1984 Mercedes-Benz 280SL 5-Speed

For every Craiglist-special Mercedes-Benz R107 out there with its average condition and crazy price, there is one R107 that is actually worth the money. You wouldn’t believe the number of 450SLs and 380SLs I dig through day after day with phrases like ”Great condition” and ”A real peach” only to see they have tires on them from 1996 and the canvas top is full of mold. I chalk it up to nearly two-thirds of the 300,000 R/C107s built ending up in North America over the unheard of 18 year production run. Combine that with their durability and most people treating them like some sort of investment, and you now have a market flooded with R107s. As the baby boomers hit retirement and their three-bedroom ranch house has a for sale in the front yard, so does the SL in the garage. The overwheling majority of the time they are over priced (in my eyes) and there just aren’t many buyers out there for them. The W113 Pagoda is a much more attractive car and the R129 is a much more livable car with its modern amenities. You are left with the R107 right in the middle with its giant bumpers, four eye head lights and underwhelming performance numbers. However, there is a beacon of light for the R107. This car is none other than the 280SL 5-speed.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Mercedes-Benz 280SL on eBay

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2000Tuesday: 1972 BMW 2002 “M2” Targa

It seems somewhat fortuitous to stumble upon today’s creation, which manages to build upon a few prior posts. Last week I look a look at a beefed-up 1976 2002 with a S14 swap. Then, yesterday, I took a look at the crazy 4-door convertible 316i Baur TC4. Combining those two unique creations is today’s 1972 BMW 2002.

Like last week, this one is pretty far from original. It’s also got tacked-on flares, super-wide wheels, a non-original interior and is painted a non-original color – in this case, Sunflower Yellow borrowed from the contemporaneous Porsche. But the big news here is again the S14 and 5-speed swap, giving more muscle to match the macho looks. On top of that, or rather topless perhaps, this one appears to be a Baur Targa conversion. It was certainly worth a closer look:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1972 BMW 2002 “M2” Targa on eBay

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1992 Mercedes-Benz 230CE Sportline

Yesterday I looked at 1992 Mercedes-Benz 300E for the pure fact that is it the Sportline option that is pretty rare. Though Mercedes made about four billion W124 300Es, it feels like almost none of them are Sportline. Well, when it rains it pours, because I happen to come across the even rarer 1992 230CE Sportline. Before everyone rushes down to the comments and starts typing ”If only it had a manual transmission!”, hold your fingers, because it does.  We North Americans were not graced with this model and surely never in the 5-speed even if it had come, so this one is a rare bird to say the least. Somehow, this 230CE Sportline is up for bid outside of Chicago. I just wish it was a better example.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 230CE Sportline on eBay

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1991 Audi V8 quattro 5-speed

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Audi V8 quattro on Grand Rapids Craigslist

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1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SL 5-Speed

Fresh off last weeks bit of random Mercedes-Benz facts about the 1990 300E that came in both a 2.8 and 3.2 liter, I’m back again with some information that might be useful every once in a blue moon. From 1990 to 1993, you could purchase a 300SL with a dogleg 5-speed manual gearbox. Yes, the same dogleg from the 190E 2.3-16v cars. You might think this is the best news ever, but not so fast. This gearbox in this car has often be described as sloppy at best and really isn’t an enjoyable experience. The throws are long and vague, with any hope of fast gear changes being wishful at best. Rumor has it that there were only 166 examples of these 5-speed cars bought to North America which make this a pretty rare car to say the least. But if no one wants it, does this make it valuable?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SL on eBay

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2004 Volkswagen Golf GLS TDi

Continuing on the diesel theme from yesterday, let’s take a look at another no spark Volkswagen. Again we have one that flies below the radar but is worth a lot more than you’d expect. The pre-scandal TDis have a serious niche following. While not quite as set-it-and-forget-it as the 1Z, the derivatives – first the AHU, then the later ATD/AXR and other models similar to today’s example, were nonetheless high-mileage warriors. Rated at 100 horsepower and 177 lb. ft of torque, performance wasn’t outstanding – 0-60 took a few ticks over 11 seconds, it’d take a half minute to hit 100 and top speed was limited to 115 mph. But then you weren’t really buying this car for it’s straight line acceleration. What you were buying it for was notable longevity and, of course, fuel mileage. At a time when the standard 2.0 inline-4 struggled to return about 30 mpg at best and the 1.8T was no better, the premium for the TDi gave you 33 mpg city and over 40 on the highway. You could stretch it even farther on a tank if you were careful. Impressive? Well, for the time, it was one of the very few diesel motors you could buy in the U.S. and set the stage for the popularity of the Mk.5 models.

As we saw with the Jetta Wagon, the ‘GLS’ trim moved upscale and included nicer wheels and interior bits. But just like that Jetta, the combination of a 4-door Golf, GLS trim, the turbo diesel motor and a 5-speed manual are quite hard to come by:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Golf GLS TDi on eBay

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Outstanding E32 Face Off: 1988 BMW 735i and 750iL

Such was the depth of BMW’s great designs from the 1980s that often the E32 is overlooked. Unlike the E23 it replaced, the scaled-up Claus Luthe-inspired design really worked and the heavy-weight look of the 5-series in a fat suit was met with more aggression, yet still elegantly. As you’d expect from a car intended to challenge the W126, BMW threw the kitchen sink at the 7-series, upping not only the technology, luxury and interior materials utilized in the E32, but the engine offerings, as well – the M70 and later M73 V12s beat Mercedes-Benz to the market with silky smooth and powerful twelve cylinder motors that were the trump card with the Trump types.

Yet while popular and well built, finding good examples of especially early 7s has become quite difficult. Today we have two interesting examples to consider. Both are far from original, though each in their own way is compelling. For those who like subtle speed, there’s a M70-powered, low mileage 750iL Alpina B12 5.0 clone from Japan. If you’re a little more in-your-face and like to row your own, there’s a Racing Dynamics-inspired 735i 5-speed. Which would you choose?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 750iL Alpina Clone on eBay

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Roll the Dice? 1990 BMW 735i 5-speed

Okay, let’s get this out of the way first. This is certainly not the nicest E32 on the market. With 190,000 miles on the clock, there’s plenty of evidence of the 27 years that have passed since it entered service. The leather is tired, the pinstripe is faded and under the hood looks quite dirty. It’s got blacked out windows and sits on wheels some three inches larger than the stock units. It’s not the best color combination, nor is it the biggest motor available in the chassis. So why the heck is this 735i up here? One reason – the transmission. Like Audi, BMW took a gamble that a few select drivers in the early 1990s would want to row their own gears, so for a brief period you could opt for a 5-speed manual in your large executive sedan. This is one of those original cars, but is it worth a roll of the dice?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 BMW 735i 5-speedon eBay

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1980 Porsche 928

When I was about my son’s age (he’s just turned 5, amazingly), my father took me to the Porsche dealership. Rows of new arrivals from Zuffenhausen lined up, a cornucopia of Easter egg-colored speed machines. In 1983, the low, organic, flowing shapes of the 911 and 944 stood in vast contrast to the bulk of three-box designs that proliferated the marketplace. But there was one shape that really stuck out to me – the 928.

In 1983, Porsche hadn’t yet abandoned its hope that the 928 would ascend to the top of the Porsche model lineup, and because of this I don’t remember seeing any 928s outside. Where I did see them was inside the showroom, where I distinctly remember one residing. My father was taken by the 911 (still is, to this day), and perhaps it was a father-versus-son stereotypical response, but the air-cooled model looked old and antiquated. The 928 was, both literally and figuratively, the antithesis of the 911. Water-cooled, front-engined, Grand Touring. It looked like a spaceship both inside and out. Clearly, this was the future I was witnessing.

Yet the 928, for all its press and relative market success, never caught completely on. It was never able to wrest the crown from the 911 as the signature model for Porsche. But what is perhaps most surprising to me is that it is one of the few cars that today, over forty years gone from its design phase, that unlike basically every other car model produced in the 1970s and 1980s, it still looks futuristic today. Okay, admittedly, the plastics have aged, tiny wheels with big, comfy side walls are no longer the norm and flush-fitted windows, lights, locks and antenna would clean the design up significantly. But compare this design to a few contemporaries, for a moment – the 1976 Chrysler New Yorker, the Toyota Cressida, or the Fiat 128. Three different nations, three different versions of the present, none anywhere near as revolutionary as the design that sits here:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 Porsche 928 on Hemmings

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Worth Restoration? 1988 BMW 735i 5-speed

In recent posts, we’ve both talked about the expense of maintaining an old German luxo-barge and, at the same time, the joy of getting to experience their technical prowess. I mentioned in the Alpina B12 5.0 post that I was lucky enough to experience an E32 5-speed upstream of most of the major repairs they would need if you held onto them long enough. Seemingly in response, suddenly a wave of neat 5-speed E32s appeared. But is the allure of the 5-speed status worth overcoming some obstacles to ownership?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 735i 5-speed on eBay

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