By 1984 the writing was on the wall, and the wild formula called Group B was mutating cars as if they had been supplied nuclear-tainted drinking water. Lancia went from the nutty but awesome and pretty 037 to the much nuttier, much less pretty but significantly faster Delta S4; a mid-engined turbocharged and supercharged all-wheel drive wonder. That matched Peugeot’s effort with the 205 Turbo 16, a mid-engined turbocharged and super-balanced all-wheel drive hatch. The competition was lighter and much better balanced than the Audi was, and all-wheel drive was no longer the trump card. The Audis had been fast but also a bit prone to understeer – something that won’t surprise anyone who has driven a 1980s Audi. Additionally, they were heavy compared to the competition even when fitted with special aluminum blocks instead of the road-going cast iron. One last complaint that the drivers had was that the windshield rake meant there was a tendency to have a large amount of glare that distracted the driver and navigators. Plus, Audi was at the limit of what it could develop reliably with the 10 valve turbo motor.
The response was the Sport. To drop weight, Audi chopped the best part of 13 inches out of the middle of the Quattro, making it a two-seater unless your passengers had no legs. They took the doors from the short-lived 4000/80 5+5 2-door and the windshield from the 4000/80, too – it was much more upright than the normal Coupe. The flares grew as well, another few inches in girth allowing now 9″ wide wheels with larger 235-45-15 tires. The body was made from carbon fiber and kevlar to help cut weight and was produced by noted special vehicle producer Baur in Stuttgart. And under the vented hood lay what would become the party piece; the 2.1 turbo motor now sporting 20 valves. The result was staggering in terms of road performance; in 1984, the Sport was the fastest accelerating road car you could buy to 60 m.p.h. at 4.5 seconds. Remarkably, 30 years on that would still be considered seriously fast. But it was the belching flames, the wail of the five cylinder and the wild slides that captured the imagination of the world. In rally trim, Audi saw a reported 600 horsepower from the monstrous S1 E2 depending on spec. On the road the Sport only saw half that output, but it also received a special interior to match the special exterior – heavily bolstered Recaro seats in special trim and a significantly revised dashboard with more gauges and a new readout. 214 of these special Quattros made it to the road at a somewhat staggering equivalent of $72,000 in 1984 – nearly double what the already expensive long-wheel base Quattro cost. As with all of the special homologation cars from Group B, the Sport was a truly special car then and is perhaps even more revered now:
Update 1/31/2019: The seller has relisted this M1 now at $695,000 – nearly $200,000 down from last Spring, but probably still ahead of the market.
Update 7/29/18: After listing in May at $875,000, the seller has dropped the price to $725,000 – still high for the model, but not as far out of line. Will it sell this time around?
I give Audi a lot of credit for bringing the R8 to market. It took a fair amount of gall for a company best known for mid-range all-wheel drive luxury sedans to up and produce a supercar-beating mid-engine road car capable of being used year-round and every day. It’s a feat nearly without precedent. Of course, I said “nearly”.
That’s because BMW pulled off a similar trick the best part of thirty years before Audi did it. And arguably the development of what would become BMW’s fledgling Motorsports division was even more impressive than what Ingolstadt pulled off. The M1 burst onto the scene at a time of economic austerity, global oil crises and came from a company who not only didn’t have a history of producing such cars, but didn’t have connections to others who did (unlike Audi’s corporate Lamborghini partnership).
Speaking of Lamborghini, because of BMW’s lack of expertise in supercar design it was the Sant’Agata firm that was employed to produce the M1. But because of Lamborghini’s lack of expertise at being…well, a company capable of producing something on a schedule, BMW engineers had to first liberate the early molds from Italy and then find someone who could produce the car. Ultimately, it was a combination of ItalDesign in Turin, Marchesi metal working in Modena to build the frames and Karosserie Baur in Stuttgart that stuck the M1 together. Though it doesn’t exactly sound like a match made in heaven, and indeed the M1 was a relative sales flop, it has nonetheless grown to cult status as one of the most user-friendly supercars of the late 1970s:
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:
Karosserie Baur in Stuttgart had a unique history of working directly with manufacturers to produce some pretty special cars. Most notably linked to the Baur name was a string of interesting but also-ran BMW 3-series convertibles. However, three of the most prized 80s German collector cars in the market today were also linked to the firm; first the BMW M1 after Lamborghini’s meltdown, and then Audi’s shortened Sport Quattro rolled through the special production line. Baur also constructed the special bodies of the Porsche 959.
However, Baur is linked most closely with offering drop-top BMWs to a market devoid of such options. First was the E10 chassis, with Baur chopping the top off of everything from 1602s to 2002s. Baur then moved on to the E21 chassis, offering the ‘Top Cabriolet’ TC1. The E30 also recieved the Baur treatment , but by that point BMW had released its own convertible model and the draw of the more expensive TC models waned, leading to a steadily disappearing market share. Perhaps the most unique was their last BMW creation. Based upon the E36 chassis, Baur released what it called the ‘Landaulet TC4’. It was effectively a 4-door E36 Targa (Porsche’s use of the Targa name was proprietary which prevented Baur from using it) and just over 300 were produced, making it one of the most rare E36 chassis configurations to see:
When enthusiasts think of custom coachwork and Germany, one name usually springs to mind: Karmann. Most identifiable for their combination with Ghia’s designs for Volkswagen, Karmann produced not only their eponymous creation Karmann-Ghia in both Type 14 and Type 34 configuration, but also the Beetle convertible. Volkswagen’s association didn’t end there, though, as the first Rabbit Cabriolets, both versions of the original Scirocco and the later Corrado were all built by the firm. So, too, were some of the first Porsche 356, 911 and 912 models, along with the 914. BMW, too, turned to the firm for ‘Big Coupe’ production, from the 2000CS to the E24 6-series. But when it came time to take the top off of their small cars, BMW looked elsewhere.
From OsnabrÃ¼ck BMW headed into the heart of the enemy’s home to Stuttgart, where Karosserie Baur was located. Baur was the company that BMW turned to when plans with Lamborghini to produce the supercar M1 fell through. Baur would later be the home that the infamous Group B Sport Quattro and Porsche 959 were produced in. In short, Baur was responsible for some of the most significant designs in German motoring and has plenty of expertise in factory-quality experience. It should come as no surprise, then, that they were the company that BMW selected to produce the first 3-series convertibles.
Taking the roof off the car seems simple enough; just grab a saw and go, ‘How hard could it be?’ Well, not so fast, as structural rigidity rears its ugly head. Beyond that, in the 1970s government nannies were indicating that the idea of a topless car was going to be outlawed, leading many manufacturers – including all of the major U.S. brands – to abandon the idea. Baur’s solution to the problem was to create a roll hoop ‘Targa’ model, which as we know from Porsche models offered multiple roof positions while simultaneously solving the issue of structural rigidity and occupant safety. But Baur wasn’t able to utilize the ‘Targa’ nameplate, as Porsche owned the copywrite of the title. Baur instead called the new partially topless 3-series the Top Cabriolet, shortened to TC. BMW offered these as a full-factory option and maintained the warranty, as these cars were expensive in period – a 323i like this one hit the market at the equivalent of $18,000 in 1980 (about $53,500 today) and selecting the Baur TC1 option added some $6,000 (about $17,000 today) to the price.
In a post I wrote for The Truth About Cars this past week, I covered a few E30 models that offer affordable and interesting visual and performance alternatives to the E30 M3. One of those models was the Baur TC2, the model which gave BMW a soft-top before BMW made its own in 1985. Of course, the E30 wasn’t Baur’s first foray into convertible 3-series models, though, as they had started with the E21 model. Baur only produced a little less than half the amount of E21s – 4,595 according to Petrolicious – as they did E30 models at over 11,000, but as importation of early 1980s cars was easier, it seems more common to see the E21 Baur than the E30 Baur. Though fitted as standard with no performance upgrades, this unique 1982 example remedies that with a turbocharged M20:
We’ve reached a point where the BMW E36 has probably dipped about as low as it will go in terms of value, with exception of some mint M3s on the upward tick and the exclusive M3 Lightweight. Most of us are familiar with all the different models of this range, including some of those which did not make it to US shores, like the Touring. This 318i Baur TC4, however, is a different proposition altogether. The relationship between BMW and Baur goes back a ways. Baur is a coachbuilder based in Stuttgart, Germany that has been collaborating on BMW convertibles since the 1930s. Their targa variants of the E21 and E30 3 series helped them gain notoriety, but they didn’t stop there. When the E36 3 series debuted in the early 1990s, Baur decided to try something different.
What you see here is a rarity amongst modern day automobiles, the four-door cabriolet. From the side profile, you’d be hard pressed to figure out this was a convertible of some sort, with fixed door frames and a canvas roof which would fold discreetly behind the rear seats. This 318i Baur TC4 is claimed to be the first on US shores. While it wouldn’t be an easy claim to verify, it is probably valid, as a little over 300 of these unique open-roofed sedans were made.
Calling Baur a tuner isn’t really very fair, but since we don’t have a separate category for semi-aftermarket carriage works, it will fit in. Baur worked in conjunction with a few manufacturers – most notably BMW, though a few Audi fans will remember that they were responsible for construction of the Sport Quattros too and they assisted in the assembly of the Porsche 959 as well. Much like Porsche originally started as, they were linked to the factory efforts due to their high level of unique production capability. That manifested itself in limited run models that required special construction – such as the Sport Quattro and 959 – but what most enthusiasts will remember are the multiple 3-series Cabriolet models produced through Baur. These were offered through dealers as an expensive option and to this day remain a very unique expression of Munich motoring:
There was a period in the mid 1970s where it appeared that safety nannies like Ralph Nader were going to bring about the death of the convertible. Consider, for a moment, that in 1965 Americans bought nearly 500,000 4-seat convertibles – but by the late 1970s, Detriot had completely abandoned what had been a very successful market. Today, it’s German firms that are the leaders in convertibles sold in the U.S. – no surprise, really, when you consider the number that are available. From the Eos and Beetle to BMW’s 3,6 and Z series, along with plenty of Mercedes-Benz models and Audi’s TT, A3, A5 and R8, there’s no shortage currently of options with air above. Go back to the early 1980s, though, and there were really only two. You could pay a lot of money for a Volkswagen Rabbit Cabriolet, or you could pay a ridiculous amount of money for a Porsche 911 Cabriolet. In response, many aftermarket tuners offered to take the top off just about everything from the S-Class Mercedes to the Porsche 928. Baur was one such firm, offering a drop-top version of the 3-series before BMW did. Rare to find, there’s one that’s popped up for sale today:
Karosserie Baur has a history of making drop top versions of our favorite BMW models. This Stuttgart firm went into insolvency in 1998, but before this occurred, they had one last shot at making a memorable BMW cabriolet. This 316i TC4 you see here was the result. Four-door cabriolets are almost extinct in the modern world and this one was a different take on the theme, given it had four fully framed doors and a targa-esque roof setup that folded all towards the rear decklid. This Baur TC4 for sale in central Portugal won’t set the world on fire with it’s 1.6 liter four cylinder engine, but you and your four closest friends can have some fun this summer with four-door, drop top motoring.