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.
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?
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:
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?
Celebrating Volkswagen’s addition of the DOHC 16V ‘PL’ to the GLI in 1987, and perhaps to in part justify its heady $14,000 MSRP, the company heavily upgraded the model over the standard Jetta. To match the additional power, Volkswagen offered many upgrades over the standard 8 valve GLI in 1987, the only year they were offered together in the U.S. market. A deeper front lip spoiler with brake ducting and rear spoiler added boy-racer looks. Though the wheels remained 14″ x 6″, the new “Silverstone” design you know as “Teardrops” looked cooler than the bottle-cap inspired design on the 8V. A swept-back Fuba roof-mounted antenna continued the speed theme and became the signature Volkswagen look for some time. Inside 16V badges on the dash and a higher red line prepared you for the thrill ride while heavily bolstered half-cloth, half-leatherette Recaro Trophy seats hugged you.
But in 1989, Volkswagen kicked it up another notch with a special edition of the GLI. Part of the group of six special ‘Wolfsburg Edition’ models for the year, the highlight was definitely the Jetta. Outside they were painted LA5Y Helios Blue Metallic – a color borrowed from the much more expensive Audi Quattro. They also featured color-matched BBS RAs in 15″ x 6″. The mirrors were color-matched too. Inside the Recaro seats received special diagonally-striped cloth, while the luxury quotient was upped as well with power windows, locks and mirrors, a sunroof, air conditioning, and stereo with 6 speakers and cassette all standard. This took the Jetta GLI’s price up over $17,000. Although the next model year adopted some of these upgrades as standard, the special-toned and limited edition ’89s known simply as ‘Helios’ have always had a cult following:
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 – the 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:
I’m sure you’ve heard the idiom “lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice“.
In fact, it’s fairly common for lightning to strike the same place twice. Check out tall buildings, for example. Still, humans like to think that the odds of a rare event happening twice in a short amount of time are statistically very low. And, if I’m honest, I’m not immune to that belief. That brings us today’s Volkswagen. If this 1989 GTI 16V looks familiar, you’d be forgiven for thinking I just covered it. I, too, thought it was the same car I looked at back in February.
1989 Volkswagen GTI 16V
After all, what is the statistical probability of coming across another perfect condition, LY3D Tornado Red 1989 GTI 16V after seeing one just two months ago? Apparently it is quite good. Because while they look similar and both in impossibly good condition, February’s VIN was 1VWDC0179KV009402 while today’s is 1VWDC0176KV016260. The last one sold at $8,322 – frankly, quite a deal for what that car was. Today you’ve got a second chance if you missed out – but you’ll need to bring more money to the table…
Update 4/20/19: This GTI 16V sold for $8,322.
Remember what I just said about being at the mercy of what’s available? So here comes another Volkswagen, but I promise this one won’t disappoint. That’s because unlike the other examples which were fringe favorites, here’s the bad boy everyone wants – the 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. And this ’89 must certainly be one of the best left out there:
The Golf Limited may be one of the best sleepers of all time. It’s such a sleeper, in fact, that most of the world doesn’t even know it exists. Yet this was the car that arguably gave birth to Volkswagen’s “R” lineup and along with cars like the Lancia Delta Integrale took hot hatches to a new level of performance. So why is it so thoroughly overlooked?
The root of the cause, I believe, comes down to availability. A scant 71 Golf Limited models rolled out of VW Motorsports’ skunkworks, and to the naked eye, they weren’t nearly as impressive looking as the Rallye, GTI G60 or even the Country models they were sold alongside of. But Volkswagen was looking to move into FIA Group A rally after its exploits with twin-engine Sciroccos and the Pike’s Peak Golf attempts from ’85 and ’86. I wrote about those crazy cars back in 2016 on The Truth About Cars:
Bi-Curiosities: Volkswagen’s Twin-Engine Terrors
Volkswagen had also simultaneously developed its own ‘syncro’ system to rival Audi’s signature quattro drivetrain. Audi’s system only worked with longitudinally mounted motors, so to mate all-wheel drive and the transverse Golf platform required a complete redesign. I talked about that solution back in 2017 when looking at a Passat G60 Syncro:
Forbidden Fruit: 1992 Volkswagen Passat G60 Syncro
Though only seen in the Corrado in the U.S., the supercharged PG 8 valve G60 was found in three models in Europe. But VW Motorsport had a trick up their sleeve; they took all of their experience from the BiMotor Golf, the syncro development, and the G60 and they combined it. The new 3G engine was both supercharged and a 16V, and cranked out 211 horsepower. Rallye suspension and special front fenders were fit into a relatively sedate-looking 4-door syncro chassis. Distinguishing features outside were few; BBS RM wheels, a pre-facelift 16V front chin spoiler, a Fuba roof-mounted antenna, and a blue outline grill with a VW Motorsport badge were all that let you know this was the highest performance Golf that had ever been built:
Update 1/7/19: This Silver Anniversary 911 Coupe has dropped from $64,500 ask in 2018 to $59,500 today.
It feels like it’s been a good while since I’ve come across a nice one of these. This is a 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe Silver Anniversary Edition, which Porsche released as part of the sendoff to the 3.2 Carrera and as a commemoration of the 25th anniversary of 911 production. They were fairly limited production with only 500 total produced (300 Coupes and 200 Cabriolets). There was a time when I’d see these for sale somewhat frequently, but those days are long gone. This particular one looks exceptional.
The Silver Anniversary Edition was available in two exterior colors: Silver Metallic, which we see here, and Satin Black Metallic. Wheels were painted to match the exterior color, but the interior colors were the same. Of the two colors Silver Metallic was much more common with 240 of the 300 Coupes produced in silver. So this one isn’t quite as rare as it could be, but still very rare nonetheless.