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:
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?
Tuner cars – especially those from the 1980s – seem to have lived a hard life. Like Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty, they were stars that burned ever-so-bright in the limelight of the Reagan era. Tyrell said to Batty, “You were made as well as we could make you”. “But not to last”, quipped Batty – a seemingly appropriate exchange when considering these cars. Few have survived unscathed, but with a renewed appreciation for period-correct pieces from the 80s cars like today’s example have a second lease on life.
So what do we have? Well, it’s the penultimate year of the first generation Scirocco. Along the way this genius of Giugiaro received a heart transplant to a 2.0, and then a AutoTech supercharger for good measure. But that’s just the headline grabbers of a lot of neat additions to this faded front-driver:
Update 10/23/19: This cool 924 sold for a surprising $8,100.
Update 12/4/19: This car has been listed again for sale at $14,900 by the new dealer.
Early Porsche 924 models are one of the most interesting paradoxes in the Stuttgart world. They were the entry model into the fabled badge and, as a result, generally disregarded by those who love the classic 911. For front-engine cars, the mighty V8 grand tourer 928 thoroughly outshines what was admittedly originally intended to be the car for Volkswagen that became the Scirocco. The engine in the early models is an Audi 2.0 8V inline-4 found in the 100 and rated at 110 horsepower – hardly a headline grabber.
But then there’s the other side of the 924; many were owned by enthusiasts who likely didn’t have deep enough pockets for the more illustrious models. Though they were short on money they lacked nothing in passion, and today it’s still possible to find very clean examples of the early 924 for sale. And because Porsche tried hard to offer many special incentives to jump into Porsche ownership, there are a plethora of early special editions to choose from. But those were almost entirely appearance packages; smart money looks for the later upgraded examples as Porsche threw the parts catalog at the 924 on its way out:
It’s a bit amazing to consider that two of the most significant halo cars in German motoring history – both homologation models intended to lead their respective marques into the next decade – so closely paralleled each other, yet were so very different. It’s but a 35 minute train ride between Munich and Ingolstadt, and in the late 1970s both BMW and Audi wanted a range-topping model to grab attention. But their approaches were radically different. BMW designed a bespoke mid-engine, tube-frame supercar around a basic engine design it already had. Audi, on the other had, took a basic car design it already had and added a revolutionary drivetrain.
Both were styled by Giugiaro. Both had to be built out-of-house; Baur had a hand in each. Both had legendary engineers – Walter Treser and Roland Gumpert for Audi, Jochen Neerpasch at BMW. Both raced, though the series they were intended for were ultimately cancelled. Both launched a brand name – BMW’s M division, and Audi’s quattro (and later quattro GmbH). And today, both are both legends and highly sought by collectors. So today we have an interesting showdown; two prime examples have come to market and are nearly the exact same price. Of course, for that to occur the Audi entrant is the ‘ultimate’ evolution of the Quattro, the Sport model. So let’s put aside the ridiculous $700,000 plus asking prices of each of these cars for a moment, and consider – all things being equal (which they nearly are!), which one would you choose? Let’s start with the M1:
One of the more interesting facts about one of the cars I own, a 1980 Mercedes-Benz 300SD, is that they were only made for the United States and Canada. That means there are no “Euro-spec” W116 SDs running around Europe or parked in an alley somewhere in Albania. A cool little piece of car trivia, but that also means that all of the 300SDs produced were fitted with giant 5 mph bumpers and quad headlights instead of the sleek European bumpers and glass headlights. Of course that doesn’t mean people haven’t got creative. As you might have realized, this is exactly what is going on with today’s car, a 1980 300SD up for sale in Michigan. This OM617-powered tank has all the little goodies and it surely looks like whoever owned this car had quite an affinity for it.
In the early 1970s, a major change swept through Volkswagen. For some time, Volkswagen attempted to create unique ways to fit more people into a Beetle. The Type 3 abandoned the Beetle’s 2-door, fixed sloping roof profile for a (slightly) more conventional sedan, fastback and even variant wagon platform. That developed ultimately into the Type 4; the 411 and 412 again further moved VW “mainstream” with their Pininfarina bodies and more practical 4-door layouts.
Still, the writing was on the wall. Corporate partner Audi’s launch of the B1 chassis 80 model complete revolutionized both marque’s lineups over the next decade as rear-engine, air-cooled products were phased out and steadily replaced by new front-drive, water-cooled efficient and cheap to manufacture designs. The Audi 80’s design was refined by Giugiaro, so VW turned again to him to work his magic on the 412’s replacement.
What emerged after brief flirtation with the NSU-based K70 was the Passat. Unlike the traditional sedan that Audi got with the 80, the B1 Passat featured a dramatically sloping rear hatchback which picked up styling cues from both the Type 3 and Type 4, but of course was much more angular. Volkswagen offered three configurations for the first Passat; 3- and 5-door hatchbacks, and a 5-door variant wagon. These were introduced before the A1 Golf debuted in the U.S., and like the Golf, the Passat was given a North America specific name – the Dasher:
You don’t have to cast a very wide net to get a needy Porsche 924. Heck, you don’t need to cast a wide net to get a pristine 924, either! That fact alone makes the requisition of a 924 in need of restoration not only financially irresponsible, but downright ludicrous. But there are reasons which sometimes defy common sense and logic.
Now, if you wanted to grab a tired 924 that would be special, there are plenty to choose from. A few years ago there was a ’88 Special Edition near me for a song. I still regret not going to check it out. But any late 924S offers a budget sports car with a special badge, and the 944 crossover parts mean it’s easy to keep them going. Moving to the early chassis, there are of course Turbo models that are popular, but also a plethora of special editions – the Sebring, the Martini and the Limited Edition being the most notable here.
Today’s car is none of those models. But if anything it’s much more rare, and that’s why it’s worth a closer look. That’s because this car has the very rare M471 Sport Group Package. While often associated with the Turbo, it was also available but seldom chosen on the naturally aspirated model. The M471 package came with 5-bolt hubs, Turbo 4-wheel disc brakes, 15″ ATS mesh wheels, Koni sport shocks, Euro Turbo 23/14mm sway bars, and the Turbo rear spoiler. Early models also came with a special “S” decal on the hood. With only a claimed 100 imported, it’s one of the most rare configurations of the 924:
Update 12/2/18: The manual 1981 5000S has been relisted with a reserve auction and opening $6,500 bid price. It bid to $5,100 last time around and I was surprised it didn’t sell. Based upon the other Type 43 sales recently, the current listing seems ambitious so we’ll probably see this one remain for sale for a bit.
Update 11/11/18: The 1980 5000S sold for $2,600.
I wasn’t particularly effusive with praise for the Type 44 Audi 5000S, although it was almost certainly the car which kept Audi’s doors open and lights on in the U.S. during the 1980s. Part of the reason that the Type 44 was so successful was that it was a major step forward from the Type 43, a car designed in the 1970s that felt…well, decidedly like it was from the 1970s. It was big, boxy, not particularly efficient and not particularly technically advanced – especially when compared to the model which replaced it.
However, there were some great qualities about the Type 43. It was the model that introduced mass turbocharging to Audi with the 200 5T, a de-tuned version of which would appear in the U.S. as the Audi 5000 Turbo. Audi used that idea to launch the Quattro a bit later, and the rest is history. The Type 43 was also quite a handsome car, though like many from the period its looks were hampered by the DOT-approved bumpers. Although well reviewed by magazines and offering class-leading features and technology, the Type 43 never really sold in great numbers. A total of 163,442 sold here between its 1978 launch and 1983, the last model year before the Type 44 replacements rolled into dealers. That was just a bit better than the C1 Audi 100 had sold here, a car with a less-than-stellar reputation. Clearly, the Type 43 spent most of its time erasing the memory of the C1, and consequently it is important as it laid the cornerstones for the more successful Type 44.
Today C2s are pretty hard to come across, though we do see a regular flow of them across these pages. Today’s examples are the more pedestrian (and more common to find) 100 horsepower naturally aspirated versions rather than the early Turbo. Still it’s a bit of a treat to get two at the same time, so here we go:
Last week I took a skeptical look at a 1979 Mercedes-Benz 300D with a claimed 24,000 miles. I say claimed because either that mileage is incorrect or someone had lots of hard love with it. Somehow I ended up on a tangent on the W123 vs W116, cars I both currently own, and how I much prefer the W116 chassis. I showed this in the 300D listing, but one of the coolest things that was included when I bought my 1980 300SD was a little snippet from a car magazine from sometime when these cars were new in 1978-1980. It reads, ”In the final analysis, that’s what makes the 300SD such a special car. It is prestigious as anything but a Rolls, but also frugal as an economy car and faster over the road than almost anything. It also feels so secure. All things considering, including the fuel economy, the 300SD is the best sedan in the world. Period.” High praise for sure, but you’d expect that level of car from something that cost over $30,000 (roughly $100,000 now) when new. It’s tough to say the W116 300SD didn’t stand the test of time either as nearly 39 years later, I’m still driving mine every day. Not a single thing rattles or shakes in the interior and I get a consistent 27 miles per gallon. Now if I could just find some nice Euro bumpers I’d be all set.
All that brings me to today’s car, a 1980 with just 8,197 miles on it. The story with this car is that the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in California got it’s hands on it after first servicing with 1,300 miles and then giving it a full reconditioning in 2009. I believe the Classic Center actually bought this car a few years and put it up for sale with 7,900 miles for a tidy sum of $50,000. Now, this car has the nearly 8,200 and the price has gone up even more. How much?