1994 Alpina B3 3.0

When BMW upped its game in the E36 chassis with the introduction of the M3, specialty tuner Alpina answered with the B3 3.0 and later 3.2 in step with BMW. The successor of the slightly less powerful B6 model, the B3 kept many of the same improvements to the E36 chassis – unique stabilizers, springs and shocks, and larger brakes. Inside the B3 received the normal Alpina-style shift knob, steering wheel and seats, and in their typical style Alpina provided unique front and rear spoilers along with their own badging. Of course, the package was rounded out by some of the best looking wheels ever fit to a BMW. While the B3 was down on power to the European M3 3.2, it wasn’t really much slower – again in typical Alpina fashion, the car was tuned to make the most of the power that was available rather than just provide a shockingly high output number. A reported 1,000 of these ultra-exclusive B3s were produced, with about 2/3rds of those being the earlier 3.0 model, and in four different configurations – Coupe, Cabriolet, Touring and Sedan. This is one of the 741 3.0s made of which 339 were sedans, and it poses the interesting question – would you rather have this or the European-spec M3 I just looked at?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 Alpina B3 3.0 on eBay

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1988 Volkswagen Polo C Hatchback

As I mentioned in my Audi A4 TDI post, the VAG community loves things that are different; and any Volkswagen Polo that makes it to the U.S. is certainly different since the model was never sold here. The Polo launched in 1975 as a rebadged Audi 50, but managed to outlive the car that it was based upon by some good measure. In 1981, the second generation debuted on the A02 platform – a standalone for the model and its be-trunked twin, the Derby (also not sold here). These super-minis were intended to be cheap and efficient; very basic equipment was met with very basic engines, though there was a GT version and an even cooler supercharged G40 model which we’ve looked at previously.

Today’s example is none of those. This is the basic 2-door wagon model that looks a bit like a delivery van. I had a friend I went to visit in Germany, and he and his girlfriend shuttled me around in a Polo not too dissimilar to this. A Volkswagen fan, I loved being in a model that wasn’t available in the States, but I did get the distinct impression that for many Germans ownership of a Polo was akin to a venereal disease. It was something you had to live with and couldn’t easily get rid of, and you really didn’t want anyone else to know you had it. But because these are different than the run-of-the-mill A2s, are they desirable today?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Volkswagen Polo C Hatchback on eBay

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1994 BMW M3

For some time, there was a giant gulf in between European-spec cars and U.S. spec cars. Granted, part of that divide still exists today if the large assortment of cars that do not make it to these shores, but at least enthusiasts can rejoice that at last – for the most part – performance versions that are available in Germany are very close to the same that we receive here. One of the last notable cars to exhibit the large divide was the E36 M3; while Europeans enjoyed over 280 horsepower from the individual throttle body S50B30 in 1992, the later released U.S. spec M3 carried an entirely different motor with some 40 horsepower less. Though the S50B30US is certainly a great motor by itself, the knowledge that the “better” version existed across the pond somehow took a bit of legitimacy away from it. Also differentiating the European versions were better floating rotor brakes, better glass headlights, better lower and stiffer suspension, and some neat interior options. Later Euro E36s got even more power and the optional SMG 1 transmission or a 6-speed manual – none of which came here.

But if you fall into “the U.S. version of the E36 M3 is garbage” camp, you don’t have to scream at the internet for ‘forum cred’ anymore as early versions of the Euro cars are now fully legal for import – and they’re surprisingly affordable:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW M3 on eBay

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1985 Audi Sport Quattro

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Audi Sport Quattro at Bourguignon Classics

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1987 BMW 535iS

Update 9/13/19: This 535iS sold for $7,000.

There’s always a bit of confusion about “M” branded models from the 1980s, since there was a difference in 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. I talked about this recently in a M635CSi post:

1985 BMW M635CSi

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. But as with the M535i, there was no S38 under the hood – rather a stock M30 3.4. 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. Today’s 535iS is still in a dark tone, but here it’s 181 Diamantschwarz Metallic accented by a Euro bumper swap…but that’s just the start:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 BMW 535iS on eBay

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1978 Porsche 928

When I was about 5 years old, my father took me to the Porsche dealership. Rows of new arrivals from Zuffenhausen lined up, a cornucopia of Easter egg-colored speed machines. In 1983, the low, organic, flowing shapes of the 911 and 944 stood in vast contrast to the bulk of three-box designs that proliferated the marketplace. But there was one shape that really stuck out to me – the 928.

In 1983, Porsche hadn’t yet abandoned its hope that the 928 would ascend to the top of the Porsche model lineup, and because of this I don’t remember seeing any 928s outside. Where I did see them was inside the showroom, where I distinctly remember one residing. My father was taken by the 911 (still is, to this day), and perhaps it was a father-versus-son stereotypical response, but the air-cooled model looked old and antiquated. The 928 was, both literally and figuratively, the antithesis of the 911. Water-cooled, front-engined, Grand Touring. It looked like a spaceship both inside and out. Clearly, this was the future I was witnessing.

Yet the 928, for all its press and relative market success, never caught completely on. It was never able to wrest the crown from the 911 as the signature model for Porsche. But what is perhaps most surprising to me is that it is one of the few cars that today, over forty years gone from its design phase, that unlike basically every other car model produced in the 1970s and 1980s, it still looks futuristic today. Okay, admittedly, the plastics have aged, tiny wheels with big, comfy side walls are no longer the norm and flush-fitted windows, lights, locks and antenna would clean the design up significantly. But compare this design to a few contemporaries, for a moment – the 1976 Chrysler New Yorker, the Toyota Cressida, or the Fiat 128. Three different nations, three different versions of the present, none anywhere near as revolutionary as the design that sits here:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 Porsche 928 on 928Classics.com

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1992 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V

Over the past few weeks I’ve taken a look at both the special ’89 Wolfsburg Edition Jetta GLI 16V and a ’91 GLI 16V. Both, ultimately, were lacking. The ’89 suffered from a plethora of mods but not a look quite perfect enough to be a show car, while the ’91 had a lot of needs as it had been hobbled together. So it’s a bit interesting to see another GLI 16V pop up.

Like the July example, this is a later ‘big bumper’ car. Like the ’89, this one has quite a few modifications from stock and is a special color. But perhaps because of slick photography, bigger dollar mods or the spectacularly 90s LA6U Capri Green paintwork, this one pulls it off:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V on eBay

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1985 BMW M635CSi

The M635CSi somehow gets lost among the other greats of the period from BMW. Perhaps, for U.S. fans, it’s the nomenclature that’s confusing. After all, there was a M1, an M3, and a M5, but when it came to the M version of the E24, BMW stuck with the moniker M635CSi in all markets but the United States and Japan. Confounding that decision was the launch of the E28 M535i. Like the M635CSi, it had additional body pieces, special interior trim and wheels from M-Technic. But while the M535i had a fairly normal M30 under the hood, the E24 received the full-fat M88/3 that was shared with the M5. Like the European M5 production started in 1984, well before they were available to U.S. customers. But while the M5 only sold in very sparse numbers over its short production cycle (about 775 sold in Europe between 1984 and 1987), the M635i was a relative hit, with just over 3,900 selling overall – far more than made it the U.S. market. Additionally, the European models were a slightly more pure form of the design; smaller bumpers, less weight, and about 30 more horsepower on tap without catalyst.

Back in February, I looked at a group of M6s with asking prices all over the map. True, some M6s have sold for big numbers and there’s one looking like it may hit $100,000 this week. But they’ve all been pristine original U.S. examples with very low mileage. Today we have a moderate mileage, lightly modified European M635CSi in an offbeat color (for the M6), so how does the price sit?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 BMW M635CSi on eBay

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1983 Volkswagen GTI Kamei X1

Volkswagen’s GTI is legendary on its own as a performance icon. It’s also got a deserved reputation as one of the most tunable cars out there; from turbos to suspension and everything in between, it’s no surprise that the basic GTI is actually hard to find.

One of the more popular visual tuners in the 1980s was Kamei. The company provided everything from hood scoops to spoilers, and headlight conversions to fender flares. While they have a decidedly 80s feel, that vibe is currently very much in vogue. So when an original GTI comes along with the full spectrum of Kamei accessories, it’s one to take notice of:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 Volkswagen GTI Kamei X1 on eBay

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2003 Audi RS6 Avant

The C5 Audi RS6 was the first full-fledged RS model to head legally to North America. It was the stuff of instant legend, too, with a 450 horsepower twin-turbocharged V8 and enough tech to get you to and from the moon. And despite its relatively limited run, it’s been no stranger to these pages – thanks in no small part to the plethora of used examples on the market at any time. Indeed, just a month ago I counted no less than 10 for sale when I wrote up the unique 6-speed converted sedan:

2003 Audi RS6 6-speed

That car’s asking price has been reduced to a much more enticing $20,000 today. Yet for some, including this author, the fact that there was an Avant form of the RS6 that was left out of our market has always been a sticking point. Well, a few enterprising individuals have eliminated that need:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Audi RS6 Avant on eBay

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