“IT’S NOT GERMAN!!!”
I know. But since today is the conclusion of Le Mans and occasionally we like to take a look at other cars, let’s check this one out. Because, in many ways, I think it has a lot to offer.
The Renault GTA emerged out of the acquisition of independent boutique sports car maker Alpine by Renault. Renault immediately set upon making a rival to those pesky sports cars from Stuttgart and modernize Alpine’s 1970s A310 model. Let’s not forget, this was a period when Renault was quite active in Formula 1 and Le Mans, so a sporting car wasn’t entirely out of character for them (nor was the competition with Porsche, for that matter!). New lightweight plastic body-pieces were fit, and the 1.7 liter 4-cylinder in the back of the A310 was yanked in favor of the 2.5 liter PRV (Peugeot, Renault, Volvo) V6. In 1985, a turbocharger was bolted on and instantly the GTA was a 944 Turbo competitor with 200 horsepower on tap. However, the rear-drive, rear-engine layout and tricky driving dynamics were more akin to early 911s than the well-balanced transaxle Porsches. As a result, the Porsches continued to sell in droves, while the Alpine GTA remains just an interesting footnote in French automotive history.
But for about the same money as a very nice 944 Turbo these days (and significantly less than the price of a decent 911), you can get the Le Premier Absolutment GTA:
Looking for a performance car? This isn’t it. It’s also about as far from a classic Audi as you could get in the U.S. market; there was no turbo, no inline-5, no manual and no quattro drivetrain. But the B4 Audi Cabriolet was ironically the last 1980s holdover for the company, and it survived until somewhat amazingly 1998 here, with the basic chassis construction from 1985. To the end, it remained a competent and handsome convertible, a conservative alternative to the more expensive Mercedes-Benz drop-tops and the flashier BMWs. The Cabriolet really only came in one configuration here, with the 2.8 liter V6 linked to the 4-speed automatic driving the front wheels. On the fly, this was a fine setup and certainly potent enough to rustle your hair, though it was far from lighting it on fire. Pricing at the end of the run was surprisingly high at $34,600 base price. Added to that were the packages many came with for the 1998 model year; Premium Package added a power roof, burled walnut wood trim; Kodiac leather seat upholstery, remote locking and alarm. To make it more palatable to most of the country, the “All Weather Package” added heated front seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, and heated door locks. Also optional for the end of the run were the Votex Speedline Competition 16″ 6-spoke alloy wheels and even high backed sport seats; both (especially the latter) are very rare. Of course, the Cabriolet is rare full stop, with only 5,439 sold here between 1994 and 1998, or roughly 1,000 per a model year. This ’95 is one of 1,087 and might be one of the best left:
Back in the 1990s, Mercedes-Benz really started hitting their stride with producing a bunch of special editions that were all made up whenever they felt they need. Most of the time they just threw whatever they had in the parts bin on the cars when it came to paint colors, wheels, interior trim and then would finish it off by calling up their graphic designers to whip up a unique logo to stick around the car. Today’s car, a 2000 SL320 Mille Miglia, is exactly that.
Back in 1995, Mercedes actually launched a Millie Miglia edition to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Stirling Moss’s and Dennis Jenkinsonâ€™s win of the 1955 Mille Miglia road race. A nice gesture for sure, but I’m sure this decision was highly influenced, if not totally, by getting ready to launch a major facelift in 1996 for the R129 and they wanted to move all the old stock out. Offered on the SL280, SL320, and SL500, it was nothing more than some red inserts on the leather seats, carbon fiber trim with some red weave in it and some leftover EVO 2 wheels from, you guessed it, the parts bin. Then in 2000, Mercedes made another Mille Miglia edition, but just made 12 cars. Why 12 cars? Well, that is how many they needed to usher around VIPs at the Rally 1000 Miglia in Italy. In 2001, the final year of the R129, they again made 13 cars all based off the SL600. So what is unique about these cars? Well, it is basically a Silver Arrow with some badges on the outside and a little sticker on the ashtray door. That’s it. Lean manufacturing must be big at Mercedes.
Update 11/25/18: This S4 sold for $8,302.
Continuing in my theme of the ultimate Audi garage, this post is going to seem a little strange. That’s because if I was going to pick an Audi sedan to collect, the second generation S4 would be pretty low on the priority list. In fact, I’m not sure it would make the top five. Without a doubt the D2 S8, the B7 RS4, the C4 S4/6, the D11 V8 quattro 5-speed, and the 4000CS quattro would all make it higher on the list.
It’s not that the B5 S4 isn’t compelling, with the twin-turbocharged V6 cranking 250 horsepower through a 6-speed manual. Barring the RS4 listed above, a box-stock B5 S4 will outperform everything else on that list in virtually every test. It’s just that the B5 S4 is a lot more desirable when presented as an Avant. So why is this sedan here? A few reasons. First, it’s Nogaro Blue Pearl Effect, and that should get a pass every time. Beyond that, it’s pretty clean, it’s got the unusual but pretty light Silver leather interior, it’s all stock, and it’s a manual. But as an added bonus, it’s also no reserve:
It seems appropriate to follow yesterday’s S8 with this model. In just a few years, Audi went from only one S model with very limited production imported in the C4 S6 to three models. Top of the range was the S8, but it shared its running gear and sonorous V8 in a slightly detuned state with the new C5 S6. For Audi enthusiasts, though, big news came with the launch of the new S4.
It was unrelated to the first S4 because of Audi’s renaming strategy in 1995. That meant that the new S4 was based on the small chassis B5, and U.S. enthusiasts finally got a taste of Audi’s M3 competitor. Performance came in the form of a new 2.7 twin-turbocharged V6 30V and was mated to either a 5-speed Tiptronic transmission like its bigger siblings or a 6-speed manual. Like other B5s, the S4 made use of the 4th generation of quattro technology driving all four wheels. This utilized a Torsen center differential with open front and rear differentials, both of which employed the ABS sensors to electronically ‘lock up’ the slipping wheels when a speed differentiation was detected. Like other S models, some light revisions to the bodywork and more pronounced exhaust were present, along with polished mirrors and 17″ Avus-design wheels. Most notable was the large front bumper cover with 6 gaping grill covers which hid the twin intercoolers for the motor. With 250 horsepower and 295 lb.ft of torque, you had an all-weather 155 mph warrior. And, it was available as an Avant:
It seems that in my region of America that the seasons went summer straight into winter judging by one day it was 82 degrees and the next it was 44 degrees. That of course means that convertible season is over just like that unless you are a logical person that lives in an area where the weather doesn’t keep you glued to your bed when your alarm goes off in the morning. If that is the case, I might have a cabriolet that probably isn’t the first model that pops into your head when someone says ”Mercedes convertible”, but that doesn’t make it’s not a worthy example. This 2001 CLK320 Cabriolet up for sale in Connecticut is probably one of the better C208s I’ve run across in a while and even though that the temperatures are freezing outside, I thought it deserved a closer look. It’s worth it if only just to look at these outstanding photos.
In recent posts I covered both the importance of the B5 chassis and its development into nuclear-grade weaponry in the RS4. In the midst was the substantially more tame yet still quite exciting S4 Avant.
Audi brought the S4 Avant to the United States for the first time in 2001. It joined the sedan lineup and offered a follow-up to the large chassis S6 Avant from 1995. Instead of the traditional inline-5 motivation, though, Audi had developed a new 2.7 liter version of its V6. With a K03 turbocharger strapped to each side, the APB produced 250 horsepower at 5800 rpms and 258 lb.ft of torque at only 1850 revs. Like all the B5s, Audi’s new generation of ‘quattro’ used a T2 Torsen center differential and relied upon an electronic rear differential utilizing the ABS sensors. The B5 chassis used the same technology on the front differential as well and was capable of independently braking each front wheel to try to sort the car out through its dynamic stability program.
But the real fun was that it was available as an Avant and with a 6-speed manual. Just over 1,500 were claimed imported between 2001 and 2002’s model years, with about 600 of those being Tiptronic equipped. Light Silver Metallic was by far the most popular color ordered, and this particular Avant is one of 358 LSM manuals brought in for the 2001 model year:
A fair chunk of the collector world shrugs their shoulders when an Audi rolls by. There are some exceptions, obviously; the Quattro and Sport Quattro have gained notoriety, and of course because it was touched by Stuttgart, the RS2 still has some serious street cred.
Pull up in this RS4, though, and most would have a tough time telling it apart from the 1.8T with vape clouds billowing from the windows. Their dismissal would be unfortunate, because the B5 RS4 is a serious machine. Quattro GmbH turned to corporate partner Cosworth Engineering to modify the 2.7 liter V6 twin-turbo, and the result was pretty astonishing for 2000: 375 horsepower in a manual wagon! Audi’s skunkwork quattro GmbH then gave the car a fitting set of modifications, from a unique interior with Recaro seats to wider track and flares – and, of course, the gaping guppy lower grills. Produced in low numbers, it’s even more rare to see in the United States since none were imported here originally.
Yet a few individuals have gone through the effort of Federalizing their RS4, and when they come up for sale it’s cause for a celebration!
Over the past month I checked out a few W124 Mercedes-Benz Estates and from the looks of it, they are still in pretty high demand judging by their price tags. I can see why as those wagons were and still are some of the best all-encompassing packages you could buy. Some might argue that the W123 Estate was better and I see their points, but the newest one of those is now 33 years-old and lack things like airbags as well as other modern safety features. What is interesting is that the car that replaced the W124 Estate, the W210, kind of flew under the radar when it came to fans of wagons. Whether it be its elongated looks or lack of old school Mercedes feel, people aren’t exactly eager to snatch these things up. It doesn’t mean that they are bad cars or anything, but the passion is just a little lacking compared to the W123 and W124. Today’s car, a 2001 E320 Estate up for bid in Oregon, is painted in the rare Aragonite Blue Metallic and is actually quite nice. Does that mean anyone will be clamoring for it?
Fairly often I feature special cars that have low miles on them. That’s to be expected because sometimes when people buy a car that isn’t run-of-the-mill, they don’t use it as a daily driver and try to keep the miles low. In turn, that theoretically should keep the value high when it comes to sell or maybe just to have the satisfaction of having a low mileage car. What I don’t see too often are cars that are ordinary in every way and meant to be used and thrown away that have really low miles on them. You can see where I’m going with this.
What I have today is a 2002 Mercedes-Benz E320 up for sale in Virginia with just 18,200 miles on it. This W210 is as bland and disposable as modern Mercedes come and this car doesn’t even have any special options or unique features. In fact, this E320 doesn’t even have heated seats. It’s painted in a bland color with a bland interior that blends in with the crowd with the best of them. You’d think the 18,200 miles would mean this car is pristine, but thanks to some typical W210 problems, time waits for no one. Not even cars that sit in garages for 15 years.