We sometimes get accused of bias in our coverage towards one marque or one model on these pages. Fair enough, I’d fully admit that I’d rather look at another Audi Coupe GT than a BMW 325e. But in the interest of being introspective, I occasionally check up on our coverage to see if we’re doing a balanced job and I’d like to share the results with you. To date this year, we’ve written up 10 Audi related posts, 10 BMW related posts, 9 Volkswagen related posts, and 12 Porsche posts. If we’ve been out-of-balance, it’s been our coverage of Mercedes-Benz models, which account for 26 posts this year so far.
Since our inception, we’ve written 907 Audi posts, 1,963 BMW posts, 1,598 Mercedes-Benz posts, 2,322 Porsche posts and 982 dedicated to Volkswagens. We’re sometimes at the mercy of what’s available at any given time. All things considered, it’s not a bad balance overall.
But one thing did strike me as I put this information together – February has, so far, passed without a BMW gracing our coverage. That simply won’t do, and so I thought I’d check out this M6. The classic E24 lines coupled with the stellar S38 engine and BBS wheels have always been a favorite of mine. Now, this particular M6 is probably not the best one out there I’ll admit up front. But the combination of colors, stance, presentation and asking price all grabbed my attention and made it worth sitting up and taking a further look:
While the last few VWs have been a bit strange in some way or other, each held a specific subset of people absolutely obsessed with them. The same does not seem to be true of today’s Mk.III Jetta GLX VR6, which is strange to me since it has the hallmarks of a potential collector.
Purists decried the arrival of the “grown up” A3 chassis Golf and Vento, sold as the Jetta in North America. It was expensive, it was heavy (relative to the A1 and A2 chassis, anyway) and the performance was dulled – that was, until the introduction of the GLX model that replaced the earlier GLi models. Now sporting the VR6 that had debuted in the Corrado a few years earlier, the GLX was all around a screamer. It might have been heavier than the GLi had been, but it was quicker to 60, quieter on the highway, more comfortable and better in crashes (if things went south), and returned close to the same fuel economy as the thirsty, buzzy and boxy 16V had. The Volkswagen Jetta III, as it was known in the US, was introduced at a time when US sales were at their lowest and it appeared as if VW was considering pulling out of the US market. This generation Jetta became the best selling Volkswagen by the time the production run ceased in 1999. It was insanely popular and seemed to be the defacto college car of choice for both men and women. Because of that, many of these Jettas fell into disrepair or were totaled, so it’s rare to find a lower mile and clean GLX these days:
I don’t think there are any young children sitting around pining for the loss of the wagon. It’s hard to imagine a young teen hanging a picture of a Audi Allroad on his wall next to the idealistic Ferraris and Porsches, after all. Say to a average car-obsessed 10-year old “someday you’ll really want a wagon”, and they’ll probably laugh. Then try to tell them it will be beige…
All of this raises an interesting point: at what point does this particular car become appealing? Is it because it’s rare? Certainly there aren’t many 200 20V quattro Avants out there, with most fans accepting that approximately 149 were imported. Is it because it’s old? Now on the verge of being 30, the scant number originally imported has dwindled to the point where I’m sure someone knows them all by name. After all, there were more people in my high school graduating class than 200 20V Avants imported. Is it because it’s powerful? Well, to be honest, the 217 horsepower the 3B turbocharged double-overhead cam 20V inline-5 chucked out originally seems pretty tame today. But at the time, you needed to spend a lot of money to go faster than this 5-door. Is it because it’s beige? Now it gets interesting, as I was frustrated by the drapes-match-the-carpet tones in a recent S8, which otherwise shares most of the characteristics I just mentioned:
2001 Audi S8
Yet here, this rare Bamboo Metallic over rare Travertine in the (you guessed it) rare 200 20V quattro Avant pulls the right strings and becomes quite desirable:
Our run of crazy modified cars continues with one of the many outrageous Porsche Turbo creations. This one comes straight from some of the biggest names in the hallowed halls of Porsche racing; Kremer, DP and Andretti. The Andrettis might as well be the Kennedys of motor racing, such is the success and tragedy they’ve seen. At the head of the family is Mario, who managed to not only be 1978 Formula One World Champion, but a class winner (and 2nd overall) at Le Mans and raced in NASCAR, PPG IndyCars, sprint cars and IROC. Quite simply, he’s one of the most diversely accomplished drivers in history. And in the mid 1980s, Andretti partnered with Porsche to race first 956s and then 962s later (with his son Michael co-driver both times) at Le Mans. Neither campaign was successful; they finished 3rd in 1983 and 6th in 1988. But in the meantime, Andretti apparently commissioned a very special road-going Porsche to go along with his racing exploits.
That car was built by none other than Kremer, who carried the torch in development of the 935 as Porsche moved first to the 936 and then to the 956 models. It was Kremer’s K3 development of the 935 that outright won Le Mans in 1979, and its extreme bodywork was developed in conjunction with DP Motorsports. The legend was born, and the DP-bodied, Kremer-modified ‘DP935’s took to the 1980s as one of the fastest street-legal cars you could get into. Kremer’s street “K2” spec featured a K27 turbo attached to an upgraded 3.3 flat-6, reportedly good for 460 plus horsepower with adjustable boost. A claimed twelve of these K2-modded DP935s made there way to the the United States, and what is reported to be Mario’s personal example is for sale now:
We’re on a bit of a modified car kick, so I wanted to continue with a superlative BMW. In this case, it’s not a classically modified example, but rather a very recent one. For a long time, modifying cars was relatively easy – they came from the factory usually in a pretty tame form with a lot of potential – from aerodynamic tweaks to suspension overhauls and, of course, more power. But when you consider the E9X BMW M3, you have to really wonder if an aftermarket company could improve upon the design. After all, with the S65 4.0 V8 that revs to 8,400 RPMs and generates nearly 420 horsepower in completely stock form, how much better could you really make it?
That hasn’t stopped companies from trying, and relative unknown IND took on the task of making a Nürburgring-inspired E92 M3 the ultimate dual purpose street/track weapon. Did they succeed, and how have the mods held up?
Back when the metal was heavy and the hair was high, the cars of Willy König ruled the earth. Koenig Specials GmbH was a German tuning house that took already outrageous cars on their own from Ferrari, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz and turned them up to 11. Unlike the majority of the tuning houses and coachbuilders from the same era, Koeing made cars that matched their bark with an even bigger bite. In addition to outlandish body work and 13 inch wide wheels, Koenig had a tradition of twin-turbocharging cars that made some of them capable of 200 mph and 0-60 runs under 4 seconds. One very special Ferrari Testarossa that was built by Koenig produced 1,000 hp and recorded a top speed of 229 mph. Today, these cars are still admired and now that everything from the 1980s is cool and very collectible. That is what we have with this car today.
This is a 1986 Mercedes-Benz 500SEC that received the full Koenig treatment including a twin-turbo kit on the M117 V8. It has a body kit that only the Batmoblie rivals and wheels deep enough to cook chicken soup in. Inside, Recaro C Classic seats only begin the wildness with a second gauge cluster added on the dash and enough wood for a dining room table. I rarely see these Koenig Specials come up for sale and this example in Canada is already pulling in big bids. How high will it go?
The Golf Limited may be one of the best sleepers of all time. It’s such a sleeper, in fact, that most of the world doesn’t even know it exists. Yet this was the car that arguably gave birth to Volkswagen’s “R” lineup and along with cars like the Lancia Delta Integrale took hot hatches to a new level of performance. So why is it so thoroughly overlooked?
The root of the cause, I believe, comes down to availability. A scant 71 Golf Limited models rolled out of VW Motorsports’ skunkworks, and to the naked eye, they weren’t nearly as impressive looking as the Rallye, GTI G60 or even the Country models they were sold alongside of. But Volkswagen was looking to move into FIA Group A rally after its exploits with twin-engine Sciroccos and the Pike’s Peak Golf attempts from ’85 and ’86. I wrote about those crazy cars back in 2016 on The Truth About Cars:
Bi-Curiosities: Volkswagen’s Twin-Engine Terrors
Volkswagen had also simultaneously developed its own ‘syncro’ system to rival Audi’s signature quattro drivetrain. Audi’s system only worked with longitudinally mounted motors, so to mate all-wheel drive and the transverse Golf platform required a complete redesign. I talked about that solution back in 2017 when looking at a Passat G60 Syncro:
Forbidden Fruit: 1992 Volkswagen Passat G60 Syncro
Though only seen in the Corrado in the U.S., the supercharged PG 8 valve G60 was found in three models in Europe. But VW Motorsport had a trick up their sleeve; they took all of their experience from the BiMotor Golf, the syncro development, and the G60 and they combined it. The new 3G engine was both supercharged and a 16V, and cranked out 211 horsepower. Rallye suspension and special front fenders were fit into a relatively sedate-looking 4-door syncro chassis. Distinguishing features outside were few; BBS RM wheels, a pre-facelift 16V front chin spoiler, a Fuba roof-mounted antenna, and a blue outline grill with a VW Motorsport badge were all that let you know this was the highest performance Golf that had ever been built:
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:
Update 1/2/19: Relisted on Craigslist at $7,800.
Okay, I did my due diligence and covered a BMW 325ix. But as I said, I can’t help but love my first car, the Audi 4000CS quattro, even if the BMW soundly out-performed it in most measures. While performance typically comes to mind, the 325ix also outpaces the quattro in pricing in the used car market.
For quite some time, the 4000CS quattro was a $2,500 car in good shape. I paid exactly that amount in 1995 when I bought mine. When I sold in 2003, it moved along for $2,500. And a further eight years after that, barring that it wasn’t destroyed, I’d have estimated its value at $2,500.
But with Coupe GTs and especially the Quattro heading into collector territory, it certainly follows that the 4000S/CS quattro will be there soon too. So how does that affect this one?
I’ve been accused of ignoring the E30 325ix. True enough, I’ve flatly declared that I’m much more an Audi fan from the period. But the BMW was a pretty interesting development from Munich, and as these are still market darlings, it’s certainly worth taking a look.
While BMW wouldn’t launch the U.S. spec ix until 1988, Europeans were introduced to the concept in 1986. Unlike Audi’s quattro system which utilized a rearward driveshaft tacked on to a front-wheel drive transmission output shaft, BMW mated a transfer case and two viscous couplings, which effectively were front and rear limited-slips. This was very different from Audi’s contemporaneous system, which relied on the driver to lock the rear and center differentials that were otherwise open. The 325ix was able to be mated to an automatic transmission long before Audi would do so in the small chassis. BMW’s system was also more rearward biased, with 67% of the power being sent to the back wheels. While still more prone to understeer than a standard 325i, it was less so than the Audi.
Then, of course, there was the power difference. Because of suspension and other changes between the front-drive and quattro Audis, the system added about 225 lbs to the curb weight, while BMW claimed the ix system added around 150 lbs. Since both cars made use of otherwise standard engines, the advantage was again with the BMW. The M20B25 cranked out nearly 170 horsepower, some 40 more than the NG 2.3 inline-5 shared in the 80/90 quattros. The only real external differences between the 325i and 325ix were the addition of the color-matched fender flares and rear spoiler, slightly higher ride height and 15″ BBS mesh wheels, and the simple addition of one “x” behind the normal designation. Weren’t times so much more simple?