Lapis Blue 1999 Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG

I did not expect to see this. In a world where all the 1990s Mercedes-Benz AMG cars were painted in some sort of black/white/silver/grey, seeing the rare one in red was a treat. However, I was not expecting a bright blue.

This is a 1999 Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG is Lapis Blue. Looking at the build sheet, this one was a Mercedes version of “paint to sample” judging by the ‘Z98 Painting outside the sample card’ entry on the decoder. This color is not to be confused with Porsche’s Lapis Blue which is clearly a much darker blue. Needless to say, a rare example. You know what that means.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG on Collector’s Lounge

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2000 Mercedes-Benz E430

I think the days of V8s in mid-size sedans are numbered. With emissions regulations and fuel economy standards becoming more stringent as the years go on, you’ll be seeing smaller and smaller displacement engines along with hybrid systems becoming the norm in almost every car except the ultra-high performance models. Look right now, the current Mercedes-Benz E-Class lineup lacks a V8 until you get to the top of the range E63 AMG, which starts at $110,000. Even ten years ago, you could get your E500 with a 5.0 V8 and call it a day. Not anymore, two 2.0L inline-fours and an 3.0L inline-six are what awaits your down payment. Buyers don’t really care, as long as the car looks good and the lease numbers and performance are good, sign ’em up.

So rewind 20 years and head back to the new Millennium where the E-Class lineup was simple. There was the 3.2L V6 E320, 4.3L V8 E430, and 5.4L V8 E55 AMG. Done. The buyers for E320s and E55s were very different people, as the E320 was $47,000, while the E55 was a significant amount more at $72,000. Turns out its not cheap to pay a bunch of Germans in a small town to hand-assemble a car. So what about the E430? $53,000. Suddenly that extra six grand seems like a worthwhile upgrade over the E320. You had more than respectable numbers at the time with 275 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft of torque. Still, every time you saw an E55, which lets be honest probably never because of the extremely low production numbers, you wanted those 18″ Monoblocks and special body kit. Now that is 20 years later, does it still make sense to buy an E430? I think so, especially this one.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2000 Mercedes-Benz E430 on eBay

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1991 Audi V8 quattro 5-Speed

Back to big Audis! The early 1990s were, as I’ve described in previous posts, a period of change for the Ingolstadt firm as they closed down production on the Type 44 to introduce its new replacement, the C4. That led to a dizzying assortment of models from the one chassis. There was the aforementioned 100 and 100 quattro. You could move up to two turbocharged models, too – the 200 Turbo gave you 165 horsepower through the front wheels, and the new-and-only-for-91 in the U.S. was 200 20V quattro. Europe and the rest of the world got even more options; production lasted right up through 2006 in parts of China, where they even made a crazy long-wheel base 4-door convertible version of the Hongqi.

But the top of the heap for the U.S. market was a derivative of the Type 44, the D11 chassis. Of course, that was Audi’s foray into the top-tier luxury market with its new all-aluminum 32 valve double-overhead cam V8. Body revisions to the front and rear along with flared fenders made the V8 quattro seem like a completely different car to the slab-sided 100. V8s had, and have, serious presence. Big news, too, was that for the first time Audi was able to match its all-wheel drive quattro setup with a new 4-speed automatic transmission.

For die-hard Audi faithful, though, for a short while you could still opt to row-your-own with the 240 horsepower 3.6 liter V8 singing to your right foot. These manual V8 quattros are legendary because of their rarity and that they are the only car Audi brought to market with twin Torsen differentials. The combination of a more rearward weight bias, big and instant torque from the V8 and those clever diffs made for one of the best driving experiences in a classic big sedan from Audi, and they’re exceedingly rare to find:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Audi V8 quattro on eBay

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2003 Mercedes-Benz S500

Red is a funny color when it comes to cars. Coupe or sports sedan? Sure, looks great. Full-size luxury sedan or SUV? Are you out of your mind? Even when it is offered on a SUV, it is usually in a much softer red that borders on burgundy. Same with the full-size sedans, a soft red. However, sometimes you do find the rare luxury sedan finished in the brightest red you can think of and it catches you off guard. Wouldn’t you have it, this is exactly what we have today in the 2003 Mercedes-Benz S500 I found up for sale in Poland. It is literally called “Magma Red” and isn’t shy about it. The thing is, I’m not sure if I like it just because it’s different or because it actually looks good.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Mercedes-Benz S500 on Klasyka Gatunku Poland

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1989 Porsche 928S4

I’m not much of a Corvette fan. Outside of the original ZR1 and some interesting classics (I’m a big fan of the flawed-but-beautiful ’63 Coupe), most just aren’t very interesting to me. However, take the same formula and drop it into a German car, and I take notice. Is this fair? Probably not. Nevertheless, the ‘German Corvette’ – the 928 – has always intrigued me.

I’m not alone, as the market star of early 928s is rising and the GTS models are still breaking records. So what better way to go than to split the middle? The S4 is just that – enough updates to have fun without the budget-breaking buzz of the last-of-the-run GTS. Sure, you give up some horsepower. But it’s not like the S4 is exactly slow – the 32-valve V8 cranks out 316 horsepower, if you’re counting – and here it’s hooked to a 5-speed manual and a limited-slip differential, as well. You also got the updated looks of the later cars, and the Baltic Blue paintwork shows those curves well. Slip inside and you’ll find Linen leather in the luxurious cabin. What’s not to love?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Porsche 928S4 on eBay

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Swede Week: 2008 SAAB 9-7X Aero

So the GM-takeover of SAAB is to be completely lamented? Not so fast. A few really cool vehicles came about as a result of SAAB’s combined efforts with other automakers; the 9000 is probably the best example, but the Viggen, the ‘SAABaru’ 9-2X, and 9-5 Aero are also popular alternatives to the normal German performance rides out there. Today, though, I want to take a look at what many consider the low point of SAAB’s GM connection and try to unearth a diamond in the rough – because there was one.

The ‘Trollblazer’ was just that; a SAABafied version of GM’s GMT360 Trailblazer. It was really just a light reskin of the vehicle and was even assembled in Ohio. That doesn’t sound too exciting, as indeed the Trailblazer was not the shining star of GM’s catalog nor its best example of vehicle dynamics. But late in the run, GM upped the game with the ‘SS’ version of the ‘Blazer, which added a 400 horsepower Corvette-sourced LS2, giant wheels, and suspension and body tweeks that somehow made the mundane grocery-getter instantly cool. And for good measure, just over 600 were changed into SAAB 9-7X ‘Aero’ models:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 SAAB 9-7X Aero on eBay

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2001 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG

Nothing makes me smile more than high performance variants with a bunch of miles on them. Especially when I don’t own them. The supposedly finicky and fragile nature of them sometimes hold true, but for the most part if you just maintain them, you’ll be fine. Granted, today’s car isn’t exactly a Maserati Biturbo when it comes to build quality and complexity, but it is a hand-assembled super sedan from 20 years ago. As always, in full disclosure, I have one of these in my garage sitting under a cover, but that doesn’t mean I’m not realistic about them. That subject is none other than the W210 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG – a car which predates bi-turbo V8s and crackling exhausts. Just a big engine, some subtle body work changes, and some wide tires. That’s it. This example up for in Washington? Thoroughly enjoyed.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG on eBay

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1997 BMW 540i Sport

This week I ran across this early production 540i Sport package car. It’s interesting for a few reasons. First, I’ve always really liked the clean look of the early sport package cars with either the turbine Style 32 wheels or the multi-piece BBS Style 19s as shown on this example. Something really worked for me about this wheel on this body style. An early 540i Sport, it’s missing some of the later additions I covered on later 540s, but still carries the aforementioned 17″ wheels and M-Sport suspension. However, this car is a bit different than the usual one that you’ll come across.

Having covered only 61,500 miles in its life, it’s almost completely original. It sounds strange to trumpet that, but most of the 540i Sports seem to be modified – even slightly. This one just looks like it’s got tint. And everything is there – it’s a California car with all original literature. It also doesn’t have the standard sport seats that would have accompanied the sport package. It was ordered in Arctic Silver Metallic with black leather comfort seats, but it’s got the all-important 6-speed manual transmission. Here, the pre-facelift orange directionals and less fussy taillight design work in harmony with the lack of body kit and beautiful exterior hue. Is it a winning combination?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW 540i Sport on eBay

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2000 Mercedes-Benz CLK430

The transition from the W124 Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe to CLK-Class coupe, which for all intents and purposes is an E-Class coupe as well, was a very clear evolution. It was an abrupt switch from the old-school Mercedes feel into a new modern age with softer styling and softer materials. Of course the wrench thrown into this is that while the W208 looked like a W210 E-Class both inside and out, it was actually built on the W202 C-Class chassis. You’d never really know this and Mercedes did a really nice job of covering that up, but none the less, the new-era of Mercedes was here. It was a very fresh design for the time and while impressive for its day, signaled a very clear end to philosophy of over-engineered and over-built coupes that Mercedes was known for since basically the beginning of the automobile. Times change and you need to adapt, and this is what Mercedes did. Just looking at the front end, you went from squared off and boxy look with headlights that were literal rectangles, to a set of ovals that were split apart into two different lights. A massive change in direction for sure, but it was new, and people bought them.

However, this also signaled the time where a Mercedes-Benz wasn’t really considered a car you kept for years on end, but rather a lease special and a race to get out the door with the lowest monthly payment. Twenty years later, this is still true across the entire model range with the exception of very few niche models. So where does that leave these now old cars? Nearly worthless, basically. There is no nostalgia for a 2000 CLK or 2001 S430. Any example that is more trouble than it is worth is scrapped without a second thought and only the nicest examples still remain. Today, I came across this CLK430 example in Philadelphia that still does maybe have some appeal to it. Outside of the terrible aftermarket grille, of course.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2000 Mercedes-Benz CLK430 on eBay

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2003 Audi S8

I still have this dream of getting a S8. This seems like a strange thing to dream about, I admit. And, it also seems like a quite attainable dream. My father-in-law often tells me about some day procuring his ‘dream truck’ – a manual mid-90s six-cylinder F150. I’ve found several for him that seem like good prospects, and none are ever more than a few thousand dollars. As I’ve said to him several times, ‘If you’re $4,000 away from your dream, what’s holding you back?’

Well, that comment coming from me is riddled with hypocrisy. I certainly could sell my very reliable Passat, save a bit of coin, and buy a S8. The problem increasingly inherent in that plan is that the S8 I can afford will probably not be the S8 I want. See, in the early 2000s I fell in love with the design. In the mid-2000s I lusted over lightly used examples that were out of my price range. S8s are now in a range I can afford, but it’s no longer the early 2000s and most are, to be frank, pretty used up. And though they’re far from the most technologically advanced vehicle, they aren’t exactly an F150 either in terms of complexity and parts availability (not to mention pricing). So looking at a S8 means you automatically need to budget in probably double the asking price or more in potential repairs between the transmission, timing belt service, and other deferred maintenance. Or, you can find one where that’s been done for you:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Audi S8 on eBay

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