The US-spec C107 Mercedes-Benz SLC probably isn’t going to win any beauty contests. Mercedes had their hands tied with bumper and headlight regulations and probably knew people were going to buy their cars regardless, so they put a band aid on it and that is what we live with. In countries who didn’t have to live with antiquated regulations, things were much better. Slim chrome bumpers and flat headlights plus some engine and transmission choices that made everything just a little bit more exciting. Luck would have it, this is what we have today.
This is a 1980 280SLC that was sold new in Germany and imported to California some time ago. It has the M110 2.8 liter inline-6 paired with a 4-speed manual gearbox, a combo that is rare to say the least. This seems like a far cry from the lumpy V8 and sluggish automatic that was offered to the US buyers when new. Is this a Porsche 911 or E30 BMW M3? Of course not. It’s a car that wasn’t very attractive nor fun to drive and is now slight less of that. Right?
When it launched in the late 1980s as a replacement to the ancient Scirocco, the Corrado was Volkswagen’s attempt to appeal to the Porsche crowd. With the supercharged G60 motor that may have been somewhat farcical, but when VW dropped the narrow-angle 2.8 liter VR6 into the nose of their 2-door Coupe it became more of a reality. Though on paper it didn’t have much more power, the VR6 was better suited to the design and weight of the Corrado. Zero to 60 plummeted nearly a second and top speed went up to a then-impressive 137 mph. But it was the all-around flexibility of the motor that proved the winner; torquey at low revs yet happy to head towards the redline, the Corrado finally fulfilled the promise of being a budget P-car.
Unfortunately, there was a price to pay. The base price for a Corrado in 1992 was nearly $22,000. Add a few options in and you were paying more than you did for a Porsche 924S four years earlier. To put it into even more stark perspective, the base price of a much quicker, nicer, more efficient, better cornering, better braking, more technologically impressive and significantly safer GTI today is only $26,415 some 26 years later. As a result, Corrados and especially the SLC have always held a cult status and higher residual value than the rest of the lineup. Today, as they head into collector status, many have been priced out of the market – a trend I’ve looked at several times, with asks of $20,000 and occasionally even more. So it’s refreshing to encounter a reasonable condition driver-quality example that’s priced within the reach of the group these cars appeal to:
The majority of the time, I can ”figure out” a car pretty quickly. I usually give them a quick glance, form an opinion on them, then move on to the next interesting car. Not with this one. Not with this 1980 Mercedes-Benz 280SLC.
It started out harmless enough. A listing for a $1,500 for a 280SLC. Naturally I’m intrigued by this. The 280SLC with the M110 inline-6 engine was never officially sold in North America so this was a big plus for me. Then I peeked inside and saw a manual transmission – things are looking even better. Yes, it’s pretty rough looking, but the extra parts the seller is throwing in with the car could make this deal worth it especially since one of the parts looks to be a real pre-merger AMG bumper. But when I really started to do some digging into this car I was just confused.
Update 7/10/18: Now with a lower $9,000 no reserve opening bid, much better photos and a black leather interior, the neat Jasmin Yellow Corrado 24V VR6 has been relisted relisted here
Update 3/11/18: The seller of this unique Corrado has relisted it again on a no reserve auction, but now with a higher $12,500 starting price.
Update 11/1/17: I was taken to task for my critique of the pricing on this example. The builder and many of his avid fans chimed in to offer more history and background of the build and its thoroughness. Additionally, the seller was able to point toward the $10,000 recent sale of a similar 24V modified Corrado to justify his pricing. It’s a comp that I hadn’t seen and certainly backs up his starting price argument. Thanks for the input to all our readership who know the seller and the build better than I did! -CJ
1992 was an interesting year of change at Volkswagen. At least for the next decade, it signaled the end of the hot water-cooled EA827-derived 4-cylinder models that had made it popular once again as a modern, efficient economy car that was capable of plenty of sport, too. 1992 was significant in this regard, because although the engine labored on for a bit, alongside the twin-cam, high-revving 16V GTI and GLI or the gutsy G60-supercharged Corrado came the new VR6 power unit. Displacing 2.8 liters, the new engine went without exotic forced-induction or peaky twin cams. Instead you just got low-end grunt and great noise, and 170-odd stampeding horses running across the front of your Volkswagen. In short order, the Passat, Jetta, GTI and even the EuroVan all moved to six cylinders.
1992 was even more notable because for the U.S. market it was the sole year where both the G60 and SLC VR6 were available together in the Corrado lineup. It was also unique because of the tones available; Corrados had been available previously in Nugget Yellow LK1B, but in 1992 it moved to Jasmin Yellow LK1D. It then promptly disappeared from the color catalog after few were ordered, making it one of the most infrequently seen tones on an already seldom seen car:
My first thought when I saw this car was literally “Holy Crap. A reasonably priced Corrado!”
And then I saw the salvage title.
But let’s not dwell on that yet. Let’s consider what we have here first. The photos paint the picture of a pretty nice, mostly original Flash Red Corrado SLC. It retains the original Speedline wheels and Baja-1000 ride height. It’s got leather inside, the big complaint of comments on the the last Corrado SLC I looked at. But the big draw must be the price, which at $6,500 is just very reasonably priced in my mind. The last Corrado SLC I considered? Same color, cloth interior, near same miles – $18,995. It’s like the ‘Cult of Corrado’ have decided “Hey, this is basically the same recipe as the E36 M3, and they’re increasing in value, so my car must be worth a lot.” Logical? Well, no one ever said passionate car enthusiasts were logical. In fact the whole idea of sitting around, pontificating about theoretical car values seems inherently illogical. When someone buys it, obviously that’s the price it’s worth, right?
But I digress.
Perhaps the asking prices for Corrados are more in line with their premium stature. Since new, they have demanded a premium; the SLC hit the market in 1992 at $22,000, and tick a few option boxes and you were quickly in Audi money. But you could look at this car as an expensive Volkswagen, or (as magazines did at the time) as a budget Porsche. Instead of the E36, the natural comparison to this car probably should be the Porsche 968. And you can’t get a decent one of those for $6,500…
Edit 11/23/2017 – the asking price on this Corrado has dropped to $16,995.
I think this Corrado SLC is an interesting comparison to yesterday’s Misano Red ALMS Edition Audi TT 225 Coupe. Like the Audi, in 1993 The Corrado SLC with its throaty 2.8 liter VR6 engine was the top of the heap in the 2-door product offerings. It too was a 2+2 hatchback best suited for only the first part of that equation. While the heavyweight Audi packed more punch from the turbocharged 1.8T, the all-wheel drive meant it was quite a bit heavier – so acceleration between the two wasn’t as much of a gulf as you’d expect, with both ticking 60 mph in under 7 seconds. Both have a unique style and both are fan favorites, with the nod probably going to the Corrado on greater market appeal to “enthusiasts”, while more people who drive appliances to work view the TT as a “cute” weekend car.
Yet here we are, in a market where you could buy a very nice example of either for the difference of a latte.
Interesting and diverse additions to our Hammertime value guide for this week include some head scratchers, some values and some breathtaking numbers. Leading the charge was the recent sale of the 2016 911R at RM Auctions at nearly $550,000. Yet there was value to be found in the Volkswagen world, as two VR6 modded VW hatches hit $5,200 (1977) and $10,600 (1991). The salvage title Corrado SLC VR6 was presumably cheap at only $3,601, making for a good driver candidate. Bidders failed to show up for the 2003 RS6, and the no reserve auction fell silent at only $8,000 – perhaps a great value, while the 300SEL 4.5 nearly tripped $5,000 despite major concerns. At the higher end of the collector market for each was the W126 560SEL at $21,000 and the B2 Audi 4000S quattro at nearly $8,000. Finally, a 912 tipped the scales at $28,100, leaving us wondering where the 912 market is heading.
Link to the page HERE!
2016 Porsche 911R – E.515,200 ($547,521)
1977 Volkswagen Rabbit VR6 24V – $5,200
1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SEL – $21,000
2003 Audi RS6 – $8,000
1972 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 4.5 – $4,950
1968 Porsche 912 Targa – $28,100
1993 Volkswagen Corrado SLC – $3,601
1985 Audi 4000S quattro – $7,999
1991 Volkswagen GTi 3.2 VR6 – $10,600
Trying to find a clean 1980s or 1990s Volkswagen is just about impossible these days, unless you’re interested in either of two models. If you want to find a clean Vanagon, you will – just be prepared to pay, as models like the Westfalia Syncro challenge the myth that only air-cooled multi-window VW vans are worth money.
On the other end of the VW spectrum is the Corrado. It doesn’t have the multi-purpose, all-weather camping capability of the T3, true. But what it does have is a serious cult following who have loved and kept these cars up since they were new – rare for this period of VW history. Specifically, when Wolfsburg decided to slot the narrow-angle VR6 into the Karmann coupe, the recipe was transformed into an instant hit. Consequently, it’s not unusual to find an all-original, very clean Corrado SLC like this Flash Red example with only 80,000 miles:
With a bit of nostalgia, it’s sad to reminisce about a market segment which has all but eroded from the automotive landscape. In the 1970s and 1980s, small coupes were the rage; they offered sporty looks and a bit of driving fun for the commute, while still being effectively economy cars underneath. But through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, those economy roots were altered in an ever increasing amount of brinkmanship to the point where the lines between a true “sports car” and the “sports coupe” evaporated. Yet the market was still ripe with plenty of options at the beginning of Bill Clinton’s Presidency; the Mazda MX-6 and Ford Probe GT continued to share underpinnings with slightly different style, while the Diamond Star Eagle Talon/Plymouth Lazer/Mitsubishi Eclipse offered technological and performance prowess that really lifted the segment. There was also the Nissan 240SX – not as sporty as the others, but still a popular option. Honda wasn’t left out with its popular Prelude and screaming VTEC motor. There were others, too – even the aging Dodge Daytona IROC R/T offered some 224 horsepower – impressive for the period.
All of them are long gone.
Gone, too, is the Volkswagen Corrado. It didn’t have all-wheel drive or the popular for the period “Turbo” badge stuck everywhere. It was refined, smooth and clean looking. The styling wasn’t exotic or futuristic, and the recipe was simple – especially when it came to the VR6. Quite simply, Volkswagen built the best Mk.2 Volkswagen they could, but compared to the competition in period, that wasn’t quite good enough. Nearly all of the competition had new-for-the-90s styling and chassis, and the VW felt decidedly 80s in comparison. And it was expensive, clearing $23,000 before options in 1993. So even though it was really as good as the 80s VW got, it was a soft seller (as most VWs were). Fast forward to the first of these cars about to be antiques, and suddenly a new light is cast upon the model; it doesn’t look as dated, gimmicky or used up as any of the others, and unsurprisingly has become one of the market stars as a result:
The internet has again been ablaze with indignant enthusiasts frustrated with VWoA’s decision to cease importation of the 2-door GTI. Of course, the GTI is still available in more practical (and some would say better looking) 4-door configuration, and the decision wasn’t without basis as that model outsold the dual portal example many times over. Nevertheless, there’s always a big conglomerate of fandom that actively shouts about all of the things they can no longer or were never able to have.
Why this is somewhat surprising to me is because if you go back a few decades, we lost something even cooler. The Corrado represented the end of a 20 year reign of really cool 2-door coupe Volkswagens. Go back even farther, and another two decades of Karmann Ghia represented great looks and a sportier platform (in theory) with affordable underpinnings. While there are a few fans who call for the current Scirocco to be imported, nearly as many seem to say “Why?”, when the GTI is available alongside. Perhaps now that the 2-door GTI has been killed off to the U.S. market, more attention will be levied on these slinky coupes? Every Corrado, then, gives us pause to consider an entire market segment that was effectively eliminated in the mid-1990s after being some of the most appealing options in the catalog. They sure went out with a bang, though: