So my friend Aron just moved house. And when I say house I mean apartment, because who can afford a house these days. And when I say moved, I mean from Paris, France, to his hometown Stuttgart, Germany. Now Paris might not be a great place to drive with zero parking and tough emission laws virtually excluding diesels powered vehicles from Paris proper. But then neither is Stuttgart, with some of Germany’s worst congestion, air pollution and a ban on all but the latest diesels.
And yet there is something about moving to Motor City Germany that makes you just want to take part in the whole experience of a place that mostly revolves around cars in one way or another. And with everything that’s currently going on you just don’t know if it might not be your last chance to go for that drive in the twisties at nearby Black Forest, or gun down Autobahn A81 towards Austria in the middle of the night just to clear your head in that most German of ways.
So I can’t say I was surprised to have my friend–who loves driving but doesn’t know a whole lot about cars–ask me: What car should I buy?
His criteria: Older than 20 years, max price 5000 euros, and it better be something fun as long as there is any left to be had. Let’s help him out, shall we? (Spoiler alert: No, there is no sub 5k Porsche within an hours drive of Stuttgart…but there is a Porsche engine wrapped in Spanish sheet metal!
1999 Audi Cabriolet 2.6, 155k miles, 148 hp, manual transmission, 4500 $.
A very late in the model-run example of what I think is one of Audi’s most underrated designs.
Unlike many other B4 based Audis in Europe, the cabriolets were mostly ordered pretty loaded. The 2.6 litre V-6 was the sweet spot in the European model range, which included 1.8 and 2 litre four cylinders, the venerable 2.3 litre I-5 and the top-dog 2.8. And for those really out there, a 90 hp TDI!
This one may have seen better years, but the ad says it comes with a voucher for a free airbag recall job that could be done by the new owner – a trouble maybe not worth going trough, given how this venerable vehicle is more at home at the Stuttgart Königsstrasse cruising strip than on narrow countryside lanes.
1993 Peugeot 205 CJ “Roland Garros”, 95k miles, 75 hp, manual transmission, 4400$.
Far from being a basket case, this pininfarina desgined little ‘vert should be easy enough to handle mechanically. It’s said to have a new exhaust and new brakes and a working electric top!
The fixed-roof 205 was an admirbale performer when the going got curvy, I have my doubts how much structural rigidity would be left with the roof cut job. But it should be good enough for a drive up Schloss Solitude on a sunday in spring!
1996 Cadillac Eldorado TC, 205 k miles, 2 owners, 5000 $
With a lot of mechanical work recently performed but a conspicuous absence of interior shots from the ad, will this North Star be shining bright for years to come? With some American troops still stationed in Stuttgart, there is at least a moderate amount of hope that someone might help you figure out the mechanical needs of this behemoth that your average German mechanic is going to run from.
It’s hard to tell, particularly with the high mileage, but hey, while you go for that test drive, you might as well check out what else the seller has parked in its back yard!
1994 VW Polo G40 1.3 liter, “G-Lader” inline-4, 113 hp, manual transmission, 180k miles, 4500 $
4500 grand for an almost three decades old Polo? You got that right. And now let me tell you why this might be a real steal.
The United States got the Corrado G-60 and the Passat G-60 (if I am not mistaken). But Germany also got the Golf Mk2 G60. And then someone at Wolfsburg took it up (or down, if you will) a notch and thought, we are gonna slap that G-Lader onto the Polo and see what happens. And thus the Polo G-40 was born.
A true screamer of a tiny hot hatch, outrunning the entire competition from zero to 100 miles in a contemporary Auto Motor und Sport comparison test.
The seller claims this to be a two owner car, is willing to provide full paperwork and admits that it has not been driven in over two years.
But given how an average Polo G40 is now a 10k plus collector’s car, it might be worth spreading some loving maintenance here.
After all, when have you ever seen a Polo with “wood” on the dash? And those checkered seats!
And need I even say it has manual windows? No airbags? Given how this tiny perfomer tops out at 125 mph, an airbag would probably not save you anyway…
1998 Peugeot 406 Coupe, Mileage unknown, 3.0 litre V6, 190 hp, manual transmission, 2350 $.
Often described as the poor man’s Ferrari 456 GT, the 406 coupe really is a looker, a stunning beauty of a midsize coupe. In its heyday it used to compete with the likes of the E36 Coupe and first generation Mercedes CLK, visually leaving both in the dust. The question at hand: Is is worth saving?
Before I saw the interior picture I would have said “Yes, absolultely!”.
But now I am not so sure. After putting in the work, this is no longer a sub 5k car, far from it (maybe less far if you can spare that passenger air bag…), lending new meaning to the concept of a poor man’s Ferrari.
1999 Alfa Spider (916) 2.0 Twin Spark, 138 k miles, 148 hp, manual transmission, 5000 $.
So there is an unspoken but silently agreed upon boundary that divides Germany into two parts: Those living far enough south that they vacation in France and Italy, and those unfortunate enough to live farther north so they will have to vacation in Denmark or Sweden. Don’t ask me why, it’s just how Germany works. (And no, if you can somehow afford it, you DO NOT spend your vacation in Germany).
Stuttgart falls clearly into the more fortunate Southern category so when you go for that long weekend in Milan or lake Como, why not do it in style?
Just how much style the 916 spider really has is still being debated among car design historians as we speak, but the reviews have become more favourable lately. And while the seller claims this car has a new engine he or she also admits there is no paperwork to prove it – pretty trustworthy. But hey, aren’t those leather seats worth half the asking price?
One more word about the engine. It’s no longer the legendary Busso motor, but a spiced up version of a Fiat engine. With balance shafts and twin spark plugs it’s pretty sharp though.
And if you are still uncertain how to feel about this front-engined Fiat-parent company developed blasphemy of an Alfa, you can just open the hood, squeeze your eyes a little and pretend it’s a Toyota Supra!
1990 Audi Coupe 2.3 litre, 133 hp, 186k miles, 4500$.
Ah, do I have a soft spot for the Audi Coupe which was really the ugly duckling of the B3/4 family. Time has been gentle on this car’s lines though, and compared to most cars built post Y2K it’s so much easier to appreciate now. Red works great on it, too. Besides a the usual headliner problems and a non-working AC unit this looks okay to me. Well, something might be off with that front-fender.
This is Audi of Germany in the early 90s for you: A personal luxury coupe with manual windows! No airbags! Not one!Needless to say, I love it. Can’t fix what ain’t broken. And those extra gauges! Located so as to be sure you get into that accident while you look at them to check on your engine.
1988 Chrysler LeBaron Turbo Convertible, 75 k miles, automatic transmission, 2.2 litre, 150 hp, 3500 $.
Not much info is provided, but these two images prove the top still opens (though no word on how long it took).
The parking sign in this image says “parking for visitors to the cemetery” only. Not sure how comfortable I would be buying this car.
Other than that, I think there is a lot to like about the LeBaron convertible which enjoyed a brief and surpising period of popularity in Germany.
1992 Nissan 100 NX 1.6, 120k miles, 1.6 litre, 90 hp, manual transmission, 2400 dollars
There is something about the simplicity of this design that struck me first when I was 5 years old, “reading” car magazines that my dad had left lying around. The appeal has never left me since, though admittedly it is the least exciting of the cars presented here. It’s probably also the only one that does not pose a considerable financial risk.
Simplicity continues on the inside. Manual windows! Just like that fancy Audi Coupe! And the seat fabrics are arguably nicer than the Audis! The dashboard is much better integrated! And there are no extra gauges down below that kill you while you take your eyes off the road trying to find and /or read them!
1992 Seat Ibiza CLX “Bieber” Cabrio, 1.5 litre, 90 hp, 1100 miles (!), 5500$
Just when you think you have seen it all! Bieber apparently was an independent coachbuilder who cut open Porsche 924s and VW Sciroccos in the eighties, then put a long roof on Volvo 440s in the nineties.
Somewhere in between, this happened. I honestly think it’s quite beautiful as far as a small convertibles go.
The low mileage of an indicated 1100 miles seems unbelievable but might actually be real given the optics. If you are still not convinced, the four cylinder engine was codeveloped with Porsche! So in a way, like my friend Aron returning from France to his hometown Stuttgart after years abroad, this too, is a story of a homecoming!
In an almost frightening “auto-CC effect” I just saw my first Seat Ibiza hatch in like a decade which I will throw in for good measure and as comparison to the Bieber drop-top.
1992 Mercedes 200 CE, 155k miles, manual transmission, 118 hp 2 litre inline-4, 4100 4.
This being a post about used car shopping in Stuttgart, there was no way around including a Benz. What first looks like your regular C124 – albeit with some not-all-that bad aftermarket wheels – contains some very interesting secrets.
While the CE was only ever offered with the six cylinder engines in the US, this was not the case in Europe. Germany also got the 230E, later the E 220 and even the 200E, at least once Mercedes put the 16-valve head on the four cylinder engines in ’93.
This, however, is a very rare, and very weak, 8-valve 200 CE model which was never offered in Germany, but only in Italy, Greece and Portugal which placed very high taxes on cars displacing more than 2 litres. It pumped out a stunning 118hp when new.
So this one has been brought home to its birthplace and even if that southern European part of its history is not disclosed in the ad (maybe the seller is not even aware of it), that does not have to be a bad thing. Quite to the contrary, as this example is claimed to be rust-free, somewhat of an anomaly for German Mercedes’ of that era, yet easily explained by the Southern years of its life.
And it only gets better on the inside! Blue cloth seats! A manual transmission to make the most of what little power is there (though with 5 speeds, the sedan and wagon-only 4 speed would have been even better)! And again, no airbags!
Is this the true homecoming car for my friend?
Let the CCommentariat decide!