A few weeks ago I looked at the Porsche GT3 Touring that was partially launched by Porsche to curb the crazy prices of the 911R on the secondary market. It helped a little, but what really happened is that GT3 Touring prices are still selling for over MSRP and even if they still were in production, your local Porsche dealer wouldn’t give you an allocation unless you were a preferred customer. What a ”preferred customer” is varies dealer by dealer, but basically you get into that club by buying a 918 when they were new or spending lots of money at a dealer by buying lot cars, spending on service, showing up at events and generally being a good customer without raising any stink. If all that failed and you still are looking to get your kicks from something just a little more special, Porsche came up with the 911 Carrera T.
The “T” designation was certainly nothing new, having been launched as a base 6-cylinder model back in the 1960s. The new Carrera T moved more upscale, slotting between the base Carerra and the Carerra S as the lightweight purist option and is basically a mash-up of parts from most of the 911 range. It uses theÂ 370-hp twin-turbocharged flat-six from the base Carerra,Â adaptive suspension from the GTS, a lowered suspension, thinner glass for the rear window and rear side windows borrowed from the GT3/GT2RS, sport exhaust and the 7-speed manual with PDK as an option. You can load up this car with some other fancy options like those nice $5,200 sport seats, carbon ceramic brakes and rear-wheel steering, but most buyers are signing up for this car because of its slightly-less weight and reasonable price tag compared the rest of the 911 range. The Carrera T is as raw as you are going to get in a 991 without spending at least $175,000 for a GT3 and the good news is, you can actually buy one for sticker.
Update 3/1/19: Although it listed as sold for $3,050 in the auction which ended 2/22, this Harlequin is back and not joking around, with $5,000 worth of bids this time as of this morning.
So I’ll start off by saying that we usually try to find the best examples of cars that we can. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist, or even to have particularly good vision, to note that the Volkswagen Golf in the picture above is NOT the best example out there. In fact, we recently looked at what may be one of the best Mk.3s left out there – albeit an odd one – just a few weeks ago:
Riders Wanted: 1993 Volkswagen Golf Ryder with 31,000 Miles
However, if you know anything about water-cooled VWs, you also know that the car above is quite special. It was not because it had the best spec, or the most power, or the highest price tag; in this case, it was all about the marketing and it’s one of those cases where an oddball becomes incredibly endearing to a very small group of people. If you were to buy this car and turn up at a ‘normal’ automobile enthusiasts’ home, they’d probably think you’d gone mental with your recent purchase. Full of rust and mis-matched panels, as well as likely a lot of miles and even more likely a ruined interior – not to mention what is sure to be a host of mechanical woes – this Golf probably looks to most like it’s ready for the wrecking yard. But turn up at a VW show in this car even in its partially destroyed state and all eyes would be on you, because this is a Golf Harlequin, and in the world of water-cooled, that’s a pretty special thing:
So here’s part one in a trio of strange, yet desirable in their own right, Volkswagens. There are plenty of popular Volkswagens that demand premiums, sometimes inexplicably. These special models have a draw and demand money that makes people laugh. Sure, in the car world, itâ€™s become accepted that vehicles like the 21 window Samba are now $100,000 plus fully restored; however, tell that to my father-in-law, who grew up driving them, and youâ€™ll get nothing but boisterous laughs. Other Volkswagens exhibit charm or were class leaders; the GTi, the Vanagon Westy, the Corrado â€“ stylish in their own ways, with charm to match. Then thereâ€™s the Passat. Despite the serious popularity of the B5 and B5.5 chassis, I still feel like I need to explain to people that theyâ€™re really quite nice cars. Do you know why?
Mostly itâ€™s because of the reputation of the B3 and B4 Passats. The B4 Passat will certainly not go down in history as the best made, fastest or even prettiest mid-sized Volkswagen. Poor build quality coupled with an unerring tendency of early 90s Volkswagens to rust heavily meant theyâ€™re an odd choice for the Volkswagen fan. And when I consider the B4 Passat, all I can think is that itâ€™s arguably the most vanilla Volkswagen ever produced. I praised Volkswagen when they launched the B3; smooth, aerodynamic with a distinctive wedge shape, it looked very different than any other sedan on sale at the time. Most of that distinction came down to the grill-less front end, but regardless it was cool. It was so cool, in fact, that no one got it. Of course, it didnâ€™t help that it was pretty expensive and not particularly reliable in the best trend of early 90s VWs. So it probably came as no surprise when the revised B4 Passat in 1995 went more mainstream. New wheels, mostly new body panels and some minor interior changes signaled its introduction, but thatâ€™s not what people sought. No, the big news was under the hood; Volkswagen moved the 1Z 1.9 TDi into the Passat â€“ and behind the headlines of the Vans, Corrados and GTIs, itâ€™s probably the most sought 1990s Volkswagen â€“ especially in 5-speed Variant form:
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, depending on how you look at it, Mercedes-Benz has only graced the United States market with one AMG estate car. Thankfully, it was more than one generation starting with the S211 E-Class and continuing with the S212 and now up to the current S213. Of course, we got AMGs in every SUV, including a R-Class for whatever reason, but when it comes to regular estate cars, the E-Class was it. No C-Class estates, no CLA shooting brakes and certainly no CLS shooting brakes either. Even with the multiple generations of E wagon AMGs, good luck finding one for a reasonable price as even the most desolate ones still bring close to $30,000.
Today, I came across a really nice W204 C63 AMG Estate up for sale at one of my favorite dealers in Europe that is as clean as all the other cars I feature from them. This 2009 painted in Palladium Silver Metallic has all the right lines and curves to keep that aggressive AMG stance and have future classic written all over it. I just wish they brought them stateside.
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:
It seems like every so often a car pops up that somehow has completely fallen off everyone’s radar – including the owner. Usually it is some story about how they were bought for a business but shut down suddenly and everything was left as-is, or how an owner bought the car and suddenly passed leaving the car sit while the family had other things to deal with. Sometimes you might hear about how someone bought a car and stashed it away thinking it’ll be worth big money sometime in the future. As a result, most of these cars have but a few thousand miles – maybe somewhere in the hundreds – but I can’t recall seeing too many cars with this few miles.
This 1988 Mercedes-Benz 300CE up for sale in Poland has just 98 kilometers on the odometer. For those who live their lives in miles, that is roughly 60. That’s it. How did this happen? I don’t know. The seller says that this car was originally sold in Sweden where it sat in a barn for the past 30 years before somehow ending up in Poland. It has never been washed and everything is included from when it left the dealer’s lot. Problem is, this C124 isn’t exactly a time capsule as you might have noticed by the photo. On second thought, it maybe is a time capsule, only one of those that wasn’t sealed correctly and when they dig it up to open it, everything inside is ruined from water damage. Yes, that’s more like it.
Landing squarely back into reality and our comfort zone, let’s look at the 1985 Volkswagen GTI. Replacing a car universally heralded as the second coming of the automobile certainly wasn’t easy for VW, but the Mk.2 chassis proved up to the task immediately. It was very much the same formula as the original with a touch more refinement, space and power. The lines of the Mk.2 were less angular and upright than Giugiaro’s original design, but several aspects of the Herbert SchÃ¤fer replacement mimicked another Giugiaro design – the Lancia Delta. This was most notable in the C-pillar, which tapers with nearly the exact same angle, while early 4-door Golfs also shared the split-glass look on the doors.
For U.S. customers, the GTI continued to be a 2-door only affair and was initially only available in three colors – Mars Red, Black, and Diamond Silver Metallic for an extra charge. Customers opting for the GTI package paid approximately $10,000, which included red-accent trim outside, ‘Bottlecap’ 14″ alloys and blacked-out fender trim, a rear spoiler above the window and aerodynamic headlights. Dynamically, the GTI received the new 100-horsepower ‘HT’ high compression 1.8 liter fuel-injected inline-4, which was solely mated to the front wheels via a close-ratio 5-speed manual. GTIs also sported 4-wheel disc brakes for the first time and front and rear anti-sway bars to go along with the sport-tuned suspension. The driver got special striped fabric in either gray or red over their sport seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and digital computer display were all standard. Buyers could, of course, opt for a sunroof, air conditioning, power steering, cruise control and an upgraded stereo if they chose.
Despite the upgraded spec and new model, Golf sales continued to slide in the mid-80s from their height (as the Rabbit) in the late 1970s. Coupled with their spunky nature, affordability and less-than-stellar build quality, very few Westmoreland-built A2 GTIs remain around – certainly not in the condition of today’s example:
There’s no denying that I’m a huge fan of the equally huge Audi S8. However, if I’m completely honest I must admit that the last two generations of S8 haven’t done all that much to impress me. Are they faster than the original? Without doubt. Are they more luxurious, too? Certainly. But to me the D2 S8 was just the right combination of punch, style and presence which somehow has been lost on the newer generations. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t pay attention to them.
Hard to believe though it may be, 2019 marks the year of the introduction of the 5th generation of S8. The new one will undoubtedly carry some time-warp inducing drivetrain just like the fourth generation did. The 4.0T may appear in a bunch of Audis, but when equipped in the S8 – especially the Plus model – it creates a large executive capable of altering physics. With 605 horsepower on tap driven through the predictable ZF 8-speed automatic to all four wheels via the most clever iteration of quattro, Audi claimed a 3.3 second 0-60 time and an electronically-limited 190 mph top speed. This is a 4,700 lb. sedan, mind you, full of all the most beautiful leather,
wood carbon fiber and piano black treatment one could stuff into an electronics suite. This thing, stock on street rubber, will do a standing quarter-mile in 11.6 seconds – .3 seconds faster than a Ferrari F40, for reference.
But for some people, even the Plus edition of the S8 wasn’t enough. Enter Motoren-Technik-Mayer, better known as MTM. Roland Mayer, the eponymous founder of the company, has been at it since the beginning of quattro, and they’re generally considered one of the best when it comes to turning up even already fast Audis. So what did they do to the S8? Well, they named it after a place that calls itself ‘The Palace of Speed’ – Talladega. Does that give you a clue?
A few weeks ago I dug into the first generation Mercedes-Benz ML and explained while it was a hit when it came to sales, the actual nuts and bolts of the vehicle were less than impressive. A lot of you chimed in the comments section and shared your experiences with them and I can’t say I was all that surprised at what I saw. Naturally, as the years went on and Mercedes gave a face lift to the old Alabama trash can, things got a little better. Mercedes pretty much had to as every other luxury automaker was going full swing into the SUV market including Lexus with its RX300 in 1999, BMW with its X5 in 2000 and Porsche coming in heavy with the Cayenne in 2004. Suddenly the fight for all those upper-middle class dollars got really intense to see who could out do each other and still have to fend off the old guard upscale SUVs from Land Rover and the Toyota/Lexus Land Cruiser/LX.
As the years went on, Mercedes somehow had the space to add not one, not two, but three V8s under the hood of the W163. The M113 4.2, 5.0 and 5.4 liters were all borrowed from other Mercedes cars in the lineup, with the 5.4 coming from AMG. Today’s ML up for sale in San Diego I wanted to look at features the 5.0 liter badged at the ML500. Naturally, there are a bunch of these ML500s out there for sale and I didn’t want to pick any average one because they aren’t all that interesting and you can probably guess the condition they are in. This one however has just 57,000 miles and features the rare Designo interior option that I always love checking out. But much like the very low mile and clean ML320 from weeks ago, are you willing to pay the above average price for it just because it is clean?
Did I say ‘trio’ of Audis? Well, when a clean older quattro pops up for sale, it’s always worth a look, so here’s numero quattro. As with the 80, the 5000S was an interesting addition to the marketplace for Audi. When the Type 44 quattro was introduced in the U.S. for the 1986 model year, it was solely available as a top-tier turbocharged 5000CS model. That continued for the ’87 model year, but in ’88 – the last year for the ‘5000’ moniker – Audi started to bring the C3 in line with its European counterparts. In Europe, Audi had offered the 100 quattro and 200 quattro, the latter being the turbocharged model. That would be the same in the U.S. starting in 1989. But in 1988, both models were termed “5000” and, as it did with front-drive models in the large-chassis range for 86-88, the “S” or “CS” would denote naturally aspirated and turbocharged models, respectively. This was somewhat confusing as the same naming convention did not carry to the B2 chassis.
To make it even more confusing, it was reasonably hard to tell the 5000S and 5000CS quattros apart – at least, from the side. There were no body differences and both wore aerodynamic 15″ wheels, also associated with the Turbo model. This was changed in 1989 as the naturally aspirated 100 moved to 4×108″ wheels and brakes, although the quattro model had BBS wheels that visually matched the 200 model. Both models moved to the new, smaller chromed badges. One easy way to tell the models apart was from the front, where instead of the dual-chamber European-look headlights the 5000CS and Turbo models wore, the 5000S quattro shared the normal single chamber 9004 U.S. DOT lights. Peek inside and you were much more likely to see velour instead of leather. And, of course, pop the hood and the motivation was completely different: