1996 Volkswagen Passat GLS TDi Variant

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen Passat GLS TDi Variant on eBay

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2009 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Estate

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, depending on how you look at it, Mercedes-Benz has only graced the United States market with one AMG estate car. Thankfully, it was more than one generation starting with the S211 E-Class and continuing with the S212 and now up to the current S213. Of course, we got AMGs in every SUV, including a R-Class for whatever reason, but when it comes to regular estate cars, the E-Class was it. No C-Class estates, no CLA shooting brakes and certainly no CLS shooting brakes either. Even with the multiple generations of E wagon AMGs, good luck finding one for a reasonable price as even the most desolate ones still bring close to $30,000.

Today, I came across a really nice W204 C63 AMG Estate up for sale at one of my favorite dealers in Europe that is as clean as all the other cars I feature from them. This 2009 painted in Palladium Silver Metallic has all the right lines and curves to keep that aggressive AMG stance and have future classic written all over it. I just wish they brought them stateside.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2009 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Estate at Auto Leitner

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1995.5 Audi S6 Avant

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995.5 Audi S6 Avant on San Francisco Craigslist

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1991 Audi 200 20V quattro Avant

I don’t think there are any young children sitting around pining for the loss of the wagon. It’s hard to imagine a young teen hanging a picture of a Audi Allroad on his wall next to the idealistic Ferraris and Porsches, after all. Say to a average car-obsessed 10-year old “someday you’ll really want a wagon”, and they’ll probably laugh. Then try to tell them it will be beige…

All of this raises an interesting point: at what point does this particular car become appealing? Is it because it’s rare? Certainly there aren’t many 200 20V quattro Avants out there, with most fans accepting that approximately 149 were imported. Is it because it’s old? Now on the verge of being 30, the scant number originally imported has dwindled to the point where I’m sure someone knows them all by name. After all, there were more people in my high school graduating class than 200 20V Avants imported. Is it because it’s powerful? Well, to be honest, the 217 horsepower the 3B turbocharged double-overhead cam 20V inline-5 chucked out originally seems pretty tame today. But at the time, you needed to spend a lot of money to go faster than this 5-door. Is it because it’s beige? Now it gets interesting, as I was frustrated by the drapes-match-the-carpet tones in a recent S8, which otherwise shares most of the characteristics I just mentioned:

2001 Audi S8

Yet here, this rare Bamboo Metallic over rare Travertine in the (you guessed it) rare 200 20V quattro Avant pulls the right strings and becomes quite desirable:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Audi 200 20V quattro Avant on quattroworld.com

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2005 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG Estate

When it rains, it pours. For a vehicle that North American only saw 192 of, I have come across three W211 Mercedes-Benz E55 Estates for sale in less than three weeks. Last week it was a 2005 in The Hamptons that needed some help and the week before that it was an even rarer 2006 also in New York that was replaced by a Ferrari FF. Today, we have another 2005 that is up for sale in sunny Jacksonville, Florida that thankfully looks to be in prime shape. This S211 painted in Brilliant Silver Metallic checks in with 145,000 miles and thanks to a few little Mercedes software tricks, has some nice little features that I don’t see all that often.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2005 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG Estate on eBay

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2006 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic Estate

My never-ending quest for a replacement for my dying Land Rover for a winter vehicle (it is still ongoing) saw me look at a W210 Mercedes-Benz E320 Estate 4Matic and then went back a generation to look at a W124 Mercedes-Benz E320 Estate. It seems like most preferred the W124 and I can’t say I disagree, but I thought it might be interesting to head the other direction and look at a W211 E350 4Matic Estate. Mercedes made the W211 a little softer, a little sleeker and the biggest change was going from the M112 V6 to a M272 V6. The M272 was based on the M112 but with a bunch of little upgrades like continuous variable valve timing, the elimination of a mechanical thermostat and a dual variable-length intake manifold. Everything that sounds great on paper, but these early M272s had one major flaw that basically turns vehicles radioactive and unfortunately this wagon suffers from that. Of course I am talking about the dreaded balance shaft gears.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2006 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic Estate on eBay

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2005 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG Estate

Last week I looked at a 2006 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG Estate that drew quite of bit of reaction from the comments. I say that as a good thing because most were pretty happy with the condition but thought the price was a little high (which I can say I don’t really disagree with). Well wouldn’t you know it, another W211 E55 AMG Estate popped up for sale with even fewer miles, in the same area and an even a cheaper price. I thought this might be an answer to what everyone was looking for. There’s just one slightly big problem with this one though: it is by far the worst condition E55 Estate I’ve ever come across.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2005 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG Estate on eBay

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1999 Mercedes-Benz E320 4Matic Estate

Update 11/29/18: Although it was listed as sold a few weeks ago, this E320 4Matic has been relisted with a Buy It Now of $2,950. Maybe another good chance to get a cheap winter beater if you have access to a steam cleaner!

Update 11/16/18: This E320 Estate sold for $1,757.

Winter is mere weeks away and I’m still on the hunt for a new-to-me winter vehicle to battle the snow and ice. My current winter beater, a 1997 Land Rover Discovery that I’ve had for the past 13 years, is on life support. Both front fender wells are rusting away at an alarming pace, the 4.0 liter V8 that has been around since the mid-1960s (!) is sounding awfully crunchy and I swear it gets around 11 mpg. I told myself I was going to buy something reliable to replace it, so I started hunting for a Toyota Land Cruiser/Lexus LX470/GX470 only soon to find out that you can’t buy one for $2,200 like you can Land Rovers. They aren’t all that plentiful on the used market thanks to people taking them to their graves. Well, the time is ticking and I might have to consider options. One of those options is a Mercedes-Benz W210 4Matic because I might as well stick to what I know. Even better, an E320 4Matic Estate would fit the bit quite nicely with the extra cargo space and no one would confuse it with my E55 if I bought one in silver. Well, wouldn’t you know this 1999 popped up for sale that would fit my needs quite well. The only problem is that it is 2,600 miles away. Such is life.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 Mercedes-Benz E320 4Matic Estate on eBay

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2006 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG Estate

During my daydreams I always try to run through my head what relatively modern Mercedes-Benz is going to desirable and collectible in the near future or beyond. I’ve racked my brain plenty of times and the list I always come up with usually isn’t very long. It is not like there are not a bunch of good cars out there, but almost every one of them is a mass-produced vehicle that was made to be the best for the first few years then discarded quickly for whatever is new. That is how the entire car business is now and I don’t think it is going to change any time soon. It is even more true with newer AMG cars because their astronomical running costs just don’t make it feasible to keep long-term. Of course, there are exceptions to everything and one of those exceptions is the W211 E55 AMG Estate. The combination of the M113K in an estate body, which everyone seems to love, has proven to be one of the most desirable Mercedes of the past dozen years or so. It isn’t just because it is a wagon, because AMG keeps blessing the US market with these super wagons, but rather it is reasonable enough to live with when it comes to repairing and maintaining this estate. Thus, demand stays high, prices stay high and you have a vehicle that will go down as a young classic. This 2006 up for sale in New York is just one of these examples and given its price and mileage, is probably a pretty good deal.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2006 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG Estate on MB World

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1983 Mercedes-Benz 300TD

 

It has been some time since I’ve looked at the world’s most favorite wagon, the W123 Mercedes-Benz 300TD. We’ve been at the point with them for a while where unless it is an absolute heap, they are all worth saving or at least maintaining to the point of usable service. Sadly, some of the S123s ended up being used as work horses or straight up beater cars that took them to the point of no return. Today’s car, a 1983 in New Jersey, is one of those cars. Cosmetically, this one is pretty far gone and thanks to an odometer that stopped working who knows how many moons ago, mechanically it is a bit of a question mark as well. Question is, if it is cheap enough, is it worth it?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 Mercedes-Benz 300TD on eBay

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