So here’s part one in a trio of strange, yet desirable in their own right, Volkswagens. There are plenty of popular Volkswagens that demand premiums, sometimes inexplicably. These special models have a draw and demand money that makes people laugh. Sure, in the car world, it’s become accepted that vehicles like the 21 window Samba are now $100,000 plus fully restored; however, tell that to my father-in-law, who grew up driving them, and you’ll get nothing but boisterous laughs. Other Volkswagens exhibit charm or were class leaders; the GTi, the Vanagon Westy, the Corrado – stylish in their own ways, with charm to match. Then there’s the Passat. Despite the serious popularity of the B5 and B5.5 chassis, I still feel like I need to explain to people that they’re really quite nice cars. Do you know why?
Mostly it’s because of the reputation of the B3 and B4 Passats. The B4 Passat will certainly not go down in history as the best made, fastest or even prettiest mid-sized Volkswagen. Poor build quality coupled with an unerring tendency of early 90s Volkswagens to rust heavily meant they’re an odd choice for the Volkswagen fan. And when I consider the B4 Passat, all I can think is that it’s arguably the most vanilla Volkswagen ever produced. I praised Volkswagen when they launched the B3; smooth, aerodynamic with a distinctive wedge shape, it looked very different than any other sedan on sale at the time. Most of that distinction came down to the grill-less front end, but regardless it was cool. It was so cool, in fact, that no one got it. Of course, it didn’t help that it was pretty expensive and not particularly reliable in the best trend of early 90s VWs. So it probably came as no surprise when the revised B4 Passat in 1995 went more mainstream. New wheels, mostly new body panels and some minor interior changes signaled its introduction, but that’s not what people sought. No, the big news was under the hood; Volkswagen moved the 1Z 1.9 TDi into the Passat – and behind the headlines of the Vans, Corrados and GTIs, it’s probably the most sought 1990s Volkswagen – especially in 5-speed Variant form:
There’s no denying that I’m a huge fan of the equally huge Audi S8. However, if I’m completely honest I must admit that the last two generations of S8 haven’t done all that much to impress me. Are they faster than the original? Without doubt. Are they more luxurious, too? Certainly. But to me the D2 S8 was just the right combination of punch, style and presence which somehow has been lost on the newer generations. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t pay attention to them.
Hard to believe though it may be, 2019 marks the year of the introduction of the 5th generation of S8. The new one will undoubtedly carry some time-warp inducing drivetrain just like the fourth generation did. The 4.0T may appear in a bunch of Audis, but when equipped in the S8 – especially the Plus model – it creates a large executive capable of altering physics. With 605 horsepower on tap driven through the predictable ZF 8-speed automatic to all four wheels via the most clever iteration of quattro, Audi claimed a 3.3 second 0-60 time and an electronically-limited 190 mph top speed. This is a 4,700 lb. sedan, mind you, full of all the most beautiful leather,
wood carbon fiber and piano black treatment one could stuff into an electronics suite. This thing, stock on street rubber, will do a standing quarter-mile in 11.6 seconds – .3 seconds faster than a Ferrari F40, for reference.
But for some people, even the Plus edition of the S8 wasn’t enough. Enter Motoren-Technik-Mayer, better known as MTM. Roland Mayer, the eponymous founder of the company, has been at it since the beginning of quattro, and they’re generally considered one of the best when it comes to turning up even already fast Audis. So what did they do to the S8? Well, they named it after a place that calls itself ‘The Palace of Speed’ – Talladega. Does that give you a clue?
As they had with the 964 Turbo, Porsche continued the ultra-exclusive Turbo S package on the actually new 993 Turbo. With 430 horsepower pumped through two turbos to all four wheels, these were not as outrageous as the GT2, but plenty fast and luxurious to make up for it. Big yellow Brembos, a revised aerokit and flank vents that were a nod to the prior generation all helped to distinguish these cars. And with only 345 produced originally, from the get-go these were big dollar collectables. Of course, Porsche made a splash recently when it made a special brand-new one-off 993 Turbo S, ultimately selling it for a touch over $3,100,000.
So I’ll introduce this post by saying that this car is not one of the original Turbo S models. However, if anything, it’s a bit more interesting and even more exclusive. This car started life as a normal 993 Turbo, but was sent through the Porsche Special Wishes/Exclusive department (production coincided with rebranding of the Special Wishes Department to Porsche Exclusive) and given the bulk of the Turbo S details with a few GT2 bits thrown in for good measure. Further, it was then draped in a Paint To Sample color, Ocean Blue Metallic. The main difference between this car and a S is the rear spoiler and badges, which remained standard 993 Turbo items. In many ways, this car is the spiritual successor to the 911 Turbo S 3.6 ‘Package’ I just looked at, and it’s equally exclusive at a claimed one of two produced:
It’s often difficult for a second act to follow a legend, and that’s just what the C4 S4 had to do when it launched for U.S. customers in 1992. The Type 44 was already a fan favorite before the 20V version appeared here briefly for the 1991 model year, with wider flared track, bigger brakes, and more power. To answer fans, Audi introduced an even more potent version with the S4; even bigger wheels, lower suspension, and a few more horses were encased in a thoroughly modern shape, yet one that was easily recognizable to fans of the brand. With a reputation for smooth power delivery and still the market cornered on all-wheel drive performance luxury vehicles, Audi’s new S4 sold out almost immediately in a period when the European makes had difficulty moving their expensive wares.
But the Type 44 still held one advantage over its replacement; as we saw recently, an optional fifth door. While the Avant version of the new 100 was available immediately, there was no range-topping S4 wagon brought here. That was finally remedied with the relaunch of the now renamed S6 Avant for 1995. With smoothed out bumpers, revised passenger mirror, rolling changes such as new Speedline Avus 6-spoke wheels replaced the Fuchs that the S4 wore, and headrests became closed. There were more changes with the ‘95.5’ model; the infrared remote locking became radio frequency and the B-pillar receiver disappeared; so, too, did the option to lock the rear differential yourself, as Audi opted to work in an electronic differential lock utilizing the ABS speed sensors rather than a physically locking rear end.
These were really only minor changes to the recipe, which at its roots remained a fan fantasy. The traditional inline-5 that had hung out of the nose of the high-end Audis was still there, with its dual-cam head augmented by electronic fuel injection and electronic boost control. The turbo spun up quickly and had an overboost function, giving drivers 227 horsepower and 258 lb.ft of torque to be mastered solely by a manual transmission with Torsen center differential. Form-fitting electric sport seats kept front passengers firmly planted in place through the prodigious grip generated by the meaty 225 section tires. Combined with the prodigious space the Avant offered families and the ability of these cars to eat up highway miles with aplomb regardless of weather, not to mention the incredible tuning potential of the AAN 20V turbo, they’ve become highly sought steeds with a very limited pool of around 300 originally imported:
For the last few years, Volkswagen has perpetually teased us with the hottest Clubsport and Clubsport S version of the GTI, promising they “may” come to the United States but never following through. While this is no doubt disappointing to the twelve people who actually would have bought them and the 1.8 million who claim on the internet they would if given the option, it follows a long tradition in German motoring of leaving the best of the breed in the homeland. When it came to the GTI, not only did we have to wait several years before we got the original hot Golf, but indeed it was a bit watered down and heavier when it did arrive. The same continued in the next two generations; more weight, less power. Both in the second and third generations we also lost out on supercharging, all-wheel drive and special body kits available in the European market.
Once again in 2001, a neat Golf was launched that – of course – wasn’t coming to the United States. But of all of the special editions that weren’t sold here, perhaps this one made the most sense to be excluded. It was called the 25th Anniversary Edition and you didn’t need to be good at math to realize that there was no GTI sold here 25 years before 2001. Since the “18 year Anniversary Edition” didn’t make much sense from a marketing perspective even in spite of Volkswagen’s continual spotty judgement in that regard, it was no surprise that it wasn’t offered. That was too bad, as it had a lowered suspension, better brakes, a bit more power, fantastic Recaro seats and the best looking BBS wheels fit to any Volkswagen, ever. Volkswagen enthusiasts in America drool inwardly and shouted openly, so in 2002 Volkswagen finally did bring the special edition here. Again, since “19th Anniversary” didn’t make any sense, we instead got the “337” Edition. This was, for all intents and purposes, an exact copy of the 25th Anniversary model, but instead the 337 referenced the internal project code for the original GTI. But they were quite limited, with only 1,250 sold in the U.S. and 250 sold in Canada. So, you probably missed out on your chance to own one, right? Well, wrong, because in 2003 Volkswagen re-released the 337 edition. Conveniently, there was now a round number that they could actually commemorate the GTI’s longevity with as it had been 20 years since the A1 GTI rolled out of Westmoreland. Again, it was a greatest hits edition; the 337 upgraded 12.3 inch vented brakes with go-faster red calipers carried over, as did the upgraded suspension. Though they sported different fabric, inside was the same Recaro interior with deep bolsters. The golf ball shift knob also returned, though it now was mated to a new 6-speed transmission (MQ350) which in turn were connected to R32 Aristo wheels in place of the BBS RCs. Deeper front and rear valances matched the previous two models, and the 20th AE got blacked headlights more similar to the 25th AE. The AWP 1.8T turbo’s boost was cranked up a bit, delivering 180 horsepower through the front wheels and tied to an electronic differential. A final homage to the original model were subtle rabbits adorning the rear and vintage inspired GTi badging. But the biggest change was that the 20th AE was available in three colors unlike the silver-only prior cars; Black Magic Pearl, Imola Yellow and Jazz Blue :
Our run of crazy modified cars continues with one of the many outrageous Porsche Turbo creations. This one comes straight from some of the biggest names in the hallowed halls of Porsche racing; Kremer, DP and Andretti. The Andrettis might as well be the Kennedys of motor racing, such is the success and tragedy they’ve seen. At the head of the family is Mario, who managed to not only be 1978 Formula One World Champion, but a class winner (and 2nd overall) at Le Mans and raced in NASCAR, PPG IndyCars, sprint cars and IROC. Quite simply, he’s one of the most diversely accomplished drivers in history. And in the mid 1980s, Andretti partnered with Porsche to race first 956s and then 962s later (with his son Michael co-driver both times) at Le Mans. Neither campaign was successful; they finished 3rd in 1983 and 6th in 1988. But in the meantime, Andretti apparently commissioned a very special road-going Porsche to go along with his racing exploits.
That car was built by none other than Kremer, who carried the torch in development of the 935 as Porsche moved first to the 936 and then to the 956 models. It was Kremer’s K3 development of the 935 that outright won Le Mans in 1979, and its extreme bodywork was developed in conjunction with DP Motorsports. The legend was born, and the DP-bodied, Kremer-modified ‘DP935’s took to the 1980s as one of the fastest street-legal cars you could get into. Kremer’s street “K2” spec featured a K27 turbo attached to an upgraded 3.3 flat-6, reportedly good for 460 plus horsepower with adjustable boost. A claimed twelve of these K2-modded DP935s made there way to the the United States, and what is reported to be Mario’s personal example is for sale now:
As the Turbo era died off in the early 90s and nearly everyone abandoned forced induction thanks to newer, more stringent fuel economy and emissions standards, Porsche’s ‘Gott verdammt, ve continue to do things the same vill!‘ attitude extended to boost. Instead of backing away from their somewhat flawed design, Porsche doubled down and launched a ‘brand new’ Turbo model of the 911 for 1991. I say ‘brand new’ because while the body looked modern and the interior updated, in reality this was the same old-school Porsche 911 Turbo underneath. It was still rear-drive only, still a single turbocharger with a ton of lag, and still capable of ripping your face off. Still displacing 3.3 liters, revisions to the intake, exhaust and ECU left the flat-6 churning 315 horsepower and 333 lb.ft of torque, the 964-era Turbo hit 60 in under 5 seconds if you threw caution to the wind and was within a breath of 170 flat-out. Outside, the 964’s smooth bumper covers replaced the impact-era units and 17″ Cup 1 wheels filled the flares, but squint and not much looked different from 15 years prior. Yet sure enough, newfangled technologies had crept in: anti-lock brakes, airbags, power steering *gasp!* In many ways, though modern and certainly capable of hanging with the best cars of the day if not exceeding their performance, they felt a bit like a dinosaur unabashedly sticking its middle claw up towards progress and the future. It’s that attitude, reputation and look that today continues to drive the desirability of this model in the used market:
Recently I’ve written up a string of BMW 135is. A great car and likely future collector, the turbocharged E8x packs a mean punch and stands apart from the crowd, yet is just luxurious enough to make you feel quite special even when the throttle isn’t on the floor. But the BMW wasn’t without competition in the marketplace back in 2009. That competition emerged in the form of the new TTS package. Now, while Audi had made some pretty quick TTs up to that point, none had ever really been considered on par as a driver’s car with what typically emerged from Munich. But the new TTS shifted the balance of performance towards Ingolstadt:
While Rob has left us, that doesn’t mean Porsche coverage will be! So I’d like to start the year with the counterpoint to Rob’s 911 Club Sport. I recently looked at a 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo S, the details of which were sussed out by Porsche in the Turbo Cup race series. While the Club Sport purported to be track-ready, the Turbo Cup was a turn-key racer straight out of the factory.
Porsche built a limited group of 944 chassis each year which were heavily upgraded with lightweight parts, roll cages and turned up engines. Weight was dropped thanks to extensive use of magnesium for the intake and sump, along with deletion of most luxuries. Manual windows, no door pockets, no air conditioning or sunroof here! The engine was upgraded with more boost and a revised turbocharger, along with a strengthened gearbox. Inside a Matter cage reinforced the structure, a Recaro seat cradled the driver and of course the suspension was upgraded as well. Later Turbo Cup cars also featured magnesium Phone Dial wheels, alone saving on the order of 18 lbs, though early models were delivered with forged Fuchs. These cars were not only raced in the one-make Turbo Cup series around the world, but also utilized by Porsche and privateers in race series such as the SCCA Escort Endurance Championship in “Showroom Stock”. Each year only a handful were produced, making these cars some of the most sought transaxles out there:
Update 1/17/19: This ’88 944 Turbo S has been relisted at $27,000, down $2,000 from December.
Here’s an interesting one. At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was one of the very special and very limited ‘Silver Rose’ 944 Turbo S models. All painted in unique Silver Rose Metallic (F1) with multi-tone maroon studio cloth, and ushered in a long list of revisions to the standard Turbo. The new option M758 “Turbo S” included a new turbocharger with redesigned vanes and a remapped DME which increased boost to a max of 1.82 bar. The resulting M44/52 had 30 more horsepower and 15 lb.ft torque to a max of 247 and 258, respectively. But the “S” package was far more than just more boost, as the cooling system was revised, the clutch and transmission were beefed up with hardened first and second gears.
Brakes were borrowed from the 928 S4 and now measured 12″ in front with four piston aluminum calipers. Wheels were Club Sport 16″ forged, polished and anodized units measuring 7 inches in front and 9 in the rear. Suspension was also beefed up with the M030 package; this included adjustable rebound Koni shocks and adjustable-perch coilovers in front. Limited slip differentials (Code 220) were not standard, but a must-select option. So too was a beefed up radio.
But the interesting thing about this particular car is that it’s not a Silver Rose. The original purchaser of this car ticked the $5,510 option box for the Turbo S M758 options, then paid a further $685 to have it painted Stone Gray Metallic: