‘Le 911’: 1990 Renault Alpine GTA

“IT’S NOT GERMAN!!!”

I know. But since today is the conclusion of Le Mans and occasionally we like to take a look at other cars, let’s check this one out. Because, in many ways, I think it has a lot to offer.

The Renault GTA emerged out of the acquisition of independent boutique sports car maker Alpine by Renault. Renault immediately set upon making a rival to those pesky sports cars from Stuttgart and modernize Alpine’s 1970s A310 model. Let’s not forget, this was a period when Renault was quite active in Formula 1 and Le Mans, so a sporting car wasn’t entirely out of character for them (nor was the competition with Porsche, for that matter!). New lightweight plastic body-pieces were fit, and the 1.7 liter 4-cylinder in the back of the A310 was yanked in favor of the 2.5 liter PRV (Peugeot, Renault, Volvo) V6. In 1985, a turbocharger was bolted on and instantly the GTA was a 944 Turbo competitor with 200 horsepower on tap. However, the rear-drive, rear-engine layout and tricky driving dynamics were more akin to early 911s than the well-balanced transaxle Porsches. As a result, the Porsches continued to sell in droves, while the Alpine GTA remains just an interesting footnote in French automotive history.

But for about the same money as a very nice 944 Turbo these days (and significantly less than the price of a decent 911), you can get the Le Premier Absolutment GTA:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Renault Alpine GTA on eBay

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1984 BMW 528i Euro-spec

The E28 will undoubtedly go down in automotive history as one of the most-loved chassis from BMW. Like its even more versatile little brother the E30, the E28 was a huge step forward in performance, driving dynamics and build quality from the E12. Classic looks defined the brand, while multiple different engines allowed a variety of budgets to experience the Teutonic design. And, like the E30, the E28 introduced the world to the first full M branding, raising the bar and defining the luxury sports sedan full-stop.

Some 31 years on from the last E28s rolling out of showrooms, prime examples still are stealing the stage in the classic BMW market. Pristine M5s still lead the charge but even very clean custom E28s can bid to high numbers. Today we have just that – a very clean, Euro-spec ’84 528i with some period modifications in a color combination that really helps it stand out:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 BMW 528i on eBay

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Roll the Dice: ‘1973’ BMW 2002 Turbo

The 2002 Turbo is not the type of car that you typically ‘roll the dice’ on. With asking prices for many at or over $100,000 today, they’re one of the established royalty of the storied halls of BMW. The KKK turbocharged slapped on the M10 resulted in a Corvette-killing 170 horsepower in the mid-70s. This was cutting-edge technology as one of the first turbocharged production cars and required the efforts of BMW’s Motorsport division to pull it all off. With just 1,672 produced, they’re rare as proverbial hens’ teeth too.

Yet here is a claimed example that has been restored and is being offered at no reserve, with bids sitting at just $13,100 at time of writing. Is this the deal of the century, or is something amiss?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: ‘1973’ BMW 2002 Turbo on eBay

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Tuner Tuesday: 1994 Alpina B10 4.6 Touring

While the B10 BiTurbo generated the headlines as the world’s fastest sedan, BMW’s replacement M60 V8 motor was making its way into production and the M30 inline-6 was on its way out. Of course that meant it wasn’t too long before Buchloe got their hands on one, and in turn it wasn’t too long before the B10 4.0 replaced the BiTurbo as the top offering. But a year later, Alpina had already punched out the block to 4.6 liters. Now generating 340 horsepower, the new B10 4.6 not only was as quick as the M5, it was considerably cheaper and less complicated than the BiTurbo had been too.

Like the 4.0 before it, the standard 17″ Alpina wheel treatment, upgraded suspension, larger and less restrictive exhaust, aerodynamic tweaks and unique interiors all made their way here. Also like the 4.0, the 4.6 was available as either a sedan or Touring, and as either a 6-speed manual or 5-speed Switch-Tronic automatic. A scant 46 were built before the end of E34 production, of which only 19 were Touring models – making this one of the most limited Alpinas produced:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 Alpina B10 4.6 Touring at Springbok.de

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1989 BMW Z1

BMW took a big leap at the end of the 1980s and introduced some pretty extreme design language. First was the E31 8-series, a seeming quantum leap from the outgoing 6-series. That chassis pioneered, for better or worse, a tremendous amount of technical and electronic innovation for BMW. The 8s relied on a bevy of computers to control its chassis, electronic suite and engine. Side by side with the more famous Grand Tourer though was a diminutive roadster BMW produced based heavily on the E30 chassis. Instead of a heavy reliance on computer technology, the futuristic (hence Z for the German word for future – Zukunft) plastic bodied Z1 looked like a supercar even if it didn’t go like one. Park one next to a E30 convertible and you’d never know the two are related!

The Z1 was a complete departure for BMW; while they were not strangers to small cabriolets, their previous efforts were in the 1930s with the 315/1 and the 1960s with the 700. BMW went away from the idea of an integral body and frame to a separate chassis with removable, plastic body pieces. The idea was that the owners could replace the panels themselves to “repaint” the car with minimal effort. It was something the Smart car would be notable for – a car that launched a decade following the Z1. To get the paint to adhere to the bodywork, BMW had to partner with AZKO coatings to develop a flexible paint which they termed ‘Varioflex’, while the bodywork had to be attached using a unique elastic joint technique. The doors didn’t open out – the slid down into the supporting chassis structure. The underbody was flat, not only for aerodynamics, but the tray turned into a diffuser towards the back, assisting in sticking the rear to the ground as speeds rose. In front was nothing new – the venerable M20 from the E30 popped up here, too – but in the rear the Z1 was new with a multi-link rear axle of its own. This new design would later be incorporated into the E36. It’s interesting that with the Z3 BMW opted to go the opposite route and incorporate earlier E30 pieces into the rear of the /7 and /8. While performance was relatively leisurely, the Z1 nevertheless garnered praise for its innovation, unique design and great looks. They never made it to U.S. shores and only around 8,000 examples were ever produced, but a few have crossed the Atlantic now that they’re old enough to be more easily imported:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 BMW Z1 on eBay

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1992 Porsche 911 Carrera RS

While the US market had to settle for the RS America, a lightened low-option version of the Carrera 2, other markets enjoyed the full-on Carrera RS. The Carrera RS used the tried-and-true method of more power/less weight, combining a higher output version of the 964’s 3.6 liter flax-six with significant weight reduction – coming in 155 kg lighter than a standard Carrera 2 – to provide the sort of no frills performance that 911 enthusiasts had long craved since the original RS. Under the rear hood was the M64/03 rated at 260 horsepower which doesn’t sound like a lot by today’s numbers. But the lightweight RS made good use of all of them, proving itself not only to be a class-leading sports car but also one adept at racing in keeping with the 911’s heritage. Suspension was lowered half an inch and stiffened, while the limited-slip differential from the Turbo was borrowed. Power steering was dropped for a manual rack, and while there were packages to add back in road-going manners, this ultimately was a bare-bones racer at heart.

Some 2,276 964 Carrera RSs were made, with a fair chunk of those heading to the track. There were a limited group of these cars imported to the U.S. for a failed race series and a few more since 911 mania took off, but the bulk of production still lies in Europe, just like this ’92 being offered today from France:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Porsche 911 Carrera RS on eBay

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Euro PTS: 1991 Porsche 911 Carrera 2

For some time, the 964 design was relegated to the “least favorite” column for many in the 911 world. Regarded as little more than a bridge between the classic 911 design of the 3.2 Carrera and the sophisticated modern beauty of the 993, appreciation for the clean lines and steadfast simplicity of the 964 has grown. It hasn’t hurt that the cars around it have rocketed up in value, either. So today let’s take a look at a prime example; a ROW 1991 911 Carrera 2 in Paint-to-Sample in Murano Green.

Unlike earlier cars, changes between the ROW 964s and North American cars were relatively minor (minus the special production cars, like the Carrera RS). Power from the 3.6 air-cooled flat-6 was effectively the same as its North American counterpart. The bumperettes were missing on ROW cars, and of course for Euro plates the center rear bumper section was slightly different. Without the 5 mph mandate, ROW cars didn’t have the heavier crash bars behind their bumpers either, nor do they have the collision bars in the doors. As you’d expect, the headlights and tailights are different, and Euro cars had sidelights that were missing on NA cars. Those headlights were adjustable in cockpit via an adjuster next to the key. Foglights were standard on ROW cars and they also had no third brakelight. ROW cars had larger fuel tanks, lower suspension, and a few other minor tweaks. Reading all of that would probably lead you to believe the ROW cars were lighter, and they are – somewhere around 50 lbs or so.

But here it’s not the missing 5-year-old’s weight you’re excited for – it’s just got to be the color:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Porsche 911 Carrera 2 ROW PTS on eBay

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1991 Audi 200 20V quattro Avant

Update 5/7/19: This time around, the Bamboo Bomber sold for $12,100.

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Audi 200 20V quattro Avant on eBay

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1993 Audi 80 1.9 TDi

Just the other day on my ‘Distinctive Drivers’ page – a Facebook group that looks at unusual automotive finds – I stumbled across a ’92 Honda Accord 5-speed. Here was a rather sedate, base model Accord; yet, because of the rarity of seeing such a car, and its recent complete disappearance from the marketplace, there’s an odd desirability for what was otherwise just an average sedan.

The same holds true today. Here’s a Euro-market Audi 80 TDi. The B4 chassis was nearly a stranger to us and is fairly infrequently seen these days; not many were sold here, especially when compared to the B5 A4 which followed. There were only two configurations they came in; all were 90s, and all shared the 2.8 V6 either driving the front or all four wheels. The 80 had been discontinued after ’92 for the U.S. and it didn’t appear as a B4 here, as there was no 90 model in the ’92 season officially.

But in Europe, of course, the B4 included the 80 model, which was the cheapest Audi you could buy – so they sold quite a few. Engines varied quite wildly from the U.S. models; there were 1.6 and 1.8 models which ranged from 70 to 125 horsepower, then 2.0 models running right up to a high-output variant of the 16V we saw in the GTI and GLI. There was the tried and true 5-cylinder we saw in our 80, and then there were a few V6s – the 2.8 seen in the U.S., but also a lower output 2.6 model for better economy. But if you wanted real fuel savings, you opted for one of the two diesels – the 75 horse 1.9TD or the 89 horsepower 1.9TDi:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Audi 80 1.9 TDi on eBay

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1986 BMW 745i Euro-Spec

To go up against the established Alpha executive from Germany – the S-Class Mercedes-Benz – BMW’s engineers had to think outside of the box. It wasn’t simply good enough to mimic the go-to large luxury sedan. They’d have to outperform it, to be better than Stuttgart’s best. That was a tall order for the Munich firm, since its last truly large sedans were the 501/2 series cars; the Baroque Angels of the early 1950s. Though they launched at roughly the same time as BMW’s microcar craze, they were really holdovers from another era. The same wouldn’t work in the late 1970s, but primed with the success of their 5- and 6-series models, BMW was ready to face the challenge.

Though the E3 had offered a sizeable sedan, the new E23 really stretched BMW’s platforms. The new 7-seres was 6 inches longer overall, most of which fell in a longer wheelbase versus the E3. It was also wider by a few inches and lower, too. Paul Bracq again provided the styling and it was nothing surprising; it carried the torch of many of the design elements of the 3-, 5- and 6-series cars, and that certainly wasn’t a bad thing. But what BMW hoped would help to set it apart from the competition was technology and performance, along with a high-level of material quality in the cabin. Options included Buffalo leather, an on-board computer system, anti-lock brakes, heated and reclining power seats front and rear, and even an airbag late in the run; standard fare today, but way ahead of the curve in the late 1970s and early 1980s. BMW matched this technology with a thoroughly modern driver-oriented cockpit which made the W116 Mercedes-Benz competition feel immediately antiquated.

Where the E23 really established itself, though, was in keeping with the “driving machine” motto of the company. This was a performance sedan, and consequently BMW brought its turbocharger technology over to the E23. Launched in 1980, the new “745i” derived its name from the 1.4 multiplier for turbocharged displacement, and the M102B32 3.2 liter inline-6 cranked out an impressive 252 horsepower with 280 lb.ft of torque channeled through a 3-speed automatic ZF-built 3HP22 gearbox. It provided effortless highway cruising with a broad torque curve. With a full assortment of luxurious options, a driver-oriented design and pioneering turbocharger technology, these really were cutting edge sedans in the early 1980s. The M102 was replaced for the later ’82-86 745is with the M106, which produced the same peak horsepower but at a lower rev range. Displacement was up to match the M30 at 3.4 liters and it now used Motronic engine management:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 BMW 745i Euro-Spec on eBay

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