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:
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 E24’s 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:
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.
Update 11/17/19: This beautiful Euro-spec E28 528i that I wrote up over the summer is still for sale. The seller contacted us and let us know it is still available and you can email them directly by clicking HERE. He’s willing to entertain reasonable offers and answer any questions about the car and work performed. GLWS, Gary – we wish we had room in the garage to grab this one!
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:
Update 12/3/19: This Caravelle syncro sold for $11,600
It’s hard to fit into the regular lineup all of the various neat German vehicles from diverse brands, so admittedly I end up focusing on ones that really spark my interest. That leaves big gaps in coverage, and one such gaffe is certainly the Volkswagen T-series. The first three generations were based upon the Type 2 platform and rear-engine configuration, which left plenty of space for a slab-sided apartment on wheels. But Volkswagen continued the feat with the T4. The engine moved to the front and was water-cooled, transverse and in most applications driving the front wheels. But like the T3, the T4 was also available in syncro configuration with all-wheel drive.
However, while the T3’s viscous coupling sent power forward with twin locking differentials for each axle, the T4’s front-drive transverse layout meant that it needed to employ a system similar to the Golf platform. That meant a viscous coupling to transfer power rearward when slip was detected, with some T4s also having a manually locking rear differential to assist in really sticky situations. While not the go-anywhere mountain goat the T3 could be, it was a neat configuration not offered in the States. Further, you could get a plethora of engine choices at the same time the EuroVan was solely offered with the 2.5 inline-5 gas motor. Case in point is today’s 2.4 liter AAB. While not more powerful than the 2.5 gas motor, the 10 valve inline-5 diesel was a lot less thirsty and offered 77 horsepower and 121 lb.ft of torque at low revs. Here it’s hooked to a manual transmission and already imported to the U.S.:
It’s a bit interesting to consider this car in comparison to a few others I’ve recently posted. Like the 924, most (but not all) of the 928 is overlooked in favor of the car that it was intended to replace. Also like the 924, the 928 was a transaxle car with great weight distribution. Similar to the E36 M3, our European friends got the fun motors for the first few years of production; Euro motors started with 21 horsepower more in the early examples, but the vast gulf came in the early 928S. Introduced in Europe in 1980, the M28.11 4.7 liter S touted 300 horsepower. It wouldn’t be until 1982-3 that the S came to North America, and when it did it only cranked out 234 horsepower in comparison. In fact, U.S. 928s wouldn’t get over 300 horsepower until the S4 in 1987.
So here we have the faster ’83 928S from Europe and it’s got a 5-speed manual. Additionally, to link another series of posts, this one is gold with green leather. What was with this combination?
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?
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?
Update 10/18/19: This Euro-spec M3 sold for $26,900!
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:
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: