Acclaimed as the original of the “Hot Hatch” market, the original A1 GTI gained weight before it even hit U.S. shores and never stopped eating. Each generation gained weight, options and complexity – and to make up for that, VW kept upping the power. From the simple 1.6 8V the original sported, it was up to 1.8 liters by the time it hit U.S. shores – then a few years later, gained 8 more valves, than another .2 liters in 1990, and finally made the jump to the narrow angle VR6 with its mighty 2.8 liters pumping out nearly double the horsepower of the original. Despite the changes, each generation has been revered by its own group of enthusiasts, and it’s rare to find original condition GTIs over 10 years old.
On its way out of production, VW sweetened the VR6 even more with the “Driver’s Edition” model in 1997. Red stitching, red calipers and special Speedline wheels made an appearance, and while the package was ’97-only it was more-or-less completely carried over to the ’98s. This particular ’98, though, doesn’t carry much of that original spec because it’s been thoroughly upgraded, stretched and restored to an impressive level:
All of a sudden we are in the middle of October and soon little Spider-Mans with coats on will be banging on your door wondering where the free candy is at. That means convertible season is all but over for most of America. That is, like my father used to yell at me for, unless you are one of those crazy people who puts the top down and blasts the heat which in turn is like trying to heat the whole neighborhood. The other scenario is of course if you live somewhere that doesn’t get snow then go ahead and enjoy your top down weather until the turkey is in the oven. That brings me to today’s car, a 1998 Mercedes-Benz SL320.
The SL320 and the pre-facelift 300SL have always stood deep in the shadow of big brothers V8 and V12 R129s and rightfully so. They are were just powerful enough that the car wasn’t a total dog, and usually they were low on standard features. Mercedes figured this out after eight long years with the inline-six SL and finally killed it off in the US after the 1998 model year. This leaves this example in Greenwich, Connecticut, a place where a four garage costs nearly $600,000, in rare company. The even better part about this car is that it had a pile of repairs and maintenance just competed. The thing is, is the price worthy of the little brother SL?
Please note: We have corrected this post to note that it is fitted with a 4.3L from the factory, not the 5.4L. Our apologies for the mistake. -dc
“Buy one now while you still can.”
How many times have you heard this over the years? We’ve seen it with all the cars that used to be not-so expensive and now are basically so crazy that it is cheaper just to build and buy replicas. Case in point, the E30 M3. I remember back in the early 2000s, staring into a monitor that was so heavy it would bow my desk, only dreaming of how I could get together $9,500 to buy one of those. Now? A 1988 with that’s been painted twice, has a non-original motor, and 240,000 miles sells for $30,000 all-in. Same goes for the 190e-16v. One used to be able to snag a decent one for under $10,000 without issue. Now, anything in that $10,000 range is going to be a serious project. Carter just featured a non-original Quattro that’s very much the same case. These cars come in waves as the years go on, only that wave never crashes and just stays high the entire time. Today’s car, a 1998 Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG, is starting to jump on a wave.
‘It’s like déjŕ vu all over again!’
Only a week after looking at another example of my favorite GTI – the Montana Green 2.0 16V – we get another of my personal greatest GTI hits. Again, it’s one that’s pretty hard to come across at all, never mind in good shape. In this case it’s Ginster Yellow last-year Mk.3, and yet again after claiming it’s hard to find one, one popped up pretty recently:
1998 Volkswagen GTI VR6
Since I just covered what made the Mk.3 tick, I won’t do so again, but let’s dive a bit into this example. The last one, as it turned out, may have had some issues which prevented it from really being a top-tier example. Is it the same with this pristine and lightly modded one?
After its unceremonious and unexplained exit from the U.S. market with the introduction of the third generation Golf in 1993, the GTI came roaring back in a big way for the 1995 model year. Sure, it was bigger, bulkier and well…roundier, but it came with a bunch more gusto thanks to the addition of the VR6 motor as seen in the Corrado and Passat models. The single-overhead cam, twelve valve head lacked the race-bred feel of the Mk.II 16V, the new motor more than made up for it with the addition of two more cylinders. Good for 172 horsepower and 173 lb.ft of torque, it swept the hot hatch from 0-60 in 7.1 seconds and produced a 15.5 second quarter mile at over 90 mph. But much like the original, the GTI was more than the sum of its numbers, with drivers enjoying the great 6-cylinder soundtrack which accompanied the waves of usable torque.
Of course, like all VWs from the period, it was expensive. Really quite expensive. A base GTI VR6 rolled out the door in 1995 at $18,875, and with a few options it wasn’t difficult to breech $20 grand. Yet that was still only a little more than half the money it would take you to grab a same-year M3, which offered only a bit more motivation and cornering prowess. Catch the pesky BMW driver off-guard, and they’d be unlikely to easily out-drag you. So you could either look at this model as a really expensive Golf or a really cheap BMW. That was what the legendary GTI had always been about, and this was a resounding return to form and continuation of the brilliance that was the GTI 16V, even if they felt (and, looked) completely different:
While the last few VWs have been a bit strange in some way or other, each held a specific subset of people absolutely obsessed with them. The same does not seem to be true of today’s Mk.III Jetta GLX VR6, which is strange to me since it has the hallmarks of a potential collector.
Purists decried the arrival of the â€śgrown upâ€ť A3 chassis Golf and Vento, sold as the Jetta in North America. It was expensive, it was heavy (relative to the A1 and A2 chassis, anyway) and the performance was dulled â€“ that was, until the introduction of the GLX model that replaced the earlier GLi models. Now sporting the VR6 that had debuted in the Corrado a few years earlier, the GLX was all around a screamer. It might have been heavier than the GLi had been, but it was quicker to 60, quieter on the highway, more comfortable and better in crashes (if things went south), and returned close to the same fuel economy as the thirsty, buzzy and boxy 16V had. The Volkswagen Jetta III, as it was known in the US, was introduced at a time when US sales were at their lowest and it appeared as if VW was considering pulling out of the US market. This generation Jetta became the best selling Volkswagen by the time the production run ceased in 1999. It was insanely popular and seemed to be the defacto college car of choice for both men and women. Because of that, many of these Jettas fell into disrepair or were totaled, so itâ€™s rare to find a lower mile and clean GLX these days:
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to daily drive a car that isn’t 38 years-old and has such luxuries like airbags, ABS and a modern climate control system. Don’t get me wrong, I love my W116 Mercedes-Benz 300SD, but sometimes I yearn for heated seats and a tire selection greater than three different brands. Once in a while I will see what kind of options are out there for more modern replacements for my W116 and today’s car, a 1998 E300, might just be a perfect combination of modern amenities and the old school diesel feel. This W210 hails from the Northeast with only 100,000 miles and in what should be a total shocker to almost everyone reading this, has no rust. Is this the answer to all my wildest dreams and fantasies?
Yellow is always a hit or miss color when it comes to German cars. Some cars it looks great on like a Porsche 930Â or a Volkswagen GTI 20th Anniversary Edition.Â Other cars, maybe not so much. When it comes to yellow Mercedes-Benz, there aren’t a whole lot of them out there. This was a hot color in the 1960s and 1970s, but outside of the first-generation SLK and the new AMG GT, you won’t find many painted in this bright shade. When you do, it is literally just a handful of them and they were probably painted that way by special request. Today car, the king R129 SL600, is painted in the factory Yellowstone 685. At least that is how it sits now. Let me explain.
”The champ is here!”
This is it. The big one. One of the craziest road legal Mercedes-Benz ever produced and a car we probably won’t see anything like ever again. The CLK GTR. The result of a homologation requirement from the 1997 FIA GT Championship, this CLK GTR, along with the Porsche 911 GT1, literally took grand touring cars and made them road legal. Only 35 CLK GTRs were ever produced by Mercedes and AMG. 26 of them being production cars, seven racing cars for the GT Championship and two prototypes. Out of those 26 production cars, six were roadsters that looked even wilder. All of them were powered by the M120 V12 borrowed from the W140/R129 chassis with 21 cars being 6.9 liter variants that made 604 horsepower and the five other cars, called CLK GTR Super Sport, using a 7.3 liter making 655 horsepower. All of these CLK GTRs used a 6-speed sequential manual gearbox with gears that were so loud that the radio was hopeless in trying to drown out the noise. How much did these cost when new? $1,547,620. If you are wondering, yes, that was the most expensive price for any production car at the time. Just to put that into perspective, that is $3,255,285 in July 2018 money, which is right where a new Bugatti Chiron is priced.
Now that we have all that out-of-the-way, let’s get to why we are here. This 1998 CLK GTR is car number nine of 25 that was originally sold in Germany before being shipped to Hong Kong for a while before moving again to the US where it will go up for auction next month. It has just under 900 miles so it is safe to say this one didn’t get out much but that just means potential buyers will likely have another reason to send the bid into another league. How much is it projected to sell for? Well, you can cancel your order for your Chiron and still need to head down to the bank to withdraw a few more million from your checking account.
Whenever I see a Europa Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen pop up for sale, I always take time to really check it out. Personally, if you gave me the choice to buy and live with any G-Wagen out there, from military-spec W460s all the way up to W463 G65 AMGs, I’d probably pick a Europa truck. I think they are the perfect compromise between the spartan offerings and the outrageous luxury you can get from a G-Wagen. You get a G that still can be daily driven in total comfort with modern safety but without the crazy options that ultimately you fear of breaking and then driving you nuts. This 1998 G320 up for sale in New Jersey just might be the perfect G-Wagen but fair warning, something this good won’t come cheap.