When I look through the history of E28 5-series I’ve written up, it’s not hard to notice a pattern. Most are modified, and most feature European-style modifications. Perhaps that annoys the purists and I’ll start off by saying a half-hearted ‘sorry’ to all of them, but here we go again.
It doesn’t take a much of a look to tell that this E28 has undergone the same series of modifications that the last ’87 535iS I looked had; namely, European headlights and bumpers and BBS Style 5s. But unlike that example, this one is done. As in, really, really done. If you’re looking for an as-new 535i with some stellar mods, check it out – but first, move the coffee away from the keyboard, especially as you get to the ‘price’ section:
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 Osnabrück, BMW headed into the heart of the enemy’s home in 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 say ‘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 320i like this one hit the market at the equivalent of $14,000 in 1979 (about $50,000 today) and selecting the Baur TC1 option added some $6,000 (about $21,000 today) to the price. Just for reference, that’ll buy you TWO brand new 230is today.
Andrew’s ultra-low mileage 996TT was certainly impressive. But if you want a real ship-in-a-bottle moment, this post is for you. Perhaps it would be better termed car-in-a-bubble?
This 1997 BMW 740i was apparently bought new and then never used. It’s traveled just 158 miles in 23 years; I don’t live very far from the closest gas station to me at all, but basically I’d exceed the mileage on this car by doing a round-trip just to the pump only once every 365 days. Nuts? Yeah, probably. But here you go – if you want an as-new E38, this is the auction for you:
The follow-up to the quite popular Scirocco was the even better driving, even more popular, even more powerful, and way more expensive Corrado. And after looking at a neat Euro-spec G60, I thought it would be neat to look at a Canadian-spec VR6 that popped up for sale.
Mechanically, there were basically no differences between US market Corrados and Canadian market examples. However, there were a few odds and ends which help to set them apart for the Corrado fans. Most notable is probably the wheel design, which was shared with European models but not available in the US. More subtle, though, was the lack of fog lights – different bumper regulations meant that the Canadian market cars got dummy lenses. So you had to live without fog lights, but you also had the opportunity to live without the running mouse seatbelts. That’s right, Canadian Corrados got NORMAL SEATBELTS. Gosh, that alone could probably sell the car.
Every once in a while, something sneaks under the radar and offers a great opportunity to grab a quality classic for a relative bargain. Perhaps posting this blows up that chance somewhat, but odds are with only a few days left, Sars-CoV-2, and the recent stock market crash, you’re not in a position to drop everything and buy an extra car on a whim – but hey, who knows? And this one is a doozy.
What we have here is a rather inconspicuous 1995 M5. That means it’s a Euro car automatically, and yep, it’s a 3.8 liter S38 coupled to a six-speed manual. And, just like the last one, it’s my favorite Daytona Violet! But this one is a sedan and it doesn’t look like the best example out there, so what’s the draw? It’s a no reserve auction.
I still remember the moment as the wave of envy set over me. A struggling college student, I had tried hard to balance my love of cars with the multiple part-time jobs I fit in between classes. Ultimately, cars probably came before some things they should have, but still fell staunchly behind the realities of life. Rent. Tutition. Books. Utilites. FOOD. These necessities multiplied themselves together over the years, grasping at my meager weekly paycheck more rapidly than I could deposit it in the bank. Trips to the pump were always metered; weeks went by holding breath at every turn of the key, praying for a safe completion of circuit. And when you own a ’84 Volkswagen that sat in a driveway not running for decade rotting away before you resurrected it, often your dreams of a trouble-free commute are unrealized.
As a result of my shoestring budget, I often turned to a friend to help with mechanical work that my GTI often needed. He’d stop by my house after work and wrench for a bit, or I’d drive it by his place for a replacement part or ten. He also had a A1 – a sweet special edition Cabriolet from ’85 which he had spent years tricking out. But on one of these repair stops, he introduced me to his new toy.
It was 1998 and he had picked up a ’90 Corrado G60. He had picked it up cheap, too, as they often broke even when pretty new. Two things struck me about this car. Though it was only 6 years newer than my GTI, it might as well have been a spaceship. The two shared nothing in common outside of the badge. My pyrite-in-the-rough GTI was rusty and not so trusty. Horrible build quality meant things regularly broke, or fell off, or rusted off; often, the trifecta struck. It was a square slowly-deteriorating block of iron oxide in a rounded-off world. In comparison, the Corrado looked well-built, felt modern, was comfortable, had air conditioning and electronic items that…well, functioned, and even had paint all in one color. But the other thing that struck me was just how tired and old that Corrado already felt in 1998. I rarely buy cars that are newer than 10 years old, but this Corrado felt a lot more than that already. Perhaps that was because the VR6 model had so quickly replaced it. Or perhaps it was because I was still excited for new cars to launch in 1998. Looking back, though, my initial impressions of the Corrado G60 still hold true. But am I still jealous that I didn’t have one?
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.
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:
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:
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?