In the realm of unappealing BMWs, the Z3 might just take the cake. Sure, it’s partially rescued by unusual body styles or a big motor in the case of the Coupe or the M editions. But for a standard Z3, there seems to be little appeal. It was not the best built car from BMW, it was certainly not the best looking car they’ve made, and in the case of the four-cylinder models, you didn’t have much in terms of performance, either.
Here we have a ’98 Z3 1.9. Under the hood was the 138 horsepower M44, and since the Z3 wasn’t exactly the feather weight of the original Miata, it resulted in pretty average acceleration. It would wisk you to 60 mph in just a hair under 10 seconds, and hitting 100 would take the best part of half a minute. It did return nearly 30 mpg on the highway, but then my 135i does that too, and it has a bit over twice as much horsepower. Heck, go easy on the throttle and the M3 will return almost 30 on the highway.
But if you want a budget convertible, the Z3 is a solid German option. First, you could get a manual. Second, they’re cheap to fix and cheap to run. There were a lot of them, too, so used parts are available. And this one is presented in a pretty neat color – Violett-rot 2 (328) with some good options. Is there hope?
I must admit I had a soft spot for the E36/5 when it first came to our market. To me, it combined some luxury looks with practical performance. And when I say performance, honestly there wasn’t much available. The M44 engine that was fit to the 318ti was a decent performer, but it had only 138 horsepower, and at the price point you were much better off getting a GTi VR6, which oddly was more luxury oriented than most of the 318tis and offered more performance. However, the base of the 318ti was a good idea; a smart looking, light and nimble hatchback with a manual transmission and rear drive. This one has some strong positives going for it, but just one thing is missing…
This Porsche 944 sold for $7,800
I don’t often look at plain 944s, especially late examples, for a reason. By the end of the run, the standard 944 was overshadowed by the introduction of the 944S and 944S2 with their twin-cam motors and even a Cabriolet. Of course there was still the 944 Turbo and for 1988, the pumped up Turbo S. Then there was the Special Edition and the 944 2.7. Nevermind that there was also the lightweight 924S Special Edition, too. In short, there aren’t too many reasons to look at a “normal” 944 from the late production run. But with 924 Carrera GT/GTS DNA pumped into it, this particular 944 is anything but normal looking:
I’ve looked across the 924 range over the past week, from the well-optioned 1980 Turbo through the interestingly-modified 1978 924 base model. But in the case of either of those, the strong argument if you just want a nice driving, cheap entry level Porsche is the later 924S.
Offered for only two years in the U.S. market, nevertheless a bulk of the 924S production was sold here. Some 16,669 were made in total, with 9,137 making the trip across the Atlantic from Neckarsulm. Of those, the much more prevalent to find would be the first model year, with 6,947 accounting for 1987 production. Yet there were few changes across the run; 1988 received a slight bump in compression for a 5 horsepower gain, and there was the limited run of Special Edition final models that were quite special. But all offer lightweight driving fun with near-perfect balance and poise, reasonable running costs and sprightly performance. Plus, since many 924 owners treasured their foray into Porsche ownership, it’s possible just about any day of the week to find a really nice condition 924S like this impressive 43,500 mile Zermatt Silver Metallic example.
What’s not to like?
Like the M535i from the other day, the 318ti continued BMW’s expansion of M branding to pedestrian models. That plan included inclusion of a new down-market economy model; the 318ti Compact. The new hatchback platform brought the pricing of the small executive into the teens (just), but the only engine available – the 138 horsepower M44 1.8 liter 4-cylinder – proved just adequate motivation. Though big brother power wouldn’t come to the chassis, the Sport, Club Sport and later M-Sport packages added BMW Motorsport DNA into the E36/5. Subtle styling revisions included M3 front bumper cover, revised rocker panels and a diffusor-inspired rear cover. The Club Sport and M-Sport received special mirror covers and integrated fog lights, as well, along with the M-Sport suspension. Inside, special sport seats with Millpoint fabric (red in the case of the Club Sport), along with an M branded wheel and shift knob, helped to remind the driver that they were in the sportiest of economy BMWs. And the basic package was fairly good to begin with, in spite of the power shortfall; Car and Driver rated the 318ti Sport second in its handling competition, though it should be noted that it lost to a front-wheel drive Honda.
These 318ti M-Sports have developed a bit of a cult following as a result, offering economy car sensibility and cheap repairs with M3 looks – and, for many, a great basis for motor swaps down the line:
With a winter storm heading into the Northeast this evening, I thought it would be nice to end the day with a bit of sunshine and thoughts of warmer temperatures. Enter this 1987 Porsche 944. In the rest of the world, the color of this car was “Lemon Yellow”. But, of course, launching a car in the United States with any hint of the word “Lemon” would result in sales about as good as the urban legend of the Chevrolet Nova (“Doesn’t Go”) in Mexico. So, Porsche called the color “Summer Yellow” here. It was reportedly available only in 1987, which is verified by at least one site. And, at least in my eyes, it looks lovely and is a nice departure from the usual black, red, and silver these sporty coupes appeared in: