Picking up the reins from the very basic E21 315 model that was introduced some 40 years ago, the E30 316 was the entry-level model for the the newly introduced chassis in 1983. While the model introduced new styling, the basic 316 carried over the 1.6-liter M10 from the 315 model as a very basic entry-level edition.
There’s an appealing simplicity to these early no-frills cars, and this one has already been imported. Let’s take a look:
I recently said goodbye to one of the cars in my fleet, a 1983 Mercedes-Benz 240D, that I maintained and cared for since 2016. It was a charming and very satisfyingly car that I’m glad I got to experience, but a prime example it was not. While it was finished in the lovely shade of Labrador Blue with a navy MB-Tex interior, it did have nearly 300,000 miles on the odometer. That meant various dings on every panel, rust scabs in all the wrong places, some suspiciously different-colored body panels, and a non-working air conditioning system. If all that was working, it would be a car to keep nearly forever and enjoy, but it just required too much effort considering the list. If I could buy a perfect example, sure, but at what cost? It still only had 68 horsepower when new and was right on the limit of being dangerously slow while trying to merge on the highways and climb long hills. Well, today we do have a nearly perfect example. But it comes at a very steep cost, as you might have guessed.
There was a point where it was very hard to find a clean Mk.1 GTI anymore, and consequently the values on them rose sharply and quickly. Predictably, the moment that occurred a bunch of really nice examples subsequently popped up for sale and have continued to emerge as the car has finally been recognized as a classic. Now, couple that scenario with the racing pedigree of the Quattro and sprinkle in a dash of ///Mania into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for some very expensive cars.
With only 664 originally imported to the U.S. and a fair amount dead, balled up in rally stages or repatriated to the Fatherland, the remaining cars that do emerge generally fall into two categories: well maintained examples that fetch high dollars, or needy chassis for the project-minded enthusiasts. Today’s car looks quite clean at first glance, and though it’s not a perfect example it does appear to be highly original. How does that affect its value?
There is something really satisfyingly to me about about a car finished in a great shade of green. It is easily my favorite color if I have the choice, so when a great classic Mercedes-Benz shows up in a unique shade, you take a closer look. This 1983 380SEC is finished in Cypress Green Metallic over a very period-correct Brazil Beige cloth interior. It shows just 65,000 miles and thankfully looks every bit the part. However, this one comes with price tag more fit for a 560SEC.
After last weeks green Porsche 911 that wasn’t actually green, I wanted to feature a 911 that left the fact in that shade. This 1983 911SC is finished in Moss Green Metallic over a brown interior, and I might love this one just as much. Moss Green is a much darker shade of the color and at night you’d probably mistake it for black. However, when you put it in light and really take a close look at it, you’ll see it has a ton of metallic finish in it. Even better for this example, just 39,000 miles.
While the US-market GTI was somewhat watered-down and had chunkier styling than the truly Spartan European 1976 design, it was still a revelation in performance and universally heralded as the benchmark by which all other sporty economy cars would be based moving forward. At a time when there were few do-it-all type cars, the GTI managed to be nearly all things to all people; it got good fuel economy thanks to a relatively miserly 1.8 liter inline-4 with efficient fuel injection. It looked neat, thanks to 14″ alloy wheels, wide fender flared and blacked-out detail work with red accent stripes. It was functional and flexible, with fold-down seats and a (for its size) spacious hatch area to transport goods. It was usable year-round, with front-wheel drive allowing for decent snow traction. And the sport suspension, heavily bolstered seats and close-ratio transmission made the whole package an athletic alternative to the norm, allowing practical-minded men and women to fling their family car through corners with aplomb. Near universal was its appeal, and infectious were the ad campaigns, which in the Volkswagen tradition used short phrases to capture attention like “They’re going fast” and “Serious Fun” – even the oft-used “It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing”.
So what do Germans do for fun? They love to drive. Preferably in a Volkswagen GTI. Because the GTI is designed to be fun. Not fun in the sense of a dashboard cluttered with all sorts of doodads. But fun in the sense of a precision machine that respects and answers its driver’s every wish.
Hyperbole? Certain, this is advertising after all. But it pointed towards the beautiful simplicity of the design, the functionality of the package, the elegance of the execution. The GTI didn’t pretend to be a Corvette like the Opel GT, or a luxury car like the Passat. It wasn’t competing with Mercedes-Benz, or even really Porsche, on any level. And that allowed the characteristically unfun Germans to let their hair down and have a bit of a ball:
Predictably, as it did with Mercedes-Benz Pagodas, Porsche 930s, 80s BMW M products and the original GTI, the quick rising of selling prices for the Audi Quattro has continued to bring good examples to market. Where we used to wait seasons between seeing any at all, today you seem to be able to view at least one pretty good one on the market at any given time.
There are those that say you can’t really compare the Quattro to the M3, or even the 911 – though the pricing was quite similar. But isn’t that the point? In period, the other car you could have bought for the same money as a Quattro was a basic 911. And the market spoke: in 1983, Audi sold some 240 Quattros in the U.S.. Porsche, on the other hand, traded 5,707 911SCs between the Coupe, Targa and new Cabriolet models. There was basically no market overlap with the other two major contenders – the 944 Turbo and the M3. Both those cars, and the 911, were finished to a higher level of quality with better components, arguably, but the real difference was the type of owner who bought the Quattro versus the 911. These cars were built to be used and abused, and many were.
Today’s example wears LA3A Mars Red that was shared with the A1 and early A2 chassis Volkswagen GTI and GLIs (along with a few others), but is less frequent to see on the Quattro than the color that replaced it in 1984 – LY3D Tornado Red. It appears to defy the odds and be a survivor worthy of a closer look:
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.
It seems fitting to follow up the clean 82 Scirocco from the other day with another unique example. This one comes from the following model year, and was sold in the US as the California Edition. But it was part of a larger campaign that celebrated the 600,000th Scirocco produced in Osnabrück, Germany by Karmann.
Karmann started with a Wolfsburg Edition Scirocco, which added leather inside, blacked-out trim, and effectively all of the running gear from the contemporary GTI. That meant you got the 90 horsepower 1.8-liter motor, the close-ratio gearbox, and an upgraded suspension. Wolfsburg Editions were available in three colors – Black Metallic, Mars Red, or Zermatt Silver. The California Edition took the Wolfsburg package a step farther, though.
A claimed 505 were produced, all in Zermatt Silver over black leather. On top of the Wolfsburg standard equipment, they added the GTI’s 14″ Avus wheels and a Kamei X1 body kit. These are rare bits of kit, but one has popped up for sale in the original state they were sold exclusively in:
Popular wisdom would suggest that modifying a car will never be rewarded in improving its desirability. After all, they are personal expressions of automotive passion, and passions vary wildly. So slap a set of VMR rims and an APR tune on your GTI, and yeah, it’s faster. But it’s not necessarily worth more. That logic has been challenged over the past few years, though, as tuners from the 80s have really come to the forefront of value in the classics market. Ruf, AMG, and Alpina have all produced some stunning cars, and lately, stunning numbers at auction. But it’s hardly a new trend.
Way back in 2013, I watched in amazement as an unassuming 1983 GTI took center stage in a bidding war which resulted in a then-staggering $18,000 worth of bids. I was lucky enough to speak with the new owner, and shared his vision and experience in a Reader Ride story which revealed a lot more not only about why he bid, but about what we didn’t know – how incredibly well preserved that Cashmere White GTI was, with full documentation from day one. Certainly, the chance to own such a piece of history was unrepeatable. Or, was it?