Following up on the
hugely popular Fuldamobile, it seems appropriate to talk about the more successful and instantly recognizable Isetta. Like the Fuldamobile, BMW’s quirky bubble car was a licensed production. The original design was the Iso Autoveicoli company’s property in Italy, and its owner – Renzo Rivolta, who would go on to support the production of some beautiful Italian-American V8 GT cars – started production in 1954 after showing the car at the ’53 Turin Automobile Show. Rivolta was happy to license production and did so with VELAM in France, De Carlo in Argentina, and Romi in Brazil. But, of course, the most famous and numerous version was the BMW variant.
Produced first as a 250, then upgraded to 300 (and finally 600, where the stretched chassis would go on to foster BMW’s 700 model), some 160,000-odd Isettas were produced by BMW in their cash-strapped post-War years. But among the most rare variations of production was the Cabriolet model:
1987 saw some minor changes to the fantastic forced-induction 944 Turbo; most notable was the addition of ABS, which meant no more Fuchs. Instead, higher offset ‘Phone Dials’ were added, with an option for the forged ‘Gullideckel’ polished wheels. The other change was in color combinations available. Azurite Blue replaced Copenhagen Blue in the dark tones, while two new standard colors were introduced – Lemon/Summer Yellow (LMIA) and Malven Red (LY3E). Both of these colors were a one-year only option on the 944, and both are pretty rare to see. I looked at a Lemon/Summer Yellow ’87 Turbo back in 2016:
Summer Dreaming: 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo
But I think this is the first time I’ve seen a Malven Red Turbo, and it looks like a good one to consider:
Update 9/5/19: This 1602 Touring sold for $18,300.
If you’ve missed the most recent bandwagon, it’s been firmly hitched to the back of the E30 Touring. Recently these cars passed the magical “25 Year” importation ban and have begun flooding the market. The reason is simple; they haven’t previously been available here, the E30 market is red hot, and they’re relatively dirt cheap in Europe. But if you really want to show up those bandwagon-jumping E30 hispters at the local show, why not look towards the original Touring – the Michelotti-designed, E10-based ‘E6’ 1600, 1800 or 2000 Touring models. Shortened by about 6 inches and with additional glass, the Touring had modern conveniences like split-folding rear seats and was available only for a short run between 1971 and 1974. It ran the full production line in engines minus the turbo; the most valuable examples are clean tii versions or the ultra-rare Alpina variants, but even a nice clean basic example of any shows just what a neat design it was:
Over the past few weeks I’ve taken a look at both the special ’89 Wolfsburg Edition Jetta GLI 16V and a ’91 GLI 16V. Both, ultimately, were lacking. The ’89 suffered from a plethora of mods but not a look quite perfect enough to be a show car, while the ’91 had a lot of needs as it had been hobbled together. So it’s a bit interesting to see another GLI 16V pop up.
Like the July example, this is a later ‘big bumper’ car. Like the ’89, this one has quite a few modifications from stock and is a special color. But perhaps because of slick photography, bigger dollar mods or the spectacularly 90s LA6U Capri Green paintwork, this one pulls it off:
I’ll assume if you’re into this site you’re pretty familiar with the Type 14 Karmann Ghia even though I don’t talk about them much. Basically, it was the original Scirocco – taking the ‘pedestrian’ underpinnings of the Beetle and creating a sporty persona to mask them. If you’re a real fan of VWs, you’re probably also familiar with the second, upscale Karmann Ghia – the Type 34. I took a look at one last year:
1966 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 34
With only 42,500 sold compared to the nearly half million Type 14 Ghias produced – and never officially imported to the U.S., most people are fairly unaware of this model even though it’s arguably one of the prettiest Volkswagens made.
But there was an even more rare third Karmann Ghia. This was the Type 145 produced by Volkswagen do Brasil. Styled by Giugiaro and with the stretched Type III chassis underneath, a scant 18,000 of the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Touring Coupe (TC) were produced solely for the South American market:
The C5 Audi RS6 was the first full-fledged RS model to head legally to North America. It was the stuff of instant legend, too, with a 450 horsepower twin-turbocharged V8 and enough tech to get you to and from the moon. And despite its relatively limited run, it’s been no stranger to these pages – thanks in no small part to the plethora of used examples on the market at any time. Indeed, just a month ago I counted no less than 10 for sale when I wrote up the unique 6-speed converted sedan:
2003 Audi RS6 6-speed
That car’s asking price has been reduced to a much more enticing $20,000 today. Yet for some, including this author, the fact that there was an Avant form of the RS6 that was left out of our market has always been a sticking point. Well, a few enterprising individuals have eliminated that need:
Though the E3 had offered a sizeable sedan, the replacement 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.
E23s are hard to come by today but generally affordable, certainly in the context of current 80s BMW pricing. And though only a 733i, this one has some uniqueness to help it stand apart, too:
“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:
If you really want to stand apart from the standard E30 crowd, some of the limited production models that never came here are a sure-fire bet to draw attention. Late in the E30 run, BMW developed a special run of E30s called the ‘Design Editions’. These were effectively just appearance packages with splashy colors; Daytona Violet, Neon Blue and today’s feature color, Neon Green Metallic 262. Each was matched with a special interior fabric, here in 0464 with Neon Green accents. Underneath, these were effectively stock E30s otherwise, so you got a M42 inline-4 rated at 140 horsepower and here mated to a normal 5-speed manual. While the drivetrain isn’t anything exotic, certainly the limited nature of this model is – as only 50 Neon Green Metallic Design Edition 318iCs were produced:
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: