Update 11/13/19: Despite showing as sold for over $34,000, this RS4 clone was relisted with a $32,500 Buy It Now.
On the other end of the spectrum from Audi’s U.S. spec B5 S4 was the monster which left me, and most fans of the marque, frustrated. That’s because Audi skunkworks quattro GmbH partnered with corporate acquisition Cosworth Engineering to create the legendary RS4. The same 2.7T motor from the S4 suddenly developed not 250 horsepower, but 375. Arches flared. Mouth was firmly agape. Seats were huggier. Wheels were bigger. Suspension was lower. It was wagonier. It was all around a better car in virtually every way.
So it should come as no surprise that its lack of importation didn’t stop enthusiasts from trying their own hand at the mods. And because of the turbocharged nature of the B5 S4, it was a little bit easier to achieve similar results to Audi. So here we have a B5 RS4 ‘Tribute’, but one that not only added the OEM body pieces and turned up the motor. Because under the hood hides not 375 horsepower, but punched-out 3 liter V6 churning 700 horsepower – at the wheels, mind you. Welcome to ‘The White Beast’:
When BMW upped its game in the E36 chassis with the introduction of the M3, specialty tuner Alpina answered with the B3 3.0 and later 3.2 in step with BMW. The successor of the slightly less powerful B6 model, the B3 kept many of the same improvements to the E36 chassis – unique stabilizers, springs and shocks, and larger brakes. Inside the B3 received the normal Alpina-style shift knob, steering wheel and seats, and in their typical style Alpina provided unique front and rear spoilers along with their own badging. Of course, the package was rounded out by some of the best looking wheels ever fit to a BMW. While the B3 was down on power to the European M3 3.2, it wasn’t really much slower – again in typical Alpina fashion, the car was tuned to make the most of the power that was available rather than just provide a shockingly high output number. A reported 1,000 of these ultra-exclusive B3s were produced, with about 2/3rds of those being the earlier 3.0 model, and in four different configurations – Coupe, Cabriolet, Touring and Sedan. This is one of the 741 3.0s made of which 339 were sedans, and it poses the interesting question – would you rather have this or the European-spec M3 I just looked at?
Although it certainly added up to more than the sum of its parts, on paper the Porsche 968 was a bit lacking compared to most of its competition. For example, for $2,000 less than the base price of a non-Sport package equipped 968, you could get a twin-turbocharged 300 horsepower Nissan 300ZX packed full of the latest technology. Or the also twin-turbocharged Dodge Stealth/Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 twins. Or the sublime turbocharged Mazda RX-7. And while the Supra Turbo came at a higher price, its performance was also on another level. One thing was clearly missing from the 968 package in order to compete.
Porsche’s Motorsport department, under the leadership of Jurgen Barth, solved this problem in 1993 by offering a turbocharged version of the 968 Clubsport. The 16V head was dropped for a development of the 944 Turbo S head and turbo, but the car retained the 3-liter bottom end. This comprised the M44.60 engine. The result was 305 horsepower and 368 lb.ft of torque. Unlike the 944 Turbos, the 968 Turbo S also got the 6-speed manual (G44.01) and 75% locking differential out of the Clubsport, too. Outside, an homage to the 924 Turbo came in the form of twin NACA ducts on the hood, and the Turbo S gained a huge spoiler in the rear with an adjustable center plane. The Turbo S also nabbed 911 goodies in the form of Turbo brakes and 3-piece Speedline wheels. The Clubsport’s 20mm lowered suspension was dropped even further. For good measure, Porsche Motorsport chopped another 45 lbs off the already lightened Clubsport, too. They featured the lightweight Clubsport interior, no rear seat, and few options. The performance figures were reportedly good enough to best 911 Carrera 3.8 RSRs of the period.
As well as anyone can figure, Porsche only constructed 14 968 Turbo Ss – 11 ’93s (VINS ending 061-071) and 3 ’94s (VINS 001, 061, and 062). Because they’re so rare and were never sold in America, in fact, even some Porsche fans on this side of the pond aren’t aware of their existence. They don’t come up for sale very frequently, but -001 is available right now:
The 968 occupies a strange space in the Porsche world. Limited in production, good looking, well-built and with good chassis dynamics and performance, it should have all of the hallmarks of a collector car in todayâ€™s market. Many prominent automobile publications have bashed you over the head with that, too â€“ itâ€™s not just me banging on here. Petrolicious posts an article (the same one, usuallyâ€¦) seemingly every week about the Porsche 968 Club Sport, Hemmings has repeatedly said itâ€™s the best of the breed, and Hagerty told you to get on board last year and buy one. And when Bring a Trailer sold one in late 2017 at $36,250, it seemed 2018 was poised to be the year of exploding values on the 968.
But it wasnâ€™t. Bring a Trailer has, so far to date, failed to present match to that one-off. Itâ€™s not for lack of trying â€“ fifteen came up for sale on the site in 2018, yet none cleared $25,000, and most traded well below that. So here we are in 2019, wondering exactly where the values on these cars will head. But if todayâ€™s example is any indication, things could be interesting:
As BMW turned firmly towards sports car racing and aimed its cross hairs directly at Stuttgart, it was the Big Coupe – the E9 – that would first carry their fledgling Motorsports division to the victory circle in large-scale international racing. While the 2002 had been champion in support series – Dieter Quester in ’68 and ’69 Division 3, for example, the E9 moved BMW up to directly challenge the fastest sports cars in the world. Victory laurels in some of the most significant races followed: The European Touring Car Championship (’73, ’75, ’76, ’77, ’78 and finally ’79 – some years out of E9 production!) and class victories at Le Mans, Spa and Daytona. These racing efforts had coincided with the growth of some of BMW’s most significant tuning partners; Schnitzer Motorsports and, of course, Alpina.
At the launch of the E9, Alpina would still be a long way from becoming the factory partner and full-fledged manufacturer we recognize today. However, prior to their first official model launch, like AMG the company was active in producing aftermarket parts – especially, motors – for the BMW range. Early Alpina-modified cars are hard to come by, and often lack the full documentation of the later VIN-specific models. However, once in a while a very original and significant one pops up such as today’s late production E9 apparently with all its ducks in a row. Originally a 2.5CS, this car underwent thorough modifications in the 1970s including installation of one of their hottest motors:
Do not adjust your screen. This is not a test. Yes, a BMW X1 is appearing on these pages. But, please stick with me because I’ll explain why.
When the X1 arrived, I – probably like you – considered it a bit of an affront to the brand. Following in the footsteps of the mission-drift but popular X5 and X3 models, the X1 made a fair amount of sense from a marketing standpoint. For about the same money as a loaded Subaru Outback, you could get an (arguably) better looking and performing BMW, after all. So the X1 opened BMW up to a whole new market as the least expensive option in their catalog.
I’ll admit, when they arrived I even went and drove one with my wife. We were considering replacing her…yup, Subaru Outback, and since the Outback’s build quality had proven so abysmal it was hard to get on board with throwing $30,000 at one. But for about two grand more, you could get into a basic X1 xDrive28i, and it really was a nicer car in just about every way.
We didn’t go down that route, as it turned out, for better or worse. And four years on, I’m not sure that the first generation X1 aged all that well. It received an update in the 2012 model year which made it slightly more slick-looking, but the proportions are still fairly awkward. So why is it here? Because it was also one of the best BMWs you could buy.
Underneath the rather upright body was the chassis borrowed more or less straight from the E91 Sport Wagon. But the E84 X1 had a few trumps over the 328i. Like the E91, you had two engine choices. “28i” models got the N20 turbo four rated at a pretty amazing 241 horsepower with 258 lb.ft of torque, or you could get what you see here. In the “35i” there was a N55 turbocharged inline-6 with 300 horsepower and 300 lb.ft of torque at the same time that engine choice wasn’t an option for the wagon fans. So if you wanted a fast BMW wagon, here it is:
In yesterday’s Corrado SLC post, I referenced both how Volkswagen’s coupe was another attempt to create the “poor man’s Porsche”. Of course, at the same time that VW was perfecting its craft with arguably the best of their front-drive creations in the Corrado with the VR6 in the nose, Porsche wasn’t exactly napping at the wheel. They, too, had perfected their own pauper Porsche. The problem was, of course, that not many paupers could afford it.
The 968 stormed out of the gates and straight into the early 1990s recession wielding 236 horsepower from its VarioCam-equipped development of the 3.0 inline-4 from the 944S2. Evolutionary bodywork linked the model more closely with both the 928S4/GT and the 911 range. But with more power on tap than the standard 944 Turbo had in the mid-eighties, the base price was pretty much out of reach for most mortals. In 1992, the MSRP was $39,950 for a stripper Coupe. If you wanted the Cabriolet, you’d pay more than $10,000 additional. And if you opted for a Tiptronic transmission you’d be at $55,000. In 1992, mind you! That’s over $100,000 in today’s buying power and nearly double what a base 718 Boxster stickers for today. Even the basic Coupe in 1992 was double the sticker price of the 968 hardtop.
That made the Corrado a lot more compelling to consider in period, even with the 968’s stellar poise and road manners. It’s no surprise, then, that Porsche only managed to sell 2,234 968 Coupes here – compared to over 14,000 944 Turbos imported. A bulk of the Coupes, 1811, were 6-speed manuals, thankfully. But as we discovered yesterday, just because they were really expensive when new doesn’t mean that holds true today:
Update 9/13/18: This M3 sold for $19,201
While it was the E30 M3 that I lusted over as a young teen, I came of driving age with the introduction of the second generation E36. I still remember sitting in one just like today’s; a 1995 Avus Blue with gray manual Vaders. At nearly $40,000, it was about as far away from me as the moon landing, but it was my dream car. I didn’t really care that the engine wasn’t the special individual throttle body motor Europe got, or that the headlights weren’t as nice. I cared that it was in the U.S., it was a great color, and because they were being sold that meant that I might be able to get one some day.
Fast forward to today, and if I’m completely honest Avus Blue isn’t my favorite color from the early M3 lineup anymore. Given the option, I’d take either a Dakar Yellow or Daytona Violet example. But all three are fairly rare to see among the first 10,000-odd 3.0 M3s brought in before the light revision to the 3.2, when the color pallet changed. Few appear in the low-mileage, completely original condition of this particular Avus Blue and for me it’s a reminder of everything I loved the first time I saw it:
Although the United States is one of the most important market for its sales, the 944S2 is a case where a majority of the cars sold were “Rest of World” examples. Total S2 production was 19,945 units, and of those about 6,036 came to North America. When you compare that to the 944 Turbo, 25,107 were built with 14,235 sold in the United States alone. Typically, the European versions of the 80s cars we look at had more power, but that was not the case for the S2. The M44.41 was a world engine, meaning it was only available with catalyst and rated at 207 horsepower (211 according to Porsche, although that’s the motor’s PS rating rather than HP). So what did a “ROW” 944S2 get you? Well, the shorter and lighter rear bumper treatment for one, side indicators just ahead of the rub strips, and in front you got integrated dual fog lights/driving lights rather than the fog/dummy setup on U.S. cars. In the case of this particular ’89, you also got the option for a really neat Studio cloth interior:
Like the Volkswagen Cabrio, the 944S2 Cabriolet isn’t a car that gets a lot of press on these pages. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the makings of a classic. Like the Cabrio, it sold in small numbers in the tight times of the early 1990s; Porsche claims it sold only 2,386 in the United States. And it has a potent power plant in the revised 3.0 16V inline-4; pushing 207 horsepower and 208 lb.ft of torque, it was nearly as potent as the first generation Turbo without the inherent lag or accompanying bills. Yet it shared the same perfect weight balance with the rear-mounted transaxle, Turbo brakes and larger roll bars along with the integrated Turbo-look nose and tail. The S2 also received the new “Design 90” wheels that helped to bring it in line with late 928S4 and 964 models.
However, the 944S2 Cabriolet has always been overshadowed. First, for the sporting drivers out there, most will be seeking the clean lines of the S2 Coupe. Then there is always the more popular 911 Cabriolet, but it’s real competition is the later 968 Cabriolet. With more power, revised looks and a 6-speed manual, those late 968s are by most accounts the ones to get. But to me, that means that a clean 944S2 is a better value while offering you most of the experience of the VarioCam. Let’s consider this beautiful LM3U Velvet Red Metallic example: