1993 Volkswagen Caravelle syncro Diesel

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.:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Volkswagen Caravelle syncro on eBay

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2004 Volkswagen Passat GLX TDi 4Motion Variant 6-speed

Earlier this week I just about broke my neck to catch a second glimpse at a car which probably went unnoticed by nearly every other driver out there. It was a new what appeared to be a B8 Passat Variant, and you don’t have to know a lot about Volkswagens to know you haven’t seen one recently – or, probably ever – on these shores since VW dropped the large wagon from its lineup after 2010. Is this an indication they’re coming here? Unlikely, at least according to VW. With the Atlas and Tiguan relatively fresh and still selling like proverbial hotcakes, along with the many iterations of the Golf Sportwagon available, there just is no need. More likely than not, the car I saw was part of a VW testing program which makes sense since I live very close to one of the importation ports.

So that leaves fans of the larger VW wagon to clamor over older examples. So back we go fifteen years to a B5.5 again! This one, like the last, is a silver example from 2004. Also just like the last, it’s a manual and all-wheel drive. But unlike that rare factory 1.8T 4Motion manual, this one is a home brew, mating a 1.9 TDi out of a Jetta, a 6-speed manual from Europe, and a GLX 4Motion chassis into a neat and thrifty all-wheel drive combo that was never offered here:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Passat GLX TDi 4Motion 6-speed on eBay

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2018 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring

Guards Red is one of those Porsche colors you can recite without thinking about. It was immensely popular on the G-body cars and naturally carried on to the 964, 993, 996, 997, and now the 991. I don’t think you’ll hear anyone argue it didn’t look good on those early cars, but now that the 991 is roughly twice the size as an original long hood car, you end up looking at a lot of paint. This seems to be true with the 991 with its extra wide hips and overall really big stature when it comes to what are suppose to be light, nimble sports cars. So when I saw this GT3 Touring come up for sale, I had to take a look. I think I’m still on the fence about it.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2018 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring on eBay

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2003 Audi RS6 6-speed

Update 7/27/19: The asking price of this RS6 6-speed is down to $20,000 today from the $28,500 original price.

From the C3 chassis we looked at the other day to the launch of the C5 was just a scant 7 years. The styling was evolutionary and instantly recognizable, but the C5 really broadened Audi’s offerings in the U.S. market. Building on the success of the A4, Audi launched not only the normal sedan and wagon offerings, but the return of the S6 and introduction of new 2.7T performance models, along with the Volvo-challenging Allroad.

The pinnacle of the C5 was, of course, the twin-turbocharged all-wheel drive version you see here built by Audi’s skunkworks, quattro GmbH. With assistance from VAG-owned Cosworth Engineering, the resulting BCY motor cranked out a peak 444 horsepower at 5,700 rpms and an impressive 415 lb.ft of torque between 1,950 rpms and 5,600 revs. The body, brakes, wheels and suspension were all upgraded by quattro GmbH too, with plenty of technology incorporated to transfer the power to the ground and keep the RS6 planted. Though it was saddled with an automatic transmission only and tipped the scales at a massive 4,050 lbs, the tenacious all-wheel drive, computer programming and massive power resulted in a 4.4 second 0-60 sprint, besting both the contemporary M5 and E55 AMG. The RS6 had 14.4″ front brakes, dynamic ride control, and meaty 255-section Pirelli P-Zeros to control that speed. Lowered ride height, flared sills and fenders and giant gaping intakes and exhaust along with signature honeycomb grills set the stage for how these cars have looked since.

The first RS model imported to the U.S., Audi expected to sell 860 at nearly $80,000 a pop. But they didn’t. They sold more, such was the demand, with an estimated 1,200 making the journey to North America. But as with basically all complicated, fast older German cars, they’re not worth what they were new, making them very tempting in the used marketplace. And there are a lot of used RS6s out there to choose from at any given time – currently, there are 10 available just on eBay. The thing is, you should avoid most of them. But not this one:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Audi RS6 on eBay

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1984 Mercedes-Benz 280SL 5-Speed

For every Craiglist-special Mercedes-Benz R107 out there with its average condition and crazy price, there is one R107 that is actually worth the money. You wouldn’t believe the number of 450SLs and 380SLs I dig through day after day with phrases like ”Great condition” and ”A real peach” only to see they have tires on them from 1996 and the canvas top is full of mold. I chalk it up to nearly two-thirds of the 300,000 R/C107s built ending up in North America over the unheard of 18 year production run. Combine that with their durability and most people treating them like some sort of investment, and you now have a market flooded with R107s. As the baby boomers hit retirement and their three-bedroom ranch house has a for sale in the front yard, so does the SL in the garage. The overwheling majority of the time they are over priced (in my eyes) and there just aren’t many buyers out there for them. The W113 Pagoda is a much more attractive car and the R129 is a much more livable car with its modern amenities. You are left with the R107 right in the middle with its giant bumpers, four eye head lights and underwhelming performance numbers. However, there is a beacon of light for the R107. This car is none other than the 280SL 5-speed.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Mercedes-Benz 280SL on eBay

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1992 Mercedes-Benz 230CE Sportline

Yesterday I looked at 1992 Mercedes-Benz 300E for the pure fact that is it the Sportline option that is pretty rare. Though Mercedes made about four billion W124 300Es, it feels like almost none of them are Sportline. Well, when it rains it pours, because I happen to come across the even rarer 1992 230CE Sportline. Before everyone rushes down to the comments and starts typing ”If only it had a manual transmission!”, hold your fingers, because it does.  We North Americans were not graced with this model and surely never in the 5-speed even if it had come, so this one is a rare bird to say the least. Somehow, this 230CE Sportline is up for bid outside of Chicago. I just wish it was a better example.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 230CE Sportline on eBay

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1999 Volkswagen Caravelle Westfalia Syncro TDi

Update 11/11/18: The seller has dropped the asking price to $50,000.

Update 9/12/18: The seller has updated their asking price to $54,000.

For decades, I’ve had a pipe dream of taking a Westy van cross-country. When I was a teenager, a family member had a late 80s Vanagon Westfalia, and we went on a camping trip in it. It was great! And while I’m certain time has diminished the drawbacks of our method of transport on that trip, the knowledge of that isn’t enough extinguish my desire.

Unfortunately for me, it seems like I’m not alone. #VanLife has pushed the value of these clever boxes on wheels up substantially. Clean T3 campers regularly hit the market in the same territory as late 70s 911s. Even the replacement T4 Eurovan Weekender – which just has a bed, and none of the real camping gear the earlier Westfalias had – command a substantial premium over a non-pop-top T4. By far, the Volkswagen vans are the most expensive products from their catalog.

So you can imagine that if we get a rare Euro version of the T4 over here, it’ll probably be worth a look:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 Volkswagen Caravelle Westfalia Syncro TDi on eBay

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1991 Audi V8 quattro 5-speed

Update 8/8/18: An interesting follow-up to the clean V8 quattro I posted the other day, this 1991 V8 5-speed has returned in a no reserve auction format with a $5,500 opening price – down $1,000 from May.

Back to big Audis! The early 1990s were, as I’ve described in the past two posts, a period of change for the Ingolstadt firm as they closed down production on the Type 44 to introduce its new replacement, the C4. That led to a dizzying assortment of models from the one chassis. There was the aforementioned 100 and 100 quattro. You could move up to two turbocharged models, too – the 200 Turbo gave you 165 horsepower through the front wheels, and the new-and-only-for-91 in the U.S. was 200 20V quattro. Europe and the rest of the world got even more options; production lasted right up through 2006 in parts of China, where they even made a crazy long-wheel base 4-door convertible version of the Hongqi.

But the top of the heap for the U.S. market was a derivative of the Type 44, the D11 chassis. Of course, that was Audi’s foray into the top-tier luxury market with its new all-aluminum 32 valve double-overhead cam V8. Body revisions to the front and rear along with flared fenders made the V8 quattro seem like a completely different car to the slab-sided 100. V8s had, and have, serious presence. Big news, too, was that for the first time Audi was able to match its all-wheel drive quattro setup with a new 4-speed automatic transmission.

For die-hard Audi faithful, though, for a short while you could still opt to row-your-own with the 240 horsepower 3.6 liter V8 singing to your right foot. These manual V8 quattros are legendary because of their rarity and that they are the only car Audi brought to market with twin Torsen differentials. The combination of a more rearward weight bias, big and instant torque from the V8 and those clever diffs made for one of the best driving experiences in a big sedan from Audi:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Audi V8 quattro on Grand Rapids Craigslist

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1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SL 5-Speed

Fresh off last weeks bit of random Mercedes-Benz facts about the 1990 300E that came in both a 2.8 and 3.2 liter, I’m back again with some information that might be useful every once in a blue moon. From 1990 to 1993, you could purchase a 300SL with a dogleg 5-speed manual gearbox. Yes, the same dogleg from the 190E 2.3-16v cars. You might think this is the best news ever, but not so fast. This gearbox in this car has often be described as sloppy at best and really isn’t an enjoyable experience. The throws are long and vague, with any hope of fast gear changes being wishful at best. Rumor has it that there were only 166 examples of these 5-speed cars bought to North America which make this a pretty rare car to say the least. But if no one wants it, does this make it valuable?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SL on eBay

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Worth Restoration? 1988 BMW 735i 5-speed

In recent posts, we’ve both talked about the expense of maintaining an old German luxo-barge and, at the same time, the joy of getting to experience their technical prowess. I mentioned in the Alpina B12 5.0 post that I was lucky enough to experience an E32 5-speed upstream of most of the major repairs they would need if you held onto them long enough. Seemingly in response, suddenly a wave of neat 5-speed E32s appeared. But is the allure of the 5-speed status worth overcoming some obstacles to ownership?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 735i 5-speed on eBay

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