Once a upon a time the auto industry in Japan was offering interesting ideas directly to the consumer, things that far more expensive brands in Europe weren't even doing. One of those ideas was four-wheel steering.
Basically, turning the steering wheel not only turned the front wheels, but the rear wheels as well. They moved in the same direction, only to a lesser degree. This dramatically improved sharp turns, parallel parking and changing lanes at high speeds. The system was also entirely mechanical, not hydraulic or electrical, so it could last the lifetime of the vehicle.
The genius of 4WS wasn't just engineering, either. In terms of marketing, it finally brought something to the table that had been lacking in Honda's otherwise dull front-wheel drive cars.
And the Prelude was the perfect car to demonstrate the system with. Honda had offered the nameplate since 1978, but it wasn't until the second generation that debuted in 1983 that it really started getting admiration from consumers and critics alike. In 1988 the body was subtly modified and smoothened.
This is the brief and rare '88-'91 facelift, arguably the best Prelude of all time. The seller has clearly modified the car themselves, but done so with thought and taste that is lacking in so many other second hand Japanese cars seen today.
The seller has owned the car for 9 years and did a ton of work on it during that time. They replaced the engine and transmission in 2005 and also treated some rust. However, the say it runs, drives and shifts great, wears the original paint and has never been in an accident. Tough times are forcing them to give it up.
If you're looking to pamper the car as well as it has been by the seller and want a piece of automotive history, this is a unique opportunity to do so.
Available here on craigslist in Hopkinton, Rhode Island for $6,000.
Thinking about Toyota's Camry is weird. It's such a bland and common car, and yet the name has been around since 1982 and lasted a handful of very distinct generations. And what a difference the early cars were from the Camry of today, or, really, any car of today. Looking at how the Camry has changed shape over the years can also tell you how cars have changed.
The Camry was actually called the Vista outside North America. This is a second generation U.S.-spec Camry. The second generation debuted in 1987 and lasted briefly until it was replaced in 1992.
These cars are strange looking to 21st century eyes. They are remarkably compact and tightly styled. The hood is low and flat. The greenhouse is large, airy and inviting. There is an emphasis on horizontal lines. The bumpers are protruding. It's all because the Japanese were pushing the envelope on ergonomics and efficiency while complying with U.S. auto safety regulations.
While they were mass produced, these are gradually becoming rarities, especially here in the northeast where older cars succumb to rust and are taken off the roads.
Even more rare is the All-Trac option, which debuted in 1988 and added all-wheel drive. They weren't very popular, probably in part due to the higher cost than the regular front-wheel drive Camry.
Underneath the hood, however, is Toyota's tried and true 3S-FE 2.0-liter 16-valve 4-cylinder engine, which is good for efficiency and durability, although the head gaskets were prone to failure. All-Trac was only available with a 4-cylinder engine.
The seller says this survivor has just 131,000 miles, which they point out is only about 5,700 miles a year. This car seems barely driven. The body and interior look really clean, although I'd look for rust. Inside, it's no frills, just straightforward gauges and information.
It's even got the original stereo.
If you're looking for a economical four-seater but need extra traction in your area, this is a nice bet. Unfortunately, the seller hasn't included an asking price, but this should be had for under $5k.
Available here on craigslist in Los Angeles, California.
This thing is going to go fast. Not drive fast. Sell fast.
Pre-1970s American trucks are collector's items. This was way before the Japanese got into the pickup business as Toyota did in the 1980s and took a chunk out of Detroit's sales. In the late 40s and 50s no one else in the world were making trucks like this. They were unique. They were also "built tough" as they saying goes, and could be used for a long time, provided they did not rust away (alas, as most did).
The Apache was part of Chevrolet's Task Force lineup that debuted in 1955, replacing the legendary Advance Design series that dominated the post-war truck market. The Task Force trucks featured wrap around windshields, power steering and brakes, an upgraded electrical system and refreshed styling. The actual name Apache was used from 1958 onward for all 1/3 ton trucks. They gained two more front headlights. Meanwhile factory air conditioning debuted. They could also be ordered with four-wheel drive instead of the default rear-wheel setup.
In 1960, the pickup lineup was totally revised again with entirely different and more boxy styling.
This is a final year 1959 Apache 3600. The owner says it has the 235 straight 6-cylinder engine with a column mounted three-speed shifter.
Cosmetically it's looking worn, but that's expected, even desired. I like the green and white paint. It'll look good year round in any locale.
As with any old car, rust is a top concern. The seller says they welded the front cab mounts and floor but the rear cabin needs floor welding. They also say they installed an electric windshield wiper motor and are including extra bumpers and a driver's side door.
Mechanically, they say it's running.
This is clearly a project car, but if you intend to use it as the beater it really beckons to be, it could be ready to haul your firewood and Christmas tree home this winter.
Available here on craigslist in Manchester, New Hampshire for $5,500.
Last summer, without much fanfare (on COTC at least) I traded a 2008 Honda Civic coupe with around 80k miles for a 2003 BMW 325xi with only around 34k miles. At first glance, it might have seemed unusual. Trading a newer car for an older one? A "reliable" Japanese car for an "expensive" German one?
On paper, however, there was no comparison. The Civic was two doors, front wheel drive, and four measly cylinders. After driving it for about 5 years I can tell you that it got pretty annoying, especially from the critical perspective of an automotive enthusiast like me. It was unrefined around town, and slow on the highway until around 70-80 mph when the V-TEC engine really kicked in. It was pretty good at handling, but it blew like a ragdoll in crosswinds. The automatic transmission felt rough. Exterior styling was ok, but the interior was full of foolish flaws: a gaudy electronic speedometer that cast glare on the windshield, cheap spray-painted silver accents, and a steering wheel logo that started peeling (which I ended up replacing but was a huge pain in the neck to do). As for that famous Honda reliability, it needed a whole new engine block at 60k, which was mercifully under warranty, but after that all four coils broke, which wasn't covered, and upon hearing that, I became so angry that the dealer gave in and replaced them for free, sparing me $1,000+ in repair costs. A little bit of rage goes a long way sometimes.
So, feeling fed up with the Honda and feeling secure in my job situation I decided to look for a replacement vehicle, before the Civic needed anything more. I knew I wanted four doors, rear or all-wheel drive, and more power. And since I had just come from a Japanese car, I wanted one of the coveted German automobiles I had read so much about.
There really weren't many options that were affordable and practical. The pre-owned Mercedes-Benz C-Class were all overpriced, and my grandfather did not like his W203. Then I considered BMW, whose resale prices depreciate notoriously, making them available to basically anyone. At first I was dead set on an E32, then an E36, until I finally set my sights on a silver 2003 BMW 325xi I had found not too far away. The mileage was low, the carfax clean, and the body free of major damage. The engine bay was spotless. The interior smelled delicious. It started strong and drove flawlessly. I was instantly addicted to the absurdly heaving steering, silky acceleration and sexy sheet metal. A couple weeks later I brought my mum to check it out. She was impressed. I bought it and drove it home.
The '03 325 was also known as the internally designated E46 chassis code, which actually debuted in 1999 and replaced the beloved E36. In 2002 it was given a cosmetic refreshening. The 325xi designates it as the 3-series with a naturally aspirated gasoline powered 2.5-liter six cylinder engine, fuel injection and all-wheel drive. In 2006, it was replaced by the E90.
Perhaps the most peculiar aspect of this car is the pre-XDrive all-wheel drive system BMW used on these cars for a couple years, simply called "xi". It was based on the X5 SUV concept and featured a permanent full-time system that divided the torque 38:62 front:rear, so there was still a bias towards desirable rear-wheel drive, but with the added stability of power to the front wheels as well.
Inside, the interior was one of BMW's best. The instrument cluster was crystal clear during the day and lit red at night, buttons were all in reach, and everything was composed of high grade plastics and looked and felt great. Mine was rather unique in that it had vinyl seats, which I loved and preferred over leather because they are indestructible. I also had heated seats, but no headlamp washers and no cruise control.
So, was it the ultimate driving experience? In short, compared to the Honda Civic, yes, absolutely. There's a reason why these cars have reputations and the E46 was no exception. Every act, every switch, every function of the car is so juicy and deliciously mechanically engineered feeling, from the turn of the key to the heavy steering, that it was thoroughly satisfying. Around town, the 185-horsepower inline 6-cylinder engine was beautifully quiet yet torquey, like a coiled lion purring as it eyes prey. On the highway it was a true performer. No, it wasn't fast off the line. That's for drag racers and Corvettes. Where the car really excelled was in maintaining a high rate of speed for many distances. 85-100 mph did not feel nearly as fast as those speeds really are. The car was solid as a rock, composed, refined and stable. I had found it! It was the anti-Civic.
As for the all-wheel drive system, which was really rather basic and more truck-like than anything else, it worked really well. In rain it cut through puddles like a knife, sending a tidal wave over the hood where other cars would start to hydroplane. The winter of 2012-2013 also brought a massive snowstorm to the New England region, so I was able to test the car's foul weather resistance to the true limits. During one snowfall I was able to cruise long stretches of dark, icy highway at 60-70 mph (yeah yeah faster than I should have been going) and felt completely safe and comfortable doing so. The car also got me home alive in the thick of the later bigger storm. So in a way, it saved my life. Can the AWD system climb mountains? No, but the car wasn't designed for that. It was designed to add more control and predictability to the car's handling in inclement conditions. And after years of dingy FWD Hondas, this thing might as well have been a Land Rover in the snow.
What were the downsides? The sunroof slide (not the actual glass sunroof) fell off the tracks, and one mechanic told me repairing it would mean a whole new sunroof which blew my mind but may not be true. Some plastics wore unfavorably. No cruise control was rather irritating. But perhaps the biggest flaw was fuel efficiency. If you drive with a lead foot like I do, combined with the full-time AWD system always churning, AND add in the cost of premium gas during an era of escalating prices, this thing costs a lot to operate, energy-wise. I was used to $40 or less bucks for a full tank after a week of normal driving, and the BMW was now costing me $60 or more.
As for reliability, I can't say much as I owned it for just around one year and that's not nearly enough time to judge those matters. The coolant light came on at first until I topped it off myself and it never came back. Oil changes could either be $20 mixed or $100 synthetic. I did need new rear springs, however. And of course, being the immaculate owner I was, there were the small cosmetic fixes I couldn't resist: a new OEM front emblem, new OEM wipers (hard to find), an OEM replacement rest pedal, factory OEM floor mats, European-spec OEM convex side mirror glass pieces, and a sliding-cover storage bin that replaced the 'Ugly American' cup holders and was what actually came on European-specification models. But beyond routine maintenance, the springs, and some voluntary changes, nothing terrible happened. The engine is bulletproof and known to go many hundreds of thousands of miles, and even the automatic transmission (normally another problem area) was sourced from General Motors (don't ask me) on the E46 xi so those are pretty humdrum.
A change in location and general needing of funds forced me to sell her, but it's with a tad of nostalgia for last summer and the subsequent tumultuous winter that I'm here writing about it all, my brief flirt with a fancy, hi-tech German sedan. I can say it was definitely worth it and I recommend that model to anyone else interested. I savor the days I spent flying through sleet and slush, basked in the glow of the red gauges, safe behind the wheel of German silver-steel.
Summer isn't over just yet and neither is the point of having a convertible.
This particular topless cruiser is another unique custom piece like the Testarossa I featured recently. In some ways it's even more peculiar.
The front-engined 928 of course is already a controversial car. Intended to replace the 911 it actually ended up being sold alongside it from 1978-1994, before being discontinued without a successor as the 911 continues to this day.
The 928 wasn't a bad car. In fact, it was a pretty cool one. The engine was a big powerful V8, Porsche's first, and the styling was awesome. They sold in respectable numbers and the automotive press admired them regularly. They are expensive to maintain if driven harshly or never taken care of, but they are pretty solid and reliable overall, with the build quality being noted by many owners as superior than the 911. But despite being Tom Cruise's epic ride in Risky Business, the 928 never earned the respect it deserved. It didn't help the vast majority were made with automatic transmissions, even though several noted reviewers have remarked they like the auto better.
Part of what made the 928 so attractive though was the sexy sloping rear, which, despite housing nothing more two small rear seats and trunk space, emulated the roofline of the rear-engine 911 and invaluably tied the 928 to the brand aesthetic.
For this funky convertible, however, the roof has been complete hacked off and the trunk is now covered by a flat body colored panel. To deflect from the odd surface shapes, a spoiler has been added for extra flair and it works.
This is an early pre-facelift 928 with an automatic. It does not have ABS, which came on US cars in 1986. The seller says it's also a European import, which is a plus, with the deleted side markers, extra rear fog light, and presumably a small horsepower bump over the US version. They state the odometer is in kilometers but equals about 110,000 miles.
Mechanically, the seller says it starts, runs and drives strong. Cosmetically it needs some work like a new soft top and perhaps paint (both rather pricey fixes).
This is a rare car however, and while I wish we had more details on how it came here, who owned it and when the roof was subtracted, it's still pretty notable to see one on the market. It could easily be a headturner at the local German auto clubs.
Available here on Ebay in Tampa, Florida.
I love diesels and I make no effort to hide it. In America, we've been deprived of widespread use of diesel engines in passenger cars for quite a long time (save for the excellent offerings from Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen of course). In Europe however, diesels are the norm, not the exception.
Since we're facing another fuel and energy crisis (or really just the same one we've always had), diesels are popular again, even though those who know their advantages never stopped loving them over the years. What makes diesels especially interesting despite their own merits of efficiency and reliability is a 21st century twist of converting them to run on biofuel - that's right, vegetable oil and restaurant leftovers.
Biofuel is cheap and inexpensive (though smelly) so interested customers are hunting down old diesel cars like predators. That makes otherwise insignificant cars like this Lincoln Mark VII rather significant again.
Of course, someone like me already finds this car intriguing.
The fuel crisis of 1979 renewed interest in efficient vehicles again, and this time American manufacturers were listening, unlike their woeful incompetence after the first incident in1973. Of course, diesels still didn't take off for one reason or another, but some of the cars they stuck diesels in were amusing to say the least.
Such is the case with this Lincoln. The Mark VII was based on the rear-wheel drive Fox platform. It lasted from 1983-1992. These aren't sports cars, but they are great, comfortable cruisers, and they styling isn't terribly offensive.
Underneath the hood, however, is a real surprise: a BMW inline 6-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, the same one in the brief 524TD that came and went here. Just how Lincoln struck a deal with BMW is a story still untold, but it's not a bad idea; Ford's diesel experience was limited to trucks, and BMW's diesel was a great engine the fastest of it's day (even with just 115 horsepower). But since the Lincoln is a bigger, heavier car, you really can't expect much power. Still, you can expect overall reliability if you change the oil religiously.
Lincoln only offered the Mark VII diesel from '84-'85, along with a diesel Continental. From that point on, declining gas prices, politics and the general buoyant mood of the times made diesels disappear again.
The seller says they are the third owner, the car was repainted, service up to date and everything works. They state the mileage is 132,048.
I think this is a pretty cool car. It's not an ideal candidate for biofuel, but it could be a "sleeper" if it was...if there can even be a sleeper biofuel car. Either way, it's rare, and this one looks to be well cared for. It could bring some interesting highway miles to come.
Available here on ebay with a Buy-It-Now of $8,700.
What's cooler than a Testarossa? A Testarossa convertible of course!
There was only one official spyder designed and created by the factory. It was painted silver and delivered to the president of Fiat in August, 1986.
Testarossa convertibles started appearing in pop culture, too, with a red one being the default ride in Sega's arcade classic Outrun and a black one for a Michael Jackson Pepsi commercial.
Then, in September of 1987, Road & Track featured a cover story about special ordered custom conversions done by Richard Straman in California.
This is one such Straman convertible.
Straman's genius lay in the art of subtraction. He took away the entire roof and rear pillars and expertly cut around the cabin so that the canvas roof, when folded, tucked neatly behind the headrests. The result is extremely successful and emphasizes everything that is great about the Testarossa's original design, making the car seem even lower and wider than it already looked.
Mechanically, it is no different than the factory hardtop, with a smooth, naturally aspirated 4.9-liter flat 12-cylinder engine putting out 380 horsepower to the rear wheels and capable of launching the car from 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds.
The Testarossa was a comeback car for Ferrari when it debuted at the Paris Auto Show in 1984 and was their flagship until 1991 when it was updated with the 512 TR. Although Ferrari has really never mass produced any car, they managed to build 7,177 of the Testarossa, a surprisingly large volume for a small exotic company, and enough so that the car could be deemed a success. Publicity-wise, it was beyond success, it's an icon of the era and continues to fascinate auto lovers to this day (yours truly included).
Testarossa values have come down and are starting to tick up, but they can still be had for around $60k for decent examples. Fortunately, the vast majority have barely been driven and remain with low miles and in near mint condition. This one is no exception, with the seller stating it has accumulated just 9,383 miles. In addition, they state it's just one of Straman's 12 conversions.
Buying a Testarossa is one thing (if you have the cash), but maintainence is entirely different, as you must seek a specialist for services and trouble shooting should the need arise (and it will, if it's used often or improperly). Ownership, however, complete with looking into the garage and seeing it, must be something else, which I can't quite comprehend.
Available here on ebay in Burbank, California with bidding already up to $58k.