1983 Volkswagen GTI

While the US-market GTI was somewhat watered-down and had chunkier styling than the truly Spartan European 1976 design, it was still a revelation in performance and universally heralded as the benchmark by which all other sporty economy cars would be based moving forward. At a time when there were few do-it-all type cars, the GTI managed to be nearly all things to all people; it got good fuel economy thanks to a relatively miserly 1.8 liter inline-4 with efficient fuel injection. It looked neat, thanks to 14″ alloy wheels, wide fender flared and blacked-out detail work with red accent stripes. It was functional and flexible, with fold-down seats and a (for its size) spacious hatch area to transport goods. It was usable year-round, with front-wheel drive allowing for decent snow traction. And the sport suspension, heavily bolstered seats and close-ratio transmission made the whole package an athletic alternative to the norm, allowing practical-minded men and women to fling their family car through corners with aplomb. Near universal was its appeal, and infectious were the ad campaigns, which in the Volkswagen tradition used short phrases to capture attention like “They’re going fast” and “Serious Fun” – even the oft-used “It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing”.

So what do Germans do for fun? They love to drive. Preferably in a Volkswagen GTI. Because the GTI is designed to be fun. Not fun in the sense of a dashboard cluttered with all sorts of doodads. But fun in the sense of a precision machine that respects and answers its driver’s every wish.

Hyperbole? Certain, this is advertising after all. But it pointed towards the beautiful simplicity of the design, the functionality of the package, the elegance of the execution. The GTI didn’t pretend to be a Corvette like the Opel GT, or a luxury car like the Passat. It wasn’t competing with Mercedes-Benz, or even really Porsche, on any level. And that allowed the characteristically unfun Germans to let their hair down and have a bit of a ball:

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2004 Audi S4 Avant

To me, if you’re going to go through the effort to get into a B6 and pay a lot of money as you would with the 2004 A4 3.0 quattro Avant Ultrasport I just looked at, why would you not consider the S4 Avant? Not only is it a lot more powerful, you could get them in splashy colors, and with a 6-speed manual to boot. Add in better seats, better looking wheels, and…well, better stuff, there’s only one real reason to not consider the S4 over the A4 – and that’s the engine’s incomprehensible chain system.

But let’s say that the chain repair upgrade was already done, for argument’s sake…

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1983 Volkswagen GTI

While not the fastest or the prettiest car Volkswagen ever made, the GTI represents the ethos of VW’s 1980s philosophy of cheap, fun-to-drive, and eminently practical cars for consumers. As they did when new, the first generation GTI also represented a car which gave much faster cars a run for their money. True, the 90 horsepower under the hood won’t scare a supercar. But what this car lacks in straight-line performance it more than makes up for in value.

You see, over the past few years we’ve watched the fan-favorites and driver’s cars from the 1980s increasingly price themselves out of the range of most enthusiasts. The esoterics are also forged in unobtanium today, and while there was a period where you could snap up cheap 80s products in Europe and import them, they’re going away, too. Sure, the M3 and 911 led the charge, but today a clean 190E 2.3-16 or Quattro will set you back some serious bucks. And then when you do get one, you need to worry about collector insurance, expensive and hard-to-source parts, and whether you bought in a bubble.

The solution is still the giant-killer GTI. Find a clean one, and you’ll have a car that can be driven at 10/10ths still today and generate plenty of smiles, yet is relatively cheap to buy and very cheap to run. You’ll get thumbs up just like the 911 driver will. Maybe even more, honestly, because when was the last time you saw an A1 cruising around?

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1987 Volkswagen Golf GT

The 1987 launch of Volkswagen’s fabled 16 valve motor into the Golf lineup created an interesting transition. VW had a high performance version of the GTI now, but it was also a bit dear at $12,000. So, VWoA decided to continue running the less-expensive 8 valve version for alongside for one more year (this was mimicked in the Jetta GLI lineup, as well). This split lineup would resume in 1990 for the GTI.

However, for the ’87-88 model year, VW added a third Golf performance version. Labeled the GT, outwardly it shared many characteristics with the early A2 8V GTIs. The same 14″ alloy wheels were there, black fender flares, special interior fabric, a 4-spoke sport steering wheel and red-splash decals front and rear. However, if you looked closely there were several differences to the GTI. The GT didn’t have the red-stripe trim outside of the more illustrious GTIs. Nor did it have the rear spoiler, sport seats, or a few other unseen details of the same-year GTI like uprated suspension and 4-wheel discs. So why get one? Well, first off it was a bit less expensive than the GTI. And, underneath it carried the same close-ratio 5-speed manual hooked to the high-compression RD 1.8 8V from the GTI. But the real benefit of the GT was that it came in more colors, with more doors (there was no 5-door GTI in the U.S. yet, nor for a while) and with an available automatic (again, not for the GTI). Of course, by the time you selected all of that stuff you were in GTI pricing…which meant that few GTs sold, and they’re very rare to see today:

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1995.5 Audi S6

Like the C3 chassis that predated it, the C4 went through numerous changes seemingly every year – giving each individual model year something special for fans to covet. 1994 to 1995 saw some major changes for the C4; the most obvious being the model designation change from S4 (1991-1994) to S6 (1995-1997). European models had some additional drivetrain options that werent available in the U.S., and indeed the Avant had previously been available in S4 form, but the 2.2 liter turbocharged inline-5 carried over largely unchanged into 1995. The big news was the addition of the Avant to the U.S. lineup; at the time, as expensive as an Audi got here. There was also the obvious external refresh; smooth body-colored bumpers and wider side trims eliminated the rubberized black moldings. The hood and lights were lightly re-sculpted too, along with the change (rolling, for some models) from the Fuchs-made 5-spoke alloys to the Speedline-made 6-spoke Avus wheels which would be the signature S-wheel for the next decade.

Gone were two staples of the Audi lineup from the 1980s Procon 10, the seatbelt pre-tensioning safety system Audi highly marketed in the late 1990s disappeared with little fanfare, but also, perhaps more strikingly, S cars would no longer be branded with quattro badges a change that would carry on nearly until todays models, where models like the RS7 re-introduced it in the grill. Inside minor changes were introduced; a revised dashboard, shift knob, along with the introduction of the most notable item (once again, rolling) with a 3-spoke sport steering wheel. It was a tremendous amount of minor fiddling that in sum resulted in a slightly different feel for the S6; slightly more polished and grown up, carrying the new design language for Audi that would remain for the next decade.

Audi wasnt done, though, because in 1995.5 Audi once again altered several items on the then-still-new S6. This included a major switch moving forward the elimination of driver control of the rear differential, a hallmark of Audis since the introduction of the original Quattro. Audi opted for an electronic differential lock, which in reality was a system which utilized the ABS system to detect wheelspin and apply the brakes. This major change resulted in some minor interior tweaks, such as moving the cigarette lighter, and there were additional revisions to the radio. The transmissions traditional weak first gear was also addressed, as well as swapping infrared locking for radio frequency and some other minor trim. All of these changes some of them running give the limited production S6s a bit of a bespoke feel. With numbers produced only in the hundreds, these are special and coveted cars that are very capable and highly sought:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995.5 Audi S6 on eBay

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2001 Audi S8

If you follow these pages, it goes without saying that Im a pretty strong Ingolstadt devotee. My first car was an Audi 4000CS quattro and since then Ive owned an absurd 9 models along the way. But that doesnt mean I buy everything from the company hook, line and sinker. Indeed, Ive been less than impressed with many of the newer models. Sure, sometimes they look slick, go like stink or are really pretty inside. But would I want to own one? In most cases, no outside of a few very select models, I dont really desire to own much post Y2K.

One exception to that rule and its literally and figuratively a huge exception is the S8. Everything about this car was just spot on to me. In an age when increasingly the offerings from the competition were unattractive and overly complicated, the S8 was to me the last of the great original quattros. It was an analog offering in a digital age; simple, blunt force from a 360 horsepower V8 in front driving all the wheels with a luxurious driver-oriented cockpit. Sure, there were plenty of computers. Probably there are too many. But compared to the new luxo-suites? The D2 seems downright cart-like. And the proportions of the car were just perfect; lowered, menacing stance, huge yet delicate-appearing wheels, just the right amount of bling, yet an understated car which easily fades into the background. So even though Im still probably a long way from ownership, I often find myself dreaming about being behind the wheel of one.

The pool of candidates that remain is beginning to dwindle; the newest of the D2 S8s are now 16 years old and parts are already getting hard to source. Getting into an enthusiast owned one is the way to go at this point, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’ll break the budget:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Audi S8 at Keloland Automall

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2001 Audi S4 Avant

Audi brought the S4 Avant to the United States for the first time in 2001. It joined the sedan lineup and offered a follow-up to the large chassis S6 Avant from 1995. This was actually the second S4 Avant, as Europeans had enjoyed the C4-based creation in the early 90s. Audi’s renaming convention therefore created a successor to the B4-based S2 Avant. Instead of the traditional inline-5 motivation, though, Audi had developed a new 2.7 liter version of its V6. With a K03 turbocharger strapped to each side, the APB produced 250 horsepower at 5800 rpms and 258 lb.ft of torque at only 1850 revs. Like all the B5s, Audis new generation of quattro used a T2 Torsen center differential and relied upon an electronic rear differential utilizing the ABS sensors. The B5 chassis used the same technology on the front differential as well and was capable of independently braking each front wheel to try to sort the car out through its dynamic stability program.

But the real fun was that it was available as an Avant and with a 6-speed manual. Just over 1,500 were claimed imported between 2001 and 2002s model years, with about 600 of those being Tiptronic equipped. LY9B Brilliant Black was the second most popular color ordered behind Light Silver Metallic, and this particular Avant is one of 183 Brilliant Black (out of 850 total) manuals brought in for the 2001 model year:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Audi S4 Avant on eBay

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1989 Volkswagen GTI 16V

I’m sure you’ve heard the idiom “lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice“.

It’s wrong.

In fact, it’s fairly common for lightning to strike the same place twice. Check out tall buildings, for example. Still, humans like to think that the odds of a rare event happening twice in a short amount of time are statistically very low. And, if I’m honest, I’m not immune to that belief. That brings us today’s Volkswagen. If this 1989 GTI 16V looks familiar, you’d be forgiven for thinking I just covered it. I, too, thought it was the same car I looked at back in February.

1989 Volkswagen GTI 16V

After all, what is the statistical probability of coming across another perfect condition, LY3D Tornado Red 1989 GTI 16V after seeing one just two months ago? Apparently it is quite good. Because while they look similar and both in impossibly good condition, February’s VIN was 1VWDC0179KV009402 while today’s is 1VWDC0176KV016260. The last one sold at $8,322 – frankly, quite a deal for what that car was. Today you’ve got a second chance if you missed out – but you’ll need to bring more money to the table…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Volkswagen GTI 16V on eBay

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2001 Audi S8

The Audi S8 is, at its heart, just about the opposite of beige. Beige is neutral, calming, blends into its surroundings to the point where it becomes less a color and more a sickly feeling. None of those ideas represent the D2. It is beautifully sculpted and built, exhilarating to drive and listen to, distinctive in its presence. Yet, in many ways, it’s also a car not befitting the brilliant Solar Orange I just looked at. So perhaps the Melange Metallic of this 2001 is the perfect tone?

There’s something else odd about beige S8s. Amazingly, several of the best I’ve seen in recent years have been draped in blah. The Canvas Beige Metallic 2002 with a scant 13,000 miles was certainly one of, if not the best, used D2s on the market recently. I believe it’s the same car that recently sold on Bring A Trailer for $25,200 with 23,000 miles. Since there were only five imported in that color combination, the odds of there being another seem improbably low. Then there was the ’01 in Melange I looked at back in 2016. With 54,000 miles on the clock it looked near perfect. Well, here’s another Melange Metallic 2001 with 55,600 miles:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Audi S8 on eBay

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80s 4-Banger Icons: 1983 Volkswagen GTI and 1989 Porsche 944S2

I’m back with another “Which would you buy?” scenario, but this one is quite a bit different from the twin S6s I took a peek at over the weekend. Today I’m looking at two very different 80s icons – the GTI and the Porsche 944. In their own right, both were also 80s film stars – the Porsche 944 in John Hughes Sixteen Candles, while the A1 Volkswagen appeared topless in nearly every other movie – most notably, ‘The Coreys’ License to Drive. Today’s subjects are higher performance, driver-oriented examples, and like last time both fall into driver-quality examples. Yet while the performance and original sticker prices of these cars is quite far apart, today in the market they’re not only within reach of budget-minded enthusiasts, but also they’re in direct competition with each other. So which would you score?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 Volkswagen GTI on eBay

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