Roll the Dice: 2002 Audi S6 Avant

Typically, our ‘Roll the Dice’ features have been cars that are a bit of a gamble; little history is disclosed, there are no photos to show the car’s condition or no description, something’s odd about the example, it’s got a million miles…you get the point. Today’s S6 Avant is a bit of a different gamble, though.

To be fair, jumping in to any 15-odd year old German car today is somewhat of a leap into the unknown. You’re entering territory where the complicated electronics begin to fail, oil seeps from every joint of the motor and rattles permeate the body structure. Often, you’re left chasing the ghosts of deferred maintenance. Add up the number of things that could potentially go wrong on an older car and then cross reference the part costs, and you’ll quickly see the problem.

So what does that look like when we consider today’s S6 Avant? Well, if the seller is to be believed, in the past year they’ve spent $14,079 fixing this Audi. The last nice S6 Avant that I looked at sold for $13,000. You don’t have to be a math wiz to figure out that’s a bad deal. And that last nice S6 Avant was in much better condition than today’s model with only 50,000 miles on the clock.

So if you’re getting in to today’s car, you’re rolling the dice a bit that the $14,000 “invested” in this one has resolved all the problems. But there are positives, because the seller has opted for a no reserve auction format, and…oh yeah, it’s supercharged.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 Audi S6 Avant on eBay

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Feature Listing: 2015 Audi S4

Just the other day, an old car friend of mine contacted our group of enthusiasts with an interesting challenge. He currently owns a Nissan 370Z, and while he really likes the car he’s got a family and needs something a bit more practical. So he queried the group; what car should he get in the $40,000 range that was special, fast, had 4-doors and a manual transmission?

Several thoughts came to mind, and I’m sure that everyone’s head is already spinning like mine did. While immediately several went to BMW M products like the E39 M5, I had an alternate suggestion which also considered where my friend lives – New Hampshire. ‘What about the Audi S4?’ I suggested. He admitted had hadn’t thought of one, in part because he previously owned a S4 – in his case a B5 – and didn’t love the driving experience.

Well, since the S4 has come a long way since the 1990s in power, technology, size and driving experience. And what has emerged is a very impressive all-arounder which flies under the radar. The supercharged V6 in the B8 gave a healthy 333 horsepower an Russian steppe-flat torque curve with 325 lb.ft available from 3,000 rpms straight through 5,250. This power could be channeled through two increasing rare options to find in electronics-heavy cars – a manual gearbox and a sport differential. Okay, 333 horsepower doesn’t sound outlandish in today’s world. But as with fast Audis of the past, the B8 and 8.5 made efficient use of that power and putting it down on the ground, making them capable of 4.4 second 0-60 sprints and a 13 second quarter-mile. This is a car which punches above its weight class, capable of embarrassing unsuspecting muscle cars.

Yet it retains its luxury-oriented character and go-anywhere all-wheel drive options, along with the practicality of offering 4-doors. And like ‘Q-Ships’ from the past, outside of a few extra exhaust ports and slightly flashier badging, most people would be hard-pressed to differentiate this serious performance package from the normal A4 wrapper. But that doesn’t mean that this car has to be boring, and you could select a few beautiful exterior colors such as this Volcano Red Metallic example:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2015 Audi S4 on Audizine

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Forbidden Fruit: 1992 Volkswagen Passat G60 Syncro Wagon

As we saw in last week’s Quantum (née Passat), underneath the Volkswagen was almost all B2 Audi. They had borrowed Audi’s full quattro setup in the Syncro model until 1988. That was the same year that the G60 supercharged engine had debuted in the Golf in Europe, but it wouldn’t be until late 1989 and the new Corrado model’s introduction that the G-Lader would become better known on these shores.

The PG G-Lader devoted to the Rallye, G60 and third generation Passat Syncro wasn’t the most powerful unit VW of the time period at 158 horsepower and 166 lb.ft of torque (the 3G 16V version in the Golf Limited had 50 horsepower more), but the combination of these items seemed awesome at the time to U.S. fans because, of course, in the midst of VAG’s early 90s sales slump they opted not to bring the package here. Like the Corrado, based on Mk.2 underpinnings the Passat’s engine configuration had moved from longitudinal in the B2 to transverse in the third gen, meaning that Audi’s quattro system remained unique to that brand. The Golf’s transverse engine placement precluded use of the Audi longitudinal design, which used output shafts and mechanical differentials. Instead, Volkswagen turned to Austrian company Steyr-Daimler-Puch for development.

Noted for development of four-wheel-drive systems and probably most recognizable for the Pinzgauer military vehicle, Steyr’s solution to the transverse problem was to utilize a viscous coupling similar to the AMC Eagle. However, while the Eagle’s system was all-wheel drive, all the time, Volkswagen’s system would only engage when the front wheels slipped. The Passat added new electronic features to the range topper, too – including anti-lock brakes and an electronic differential lock, and the new shape dropped the drag coefficient to .31.

The best part about the G60 Passat, though? You could get one in wagon form:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Volkswagen Passat G60 Syncro Wagon on Seattle Craigslist

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Feature Listing: 1995 BMW M3 Dinan S3-spec

It’s interesting to consider how enthusiasts today view the E36 M3. Generally speaking, you’re either a completely devoted fan who insists that the E36 is not only the best M3, but perhaps the best BMW ever made. Why stop there? Why not go straight for best car in the history of the world, ever? On the other side of the coin, detractors love to point out that the second M3 was softened up for the U.S. market, that it wasn’t as potent, as pure, as Motorsporty as the original curb-hopping, box-flared legend.

Arguably, they’re both right. It’s certainly true that BMW made the decision to tone down the M3 for North American consumption. That was a really good thing for two reasons: one, that we got it at all, and two, that it remained affordable. Consider, for a moment, that the E30 M3 had grown quite expensive to sport all of that motorsport heritage. By 1991, the base price of the M3 was $35,900. Of course, it was competing against even more expensive cars like the Porsche 944S2, which was a further $10,000 more dear. While we can talk about driving spirit all day long, if we look at the fact sheets what you got was a bit soggy in comparison to today’s cars. Inflation corrected, the M3 would be around $62,000 – pretty much spot on the entry price for today’s M3. The new car has more than double the horsepower of the original and enough tech to launch all of the Apollo program missions.

So what was really exciting when the new M3 was launched in late 1994 was that price point; $36,000. That was some $14,000 less expensive than the European model, and yet performance was within a few clicks thanks to a revised version of the 325i M50 engine. In fact, many – including notoriously BMW-savvy Car and Driver – suggested that the U.S. spec M3 was a better choice than the more exotic Euro model for our roads.

Today, the E36 M3 remains for many the smart choice within the lineup. Long overlooked as the obvious choice, prices have remained low relative to its predecessor and even its replacement. Modern comparisons often skip the E36 entirely. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get exotic performance and looks from the middle child:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW M3 on eBay

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1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60

Update 11/28/18: This Corrado G60 sold for $3,650.

If you’re into the small, sporty coupe, the other alternative to the 924s I’ve written up if don’t have the big bucks to buy a super clean 944 is Volkswagen’s answer – the Corrado. While that may generate a chuckle from some, if you breakdown the numbers, the Corrado was pretty close to the recipe of the outgoing 924S. Adding the G-Lader supercharger to the 1.8 liter inline-4 gave the Volkswagen similar punch; 158 horsepower and 165 lb.ft of torque with about 2,700 lbs to motivate. It was a 2+2 hatch as well, with more practical seating in the rear and plenty of storage space. The 195-50-15 tires gave plenty of bite, making the Corrado the equal of the 924S through corners, too. And early on it was even a bit cheaper than the 924S had been because, you know, it wasn’t a Porsche. It’d cost about $20,000 out the door; expensive compared to the GTI, but then this car was really intended to compete in a more upscale market.

Like the 924S, there are foibles. There’s a more potent version that’s quite a bit more popular in the later VR6, though it should be noted that just like the 944, by the time the SLC VR6 models bowed out of the marketplace they were 50% more expensive than the 1990 launch version. It can also eat up a lot of money in repairs, especially if the supercharger that made the package get up and go has got up and went. Also like the 924S, asking prices are usually out of line with market value, and there are quite a bit more abused ones out there than clean examples. I last looked at a clean, but at least partially (and poorly) resprayed example in November:

1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60

The asking price was originally $5,200, but it eventually sold for just under $5,000. That puts it squarely in line with the price of those two 924s from last week. Today, we get to look at another Tornado Red with dark gray/red stripe velour manual. While it has more miles on it, it looks clean and importantly is a no reserve auction:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60 on eBay

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2003 Mercedes-Benz S55 AMG Widebody

In my opinion, custom body work can either go really good or really bad. Those who know what they are doing usually put out some unique stuff. Those who don’t know what they are doing put out work made of nightmares. Luckily for everyone, this 2003 Mercedes-Benz S55 AMG for sale in Vancouver, Canada, has some custom body work that actually looks pretty good. Normally, the bodies of the mid-2000 AMG cars don’t have much of a flare to them, but this seller of this specific car had something to say about that. This S55 had the front the rear fenders pulled out by a decent amount to give it the look of a CLK63 AMG Black Series. The more I look at this car, the more I appreciate it, but I can’t decide if I really love it or not.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Mercedes-Benz S55 AMG Widebody on Vancouver, BC Craigslist

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1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60

Update 1/6/2018 – The asking price on this Corrado G60 has dropped from $5,200 to $4,800.

While the second-generation Scirocco was a re-body of the first-generation chassis with some upgrades, when it came to the end of the 80s and the launch of a new sporty Volkswagen, they turned to…another antiquated chassis. Prepared for the 1990 model year, the A2 chassis was already the best part of 7 years old and not the most refined unit out there. Despite this, plans moved ahead at cash-strapped VW to produce two “new” models that were adaptations of the A2 chassis.

The result was the third generation Passat and the sporty Karmann-built Corrado. The design was more VAG evolution than revolution; in many ways, the Corrado’s profile and several aspects mimicked the upscale Audi products. Volkswagen again went to the tried-and-true ‘Operation Copy Giugiaro’ plan that worked with the Scirocco. It looks like a shorter, chunkier Audi Coupe GT to me – especially in its original G60 supercharged guise. While the GTI went to the 2.0 16V and slick BBS wheels making an instant classic, Volkswagen relied on the G-Ladder supercharger that was seen in the European Golf Rallye and G60 GTI for the motivation for the Corrado. But the Corrado wasn’t made to challenge its siblings; it was aimed at the 944 crowd, replacing the 924S as a ‘Poor Man’s Porsche’ rather than just an expensive GTI alternative.

Ostensibly, this made it the top-trump at Volkswagen, what with 160 horsepower and good torque. But the heavy weight and complicated nature of the model meant that the GTI retained greater appeal. It seemed as though Volkswagen hit a home run when they finally slotted the even more potent and better sounding VR6 into the Corrado for 1992, relegating the supercharged model to obsolescence and obscurity. Like yesterday’s Audi 5000 Turbo, this model was thoroughly overshadowed by the VR6 and GTI, so values sunk quickly. Often they landed in the hands of those not able to afford the expensive repairs. And, no surprise, the result is that finding clean G60s is pretty tough today:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60 on eBay

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Tuner Tuesday: 1998 BMW M Roadster Dinan S3

Edit 11/3/2017 – I looked at this Dinan modified M Roadster last August, but there was little information and it hung around for quite a while at $25,000. It has now moved on to a new seller who has taken some more photos and raised the price $4,000. After last month claiming it was an ISR3, the seller has confirmed what our comment from Eric indicated – it’s “just” a S3 Roadster. It has about 1,000 more miles since last year but still looks relatively reasonably priced if you like the color combination and gutsy Dinan modifications – Ed

The other day I was talking with my friend about Turner Motorsports. I first met Will Turner when he was a BMWCCA instructor, just trying to establish his business of selling parts on the side. He and his compatriots all sported E30 M3s; this was, after all, the days before the launch of the U.S. E36 M3. Turner managed to parlay early success in a local modification scene outside of Boston into a countrywide business, and after some time in the club race scene he moved into the major leagues. Success against better funded teams was sometimes difficult, but today Turner is still alive and very much kicking, having become one of the two defacto factory-backed teams running the M6 GT3. To get to that point of factory involvement is an arduous journey to say the least, and few who start out make it.

One other who did was Steve Dinan, who took a niche tuning business from the 1980s into a factory option today. You can walk down to your dealer and order up a fully backed, Dinan modified car. That took a tremendous amount of work and is a testament to the quality of the products on offer from Dinan. They truly take the well-engineered BMWs to the next level, but modifying them to do so can be quite pricey. Take today’s M Roadster, for example. While it wasn’t exactly a cheap car to begin with, with entry level prices in 1998 starting around $42,000. This M Roadster, though, went on to get a further $36,000 in modifications from Dinan:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW M Roadster Dinan S3 on eBay

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Forbidden Fruit: 1992 Volkswagen Passat G60 Syncro

There was nothing particularly revolutionary about the B3 Passat G60 Syncro. The prior Quantum (née Passat) had borrowed Audi’s full quattro setup in the Syncro model. The G60 supercharged engine had debuted in the Golf in Europe as early as 1988, but it wouldn’t be until late 1989 and the new Corrado model’s introduction that the G-Lader would become better known on these shores. But the G60 Syncro Passat was the first time that all three were combined, and it took the more exotic drivetrain setup from the Rallye and brought it to a mainstream market.

The PG G-Lader devoted to the Rallye, G60 and Passat Syncro wasn’t the most powerful unit VW of the time period at 158 horsepower and 166 lb.ft of torque (the 3G 16V version in the Golf Limited had 50 horsepower more), but the combination of these items seemed awesome at the time to U.S. fans because, of course, in the midst of VAG’s early 90s sales slump they opted not to bring the package here. Like the Corrado, based on Mk.2 underpinnings the Passat’s engine configuration had moved from longitudinal in the B2 to transverse in the third gen, meaning that Audi’s quattro system remained unique to that brand. The Golf’s transverse engine placement precluded use of the Audi longitudinal design, which used output shafts and mechanical differentials. Instead, Volkswagen turned to Austrian company Steyr-Daimler-Puch for development.

Noted for development of four-wheel-drive systems and probably most recognizable for the Pinzgauer military vehicle, Steyr’s solution to the transverse problem was to utilize a viscous coupling similar to the AMC Eagle. However, while the Eagle’s system was all-wheel drive, all the time, Volkswagen’s system would only engage when the front wheels slipped.

Like the Audi 90 quattro it competed against, the Syncro Passat wasn’t particularly quick but was pretty expensive in period, and neither sold very well in the grand scheme. The G60 Syncro was offered in the Great White North, though, and now that enough time has passed these forbidden fruits can finally be brought in to the U.S. – if you can find one….

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Volkswagen Passat G60 Syncro on eBay

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1980 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup G60

Often we complain about the numerous times German manufacturers have failed to send models enthusiasts want to U.S. shores. But in the case of the Volkswagen Pickup – affectionately nicknamed the “Caddy” after the model that was released later in Europe – was first debuted out of the American Westmoreland, PA plant. The chassis was lengthened and unique bodywork and rear axle were fit, and the Rabbit Pickup was marketed as a comfortable, car-like utility vehicle. Between 1980 and 1982, Volkswagen even offered the Rabbit “Sportruck”. While most would presume this was primarily an appearance package, the Sportruck actually was quite a bit more sporty than the diesel options in the rest of the lineup. You got a 5-speed manual (opposed to 4) hooked to a 1.7 liter 8V, a front spoiler and special “Rally” wheel trim, along with a 3-gauge console and bucket seats with a Scirocco steering wheel. It wasn’t a GTI, but it was a half step in between.

This Caddy, though it isn’t one of the Sportrucks, is a huge leap for Caddykind:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup G60 on eBay

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