1990 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC

Ever feel like you are having car déjà vu? If you are like me, it happens from time to time. A car that you recognize, but maybe can’t place it or isn’t sure if it was the same model. When I saw this car, a 1990 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC, it took me about 30 seconds to remember the story on it. However, the story does not get any better.

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1990 Porsche 911 Cabriolet

Well, this is something different. Almost every time you see a modified Porsche, more specifically an air-cooled example, those modifications are for performance. Outside of the crazy 1980s coach builders that made some truly horrific stuff, if you were messing around wit a Porsche, it was to go faster around a race track. It makes sense, because that is what these cars are all about. There is no fun driving a Porsche slow because…well, they are’t good at that. So when today’s car popped up for sale, a 1990 C2 Cabriolet in Florida, it caught me off guard. You can probably see why.

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Euro-Spec 24k-Mile 1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60

Jealousy.

I still remember the moment as the wave of envy set over me. A struggling college student, I had tried hard to balance my love of cars with the multiple part-time jobs I fit in between classes. Ultimately, cars probably came before some things they should have, but still fell staunchly behind the realities of life. Rent. Tutition. Books. Utilites. FOOD. These necessities multiplied themselves together over the years, grasping at my meager weekly paycheck more rapidly than I could deposit it in the bank. Trips to the pump were always metered; weeks went by holding breath at every turn of the key, praying for a safe completion of circuit. And when you own a ’84 Volkswagen that sat in a driveway not running for decade rotting away before you resurrected it, often your dreams of a trouble-free commute are unrealized.

As a result of my shoestring budget, I often turned to a friend to help with mechanical work that my GTI often needed. He’d stop by my house after work and wrench for a bit, or I’d drive it by his place for a replacement part or ten. He also had a A1 – a sweet special edition Cabriolet from ’85 which he had spent years tricking out. But on one of these repair stops, he introduced me to his new toy.

It was 1998 and he had picked up a ’90 Corrado G60. He had picked it up cheap, too, as they often broke even when pretty new. Two things struck me about this car. Though it was only 6 years newer than my GTI, it might as well have been a spaceship. The two shared nothing in common outside of the badge. My pyrite-in-the-rough GTI was rusty and not so trusty. Horrible build quality meant things regularly broke, or fell off, or rusted off; often, the trifecta struck. It was a square slowly-deteriorating block of iron oxide in a rounded-off world. In comparison, the Corrado looked well-built, felt modern, was comfortable, had air conditioning and electronic items that…well, functioned, and even had paint all in one color. But the other thing that struck me was just how tired and old that Corrado already felt in 1998. I rarely buy cars that are newer than 10 years old, but this Corrado felt a lot more than that already. Perhaps that was because the VR6 model had so quickly replaced it. Or perhaps it was because I was still excited for new cars to launch in 1998. Looking back, though, my initial impressions of the Corrado G60 still hold true. But am I still jealous that I didn’t have one?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60 on eBay

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1990 BMW 850i Euro-spec

Euro cars always hold a special appreciation for me, especially from the 1970s and 1980s. First off, they were much better looking, generally with slimmer bumpers and larger, more clear class lights. There were colors and interiors that we didn’t get in the U.S. as well, helping to set yourself apart. Sometimes there were low-spec engines not imported, but usually the output of the motors that were similar to U.S. cars was higher, giving more performance to enthusiasts. Sometimes that gulf was huge; while usually around 10% higher, a great example is the Quattro which was a full 25% more powerful in Europe than the U.S. restricted version. But as we got towards the late ’80s, the gap inbetween both the looks and performance of the Euro models versus the U.S. models closed steadily. True, in some cases we still didn’t get the full-fat versions of cars like the M3 until the E46 chassis. But for most models, there was a negligible difference. When it came to the BMW E31, in fact, there were almost no differences between the U.S. models and European models; styling was exactly the same, as were the wheels, most of the colors and interiors, and the basic suspension and engine. So, it’s just not nearly as exciting to see a European-spec newer model like this ’91 850i pop up for sale, though it is a bit odd:

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1990 Mercedes-Benz 300CE

I think the days of picking up a nice W124 Mercedes-Benz coupe for very little money is probably over. I remember only a few years ago where a decent example could be had for $4,200 or so and everyone would leave happy. The last year or so? Not so much. Most have been trading in the $10,000 ballpark with some really nice examples selling for much more. Yes, you can probably find a handful of 300CEs that need some love for much less than 10k, but how much as you spending to get it back up to snuff?

That brings me to today’s example, a 1990 up for sale New Jersey that has just over 100,000 miles on the odometer. It looks to be well looked after and not beat up at all. But I think the problem with this car is interesting color scheme of Signal Red with the slightly darker lower cladding. Is it garish? Probably. Is it old enough where a crazy paint scheme is now considered cool? Maybe so.

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1990 Volkswagen Rallye Golf Tribute

Watch out Quattro, here comes the Golf!

While in the 1980s if you bought any of the branded ‘quattro’ systems you basically got the same drivetrain no matter what model you jumped in, the same was not true at corporate sibling Volkswagen. To add all-wheel drive to its lineup, VW had to incorporate three distinct systems all of which fell under the moniker ‘syncro‘. As just discussed in the T4, the T3’s system was a viscous coupling setup sending power forward with twin locking differentials. The B2 Passat shared its platform with the Audi B2, so there the all-wheel drive syncro was really just a re-badged generation 1 quattro system. But in the A2 chassis, a different viscous coupling setup engineered by Steyr-Daimler-Puch helped to transfer power rearward from the transverse engine when the front wheels slipped. The engineering was pretty trick, but underneath it all it was pretty much just a standard Golf – albeit one with potential.

So in the late 1980s when Volkswagen Motorsports wanted to enter Group A racing with the new all-wheel-drive Golf, it needed to build more than just race cars if they wanted a mean motor in it. It was homologation at its finest. Okay, maybe not, but build more they did, with at around 5000 road-going units planned of what was dubbed the Rallye Golf.

Defined by its rectangular headlights with cooling slats underneath, the Rallye continued the Im a race car on the road SHHHHHHH! theme with typical 1980s box-flared fenders. The Sebring alloy wheels were also seen on U.S.-bound Corrados. Despite the racer looks, the extra performance of the 1H G60-supercharged, 1.8-liter 8-valve inline-4 rated at 158 horsepower wasnt enough to overwhelm the additional mass of the rear drive system, and, consequently, a well-driven GTI 16V would be quicker to 60 and around a track. But BOXFLARES!

Consequently, though the Rallye may not win the VW drag race, it won the hearts of enthusiasts. This tribute plays into that with a visual recreation of the Rallye – lacking the viscous coupling setup, but with a lot more motivation under the hood:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Rallye Golf Tribute on eBay

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1990 Porsche 944S2

While cars like the Audi Quattro and BMW M3 may have popularized boxy flares with their racing credentials to back it up, in my eyes no one pulled off the muscle-bound economy look better than the Porsche 944. The addition of several inches of width and wider wheels to the 924 chassis meant an entirely new feel that mingled with supercar lines instead of Volkswagen lineage. Simply put, they were the most sensual looking German car in the 1980s, and that got even better late in the run with some subtle aero additions that enhanced and updated the look. The smooth Turbo bumpers and rear diffuser carried over to the S2 model, along with some lovely Design 90 wheels that were also highlighting the 964 model. As Porsche moved to a full update of the watercooled transaxle cars with the introduction of the 968, the outgoing 944S2 even adopted the new bridge spoiler design from the not yet introduced model.

Turbo looks without the associated power wasn’t an unknown quantity for Porsche, but the 944S2 was no slouch in its own right. Powered by the M44.41 3-liter inline-4 that had been enlarged from the double overhead cam 944S motor, the 208 horsepower wasnt as much as the 968 would sport but was still awfully close to what the original 944 Turbo had produced in power. Better yes, with instant torque the S2 was, and still is, a very entertaining drive. Hardly cheap, on paper they were not immediately the smart choice for a sports car buyer in 1990 and 1991, as twin-turbocharged monsters from Japan were all the rage and often less expensive than the best part of $50,000 a 944S2 would cost you. With only around 3,600 imported to the U.S., theyre a bit rare to see but offer great Porsche build quality, performance and even practicality in a very attractive package:

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1990 Porsche 911 Carrera 2

Oh Paint to Sample, you’ve really done it this time. What you are looking at is a 1990 Porsche 911 C2 painted in “Karminrot.” In English, that is “Carmine Red,” but you can see that this car is not red. Even more so, if you see that a Porsche is painted in Carmine Red, it will look like this. So what gives? Why is this car pink? During a point in 911 history, Karminrot was actually this color. I suppose somewhere along the line they came to their senses and decided that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to call a pink car “red,” as well as the fact that no one was actually buying this color. That likely leaves this 964 as possibly the only example finished in a color most associated with bubblegum.

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1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60

Update 10/18/19: This Corrado sold for $5,650.

While the second-generation Scirocco was a re-body of the first-generation chassis with some upgrades, when it came to the end of the 80s and the launch of a new sporty Volkswagen, they turned toanother antiquated chassis. Prepared for the 1990 model year, the A2 chassis was already the best part of 7 years old and not the most refined unit out there. Despite this, plans moved ahead at cash-strapped VW to produce two new models that were adaptations of the A2 chassis.

The result was the third generation Passat and the sporty Karmann-built Corrado. The design was more VAG evolution than revolution; in many ways, the Corrados profile and several aspects mimicked the upscale Audi products. Volkswagen again went to the tried-and-true Operation Copy Giugiaro plan that worked with the Scirocco. It looks like a shorter, chunkier Audi Coupe GT to me especially in its original G60 supercharged guise. While the GTI went to the 2.0 16V and slick BBS wheels making an instant classic, Volkswagen relied on the G-Ladder supercharger that was seen in the European Golf Rallye and G60 GTI for the motivation for the Corrado. But the Corrado wasnt made to challenge its siblings; it was aimed at the 944 crowd, replacing the 924S as a Poor Mans Porsche rather than just an expensive GTI alternative.

Ostensibly, this made it the top-trump at Volkswagen, what with 160 horsepower and good torque. But the heavy weight and complicated nature of the model meant that the GTI retained greater appeal. It seemed as though Volkswagen hit a home run when they finally slotted the even more potent and better sounding VR6 into the Corrado for 1992, relegating the supercharged model to obsolescence and obscurity. This model was thoroughly overshadowed by the VR6 and GTI, so values sunk quickly. Often they landed in the hands of those not able to afford the expensive repairs. And, no surprise, the result is that finding clean G60s is pretty tough today – but they don’t get much cleaner than this Alpine White one:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60 on eBay

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1990 Audi V8 quattro

If Alfa Romeo built a German car, it would be the V8 quattro.

First, it was hugely complicated. There were computers controlling everything, and in the great manner in which Audi and Volkswagen developed their late 1980s computer technology, it worked great until it didnt, at which point the car would be thoroughly incapacitated. One day driving my ’93 4.2, during a rain storm the convenience controller failed, opening all of the windows AND the sunroof and not allowing me to close them. Needless to say, it was less than convenient. Second, it hemorrhaged fluids. Were not talking a little bit, either full on Oh, Im sorry, did you want me to keep that $20 a liter worth of hydraulic fluid IN me? hemorrhaging. Oil, coolant, transmission fluidyou name it, if you could put it in, it would instantly come out. It tried to kill me, too. Not just once, either. See, that fluid loss resulted in a buildup of oil gunk. Where does the oil gunk build up, you ask? On the throttle. This normally isnt a problem, unless once in a while you opened the throttle. Then, it became a problem, as the throttle wouldnt close. Again, not a problem so much on a 4000 quattro with all 115 stampeding horses, but in the 93 V8 quattro, there were 2.5 times that amount 276 horsepower with even more torque launching my 3,900 pound missile down Route 195. Leaks presented themselves in other odd ways, too like, for example, when I got a self-imposed flat tire at a winter driving school. Out came the tools to jack the car up, no problem. However, when I went to retrieve the spare, a sad sight awaited me the trunk had leaked into the spare tire well apparently, resulting in the space saver spare being thoroughly embedded in 10 inches of tire well-shaped ice cube. In story generation alone, the V8 quattro was by far the Professor Emeritus of my car history. Thirdly, no one knew what it was when you went to get a part. Allow me to present a theoretical trip to the parts counter even at an Audi dealer

Parts Guy: Hi, what kind of car?
Me: Audi
PG: What model?
Me: V8
PG: No, not what engine, what model.
Me: V8
PG: They made a model named V8?
Me: Yes
PG: (turns to other Parts Guy) You ever hear of an Audi V8?
OPG: He probably means A8.
Me: No, the A8 is the model that replaced the V8.
(both look confused)
PG: Okay, what year?
Me: 1993
PG: Audi made cars in 1993?
Me: Yes. Not many.
PG: Okay, the computer tells me that your car doesnt exist.
Me: Its outside. Would you like to see it?
PG: No, maybe I can cross reference the part. What do you need?
Me: The transmission control unit.
PG:
PG: .. (turns to other PG and looks confused)
Other PG: Ah, you should probably just go to the dealer.

Fourth, when eventually you convinced someone who supplied parts for your non-existent car that it really was real, inevitably the part would be expensive. Really, really expensive. And, on backorder, or no longer available. It made repairs lengthy and always have at least one comma in the price estimate. That estimate was almost always below what it actually cost to get it running again, and when it did run again, inevitably there would be something still wrong that would need to be fixed on the next trip to the mechanic. And that was 15 years ago!

Yet, more than any car Ive previously owned, its the one Id want back.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Audi V8 quattro on eBay

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