1989 BMW Z1

BMW took a big leap at the end of the 1980s and introduced some pretty extreme design language. First was the E31 8-series, a seeming quantum leap from the outgoing 6-series. That chassis pioneered, for better or worse, a tremendous amount of technical and electronic innovation for BMW. The 8s relied on a bevy of computers to control its chassis, electronic suite and engine. Side by side with the more famous Grand Tourer though was a diminutive roadster BMW produced based heavily on the E30 chassis. Instead of a heavy reliance on computer technology, the futuristic (hence Z for the German word for future – Zukunft) plastic bodied Z1 looked like a supercar even if it didn’t go like one. Park one next to a E30 convertible and you’d never know the two are related!

The Z1 was a complete departure for BMW; while they were not strangers to small cabriolets, their previous efforts were in the 1930s with the 315/1 and the 1960s with the 700. BMW went away from the idea of an integral body and frame to a separate chassis with removable, plastic body pieces. The idea was that the owners could replace the panels themselves to “repaint” the car with minimal effort. It was something the Smart car would be notable for – a car that launched a decade following the Z1. To get the paint to adhere to the bodywork, BMW had to partner with AZKO coatings to develop a flexible paint which they termed ‘Varioflex’, while the bodywork had to be attached using a unique elastic joint technique. The doors didn’t open out – they slid down into the supporting chassis structure. The underbody was flat, not only for aerodynamics, but the tray turned into a diffuser towards the back, assisting in sticking the rear to the ground as speeds rose. In front was nothing new: the venerable M20 from the E30 popped up here, too – but in the rear the Z1 was new with a multi-link rear axle of its own. This new design would later be incorporated into the E36. It’s interesting that with the Z3 BMW opted to go the opposite route and incorporate earlier E30 pieces into the rear of the /7 and /8. While performance was relatively leisurely, the Z1 nevertheless garnered praise for its innovation, unique design and great looks. They never made it to U.S. shores and only around 8,000 examples were ever produced, but a few have crossed the Atlantic now that they’re old enough to be more easily imported:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 BMW Z1 on eBay

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1989 Volkswagen Fox GL Wagon

The Volkswagen Fox is a model which is almost entirely overlooked by us. It’s not because we don’t like the concept of the entry-level Volkswagen brought to the U.S. from Brazil, but the budget pricing coupled with legendary 1980s Volkswagen reliability and build quality (cough cough) hasn’t exactly left a plethora of examples of these small VWs left to contemplate. The Fox was offered in three configurations – two door coupe, four door sedan and two door wagon. Without a doubt, it was the wagon which gets the most enthusiast attention these days. In profile, it looks a bit like a B2 Audi if they had made a wagon, and indeed pop the hood and you’ll see the same longitudinal configuration. Some parts are even interchangeable with the B2 Audis, like the steering rack. But more of this car was shared with the Golf than any Audi product, and though the Fox resurrected the Audi B1 nameplate here the two shared only a passing resemblance. Infrequently seen, these little wagons are neat cars that march to the beat of slightly different Brazilian drummers:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Volkswagen Fox GL Wagon on eBay

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1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SEL

Some will argue that the W126 S-Class was one of the finest automobiles ever produced. At the end of the day, it does everything well, and doesn’t complain about it. It has everything you need, but nothing more. The styling is handsome, but can blend into a crowd with ease. Running costs? Outside of a hydraulic rear suspension that is well worth the trouble, it can be fixed by the most average of mechanics. Time has been kind to the W126, and prices reflect that. Finding a nice one under $10,000 is a tough ask, and the nicest 560SELs with low miles will put you into new Honda Accord prices.

Today, we travel to Belgium to look at a European-spec 1989 560SEL that has some miles on it, but taking a look at the condition, you’d swear it has a quarter of that. Worth the asking price?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SEL at British & Sportscars

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1989 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16v

As cool as the Mercedes-Benz 190E 16v is, the colors Mercedes offered for US market cars were not extensive. You had two choices, Blue-Black Metallic or Smoke Silver. Blue-Black is just a plain black, and Smoke Silver is dangerously close to tan or beige. The situation is not ideal for those of us who like colors. In Europe? There was another color, Almandine Red Metallic. It’s a beautiful shade of dark red or burgundy that isn’t so red like “Rosso” from Ferraris, but a subdued shade. Today, I came across a 1989 16v-2.5 that looks great, but one big problem. The steering wheel is on the wrong side. That surely throws a spanner in the works.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16v at UK Sports Cars

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1989 Porsche 911 Carrera

The 1989 model year was the final year of the torsion-bar 911, and only 1,156 US-market Carrera coupes were made. If that number seems low, it is because the 1989 was a split model year, as the 964s were also sold as 1989 models. Given that the 911 basically looked the same from 1974 to 1989, I can’t imagine it was a fun job trying to sell these 1989 911s when new when totally new 964s were sitting in the showroom. Now some 30 years later, most seek these out for the G50 gearbox and special options like the sport seats. They bring a slight premium over the older 911s with the 915 gearboxes, but at the end of the day its all about condition, mileage, and options. This example caught my eye up for sale in Idaho is finished in classic Carrera White with matching Fuchs and blue interior. A fairly nice spec on its own. Mileage? Just under 121,000. So a potential nice driver-quality 911 for a decent price, right? Not so fast.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera on eBay

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1989 Volkswagen GTI 16V

For 1987, Volkswagen brought its development of the EA827 inline-4 (the “PL”) to the Golf. Already in the Scirocco, it boasted 16 valves, 10:1 compression, KE-Jetronic injection and 123 horsepower. That was over a 20% jump in power, and mated to a close-ratio 5-speed manual it more than made up for the additional heft of the A2 compared to the A1.

To help differentiate its new engine, and because it was initially run alongside the 8V model, several styling cues were added to the 16V. Shared with the Scirocco, the easiest to spot were the “Silverstone” (Teardrop) alloys that would be the signature of the 16Vs for the next few years. Less noticeable were minor changes; painted lower valances and a deeper front lip spoiler, a relocated Fuba antenna now residing on the roof, and of course 16V badges and red stripes throughout. The 16V also got a special leatherette interior and beefy 205-55-VR14 Pirelli P600 tires.

Over the subsequent two years there weren’t many changes to the GTI 16V outside of the “big door” single pane glass change and revised grill of all A2s in ’88, as it’d undergo a major overhaul and bump in displacement for the ’90 model year. This particular GTI is also unique as one of the very last Westmoreland built GTIs, as production closed in ’88 and shifted to Puebla.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Volkswagen GTI 16V on eBay

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1989 Mercedes-Benz 300E

I think it’s becoming pretty clear to everyone that the reality of owning a “new” car that was recently produced for a really long time is slim. Unless you own some factory diagnostic software and tools, or get really cozy with an independent shop that does, the weekend warrior at home in the garage will be a thing of the past. Even with something like an oil change requires software to reset the service intervals, and changing a battery? That literally needs to be coded to the car. No more slapping a new one in and calling it a day. Because of all this, I think the demand for relatively simple cars will grow greater and greater. A perfect example of that? Of course its a W124 Mercedes-Benz E-Class. This example up for sale in Maine is no low-mileage garage queen, but nice enough to make you think is. The thing, the price certainly reflects that.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Mercedes-Benz 300E on eBay

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1989 Porsche 928S4

I’m not much of a Corvette fan. Outside of the original ZR1 and some interesting classics (I’m a big fan of the flawed-but-beautiful ’63 Coupe), most just aren’t very interesting to me. However, take the same formula and drop it into a German car, and I take notice. Is this fair? Probably not. Nevertheless, the ‘German Corvette’ – the 928 – has always intrigued me.

I’m not alone, as the market star of early 928s is rising and the GTS models are still breaking records. So what better way to go than to split the middle? The S4 is just that – enough updates to have fun without the budget-breaking buzz of the last-of-the-run GTS. Sure, you give up some horsepower. But it’s not like the S4 is exactly slow – the 32-valve V8 cranks out 316 horsepower, if you’re counting – and here it’s hooked to a 5-speed manual and a limited-slip differential, as well. You also got the updated looks of the later cars, and the Baltic Blue paintwork shows those curves well. Slip inside and you’ll find Linen leather in the luxurious cabin. What’s not to love?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Porsche 928S4 on eBay

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1989 BMW 535i Dinan Turbo

Following up on the recent Callaway Stage IIs, the other best-known American turbocharger of German products in the 1980s was Steve Dinan. Equally highly regarded, Dinan’s products have made their way from a small independent to being offered in BMW dealerships across the country, and the quality of his work is on par with the best independent tuners from Germany – Hartge and Alpina. Dinan has taken on tough projects – turbocharging the S38, BMW’s first V12, and punching out their V10 to 5.8 liters – and come away smiling.

Today, one of his less-exotic historical products is on the market. In this case it’s a 1989 535i that was turbocharged, lowered and stiffened, and given a big set of wheels. It’s the classic recipe, and sure enough, the outcome looks nice. But what makes this car notable is that it was reportedly Steve Dinan’s personal car, and is presented as the poster pinup probably more than a few of us reading about in Car & Driver when new:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 BMW 535i Dinan Turbo on eBay

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Wolfsburg 3:16: A trio of modified Volkswagen GTI 16Vs

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?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Volkswagen GTI on eBay

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