old enough to have grand children but still water skied on weekends when the knees were feeling good. The W108 and W109 didn’t wither away, they felt every bit as good as they did forty years ago if you kept up on them. Today, I wanted to look at another car that came just before that 1970 280SE and still has that classic Mercedes feel, the W111 220SEb Coupe.
The 220SEb was the top of the range W111 Coupe that featured Bosch fuel injection as opposed to twin Solex carburetors found on the 220Sb. As you might have guessed, everything improved when fuel injection was added to the 2.2 liter M127. More horsepower, better acceleration, and the ability to gobble up miles. This 1962 220SEb up for sale in Chicago looks like it did exactly that. This W111 Coupe isn’t a pickled show car or museum piece. It was enjoyed thoroughly.
It seems that with every progressive generation of BMW 5-series, the gap between the outgoing M5 and the top of the line non-M 5 series narrows considerably. While there wasn’t much of a contest between the E28 M5 and E34 535i, by the end of the E34 run the 540i M Sport was – for all intents and purposes – a M5 without the S38. BMW upped the ante to 400 horsepower in the new E39 M5, once again widening the gap to the 540i model. But the successor E60 545i offered 330 horsepower with matching torque in 2003 alongside the outgoing E39 and once again the gap in performance became much smaller. That gap was made almost imperceptible in 2005, when BMW revised the E60 with the increased displacement in the N62 motor.
Now sporting 4.8 liters from the N62B48, the new “550i” now had 360 horsepower and 361 lb.ft of torque – a near match for the S62. What was perhaps more amazing was that the new N62 also nearly matched the torque of the new E60 M5’s S85 V10. But while that screaming V10 produced far more horsepower, the peak torque was reached only at 6,100 revolutions – hardly practical in your daily commute. In comparison, peak twist on the N62 came at a much more realistic 3,400 r.p.m.s, and on the fly these 550is were – and still are – seriously quick sedans. They also introduced the next generation of design language and computer technology into the 5-series. Some love the look while others lambaste the design. While it’s certainly not my favorite 5, at least it’s distinctive and different in a world full of cookie-cutter designs and dare I say I think it may look better today than it did new – perhaps a testament to its avant-garde lines. While the lust-worthy V10 captures the imagination of enthusiasts, day-to-day the 550i is likely as fast 95% of the time and much cheaper to get into and run. Couple that with a host of Dinan upgrades and you’ll easily surprise M owners for half the price of the V10:
While there’s no doubt that the E9x M3 was instantly recognizable as the replacement for the outgoing E46 model, there was an inconvenient truth that had snuck into the lineup: weight. Part of what had made the E30 such a curb-hopping maniac was that lack of heft even with all the accoutrements. By the time the E92 launched, the M3 had put on nearly 800 lbs of weight.
To motivate it the extra mass, BMW did effectively what it had done with the S14; it took its top-tier motor in the S85 V10 and removed two cylinders. The result was the S65 V8, and 414 horsepower was on tap for your right foot’s pleasure. That was a monumental leap from the E46; when the E46 launched with 93 horsepower more than the prior generation, I thought there was no way BMW could do it again. But they did, tacking on 81 horsepower to the prior generation’s total without forced induction. BMW topped the E46’s specific output per liter, too, besting 103 in the E9x – in a package which was 40 lbs lighter despite two more cylinders. Impressive, indeed.
Granted, if you were plunking down $60,000-odd worth of your hard earned credit, you’d want amenities like power seats, a nice radio, air conditioning – the normals that made it a better road car to live with day-to-day. But if you were clever in the boxes you ticked, you could still get the essence of what made the M3 the greatest car in its segment without a lot of frills. First would be the Competition Package, which gave you more variability on the suspension and more sideways action from the dynamic stability control. You got bigger wheels and stickier, wider tires to make use of that harder suspension.
Tick the 7-speed M-DCT dual-clutch transmission, and that track-readiness was taken to the next level. Then, you’d want to stop right about there. Of course, few people selected such a targeted, bare-bones performance oriented M3 out of the gate, which makes finding one today difficult:
In 1964, Porsche introduced the last iteration of its famed first model, the 356. Dubbed the “C”, Porsche continued to offer two variants of the model – the Coupe and Cabriolet. Base power came from a 1600cc pushrod air-cooled flat-4 with twin Zenith carburetors – this motor carried over from the 356B model – and was good for 75 horsepower. Optional were the 95 horsepower 1600 SC motor and the 130 horsepower 2000 Carrera motor; both with twin-throat Solex carburetors and were expensive options.
But the 356C, in Cabriolet form, was far from cheap. The base price in 1964-65 was well over $4,000 at a time when a 289 V8-equipped Ford Mustang convertible cost about $2,600. But demand was great enough that the C model actually overlapped with the Porsche 911, and these Cabriolets would be the last full drop-top top model until the 1980s.
Cabriolets were assembled by Reutters and are more rare to find than the Coupe equivalent. With a total of around 15,000 356Cs produced, only about 2,500 were Reutter Cabriolets. Today’s is a restored ’64, and currently has a 1600 SC-spec engine installed for a bit more fun:
1999 was the first year of the new 911, and it’s been a debate ever since. But Porsche had to move forward from the air-cooled design ultimately, and the new 911 Carrera was happy to pick up the pieces. The smoothed out styling made the 911 more aerodynamic yet was instantly recognizable as being from Porsche. So, too, was the exhaust note; a flat-6 still powered the best from Stuttgart, but now it was water-cooled instead of air-cooled.
The Carrera 2 and Carrera 4 shared a 3.4 liter variant of the flat-6, the M96. Out of the box, these cars had 300 horsepower – a number that a Turbo would have been happy with only a decade earlier. VarioCam assisted the motor in both being smooth in its power delivery and, unlike the Turbos of yore, that power was available in most of the tachometer. 0-60 was gone in 5 seconds and flat-out, even the drop-tops could do 165 mph. They were comfortable, fast sports cars that were capable in the tradition of the company. And today, they are without doubt the most affordable way to get into the 911 range.
Those first 1999 911s came in Carrera 2 form meaning rear-drive only as Carrera 4s rolled out a bit later, but you could opt for either a Coupe or this car, a convertible Cabriolet. The Cabriolet stickered at $74,460, but in typical Porsche fashion as you added in options the price went up quickly. But today, these cars offer a great entré into Porsche 911 ownership:
Porsche has never been one to shy away from offering a special edition of any of their cars, and that goes double for the 911. It seems as though virtually every few months some new, ultra-limited variant of the GT3, GT2 or Turbo comes splashing into the news feeds and headlines of every German car enthusiast. But occasionally, Porsche does have something important to commemorate, and when it came to 2014 they had a particularly impressive opportunity.
2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911, a car so entrenched in the ethos of sporting automobiles that it’s the mechanical equivalent of the Queen of England. Sure, the 911 hasn’t always been the best, brightest or fastest – but, it’s seemingly always been there and often it has been the superlative. So to celebrate 50 years of production, Porsche introduced a very beautiful and pure example of the 911, devoid of the flash and spoilers that often catch headlines.
Subtle was the key to the 911 50th. It was rear-drive, yet had the wide body from the Carrera 4S. It was lowered 10mm like the GTS, and had different black/chrome accents both front and rear. It wore a variation on the theme of the 2010 Sport Classic’s Fuchs-inspired wheels, here with a machined with black accent finish. Inside a choice of special houndstooth or tartan on the seats, with original 901-inspired gauges and the choice between the excellent PDK dual-clutch 7-speed or a 7-speed manual. Porsche’s Powerkit bumped power up to 430 for good measure, and the outside was draped in Graphite Gray Metallic or the even more gorgeous Geyser Grey Metallic seen here. It made for one stunning package:
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to daily drive a car that isn’t 38 years-old and has such luxuries like airbags, ABS and a modern climate control system. Don’t get me wrong, I love my W116 Mercedes-Benz 300SD, but sometimes I yearn for heated seats and a tire selection greater than three different brands. Once in a while I will see what kind of options are out there for more modern replacements for my W116 and today’s car, a 1998 E300, might just be a perfect combination of modern amenities and the old school diesel feel. This W210 hails from the Northeast with only 100,000 miles and in what should be a total shocker to almost everyone reading this, has no rust. Is this the answer to all my wildest dreams and fantasies?
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more perfect representation of late-1980s and early-1990s Mercedes-Benz than the W124 500E/E500. Mercedes did everything in their power to make the best sports sedan possible and then simply said ”Here you go” to the keen Mercedes buyers who yearned for something as special as the W124.036. No crazy marketing, no limited edition plaque in the center console, no neon colors, just an understated brute of a machine the .036 was and still is. In 1994, the United States market saw the ”E” jump to the front of the line to become the E500 and the front fascia become refreshed with new headlights and a new grille. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any less of the pre-facelift 500Es, but the 1994 (and handful of 1995s not in North America) looks nearly perfect in my eyes. Not too small, not too large, just the right size. The interior was much of the same story with an array of buttons and switches laid out in just a way that isn’t overwhelming or cluttered. Under the hood was the mighty M119 that made just the right amount of power for this car for its everyday uses. Add all this up and you have classic the day the rolled out ofÂ Sindelfingen. (Side note, I love this photo with them inÂ Zuffenhausen next to 964s.)
When you sit down and do the car math on the E500, it adds up to something that no other Mercedes can boast with its low production, Porsche DNA, hand-built status and more than respectable performance numbers. Naturally, this has kept these cars cared for and now as we are into the 25th birthday for some .036s, their prices remain very healthy. This 1994 E500 comes to us from Denver, Colorado with just over 60,000 on the odometer and my favorite wheels of all time, AMG Monoblocks. Yes, I’m biased because I have a set of these wheels, but you aren’t going to find many people that disagree with me when I say that Monoblocks look right at home on E500s. The extra chunky spokes compliment the entire body of the E500 that not many wheels can pulled off.
If you’ve been reading these pages long enough you’ll know that I love a bright red interior. You might also recall that for me a white exterior is a color for which I have a very love/hate relationship. I think it can work incredibly well on some cars and look incredibly boring on others. In both cases, what I like about these colors comes down to contrast. It is not the individual color itself that I enjoy, but rather the way in which it complements other colors. I can think of few better examples of this than the presentation of this Grand Prix White 1988 Porsche 930 Coupe with Lipstick Red interior and just 26,842 miles on it.
The interior is about as bright as they come on a Porsche. Contrasted with the Grand Prix White exterior it stands out in sharp focus. It’s ostentatious, but because the exterior is white I don’t find it garish. It brings some excitement to the car in a way that the much more standard black interior simply could not do and it enhances that white exterior. Overall, this is really nice looking 930 whose color combination is quite befitting of the car’s dynamic capabilities.
We all know I am a huge 911 fan, but I am really enjoying seeing the slew of really nice 928s that we’ve come across. From the wonderful early example we featured toward the beginning of the year to the very rare Wimbledon Green 928GTS it has been a treat to further my own appreciation for these fantastic cars. Here we have another and it honestly might be my favorite: a Minerva Blue Metallic 1982 Porsche 928, located in Chicago, with Navy Blue leather interior and only 18,915 miles on it. If you’ve read these pages long enough you’ll know why this is my favorite: Minerva Blue probably is my favorite of Porsche’s metallic blues. On the lines of the 928 it shows off just how stunning it can look.