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?
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.
I owned an A1 GTI once. It was one of the worst automotive decisions I’ve ever made. This comes from a man who bought a non-running Audi 200 Avant full of bees in a field in New Hampshire, mind you.
Back in 1998, I bought a non-running, rusty and very tired black over blue 1984 example for $300. I had every intention of “restoring” it to back good condition, but I was 21 and a poor college student and it was 14. But it wasn’t the age (or the mileage, Indiana), it was how it had been treated in that 14 years. After all, my current Passat is 17 years old and while it’s not perfect, it’s pretty damn nice. Heck, my M3 is 16 years old and basically looks and drives new. No, age was much harder on the cars of the early 1980s; plastics weren’t as durable as they are now, nor was paint. Metal was more rust prone and the electronics were no where near as reliable even though there were so far fewer in the car. To back my GTi up, you could simply look through the crease in the bodywork between the taillights and the rear floor where there was no longer metal. Every single bushing was gone, and what was left vibrated like an unattended paint shaker at Home Depot set to high. The paint was ruined – the car had clearly been hit at some point, so the passenger door and fender were a different shade of black than the rest of the car, which could more be described as dark gray spread very thinly over light gray primer. One time it started itself, which was a bit scary. Another time, it refused to start because the starter had removed itself from the transmission, but only enough to jam the gear into the flywheel. Then one fateful night one a ride home from a late shift at work, the fuse box lit on fire, consuming the functionality of all electrics save the high beams. I had sunk a few thousand dollars into keeping that car running and improving it over the year and a half I drove it. Ultimately I sold it for parts – for $300.
I won’t over romanticize my life with a GTI. I was not sad to see it go. I don’t wish I had it back – in fact, it may be the only car I owned that I never long to sit in again. Indeed, I even have more connection to a few parts cars that I bought but never drove. But, I will say that it did provide me with some entertaining stories. And when it ran right (there were at least two times), it was really a joy to be behind the wheel. There were glimpses of its former glory; you could get in, start it up and immediately be driving at 11/10ths everywhere you went. 40 m.p.h. has only felt near as exhilarating on my bicycle. And the shape was beautiful in such a strange, boxy way. I certainly wouldn’t mind owning a GTI (again), and every time I see one pop up I take notice:
Update 11/17/19: This Quattro sold for $18,600
Though the basis for what made the Quattro legendary; inspired racey styling, boxflares, turbocharging and all-wheel drive with a near-luxury interior seems almost trite, the Quattro really was a revolution in design. Some ten times more dear than an E30 M3, in recent years the Audi has gained a lot more respect in the marketplace. 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 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.
With only 664 brought here in total, and just 240 from the first model year, you’re going to have a pretty hard time finding one for sale at any given time – unlike the other three cars mentioned. That’s why it’s worth taking a look at one of the earliest U.S. chassis, even if it does come with a long list of needs. But that strong potential of heavy needs isn’t slowing bids down…
It’s a bit interesting to consider this car in comparison to a few others I’ve recently posted. Like the 924, most (but not all) of the 928 is overlooked in favor of the car that it was intended to replace. Also like the 924, the 928 was a transaxle car with great weight distribution. Similar to the E36 M3, our European friends got the fun motors for the first few years of production; Euro motors started with 21 horsepower more in the early examples, but the vast gulf came in the early 928S. Introduced in Europe in 1980, the M28.11 4.7 liter S touted 300 horsepower. It wouldn’t be until 1982-3 that the S came to North America, and when it did it only cranked out 234 horsepower in comparison. In fact, U.S. 928s wouldn’t get over 300 horsepower until the S4 in 1987.
So here we have the faster ’83 928S from Europe and it’s got a 5-speed manual. Additionally, to link another series of posts, this one is gold with green leather. What was with this combination?
Volkswagen’s GTI is legendary on its own as a performance icon. It’s also got a deserved reputation as one of the most tunable cars out there; from turbos to suspension and everything in between, it’s no surprise that the basic GTI is actually hard to find.
One of the more popular visual tuners in the 1980s was Kamei. The company provided everything from hood scoops to spoilers, and headlight conversions to fender flares. While they have a decidedly 80s feel, that vibe is currently very much in vogue. So when an original GTI comes along with the full spectrum of Kamei accessories, it’s one to take notice of:
1983 was the last year of the Type 43 (C2) model, as its replacement the revolutionary Type 44 (C3) design had already been hinted at with the 1981 “2000 Concept” model. The Type 44 would usher in more power, more refinement, and the addition of all-wheel drive. That meant that the Type 43 was quickly forgotten as the newer car emerged. Even in the mid-80s when these cars were nearly new, they felt and looked old compared to the rest of Audi’s lineup.
Performance was dimmed quite a bit over European counterparts, too. The range-topping 5000S Turbo model did feature the same basic engine as the Quattro, but without intercooling and hooked only to an automatic transmission. As a result they were quite a bit more pokey than the U.S.-spec Quattro, which wasn’t exactly a cheetah itself. The Turbo did offer a 30% bump in power over the standard 5000S to 130, though, and had 280mm front brakes and 240mm rear discs unlike the standard 5000S. Those larger brakes necessitated 5-bolt hubs, so the 5000S Turbo shared the 15″ x 6″ Ronal R8s worn by the same model year Quattros. These cars are increasingly rare to find today in functional condition:
I’m back with another “Which would you buy?” scenario, but this one is quite a bit different from the twin S6s I took a peek at over the weekend. Today I’m looking at two very different 80s icons – the GTI and the Porsche 944. In their own right, both were also 80s film stars – the Porsche 944 in John Hughes Sixteen Candles, while the A1 Volkswagen appeared topless in nearly every other movie – most notably, ‘The Coreys’ License to Drive. Today’s subjects are higher performance, driver-oriented examples, and like last time both fall into driver-quality examples. Yet while the performance and original sticker prices of these cars is quite far apart, today in the market they’re not only within reach of budget-minded enthusiasts, but also they’re in direct competition with each other. So which would you score?
When looking at last week’s 1980 Mercedes-Benz 300SD, the claim of it being the best sedan in the world (at the time) came up. Those were someone else’s words, not mine, but I am certainly not going to argue against it because I actually own a 1980 300SD and it is one of my daily drivers. 1980 was also the last year of the W116 and the W126 was already on the roads late in that year in Europe with 1981 being the first model year for the new S-Class in North America. The W126 had to continue on the legacy of being the best luxury sedan in the world and again, at the time, it would tough to say it wasn’t. You could have the efficient OM617 diesel or two V8 options in the Gen 1 W126 with the 380SE/L or the 500SEL. Today’s car I wanted to check out is a 1983 500SEL but it isn’t the standard North American spec cars you are used to seeing. This W126 is a Euro-spec car with some neat options, both inside and out.
Here we have another very pretty 928. But first a question: The seller refers to monochromatic interior/exterior combinations as an iconic ’80s theme. Was these really iconic? I was a kid so I can’t really recall what the crazy cars were like (My mom had one of those huge Buick or Oldsmobile station wagons. It was not sporty and I believe it was black with tan interior. We slept in the back on long trips. My dad’s 911 was black on black, but I don’t think that’s what they mean.) Color-matching the interior and exterior definitely seems more prevalent in the ’80s. I know I’ve commented on the blue on blue combination that we almost never see outside of the ’80s and early ’90s. Burgundy also seems popular. I’ve seen green on green a few times and those are…quite something. That was the ’70s though. I digress, I guess I hadn’t thought of this as an iconic ’80s thing to do. Perhaps it is and this 928 uses it to nice effect.
This is a Ruby Red Metallic 1983 Porsche 928S with, you guessed it, a Burgundy interior, 47,915 miles, and a very desirable 5-speed manual transmission. One other quick digression: The seller refers to the color as Rubino Metallic, which I had never heard of before. Thankfully the paint code sticker provides clarity and confirms it is rubinrotmetallic or as it’s typically called in English, Ruby Red. It looks spectacular!