Well, it’s been a few weeks so I suppose that it’s time to introduce the newest addition to the GCFSB fleet. My wife and I spent months searching for a potential replacement to her Subaru Outback. She had bought the Subbie new in 2006, and under warranty it had been a great car. However, once out of warranty it had been problematic; unable to go much more than 10,000 miles without eating a wheel bearing, dumping oil all over the exhaust or any other number of various maladies. The “big one” was the timing belt service at 103,500 miles; already pricey on Subarus, it became obvious as we got close that the 2.5 liter boxer was suffering from the notorious head gasket failure. A $800 job soon became a $2,800 job. As my wife pointed out, those are the types of repairs you’d expect on a nicer German car, but not ones you’d associate with the stars of Pleiades. How Subaru has managed to maintain a reputation for quality is beyond me, and with prices of new Outbacks well into the $30,000 range, suddenly the gap to some of the German cars wasn’t so outrageous.
I’ve talked a fair bit of trash about right-hand drive cars here, specifically some E30 325i Tourings. A lot of the E30 wagons we’ve seen imported now that their 25-year waiting period has ended have been base- or low-option Brits, bringing along the need to get comfortable hugging the fog line and rowing the gears with your left hand. This longroof has the rare factory M-Tech package as well as some show-stopping 17″ gold BBS rims to help you look like a gangster out of Run Lola Run. Inside, recovered M seats look outstanding, but the ubiquitous cracked dash strikes again, echoing a chipped front spoiler that looks fixable. Wrapped in Alpinweiss, the seller is pretty right as long as you can handle right hand drive – “this is the one you’ve been looking for!”
Good news! I’ve found another “Unicorn” for your consideration. Now, truth told the E91 isn’t a particularly rare car. There are plenty up for sale every day of the week, since they are really just getting to the sweet spot where the first and (for early examples) second owners dump them. And of those that you can find for sale today, the all-wheel drive 328xi isn’t particularly rare, either. But what is not seen very often is the combination of those two factors plus a stick in the center console which can be articulated in 7 different positions. That’s right, we have a unicorn manual! Such is the unicorn status of this unicorn that “Unicorn” is even included in the sales title of the unicorn! You’d be forgiven for thinking that BMW dealers had a special option box that you could select for your unicorn badge.
Salesman: Now that you’ve selected all your other options, I’m going to tell you about one final “dealer special” option we can offer you – but it’s only for select, and discerning customers!
Rich Plebian: Uh, okay, what is it?
S: It’s the not offered to public “Unicorn” option
RP: “Unicorn”? Like, horned mythological beast?
S: Yes, exactly. The Unicorn Package is option code 785.
RP: Okay, what does it get me?
S: You get to tell everyone how unique your mass produced car is.
RP: Wait, it gives me special powers?
S: No, you just get to say that your car is more special than the other cars that are exactly like it.
RP: Well, people have always told me how special I am, so sign me up!
Thus, when it comes time to sell your unicorn package car, you too can tell everyone that this was the only one that’s like it! Except for the other ones that are like it. But don’t mind them. Let’s look at this one!
For proof that automobile enthusiasts often don’t make much sense, one doesn’t need to look much farther than the E30 325ix Touring. Built on exactly the same formula as yesterday’s Passat 4Motion, while enthusiasts will look upon that car generally as an overpriced oddity, pop a clean ix Touring onto their computer screen and wallets begin to fly. Understandably, there’s a style difference between the Volkswagen/Audi products and the highly sought after E30 Touring, but honestly does this car do anything appreciably better than a S4 Avant? I can only think of one thing – it generates income for the seller:
More wagons! Longroof E30s are popping up regularly these days, with quite a few in right hand drive configuration. They’re ending all up over the place in terms of price, but overall it seems like the relative glut of Tourings is creating a buyers market where the patient can get what they want.
This 325i isn’t the nicest we’ve seen, with a shredded drivers seat soiling an otherwise decent interior. The exterior is nice in Delphin Gray and lowered on H&Rs over some middling aftermarket wheels. It has just 125k miles, but almost no real details from the seller. The automatic is a bummer but seems to be the more common option on these wagons. We’ve seen them go from $4k to over $10k; can this one get off the ground with its $7,500 starting bid?
Recently my wife and I have been discussing getting a new wagon down the road, and while for some time it seemed like Audi would be the natural choice, the dearth of recent Audi wagons has had us looking other places. BMW? Sure, the new 328 Sport Wagons in either turbocharged inline-4 or diesel configuration are nice, but have you checked out the prices? Staring at $42,000 for the cheapest, it’s not hard to brush up against $60,000 – for a 3-series. It certainly makes options like the awesomely better looking new Volvo V60 look much more appealing. But I’ve also looked backwards a bit, to see if there’s something older that could suit the needs. I’m putting together a wagon roundup of some options I’ve come across for later this week, but this particular example was too good to pass up. From the great looking E39 chassis, this 528i Touring also features the Sport Package and a manual transmission. Granted, this isn’t the speed freak’s weapon of choice, but a clean example of a very nice classic design:
A few weeks ago I looked at a quite rare 2002tii Touring that was available for import from Europe. Uniquely styled and a very late production tii Touring, the seller was looking for around $35,000 plus importation fees – which, truth told, can get pricey. So, what about a resto-mod 1600 Touring that has been thoroughly upgraded with a 2 liter motor, 5-speed transmission, air conditioning and a helping of Alpina details for a few thousand dollars less?
What if one car could really do it all? What would it look like? It’s always amused me that these civilized off-roaders we see rambling about these days are referred to as Sport Utility Vehicles. With a higher center of gravity, sport isn’t really what comes to mind. A sports car really won’t be a good solution for the school run, given limited seating capacity and luggage space. Sure, a sedan is a good all-around vehicle, but they often lack soul and don’t have as versatile a cargo bay as a vehicle with a lift gate. So what about a wagon then? And one with four-wheel drive. And a 5-speed manual gearbox. And a smooth, torquey inline-6 under the hood? Too good to be true? BMW got the formula right with the E30 Touring, like this 325ix Touring we see here for sale in Essen, Germany.
Long before “Clownshoe” mania, BMW had another slightly off-beat hatchback in its lineup. The company recently spent a fairly sizable sum advertising the lineage between the new 2 series and the original 2002, but as generally impressive as the new 2 is, the one thing lacking is a model similar to the E10 Touring model. Okay, the F45 and F46 tall hatchback models channel a bit of that, but let’s be honest – they’re not exactly what enthusiasts love. And similarly polarizing is the Touring model in the E10 lineup. The Michelotti design channeled some of the GT feel from the Glas acquisition, but while the fluid lines of the 1600GT worked well in a low slung sports car, moving to the taller and more upright E10 platform gave the Touring slightly odd dimensions. Shortened by about 6 inches and with additional glass, the Touring had modern conveniences like split-folding rear seats and was available in five different engine configurations over its short three year model life. From 1600 to 2002, the model designations referred to the engine capacity – imagine that! But the top of the heap was the 130 horsepower 2002tii Touring – for enthusiasts, one of the rarest variations of the E10 made:
Throughout the years, BMW has only officially produced two generations of the BMW M5 Touring. The brawny E39 M5 was not one of them. However, BMW did create a one-off example as a study, but decided it wasn’t financially prudent to go ahead with production. This hasn’t stopped enthusiasts from trying to recreate what might have been. This 2001 540i Touring for sale in New York has been given the full M5 treatment, right down to the M5 Sport button which is functional. Looking to give the odd AMG Estate out there a run for its money? You’ll want to look this fast Five over a little bit further.