We could argue the merits of what made the “ultimate” 924/944/968 all day long. A lot depends on what you consider the most desirable, or most pure form. Take that argument to the 911 range, and it becomes even more convoluted. Is it the 901? The RS? The Turbo Carrera? For me, it’s this car.
If the Ferrari F40 was the pin-up hero for most teenage boys, the Porsche 959 was its arch-enemy, and was the car I was always interested in. The F40 was a pared down street racer, while the 959 sported experimental exotic technologies that even 30 years later most cars don’t have – 6 speed manual? Yep. Active suspension? Yep, that too. Hollow spoke wheels with tire pressure monitoring system? Sure, we can do that. Kevlar composite body? Why not? Active torque splitting all-wheel drive system? Let’s give it a go. A technological Tour de Force, the 959 wowed crowds with all of these shocking options when it was launched in a still hard to believe 1985, beating the F40 to the market.
Even at the time it was released, the 959 was a bit of an enigma – did Porsche want to win Le Mans or Paris Dakar with it? Well, it did both – Paris Dakar outright, and it won its class at Le Mans. It was also one of the fastest production cars in the world, with a sub-4 second 0-60 time – something that modern supercars still strive for. Did I mention this car is the best part of 30 years old? Like all of the dream cars that remained firmly out of U.S. buyers hands, the 959 remained a forbidden fruit for many years. But today, even if your name isn’t Gates or Seinfeld, you can own in the U.S. one of the most highly sought after cars ever made – a Carrera White 1987 Porsche 959 Komfort:
Believe or not, if you want a 6-speed manual in your run-of-the-mill Mercedes-Benz C-Class, you could actually buy one in the United States. Mercedes offered a small handful of them starting with the W203 and even more surprisingly carried that over to the next generation W204. Before you get too excited, these gearboxes were only offered on non-AMG cars and even finding one is nearly impossible because you can probably guess what the target market is for a base C-Class in America. Today, I finally found one that is worth taking a look at because the interior isn’t falling apart yet. This 2008 C300 up for sale in Maryland looks very nice and even has a good service history. Question is, would you even consider this car seeing as what this one costs over 10 years later?
Let’s head back to some rarities we never received in the U.S.. Now, the V8 quattro did come here, as did (briefly) a manual version. However, U.S. manuals were not only few in number, they were solely 5-speed and hooked only to the lower-output PT 3.6 from the late ’89-90s and a few ’91s. By the time the revised ABH 4.2 launched, Audi had dumped the manual option for North America; if you wanted to row your own in a fast quattro, your option was the S4.
In Europe, though, the S4 could also be mated to a 4.2 V8. And instead of 5-speeds, those cars got the 6-speed manual gearbox. That combination would go on to be the highlight reel of the S6, S6 Plus and early S8s, too. But a few select V8 quattros with the 276 horsepower 4.2 got that 6-cog manual, and our reader John spotted a very clean example:
Update 4/4/19: This stellar swap sold for $26,677.
That M3-powered 325xi Touring was pretty impressive, no? But it’s not without competition in the market today. That’s because at the same time BMW was leaving the most powerful 3-series out of the Touring market, Audi was offering U.S. customers the 250 horsepower twin-turbocharged all-wheel drive 6-speed S4 Avant finally! The blown 30V V6 was capable of hustling the small wagon from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds while your groceries remained firmly embedded in the hatch trim.
Of course, as impressive as the U.S. bound S4 Avant was, it was still over 75 horsepower down on the brand-new E46 M3. That wouldn’t do for Ingolstadt, who employed Cosworth Technologies to revisit the V6. The result was quattro GmbH’s RS4 Avant, and power increased to 375 while the B5 sprouted flared arches, slits in the nose and deep valances. Unfortunately for U.S. customers, the B5 RS4 was a no-go for importation, leaving some to
wonder what might have been build their own:.
If I’m honest, neither the outrageous Passat W8 nor the overpriced A4 Avant from Sunday really thrilled in the same way as the 2.7T-swapped B6 Ultrasport build did. Granted, you could just about buy both the Audi and the Passat for the same price as that build, but if you’re going to take on a complicated older fast wagon, there must be some sort of reward for all the risk, right?
Well, not to be outdone, here’s a stellar BMW option. The standard 325xi Touring, while available with a 5-speed manual, isn’t nearly as exotic sounding or performing as the duo from the other day. The M54 2.5 liter inline-6 was about 100 horsepower down on the Passat W8 and they weighed pretty close to the same. BMW also chose to not equip any of the xi models with the M-Sport suspension, either. While the 3-series was substantially cheaper than either the A4 2.0T S-Line Titanium package or the Passat W8 4Motion, out of the box it also didn’t feel as special.
Of course, if you rip it apart and rebuild it with a S54 borrowed from a M3 and a 6-speed from a X3, the story changes a bit…
Fortunately for its seller but unfortunate if you actually were interested in it, the 2.7T-swapped Audi B6 A4 Ultrasport Avant ‘Unicorn Killer’ I wrote up a few weeks ago sold just before I went to press. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other interesting options out there, and I found two in direct competition (at least, ostensibly) with one another on my local Craigslist.
Here, we have two all-wheel drive wagons from VAG. Both are complicated. Both are reasonably quick. Both have mindbogglingly long names. Both have 6-speed manuals, both originally had MSRPs north of $40,000 and both, predictably, are quite rare to find. But while the mileage on the two is different, their asking prices are within a hundred dollars. So which would you take?
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:
While it was certainly impressive to see the unique Aquamarine S4 Avant over the weekend, for nearly everyone it was a letdown. Many of the faults would be excusable were it not for the outrageous asking price – getting on for four times the market value of a decent “normal” S4 Avant. Of course, one of the great things traditionally about Audis is that the chassis flexibility means parts from a myriad of other models work across platforms. So, unhappy with the available options out there, why not build your own super Avant?
That’s exactly what folks at Black Canyon Performance did, taking an already desirable B6 A4 Avant Ultrasport 6-speed and turning the wick up substantially. The modifications range from installation of a B5-generation 2.7T V6 to a factory RS4 interior and a special Porsche color – 7A1 Gray Black borrowed from the 997 GT3 RS, but don’t end there. Welcome to the Unicorn Killer….or was it Killer Unicorn?
Update 2/25/19: It appears this car’s exact connection to Paul Newman is quite a bit more loose than indicated by the seller. Thanks, Jason!
Lately I’ve had my eye on Audi B6 Avants as a potential replacement for my Passat down the road. The B6 carried on with Audi’s tradition of building a high-quality, all-weather capable and highly versatile package. While arguably not the prettiest products to come from Ingolstadt, the subdued styling of the B6 has grown on me over time – especially as they’ve become less prevalent with age and used B7s and B8s have flooded the market.
While I’ve been looking primarily at the 1.8T that’s both economical and familiar to me, there’s no denying the appeal of the S4. For short money you can grab a car which was effectively without peer; an all-wheel drive wagon with a 340 horsepower V8 coupled to a 6-speed manual wagon. They’re certainly not without their faults, but the cost of doing business in nearly 15 year old high-tech fast German cars is infrequently small.
Appreciation for these potent and unique packages has once again been growing. Recently, a custom supercharged Jet Blue Metallic ’08 sold on Bring a Trailer for $28,250 – indicating there’s a strong market for special examples. And today’s ’05 is quite special for two reasons – first, the special order Aquamarine Blue Metallic exterior, and second involves who ordered it – none other than Hollywood legend and motorsport enthusiast Paul Newman:
Recently on our Facebook page I posted a poll to see what our fans would like us to write-up. The choice in that poll was between two different generations of Grand Tourer; cars with the same purpose but very different execution. The Porsche 928GTS was at the end of its illustrious production run, the ultimate evolution of the V8 transaxle design. On the other hand, the fairly recently introduced 850CSi wasn’t quite the ‘M8’ BMW had teased, but in a post-Recession economy it was still pretty special. The 928GTS clocked in to work with a slightly revised exterior, 17″ Cup wheels, giant Brembo brakes and a stonking 5.4 liter 4-cam V8 capable of 345 horsepower. The 850CSi was, of course, also naturally aspirated, but a 5.6 liter V12 lay under its computer-designed angular bodywork. The E31 was heavily breathed upon by BMW’s Motorsport division, the S70 laughed at Porsche’s V8 by channeling 372 horsepower to the rear wheels solely through a 6-speed manual gearbox. Like the 928, bodywork revisions, M-System II forged wheels and mega brakes along with suspension updates helped justify the lofty price.
In their days, both of these cars could eclipse $100,000 easily with options. The thing is, they’ve never really come down in price. Both were quite limited production; a total of 1,510 850CSis were made with only 225 sent to the U.S., while 2,877 928GTSs were made, with I believe 451 landing in North America.
The Facebook poll came down to a dead heat between the two, each with 44 votes. So, I did my best to come up with two worthy examples priced closely to consider today: