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 – they 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:
The Type 34 Karmann Ghia was a sales failure – it was too expensive – costing about 50% more than a normal Type 14 Ghia. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a very good looking failure. While the underpinnings were shared with its less exotic 1500 cousins, the upscale Karmann Ghia was aimed squarely at making peasants feel like landed gentry and certainly looked the part. Sweeping character lines ran the length of the car, giving it its signature ‘razor’ nickname. Added to the upscale look in terms of desirability today is rarity. Never imported to the United States, Type 34 production only achieved about 42,500 units – less than 10% of the total number of the more popular and familiar Type 14 Karmann Ghia. Today’s light green example is great to see:
Okay, it might look odd, and not like much…but, this is genesis if you are a BMW fan.
BMW’s first car was actually not of their making; it was the 3/15 it inherited with the acquisition of Dixi, itself a reorganization of Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach, in 1928. The Dixi 3/15 was, in fact, a licensed copy of the Austin 7 – and while BMW renamed the car the 3/15 DA-2 in 1929, that is pretty much all they did. However, in 1932 BMW launched its first full-fledged car design. While it looked quite similar to the outgoing 3/15, the exterior of the 3/20 belied many changes under the skin.
The new 3/20 had a different chassis underneath, and though the body looked very similar to the 3/15 it was now assembled by Daimler-Benz in Sindelfingen. The front suspension was carried over from the 3/15 (meaning it was in large part Austin parts), as was the engine – though it was upgraded to generate 20 horsepower, with a net taxable horsepower of 3 (hence the name 3/20). BMW fiddled with the rear suspension, and added a transverse leaf-spring swing axle. Like the 3/15, these were built in Eisenach – which would go on later to built the ‘EMW‘s I talked about back in June. Production of the 3/20 lasted only three years until 1934, when it was replaced by the heavily revised 309, the first car to sport BMW’s famous kidney grille design.
These are quite rare cars to find at all, but one popped up for sale so let’s take a look!
This car sold for $6,500.
In 1989, Volkswagen launched a series of six special Wolfsburg Edition cars. Probably the most famous of these is the Jetta GLI 16V, but there were special versions of the Fox, Vanagon, Golf GL, Jetta GL, and this car – the Cabriolet. Now, the 1989 Cabriolet Wolfsburg Edition is not to be confused with the earlier Wolfsburg Editions. For 1989, the special model was based on the ‘Bestseller’ trim. They were all finished in Star Blue Metallic with a dark blue top and equipped with 14″ ‘teardrop’ alloy wheels and striped seat upholstery that matched the GLI. They weren’t cheap, but they’re a pretty color combination that you don’t see every day:
The Bavaria was BMW’s bold attempt to redefine its market presence in a large way…or, perhaps more correctly, to redefine it’s large-car market presence in some way. What predated this design was the BMW 501 and 502 – the ‘Baroque Angels’ – which looked more like they were out of a black-and-white film than ready for the Jet Age by the time of the end of their production in the early 1960s. BMW took a break to get its Neue Klasse feet under it, then in the late 1960s introduced its new six-cylinder-powered 2500 and 2800 sedans. Moving into the 1970s, the M30s engine was punched out to 3.0 liters and the model was offered here as the Bavaria.
A handsome design in its own right, like the E12 and early E24s it suffered some teething pains before the the replacement models really caught fire in the early 1980s. Finding a clean Bavaria today is indeed quite a treat!
Recently I took a look at a pretty cool European-market Audi Cabriolet:
Euro 1995 Audi Cabriolet 2.6
Just because Europe got most of the fun colors and options doesn’t mean they got all of the fun colors and options, though! Case in point is today’s Tropical Green Cabriolet. This color was part of Audi’s Lifestyle Colors in the 1990s, and boy is it neat! But this particular Cabriolet isn’t done there; a late model with the Votex Competition wheels, it’s also got an equally rare treat inside:
Hey, remember yesterday’s Gol LS?
1983 Volkswagen Gol LS
I mentioned that they made a pickup version of the Gol as well, which Volkswagen do Brasil sold as the Saveiro. It effectively followed the same recipe as the Rabbit Pickup; chop the front off of the normal car and make a somewhat usable back end. In the case of the Saveiro, the result was even a bit more bizarre-looking than the Sportruck, but nevertheless it’s neat to see one – and it’s perhaps no surprise that the seller of the Gol is also shifting this one:
Looking a bit like an alternate universe version of the early 80s Honda Accord hatchback, the Gol model was Volkswagen do Brasil’s replacement for the Brasilia . Based on a mix of components borrowed from the Audi B1 and B2 models, it initially was quite different than the Fox variants we’d see here in the late 80s. That’s because up front was not a familiar water-cooled engine; the Gol instead received a 1.3-liter flat-four from the Beetle under the front hood. Sound crazy? It was a bit, but it worked, and it was cheap – so it sold pretty well. They also made several different versions, including a Caddy-like ‘pickup‘ – but today we’re looking at an ’83 hatchback that’s already been imported:
The 968 stormed out of the gates and straight into the early 1990s recession wielding 236 horsepower from its VarioCam-equipped development of the 3.0 inline-4 from the 944S2. Evolutionary bodywork linked the model more closely with both the 928S4/GT and the 911 range. But with more power on tap than the standard 944 Turbo had in the mid-eighties, the base price was pretty much out of reach for most mortals. In 1992, the MSRP was $39,950 for a stripper Coupe. If you wanted the Cabriolet, you’d pay more than $10,000 additional. And if you opted for a Tiptronic transmission you’d be at $55,000. This is in 1992, mind you! That’s over $106,500 in today’s buying power and the best part of double what a base 718 Boxster stickers for today. Sufficed to say, Porsche didn’t sell a ton of these cars in the middle of a global recession. Today’s car is one of three claimed delivered in the color combination of Amethyst Pearl Metallic with a Magenta top and matching interior:
Following the ‘Hey, that worked pretty well for Porsche!’ sales model, Audi introduced an amazing assortment of special models with the R8. I’ve covered several of them, but I feel as though every time I see another I’m baffled – granted, I was not in the market for an R8 when new a few years ago, but I just don’t remember so many special models – most of which just seem to be a neat color. But that’s not the case with this one.
RWS stands for Rear Wheel Series, and of course that means that Audi gave up their famous quattro all-wheel-drive system in this particular model. It is, in fact, the only rear-wheel-drive car to be marketed as an Audi since the pre-War 920 model, I’m pretty sure. In addition to lower weight, the RWS also dropped Audi’s magnetorheological dampers – but you did still get a 540 horsepower V10 behind the seats, a limited-slip differential, upgraded suspension, and a few other special bits unique to this car. Pricing was about $160,000 when new and Audi limited sales worldwide to only 999 units – and just 320 came here. One’s up for sale: