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:
Production of the Porsche 991 chassis has wrapped up and oh boy did it go out with a bang. Continuing on the tradition of the Speedster body style, lots were left wondering how Porsche was going to make the Speedster “work”, so to speak, as the rear end of the GT3 is quite girthy. That meant making a giant clam shell to hide a little fabric roof and all make it work flawlessly, while not ruining the design of the 991 completely. What do you know, but the engineers at Porsche pulled it, just like they always seem to do.
Just to sum it up, the 991 Speedster is basically a GT3 Touring with a raked windshield and the already mentioned carbon fiber clam shell to house a soft top. Just 1,948 examples were produced for worldwide consumption, with most all of them being offered to significant Porsche customers, who not only buy everything that is graciously offered to them, but also buy and lease models that need moved off the lot. The majority of these Speedsters never saw the lights of the showroom floor and were directly deposited right into the garages of collectors, but one of two of them with delivery miles are being advertised to the general public. This example up for sale in Los Angeles is finished in the amazing PTS blue (more on that after the break) and has a bunch of other special little treats. The price? Brace for impact.
As the E34 M5 and W124 500E/E500 creep up in value, if you search you can still find excellent examples of the odd-ball turbocharged inline-5 all-wheel drive wonder from Ingolstadt. While both of those cars are legends and fan favorites in their own right, I’d like to suggest that most underappreciated yet most capable of that generation was the C4 Audi S4. Out of the box, it was at a disadvantage to the other two; it’s small displacement cast-iron inline-5 hung fully in front of the forward axle line and was at a distinct power disadvantage. With 227 horsepower on tap, it was some 84 horsepower shy of the S38B36 and nearly a hundred down on the M119. But it was turbocharged, so torque was over 250 lb.ft – close to the BMW’s level. Still, they were fairly heavy and if you wanted to shuffle with the Municher and Stuttgarter, you had to keep that AAN on boil and on boost. But the trump card that Audi presented in the market at that point was all-wheel drive, and coupled with the tunable nature of the AAN, it meant there was a lot of potential in the chassis of the C4. That was met with excellent build quality to create what was perhaps the zenith of Audi’s production in the inline-5. Despite that, they have remained far more affordable than either of the competition, though finding a good one today can be difficult. One of just 399 ’94s sold in the U.S., this Brilliant Black example is one of 50 sold with black leather:
The US-spec C107 Mercedes-Benz SLC probably isn’t going to win any beauty contests. Mercedes had their hands tied with bumper and headlight regulations and probably knew people were going to buy their cars regardless, so they put a band aid on it and that is what we live with. In countries who didn’t have to live with antiquated regulations, things were much better. Slim chrome bumpers and flat headlights plus some engine and transmission choices that made everything just a little bit more exciting. Luck would have it, this is what we have today.
This is a 1980 280SLC that was sold new in Germany and imported to California some time ago. It has the M110 2.8 liter inline-6 paired with a 4-speed manual gearbox, a combo that is rare to say the least. This seems like a far cry from the lumpy V8 and sluggish automatic that was offered to the US buyers when new. Is this a Porsche 911 or E30 BMW M3? Of course not. It’s a car that wasn’t very attractive nor fun to drive and is now slight less of that. Right?
For some, the A2 is a religion and the GTI 16V is their prophet. Being that it’s the Christian Sabbath today (observed, at least – forget for a moment that it’s supposed to be Saturday!) I thought I’d take a look at a chosen few. The other meaning of sabbath, interestingly, is a meeting of witches with the Devil at midnight. Perhaps that’s more appropriate for these hot hatches, all of whom have a slightly evil temper and love mischief? Regardless, in the wake of the Rallye-inspired Golf this interesting trio of what were once original GTI 16Vs popped up, and all are worthy of a look. They range from mild to wild both in terms of mods and price. Are any of them winners?
I think the days of picking up a nice W124 Mercedes-Benz coupe for very little money is probably over. I remember only a few years ago where a decent example could be had for $4,200 or so and everyone would leave happy. The last year or so? Not so much. Most have been trading in the $10,000 ballpark with some really nice examples selling for much more. Yes, you can probably find a handful of 300CEs that need some love for much less than 10k, but how much as you spending to get it back up to snuff?
That brings me to today’s example, a 1990 up for sale New Jersey that has just over 100,000 miles on the odometer. It looks to be well looked after and not beat up at all. But I think the problem with this car is interesting color scheme of Signal Red with the slightly darker lower cladding. Is it garish? Probably. Is it old enough where a crazy paint scheme is now considered cool? Maybe so.
Continuing on my all-wheel ‘driveatribe’, I’d be remiss to not discuss BMW’s take on moving power around to all four wheels. While BMW wouldn’t launch the U.S.-spec iX until 1988, Europeans were introduced to the concept in 1986 – the same year as the Golf syncro. Unlike Audi’s quattro system which utilized a rearward driveshaft tacked on to a front-wheel drive transmission output shaft, BMW mated a transfer case and two viscous couplings, which effectively were front and rear limited-slips. This was very different from Audi’s contemporaneous system, which relied on the driver to lock the rear and center differentials that were otherwise open. The 325iX was able to be mated to an automatic transmission long before Audi would do so in the small chassis. BMW’s system was also more rearward biased, with 67% of the power being sent to the back wheels. While still more prone to understeer than a standard 325i, it was less so than the Audi.
Compared to other E30 models, the 325iX was a slow seller – BMW moved just 6,346 over the four production years between 1988 and 1991, putting these on just about equal footing with the M3 in terms of rarity. But two factors make finding clean ixs even harder; where they were used, and how they were used both result in rust being a big concern and it’s hard to find low-mileage examples. But while the odometer reading is stratospheric on today’s first-year ’88 2-door, it’s undergone a never-seen full restoration to return it to unbelievable condition. Also unbelievable? The price…
Last week I took at one of the better deals I’ve come across of late with a 1984 Mercedes-Benz 280SE that could be had for a mere $3,700. It was far from a perfect example, but all things considered, a nice car for the little amount of money. No surprise – it sold quickly. It was an interesting example because when it comes to the W126, the two models that pop into your head are usually the top of the range 560SEL or tried and true 300SD. Both fine engines, but if given the choice, I am taking the OM617. Of course that leads me to today’s car, a 1984 300SD up for sale in Maryland with just 44,000 miles. Unlike the 280SE from last week, this car is much nicer and to me is quite the looker. However, are you ready to pony up for it?
Watch out Quattro, here comes the Golf!
While in the 1980s if you bought any of the branded ‘quattro’ systems you basically got the same drivetrain no matter what model you jumped in, the same was not true at corporate sibling Volkswagen. To add all-wheel drive to its lineup, VW had to incorporate three distinct systems all of which fell under the moniker ‘syncro‘. As just discussed in the T4, the T3’s system was a viscous coupling setup sending power forward with twin locking differentials. The B2 Passat shared its platform with the Audi B2, so there the all-wheel drive syncro was really just a re-badged generation 1 quattro system. But in the A2 chassis, a different viscous coupling setup engineered by Steyr-Daimler-Puch helped to transfer power rearward from the transverse engine when the front wheels slipped. The engineering was pretty trick, but underneath it all it was pretty much just a standard Golf – albeit one with potential.
So in the late 1980s when Volkswagen Motorsports wanted to enter Group A racing with the new all-wheel-drive Golf, it needed to build more than just race cars if they wanted a mean motor in it. It was homologation at its finest. Okay, maybe not, but build more they did, with at around 5000 road-going units planned of what was dubbed the Rallye Golf.
Defined by its rectangular headlights with cooling slats underneath, the Rallye continued the I’m a race car on the road … SHHHHHHH! theme with typical 1980s box-flared fenders. The Sebring alloy wheels were also seen on U.S.-bound Corrados. Despite the racer looks, the extra performance of the 1H G60-supercharged, 1.8-liter 8-valve inline-4 rated at 158 horsepower wasn’t enough to overwhelm the additional mass of the rear drive system, and, consequently, a well-driven GTI 16V would be quicker to 60 and around a track. But BOXFLARES!
Consequently, though the Rallye may not win the VW drag race, it won the hearts of enthusiasts. This tribute plays into that with a visual recreation of the Rallye – lacking the viscous coupling setup, but with a lot more motivation under the hood: