I gotta admit, it’s been challenging to pick a title photo from my selection of Audis and BMWs for today’s post. Something catchy like a mint condition E36 M3? Or something strange to US shores like the BMW E30 touring or the Audi B4 Avant? Instead I went for the above picture shot in the parking lot of Berlin’s Treptower Park, a much frequented city green featuring a memorial (and burial) site to some ten thousand Russian soldiers killed in WW2. Like the sometimes tragic history of my home town, these two BMWs tell the brutal tale of what’s worth saving and what is not. And with current residual values at 10 grand for a 525i touring and at 1k for a 316i compact, the end of this tale is painfully obvious.
If we are taking about why some cars are kept on the road while others are left to die in the pasture (or by the park….) the E36 touring occupies an interesting middle ground. Being fairly rare in the first place (with a take rate of only about 10 percent), particularly the smaller engined cars were deemed not worth saving and used up. However, now that most of them are gone, they have gained new popularity and a meager 316i (with still nice paint though) that would have been unremarkable up until a couple of years ago is now entering its golden age of appreciation.
If it sports an M50, like this green specimen does, it is even less likely that the next big maintenance estimate will push this one over the cliff.
This has been true for a while for the E30/5, which was late to the party of the E30, being introduced 1987, or five years later than the sedans. But it was certainly early to the party of the emerging fancy class of wagons that the Mercedes S123 had introduced in Germany only a few years prior. It’s no new story, but I still find intriguing the fact that the E30/5 wagon was not strictly a BMW development. It was rather BMW engineer Max Reisböck who came up with the project during his free time, built a running prototype and then convinced the board to built it. German BMW resource bimmertoday.de has some go pictures from back then. This is a 324td daily driven by a French man from my neighborhood. The six-cylinder models, even in fair condition, now all fetch upwards of 10 grand.
When it comes to the parade of 3-series wagons, the E46 is still out in the nowhereland wheras the E36 just emerged from. This 4-cylinder model is just one repair bill from retirement (or emigration to Eastern Europe).
Here we have a meeting of brothers, and as every so often, the big brother is winning the fight – in that case, the fight of who is deemed worthy to attribute monetary resources to. My late uncle drove an E39 touring during most of his retirement and his car certainly was a curiosity: It was a 520d, which was the only four-cylinder E39 available.
Now you have been waiting for that M3, haven’t you? On one of the first sunny days this year I caught this one – outside of a paint shop.
Original paint or not, it’s certainly nice to see one of these out on the road. This one is definitely a collector’s car – the license plate indicates that the insurance is only valid from May to September.
No post about CC BMWs in Berlin without at least one picture of an E34, this being a pre-facelift model with the elephant mirrors, in Calypso red, and with hubcaps! I don’t know what is wrong with me, but I love large cars with big engines and hubcaps. And when I say big, the 2.5 litre M20 from this vehicle was considered a fairly big engine at the time in Germany – while it was the base 5-series in the US.
The car that the 525i was pitted against – at least when one looked at Neckarsulm – was the 100 C3 (or 5000, in the US, at least at the beginning). And when I say pitted against I mean this quite literally as this was the very rare direct competitor 100 Turbo with the 165 catalyzed 2.2 litre inline 5-turbo. While I understand that the C-3 had a fairly high turbo take rate in the US, in Germany that was never the case making this a very special find.
This is the first turbo 100 that I have seen in at least 10 years. What makes it even more special is that this car not only features the (for Germany) ultra rare automatic climate control, but also the very expensive Pearlescent White Metallic. And while I have come to suspect that this was somewhat of a signature color for Audis in the US in the late 80s and in the 90s, this option was incredibly rare in Germany. This is, in fact, the first C3 in this particularly shade that I have seen. With the inline-5 barely broken in at 200k miles on the odo, I hope to see this one around Berlin for many happy returns.
About the time when boxy cars were no longer really acceptable in the public perception, Audi switched to the C4 which actually shared quite a bit of its underpinnings with the C3, for example the FWD models continuing with a solid rear axle! You got a hand it to Audi, a solid rear in the 90s in a European luxury sedan, such chutzpah! But it paid off, quite literally, as they saved quite a few bucks in every car compared to say the multi link W124 or the semi-trailing arm E34 and handed a good part of that savings to the costumers – which came in flocks. Many of these these cars can still be seen around Berlin, this being one of the – for German standards – more upscale 2.8 litre OHC cars. And it has wheel covers!
I remember hitching a ride in one just like this in like 1999. Just before I got picked up an ambulance passed by at high speed. The Audi driver who gave me a ride looked very nervous when he opened his door to me. He said his two year old son and his wife were in the ambulance up ahead and if I could direct him to the children’s hospital were they were taking him as he was a foreigner to the city. I directed him to the children’s hospital whose location I remembered well from when my aunt’s dog took a good bite into my face (after I may or my not have poked the dog with a fork….). Never had I traversed the city quicker than that day, while the concerned father pushed the V6 to speeds approaching 80 miles an hour, all within the city limits (German city speed limit is 32 mph). I sure hope his son made a full recovery.
The other time I rode in a 100 2.8 involved a cab ride and a discotheque in Prague, but I’m not sure if this is the place for that story.
With the introduction of the C5 and D2 – aka A4 and A8 – Audi changed its nomenclature. All of a sudden, Audi 100 sounded a lot like it was still 1985 and they needed to do something about the C4 chassis. A very slight lift and – tada!, born was the A6!
To recap: 80 begat A4, 100 begat A6, V8 begat the A8 – it all sounded very nice and logical until….
…you got to the Sport models. Because all of a sudden what used to be an S4 was now called an S6 – one of my dreams cars as a teen. Which was still ok, if Audi hadn’t introduced the A4 based S4 just a little later. If you are still with me, you are one of the few Audi cognoscenti. If not, don’t worry.
In any case, what we have here is a C4 S6 and if I am not mistaken it is a 2.2 liter model. The automatic had me thinking 4.2 but the 7k rmp redline gives the 2.2 away. This is by now a very rare car on German roads, I can’t even remember seeing one for years now. It wears Polish plates and even sports a bumper sticker advertising the Polish Audi C4 fan club – I’m glad someone somewhere is still looking after these fantastic vehicles!
While the S4/S6 were cars for big dreams, the above Audi 90 that I found by the side of a cemetery in Kreuberg was the car for – small dreams. To explain, I have to take you on a little detour: In Europe, the very large majority of B3 chassis Audis were 80s. They were all offered exclusively with 4-cylinders engines – gasoline and diesel – reaching from 1.6 to 2.0 litres. There was an AWD variant and even a 1.6 litre turbo diesel. When you wanted a five-cylinder, you had to go 90. There were 2.0 and 2.3 litre 10 valve engines and the very expensive 2.3 20V (Japan got a 2.0 litre non-catalyst 20V, due to tax reasons). Ok, there was one four-cylinder 90, which apparently shared one single engine with the 80 – the 1.6 liter turbodiesel, even though I have never seen or read that one actually exists. If you have any info on that model, please post in the comments.
The 90 differed from the 80 also in some trim elements: Notice the chrome lining around the entire car, the American style full-width rear lights and for the front, the standards fog-lights that were grouped separately with the turn signals. The spoiler was an option.
On the inside, we find nicer cloth than in the 80. It may not seem like much to you (and to many others, as the very low sales numbers of the 90 indicate), but to 9- year old me in the back of my father’s Audi 80 with a 1.6 liter 67 hp carburated and catalyzed base-engine, manual windows, seats, mirrors and no ABS the Audi 90 seemed like from a distant planet.
Speaking of base 80 B3, this is about what ours looked like.
For me this design has never ceased to instill in me a certain feeling of awkwardness. Maybe because it lacked any element of aggression, an aggression that was present in the W201 and the E30. Its super sleek profile gave no resistance, no edge. Which resulted in spectacular slipperiness.
Eventually, Audi designers felt the same way and upgraded the B3 to the B4, with its more dominant grille and bulging rear.
It’s definitely one of the best examples of a design update on basically the same platform that comes to mind – and yet looking at the B4 something seems missing, at least to me. Some of the original basic elegance. Or just the memory of sitting in the back seat with my father driving and making the best of the 68 carburated ponies from the EA827.
I’d like to end on the B4 Avant, the first Audi wagon that looked like an actual wagon and less like a hatchback like the all but forgotten C2 and much more popular C3 Avant (not counting the B1 Avant which was not available in Europe and really a Passat/Dasher with the Audi’s front end).
While it came to market after the B3 sedan had been discontinued, its inception clearly dates back much earlier: The tail lights are straight from the B3 chassis. I failed to photograph them, but for the sake of the argument I’ll repost a picture from one of my earlier posts about Berlin’s CCs:
That’s it for today’s post, thanks for reading! There’s more to come, from France, the US and particularly from the very diverse world of Berlin’s camper conversion scene.