Speaking generally, there aren’t too many new cars that cross the pages of this site. It’s even somewhat rare for us to breach the decade-old mark; that’s the point where really nice used examples of our favorites start to become hard to locate. And, frankly since anyone can walk into a dealership, sign a few papers and walk out a lot lighter but with any specification car they can afford, the older metal is typically what draws our (and, hopefully, your) interest.
But once in a while something pretty special comes along, from a 911R to this car. The fifth generation F80 M3 has taken a huge leap forward in complexity, technology and performance. The S55 twin-turbocharged inline-6 is an absolute tower of power; while ultimate horses didn’t increase much version the E9x S65 V8 (425 versus 414), the torque was the big news. It was in part the final number – 410 lb ft., up an amazing 90 over the V8, but it was also the reality of when you could use that torque. The S65 developed peak twist at just shy of 4,000 rpms; the S55 does it at 1,850. Not only that, but the torque curve is billiard table flat until 5,500 rpm. The result, despite the heavy weight stature of the new gigantic F80, is astonishing speed.
By itself, the F80 M3 is a force to be reckoned with. However, this particular M3 is just that bit more special, as it was handed over the group at BMW Individual and painted in E46-signature Laguna Seca Blue:
1987 was the year that the GTI started its climb up the weight and complexity scale with the addition of the PL 1.8 liter double overhead cam inline-4. Now with 123 horsepower, Volkswagen continued its mid-80s trend of charging the customers about $100 a horsepower, resulting in a $2,000 increase in base price to correspond with the 21 horsepower jump. New “Silverstone” alloys which had debuted (like the motor) on the Scirocco were still 14″ x 6″, but looked the part with their signature teardrop machined look. Also carrying over from the Scirocco was the Fuba roof-mounted antenna; something which would become a call sign for fast VWs for the next two decades. The lower valences, both front and rear, were painted matte black, further highlighting the red-stripped bumper covers and accented by a deeper front spoiler with twin brake ducts. The red theme carried over to the “16V” badges surrounding the outside and highlighting the inside; a new red-stripe velour and leatherette sport interior kept the passengers planted. While the 21 horsepower increase didn’t sound like a lot, the 16V was a case of a car which outperformed its numbers on paper and felt much quicker than it might have appeared. 0-60 was gone in a tick under 8 seconds and the GTI would gear-out at 124 mph. Car magazines proclaimed it the best GTI yet, though many pointed out that it was also getting quite expensive. Though still popular, not quite as many of these A2 GTIs seemed to hit the market, and finding clean, original examples today like this beautiful Red Pearl Mica example? You guessed it, exceptionally hard.
“Dinan’s latest work of art, he has not only fixed a car that wasn’t broken but also sought to perfect a car that everyone considers to be as close to perfection as is humanly possible: the BMW M5”, Car and Driver wrote in 2002. Dinan had, at that point, already made a reputation for themselves as the premier BMW tuner in the United States to the point where they became offered straight from the dealer. Considering that’s just occurred for Alpina here, the endorsement of the level of engineering from the California firm was resounding. Yet that is in part because Dinan’s modifications are far from just slapping a badge and some wheels on a car and calling it done. Take, for example the M5 S2.
Dinan took what many considered to be a very highly developed 4.9 liter V8 in the S62 and went old-school to up the power; and up it a lot, he did. There was no supercharger or turbocharging here; revised intake and enlarged velocity stacks were met on the other end with tubular headers and a bespoke exhaust. Each throttle body’s bore was increased, too. These changes required a reflash of the computer, but were both lighter and more powerful. As in 76 horsepower more. That’s the best part of a 20% gain on a motor that many considered to be close to peak performance! Dinan further upgraded the suspension, brakes, wheels, and final drive, along with adding a lighter flywheel. As a result, the new S2 was, well, about 20% better than the already awesome M5. But that perfection cost, and it was more than a 20% increase. A lot more.
On top of the M5’s $73,400, if you wanted a fully spec’d out S2 you’d tack on $36,000 to the price. For that amount, you could have grabbed a nice 330Ci in addition to your standard M5! But a select few did pony up the extra cash for their extra-special E39s, and today we have a rare occasion of seeing two for sale at the same time:
If you were not a Volkswagen fan, it would have been relatively easy to miss the numerous small changes to the Jetta lineup in 1987. Chief among these changes was the introduction of a new model, the GLi 16V. Outside there were subtle changes to what was already established in the sporty 4-door to help it be distinguished from the 8 valve model it was sold alongside (only in the 1987 model year). A new, deeper front chin spoiler had two integral brake ducts. The antenna had been relocated to the roof, and the rear spoiler was color-matched on the top surface. Inside, new body-hugging Recaro seats were offered, alongside the host of subtle luxury options that the Jetta had including power windows, mirrors and locks, sunroof, air conditioning, cruise control and an onboard computer. The GLi 16V also received new wheels, popularly known as the “Teardrop” alloys but properly named Silverstone. Of course, appearance was one thing, but performance was what the GLi 16V was about and the dual overhead cams of the new motor churned out 123 horsepower. That doesn’t sound like a lot today, but it was plenty to make this light sedan entertaining. Expensive new and popular to be modified secondhand, these early GLi 16Vs are somewhat rare to happen across these days:
For many, the Paul Walker story is one of tragedy and loss – it was a senseless death of a movie star and his friend, or if you’re quite cold it was a senseless death of a Carrera GT. But recently I was watching a Formula 1 documentary talking about Francois Cevert, killed in qualifying at Watkins Glen in 1973. One of the drivers mentioned how then team owner Bernie Ecclestone asked why he was upset, to which the driver replied that Cevert was dead, of course. Ecclestone’s reply was that Cevert, right up to the moment that he died, was doing exactly what he loved to do – as were Senna, McLaren, Clark – indeed, every driver that has died in racing was doing exactly what they loved to do at the moment they perished. If there can be any moment of solace in the feelings of loss, it is that. You could dislike Paul Walker’s movies, but you can’t deny that he was at heart a true automobile enthusiast. When the Fast and Furious franchise first started, initially I really disliked the movies. I didn’t feel as though they accurately portrayed…well, anything, really. But my initial feelings have softened over the years as I both realized the place of the movies in automobile entertainment; after all, they weren’t documentaries. Further, I have to say that if someone came to me and said I’d be in a series of semi-corny automobile movies for multiple millions of dollars so that I could pursue my interests, I’d be hard pressed to say no and take the moral “higher ground” on the basis that I didn’t like the artistic license of the movie series. Paul Walker ended up being one of the stars of the Fast series, and as a result assembled quite a collection of memorable automobiles – one of which is a German car favorite and for sale today: