2000 Audi S3

The first A3 was launched alongside the then-new A4, and while the visual similarities were strong, the two models shared little. That’s because the A3 was based heavily on the Mk.4 Golf platform with transverse mounted engines. Just like the original Audi 50, though, the A3’s arrival predated the Mk.4 Golf by a year. While the U.S. had to wait until the 2004 launch of the Golf R32 to get all-wheel drive performance, Europe had enjoyed Golfs with four wheels driven since 1986. So it was a relative cinch to stick the Haldex-based all-wheel drive system into the A3 chassis where, like the TT, it would be called “quattro”. And just like the TT, a high performance variant of the 1.8T would be included and become the S3 in 1999. Some of the styling cues were shared with the big-brother S4, including 17″ Avus wheels and deeper, smooth bumper covers. The S3 was the first model to utilize the ‘door blades’ that would become signature S bits soon after. Performance was about what you’d expect from a near twin of the TT – meaning, virtually identical. But what you did get was slightly more subtle styling and slightly more practicality, with a bit more storage space and a roomier cabin.

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1990 BMW 850i Euro-spec

Euro cars always hold a special appreciation for me, especially from the 1970s and 1980s. First off, they were much better looking, generally with slimmer bumpers and larger, more clear class lights. There were colors and interiors that we didn’t get in the U.S. as well, helping to set yourself apart. Sometimes there were low-spec engines not imported, but usually the output of the motors that were similar to U.S. cars was higher, giving more performance to enthusiasts. Sometimes that gulf was huge; while usually around 10% higher, a great example is the Quattro which was a full 25% more powerful in Europe than the U.S. restricted version. But as we got towards the late ’80s, the gap inbetween both the looks and performance of the Euro models versus the U.S. models closed steadily. True, in some cases we still didn’t get the full-fat versions of cars like the M3 until the E46 chassis. But for most models, there was a negligible difference. When it came to the BMW E31, in fact, there were almost no differences between the U.S. models and European models; styling was exactly the same, as were the wheels, most of the colors and interiors, and the basic suspension and engine. So, it’s just not nearly as exciting to see a European-spec newer model like this ’91 850i pop up for sale, though it is a bit odd:

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1987 BMW 535iS

As I mentioned in the M635CSi post in August, there is some of the confusion about these “M” branded models came from the nomenclature between the E24 and E28. While the M6 and M5 co-existed in the United States market, they did not in Europe. This left the M635CSi to be the equivalent of the M6. But the same was not true of the M535i. This model was sold as a more affordable alternative to the M5; most of the look of the Motorsports model but without the bigger bills associated with the more exotic double overhead cam 24 valve M88/3. Instead, you got a 3.4 liter M30 under the hood just like the rest of the .35 models. The recipe was a success, selling around 10,000 examples in several different markets – but never in the U.S..

Instead, the U.S. market received the 535iS model. The iS model was specific to the North American market and gave you the look of the U.S.-bound M5, with deeper front and rear spoilers, M-crafted sport suspension and sport seats. It, too, was quite popular – between 1987 and 1988, just over 6,000 examples sold in the United States alone, and of those, a little more than half were the preferred manual variant. One of the nice aspects of the 535iS was that if you enjoyed colors other than black you were able to order the lesser model in any shade you wanted, unlike the M5. This particular 535iS has some cool mods to give it a bit more style, too:

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1972 BMW 2000 Touring M40

Is a classic wagon more your style, but you want to keep up with modern traffic? The BMW E6 Touring offers a unique look coupled with timeless style that will help to set you apart. They’re a favorite of mine for sure. But this one has ditched the original configuration and gone for a more modern stance with E30-sourced engine, wheels and a modern interior for a different type of resto-mod Touring. Does it stand the test of time?

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1975 Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 MFI

After just covering Ryan Snodgrass’s excellent Carrera 2.7 history, I thought it would be fun to look at a 1:1 scale example. As I mentioned in the book review, the impact bumper cars replaced the long hood design for 1973. Porsche carried over much of what had made the 911 Carrera RS great in the new G-Body Carrera 2.7. The suspension and 911/83 engine were largely unchanged and though the appearance was updated, it was still the same unmistakably Porsche silhouette. Out of roughly 198,500 G-Body 911s, a total of 1,633 of these ‘Euro Carreras’ were produced and like all things air-cooled, they’re not exactly cheap today. But given that the look and experience is most of what the classic RS was, they’re a whole lot more affordable:

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Right Hooker RS: 1995 Audi RS2 Avant

Why would anyone even contemplate paying $65,000 for a 25 year old, complicated and turbocharged Audi wagon? Because of the badge that adorns the front the magical Renn added to the S2 badge, along with the legendary name Porsche scripted below. That meant that this relatively unassuming Audi 80 quattro Avant had been produced in Zuffenhausen on the 959 production line rather than Ingolstadt or Neckarsulm and had added a healthy dose of even more Sport to the small chassis. Ostensibly, though the Sport Quattro was the first RS vehicle, the RS2 was the first to wear the badge which has become synonymous with Audis speed department. For many Audi aficionados, though the RS vehicles have become much faster and more luxurious, just like the with W124 500E and the E30 M3 Audi has never made a car better in its overall execution than the original. Not that it was slow by any means; Porsches massaging of the ADU inline-5 resulted in 311 horsepower even more than the Sport Quattro had from essentially a very similar motor.

So despite being much heavier than the Sport had been, the RS2 wasnt much slower; sub-5 seconds to 60 and a top speed north of 160 mph. Along the way, it was capable of bullying everything outside of a supercar; yet this car also established the move from Audis 2-door halo vehicle to a long line of fast five doors. Porsche also upgraded the brakes and wheels with Brembo units and 17″ ‘Cup 1’ wheels creating a signature look, and tacked on 911 mirrors for good measure. So, too, was the color signature; original called RS Blue rather than the color name its often mistaken for the later Nogaro bright blue is still the go-to shade for Audis fastest. Even within its fast contemporaries, this car was legendary, and the upgrades to the motors and wheels spawned an entire generation of enthusiasts to turn up their inline-5s stateside. Now that these cars are legal for importation, it’s pretty tempting to turn to Europe to see what’s available.

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1992 BMW M5 Touring

BMWs second generation M5 followed the same recipe as the outgoing E28; manual transmission, rear-drive, howling inline-6 under the hood. But the E34 was far from a copy of the car that was really credited with being the first super sedan. BMW upped with power first with the 3.6 liter version of the S38; though the increase in displacement was a scant 82 ccs, the result was impressive. BMW Motorsport GmbH fit a new cam, a higher compression head, and a new engine management system to yield 311 horsepower at a rev-busting 6,900 rpms. They werent done.

In 1992 M upped the capacity again, this time to just 5 cc shy of 3.8 liters. Even higher compression, a further revision in electronic management, and a few other odds and ends now netted 340 horsepower and 300 lb.ft of torque. Again, they werent done. Perhaps tired of Audi cornering the go-fast-5-door market with their 200 20V Avant, in 1992 BMW launched the M5 Touring. Production began in March 1992 and ran through 1995. All E34 M5 Tourings were left-hand drive 3.8 models, and a total of 891 were produced.

BMW opted not to bring the enlarged motor or the M Touring model to the United States, as the 540i took over the top rungs of North American production. But now legal for importation, these rare Ms have been trickling in:

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1986 Hartge H28

Though not as familiar as Alpina, Hartge was another tuner who took BMWs to a higher level. Starting in the early 1970s, they similarly modified cars with higher output motors, special suspension and body kits, and even eventually their own wheel line. In 1985 Hartge was granted special production status in Germany, but their volume never approached that of their rivals. As a result, it’s a bit of a special treat anytime a fully modified Hartge turns up.

The E30 Hartge range was fairly similar to Alpina’s C and B range, with designations associated with their engine displacement. From the 170 horsepower H23 to the 210 horsepower H27, tuned versions of the M20 were employed – some with unique individual throttle bodies, bespoke exhaust manifolds and camshafts, and other trick items. But Hartge also stuck the M30 in the chassis, creating this car – the H28 – and an even more potent H35. The H28 was rated at 210 horsepower – a 70 horsepower upgrade from the stock 323i on which the car was based – and also was met with upgraded suspension, differential, wheels and tires, brakes and body kit. Like Alpina, you could buy many of these parts piecemeal from authorized sellers, making fully modified factory Hartges quite rare:

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1982 BMW 635CSi

Quintessentially an 80s car (though designed in the 1970s), the BMW 6-series offered performance, elegance, presence and practicality to the 2-door luxury market. While the Mercedes-Benz SEC might have enjoyed a better reputation and the Audi Quattro was technically more exciting, the E24s resilient staying power has meant that some 30 years after production wrapped these lovely coupes are still eye catching.

While the really nice 6’s to look out for the in the states are the late 635s, this one comes from fairly early in the run. But 1982 was an important year for the E24 – though, not in the States. European customers enjoyed the E28 chassis refinements and a new 635CSi emerged with the M30B34 rated at 219 horsepower. America would have to wait 3 more model years for the 635, and when it arrived it was nearly 40 horsepower down on its Euro counterpart. So this lovely ’82 Euro example not only has the better motor, it has the better bumpers too – and that’s not all:

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1984 Volkswagen LT28 Westfalia Sven Hedin

Of course, if you’re a fan of German cars (and even some who are not), the Volkswagen Westfalia pop-top campers are legendary in their own right. But esoteric fans no there was not just one version of the iconic ‘Camper Van’. Indeed, Volkswagen offered two iterations of do-anything #vanlife in the 70s,80s and even 80s. The Vanagon is probably the best known, but based upon VW’s larger LT platform were also 8 versions of campers with unique features and a bit more space than the traditional VW van.

Top of the range between 1978 and 1989 was this model – the LT Westfalia Sven Hedin. Hedin was a notable Swedish explorer of central Asia, so the eponymous camper was adventure ready. These high-top vans featured similar accoutrements to the T2 and T3 models, with a cooker, fridge, versatile seating and a fixed sleeping area along with copious storage. Where the LT stood apart was incorporation of a bathroom, replete with hot water shower. You could have these Sven Hedins with either PVC or carpeted flooring as seen here, and with either a 2.0 inline-4 gas motor or the lump seen in this model – the D24 2.4 liter inline-6 diesel rated at 75 horsepower.

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