As I explained back in 2017, towards the end of their lengthy production run, the Volkswagen Cabriolet broke into a three-tier model platform. All shared the same basic underpinnings, but each had a unique trim. The base model and best seller had cloth interiors, with the latter being opted with the ‘Teardop’ Detroit alloys, air conditioning and cruise control. Opting for the upscale Boutique model got you a matching leather interior to your white exterior. These packages had replaced the mid-80s Wolfsburg and Carat packages.
1990 Volkswagen Cabriolet with 23,000 Miles
However, there was a fourth trim model available in 1991; the Étienne Aigner Edition. Étienne Aigner is famed for high fashion leather products aimed specifically at women. So, you guessed it, this Cabriolet featured a cloth interior. As with the other upscale Cabriolets, this was an entirely appearance-based package, full of special details and badges. Étienne Aigners also differentiated themselves from the normal Cabriolets by being equipped with the Fuchs-made forged 14″ Le Castellet wheels and were available in three special colors, Midnight Blue Metallic, Mangrove Green Metallic or Bordeaux Red Pearl Metallic, each with a special color-matched interior fabric and top cover:
I don’t think there are any young children sitting around pining for the loss of the wagon. It’s hard to imagine a young teen hanging a picture of a Audi Allroad on his wall next to the idealistic Ferraris and Porsches, after all. Say to a average car-obsessed 10-year old “someday you’ll really want a wagon”, and they’ll probably laugh. Then try to tell them it will be beige…
All of this raises an interesting point: at what point does this particular car become appealing? Is it because it’s rare? Certainly there aren’t many 200 20V quattro Avants out there, with most fans accepting that approximately 149 were imported. Is it because it’s old? Now on the verge of being 30, the scant number originally imported has dwindled to the point where I’m sure someone knows them all by name. After all, there were more people in my high school graduating class than 200 20V Avants imported. Is it because it’s powerful? Well, to be honest, the 217 horsepower the 3B turbocharged double-overhead cam 20V inline-5 chucked out originally seems pretty tame today. But at the time, you needed to spend a lot of money to go faster than this 5-door. Is it because it’s beige? Now it gets interesting, as I was frustrated by the drapes-match-the-carpet tones in a recent S8, which otherwise shares most of the characteristics I just mentioned:
2001 Audi S8
Yet here, this rare Bamboo Metallic over rare Travertine in the (you guessed it) rare 200 20V quattro Avant pulls the right strings and becomes quite desirable:
One of my new year’s resolutions on this site is to feature less run-of-the-mill common cars and more really special and rare cars. I’m off to a decent start with a 500SEC Koenig Specials Twin-Turbo and a 300SL Gullwing AMG from this past week. Today, I ran across another really cool car and has some awfully cool options. This is a 1991 560SEL 6.0 AMG up for sale in Japan. It looks like it was a normal 560SEL that was converted by AMG Japan into one of the most well-equipped W126s I’ve ever seen. What exactly is so special about it? Wait until you see the rear seats and under the hood.
As the Turbo era died off in the early 90s and nearly everyone abandoned forced induction thanks to newer, more stringent fuel economy and emissions standards, Porsche’s ‘Gott verdammt, ve continue to do things the same vill!‘ attitude extended to boost. Instead of backing away from their somewhat flawed design, Porsche doubled down and launched a ‘brand new’ Turbo model of the 911 for 1991. I say ‘brand new’ because while the body looked modern and the interior updated, in reality this was the same old-school Porsche 911 Turbo underneath. It was still rear-drive only, still a single turbocharger with a ton of lag, and still capable of ripping your face off. Still displacing 3.3 liters, revisions to the intake, exhaust and ECU left the flat-6 churning 315 horsepower and 333 lb.ft of torque, the 964-era Turbo hit 60 in under 5 seconds if you threw caution to the wind and was within a breath of 170 flat-out. Outside, the 964’s smooth bumper covers replaced the impact-era units and 17″ Cup 1 wheels filled the flares, but squint and not much looked different from 15 years prior. Yet sure enough, newfangled technologies had crept in: anti-lock brakes, airbags, power steering *gasp!* In many ways, though modern and certainly capable of hanging with the best cars of the day if not exceeding their performance, they felt a bit like a dinosaur unabashedly sticking its middle claw up towards progress and the future. It’s that attitude, reputation and look that today continues to drive the desirability of this model in the used market:
A Tahoe Blue Metallic 964 is a color I used to never see come up for sale and then suddenly it seemed common. Of course, by common I mean that I have come across and posted three different examples over the past 14 months so they aren’t really that common, but given that none seemed to exist before that you get the idea. Of the three I have posted two have been Turbos and one was a C4 Cabriolet. Were I looking for a 964 those really aren’t the models I’d be looking for. What I’d be looking for is the one we see here: a Carrera 2 Coupe. So for me that makes this one the best of the bunch.
There isn’t a whole lot left to be said about the Mercedes-Benz W126 coupe and especially the 560SEC. But, I keep finding really nice examples of them for sale, so more words are needed. If you at the main body line in the photo above, you see how everything is perfect until you run into that big, clunky door handle. The designer of this car, the legendary Bruno Sacco, said that it is the only flaw in an otherwise nearly perfect design. Those door handles were not his idea, but rather the engineers that focused on safety and all the other stuff that ruins fun. Supposedly whatever the original design on paper was for this coupe wasn’t deemed safe and functional in a crash so they had to go with what you see today. Sacco even went as far as saying he wanted to have those door handles modified on his personal 560SEC just because it bugged him so much. I see his point and who am I to argue with the guy who designed some of the most iconic Mercedes ever?
Without a doubt, for me the best change ever to the GTI lineup was the revision in mid-1990 of the GTI 16V. The DOHC screamer was already a pretty potent performer, but Volkswagen pushed the desirability over the top for the end of the run. The result was what many – this author included – consider the best of the breed. The original may have been more pure, and subsequent models are a lot faster and more dependable. But none of them got it quite as right as the 2.0 16V.
Outside the GTI built on its legend with wider European-market flares and deep rockers. Like all of the A2s, new ‘Big Bumper’ covers integrated fog lights and brake ducting. Yes, they looked heavier than the previous slim bumpers, but they also matched the design well. Iconic round headlights returned, now with inner driving lights too. But arguably the best change was the addition of 15″ wheels – in this case, the BBS RM multi-piece units. New colors also were introduced, including the equally iconic and signature ‘Montana Green’. Inside the interior was bulked up with large bolster Recaro Trophy seats. To match the wicked looks, under the hood was improved with a new 2.0 version of the 16V motor. The 9A introduced CIS-E Motronic fuel injection, while the bore was increased from 81mm to 82.5 and the stroke from 86.4 mm to 92.8. Compression was increased slightly from 10.5:1 to 10.8:1 and the result was 134 horsepower at 5,800 RPMs and 133 lb.ft of torque at 4,400. The engine was still matched the the 2Y close ratio transmission with a 3.67 final drive. While the GTI 16V couldn’t match the Callaway Turbo GTI we saw yesterday on sheer acceleration, it was generally reviewed as the best GTI yet. Finding a clean example today is always cause for celebration, and this one looks ready to party. Does it hold up?
Update: The 300TE didn’t sell at the high bid of $48,000 but is now relisted by the seller with a Buy It Now of $52,000.
Of the hundreds of Mercedes-Benz I end up looking at a week, you wouldn’t believe how many sellers claim some kind of AMG connection to them. Sometimes they are as simple as someone throwing an AMG badges on the trunk lid (usually crooked), to some kind of dubious bodywork with an AMG logo stamped on it, all the way to just having nothing to do with AMG at all but throwing the association out there because the car is kind of sporty. Very rarely, actually almost never, do I come across a real pre-acquisition AMG car that has all the documentation along with all the parts still actually on the car. Well, never say never, because today we have one of those cars.
This 1991 300TE was built by AMG for subsidiarity AMG Japan as a M103 3.2 liter car with all the goodies, both inside and out. It has all the paperwork and maintenance records you could want. The best part? It’s already in the United States. The not-so best part? It is going to be really expensive.
Update 8/8/18: An interesting follow-up to the clean V8 quattro I posted the other day, this 1991 V8 5-speed has returned in a no reserve auction format with a $5,500 opening price – down $1,000 from May.
Back to big Audis! The early 1990s were, as I’ve described in the past two posts, a period of change for the Ingolstadt firm as they closed down production on the Type 44 to introduce its new replacement, the C4. That led to a dizzying assortment of models from the one chassis. There was the aforementioned 100 and 100 quattro. You could move up to two turbocharged models, too – the 200 Turbo gave you 165 horsepower through the front wheels, and the new-and-only-for-91 in the U.S. was 200 20V quattro. Europe and the rest of the world got even more options; production lasted right up through 2006 in parts of China, where they even made a crazy long-wheel base 4-door convertible version of the Hongqi.
But the top of the heap for the U.S. market was a derivative of the Type 44, the D11 chassis. Of course, that was Audi’s foray into the top-tier luxury market with its new all-aluminum 32 valve double-overhead cam V8. Body revisions to the front and rear along with flared fenders made the V8 quattro seem like a completely different car to the slab-sided 100. V8s had, and have, serious presence. Big news, too, was that for the first time Audi was able to match its all-wheel drive quattro setup with a new 4-speed automatic transmission.
For die-hard Audi faithful, though, for a short while you could still opt to row-your-own with the 240 horsepower 3.6 liter V8 singing to your right foot. These manual V8 quattros are legendary because of their rarity and that they are the only car Audi brought to market with twin Torsen differentials. The combination of a more rearward weight bias, big and instant torque from the V8 and those clever diffs made for one of the best driving experiences in a big sedan from Audi:
In a recent ad campaign, I’ve been interested to see Volkswagen roll out its older Jettas to somehow link their DNA to the new model. That’s an interesting ploy, since most people I know who have had experiences with a Jetta of this ilk usually remember the calamity rather than the positive aspects of the model.
Back in March, I took a bemused look at the confusing Jetta lineup by considering the oddly placed Carat model. It fell somewhere in between the GL and Wolfsburg model, yet most of the major items remained optional. Today, we get to look at the base model – the GL. The GL and Carat shared the same motor and running gear, but instead of the ‘upscale’ wheel covers borrowed from the Passat, the GL had steel wheels with center covers and trim rings. It was one of the better looking wheel options Volkswagen had at the time, and though it was the base wheel it somehow looked neat. Inside the seats were not quite as upscale-looking as the Carat, but otherwise equipment on the two was basically the same. But there remains an inherent draw to the second generation Jetta even as a base model, and this clean GL looks ready for some serious swapping action: