Remember The Teuton: 1985 BMW 316 Baur TC

This is a very rare car. Both the engine and the roof treatment option were never offered in North America.

The body, however, is the classic and beloved E30 which we fortunately did get. It debuted in 1982 and lasted in some markets until 1994. The styling is brilliant. The car thoroughly improves on the E31, while still retaining core BMW themes. It's simple, but endlessly beguiling.The shape is relatively boxy, but up close each corner and edge is warmly curved like a fine gemstone. The fact that it was replaced by the totally different E36 only enchances the E30 in the eyes of fans and collectors

The 316 has a 1.6-litre inline four-cylinder SOHC piston engine that produced around 100 horsepower. This is no rocket ship. Thankfully, it's mated to a 5-speed manual transmission and powers the rear wheels. Fast? No. Sufficient, practical, and economical? Yes. Combined with the car's already demonstrable handling, the engine, tiny by today's standards, unthinkable for a BMW, is still passable. North Americans are already acquainted with the similar the 318, anyways.

To up the quaint Euro factor, this 316 featues a Baur top conversion. Baur had an extremely close relationship with BMW and other German automakers. While the conversion was still technically a custom aftermarket conversion, as it was performed after the car was made rather than during production, it was as close to a factory option as it gets, even being featured in some brochures from the era.

What differentiates the Baur from your ordinary convertible E30? A lot. The window frames and kept in place and a top cross bar is added for extra support. The canvas top peels back like a sardine can. When a car loses its roof to become a convertible, it also loses structural rigidity, causing more flexing and bending in the body. This then becomes noticeable in handling. The Baur attempts to rectify that problem with keeping some side and roof pillars intact. The result is the best of both worlds: some structural rigidity combined with the open air sensation.

Inside we have one of the best interiors from BMW. Oversized pre-airbag steering wheel, center console angled towards the driver, dark high grade plastics. And a pair of dice dangling from the rear view mirror.

The seller says this is a 1-owner car that was purchased new in Kohn, Germany before it traveled the world and then ended up in the Hamptons on Long Island in New York. If you're going to get a Baur, that's about a good a story as you might find. The seller says the car is not without some scratches but suggests it is otherwise sound, and has no rust, which is terrific. They list the odometer as reading 88,382 kilometers which converts to around 55,000 miles, very low.

The price for this wonderful slice of bratwurst? $18,990.

Find it here on ebay.

How We're Doing So Far: COTC Stats

Here at COTC we're interested in bringing our readers a variety of unique used automobiles on the web.

As editor in chief I typically aim for cars that are notable in some way, or just plain forgotten and in danger of becoming extinct soon. Currently, there is no real place where cars are being stored and cataloged. Our society has libaries of all the music, movies and books we create. But utilitarian consumer products just come and go.

Hopefully sites like this can inspire a trend in the opposite direction, because there are some surprising secrets still kept hidden in cars from the past. COTC features cars that offered forward thinking technology when new and are still relevant today.

I also like cars that are a bargain. Let's face it - autmobiles are the worst investments we make, so the smaller the initial price point, the better. And this especially goes for older cars, which typicallg have so many detrimental factors to contend with.

So how are we doing on variety?

Not looking too bad, and mostly pretty balanced. The most cars we spotlight are of German origin, coming in at 26%. The next was, rather surprisingly, American at 20%. Coming in at a close third were Japanese cars at 19%. The rest were all under 10%: British, French and Swedish tied, then Canadian.

As for price?

The clear majority of COTC cars are priced under $5,000. This is a good thing. Currently, there is no new car on the market below that. 99.9% of the used cars out there should be a bargain.

So there you have it. I hope COTC is delivering what it set out to do. Here's to many more fun car classifieds floating out there in cyberspace.

Any questions, comments or suggestions welcome.


Little Gem: 1981 Toyota Starlet

The Starlet was a rear-wheel drive subcompact car offered by Toyota from 1978-1984. The KP61 Starlet was the only Starlet ever offered in the U.S.

These would be Ford Fiesta terriotory were it not for power being directed to the rear wheels, which is pretty cool. This was before the global auto industry colluded to make the majority of their cars with inferior (and cheaper) front-wheel drive.

Styling is classic early 80s Rising Sun. No space is wasted. The shape uses as little metal as possible to lower production costs and weight and heighten fuel efficiency. The aftermarket matte black flared fenders and black center alloys are very cool and tasteful.

Speaking of efficiency, the seller says they purchased it in 2007 from a Japanese businessman living in the U.S. who used it as his daily driver. I love frugal Japanese businessmen.

The seller says they have since used it as a daily driver themselves, but have added a whole host of practical upgrades.

A bunch of flaws are also listed. This car is far from perfect. It wears a peeling low-grade re-spray, and has rust.

That said, they seem to imply the car is running and driving. It also has the stock Starlet engine, a plus or a minus depending on your need for speed.

I think the car really deserves a thorough restoration.

Find it here on ebay in Long Beach, California.

Never This Nice: 1987 Acura Integra LS 5 Speed

By the late 80s, Japanese auto manufacturers had mastered the creation of relatively simple, affordable, reliable and moderately attractive entry-level front-wheel drive economy cars. You wanted these over a Chevy Cavalier any day of the week.

This Acura is a great example of such.

Firstly, you never see these on the roads anymore, at least not here in the Northeast, where older cars are a rarer sight as harsh winters take a toll. When you do see them, they are in tatters, if even on the road at all. In California, with a warm dry climate just an ocean away from Japan, these may be commonplace. But not in New England.

The Acura story is mildly intriguing. Honda started it in 1986 for North America only. Just as Ford and General Motors notoriously cross-sold identical platforms under different brands, Honda used some Honda platforms for their Acura cars. The idea was to sell vehicles based straight off their Honda lineup for cost efficiency but charge the customer slightly more. Since upscale, upwardly mobile tastes were all the rage then, U.S. car consumers bought into it, and other automakers like Toyota followed suit (with the creation of Lexus in 1989). But to avoid seeming like a huge rip-off, the cars were given different and arguably better looking sheet metal than the average Honda, as well as different engines and more comfort features. When American automakers did this it was usually offensive. But Honda pulled off Acura quite well, mostly because they unveiled the flagship NSX sports car in 1989, a totally new and incredibly brilliant car under the Acura name to solidify the brand in the minds of Americans as serious makers of great products (they have yet to top the NSX, however).

This is a first-generation Integra from the early days of Acura. As such, it's nowhere near the level of luxury cars have today. Instead, you have a large greenhouse, minimal use of sheetmetal, and a stark, angular and hyper-functional but handsome interior in black plastic and cloth seats.

Under the hood is a "Browntop" 1.6-litre 4-cylinder DOHC fuel-injected 16-valve engine producing 113 horsepower. It is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission.

So how is the ripoff factor stacking up? Mostly in the consumer's favor. The most comparable Honda offering would have been a first generation Civic Hatchback, which was smaller, but lighter and faster. Still, if you wanted more space but at the same high build quality, the Integra would make more sense.

The seller is a dealer and mentions the tires seem to have a lot of tread left. They list the mileage as 111,613, low for a 1987. They say the paint has a showroom shine, but I do notice a small chip or rust spot on the rear driver's side corner. Otherwise, this qualifies as a remarkable survivor that could be good to go for many more miles.

Find it here on ebay in Riverdale, New Jersey with a $4,750 buy it now but also entertaining offers.

Summer's Almost Over! 1987 Renault Alliance GTA

Just in time before the end of summer comes this Renault convertible appropriately painted in white over tan interior.

It was actually made by American Motors Company and built in Wisconsin. Since 1979, Renault had an ownership stake in AMC, which resulted in dozens of cars until AMC's eventual sale to Chrysler in 1988.

The Alliance was produced from 1983-1987. It's a rudimentary front-wheel drive compact car to compete with the likes of Chrysler's K-cars. It even looks like a K-car, although that's not necessarily an insult. The shape is simple, clean, well-proportioned and generally inoffensive.

Although hopes were high and the car initially impressed, the complexities of AMC's relationship with Renault seemed to eventually defeat the Alliance. Not a wide enough variety of body styles were offered. The cars were underpowered. And reliability grew poor. It was eventually determined that despite the U.S.-based construction, the cars were really no better than notoriously poorly built French cars. The final slap on the face was in 2009 when Car & Driver retracted their 1983 naming of the Alliance as car of the year. Ouch.

This Alliance is the final-year-only GTA trim. It was a "high performance" edition that came with a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine producing 95 horsepower, body skirts, and various other mechanical and cosmetic upgrades.

The seller of this Alliance says they acquired it in 2006 with just 71,985 miles on it and have since put on only an additional 7,655 miles.

They have most records from '06 onward.

They say the vehicle was in an accident at some point, but was repaired. They say the rear window is cracked, but the power top works, although there are a few tears. They say the car was only driven in the summer during their ownership, and the undercarriage has been coated with rust preventer. They do mention there are a few cosmetic blemishes.

Mechanically, they say it shifts fine and does not burn or leak oil.

These weren't great cars in their heyday and they certainly aren't impressive today, but this is a very rare one-year-only edition in decent shape.

Find it here on ebay in Holland, Michigan.

Twin Spark: 1998 Alfa Romeo 156 5-speed

You could consider this an afterlife car.

The 156 was never offered in North America. Alfa Romeo pulled out of the U.S. market in 1995. These were made from 1997-2007. It's predecessor, the 155, was also never sold in the U.S. However, the predecessor to the 155, the 75/Milano, was sold here. So this car is missing some lineage for U.S. enthusiasts.

Let's start with the Milano then. It was Alfa's midsize four-door sedan, with striking angular styling, peppy four and six-cylinders and rear-wheel drive. Production ended in 1992.

Jump forward to 1997. The 156 is around the same size as the 75/Milano, but it wears much simpler, smoother bodywork (with hidden rear door handles) and has, unfortunately, front-wheel drive like the larger 164.

The engines available in the 156 ranged from four to six cylinders. This is a 16-valve 2.0-litre 4-cyldiner "Twin Spark" engine featuring Alfa Romeo's dual ignition for higher output. The spark plug is positioned in the center of the cylinder while a smaller plug is off to the side on axis. Due to the way the coils are paired, both plugs fire at the same time on exhaust and compression stroke. The dual plugs provide more better performance while complying with emissions standards.

Since this car was never available here and the current U.S. importation rules allow only cars 25 years and older, the most pressing issue is how it got here. The seller states it was imported from Italy somehow in 2009 and brought to California, where it is currently registered until Dec. '12 with a clear title.

The say the odometer reads about 240 kilometers which converts to about 150,000 miles. Cosmetically, they say it has some dings, dents and other minor imperfections.

Mechanically, they say it has new brakes and a fresh oil change but make no mention of the engine condition.

For the right price, this is a very rare and cool little sedan. How to get it fixed when things break is a whole other issue.

Find it here on ebay in Sacremento, California with bidding at $2,650, reserve not met and 11 hours left.

Lost Compact: 1982 Fiat Strada

This car has just about everything you want to avoid in a old used car: rust, non-original engine, non-running, little maintenance history, five different previous owners, and no title.

Despite the many strikes against it, this Fiat is a rare car in the U.S. and still deserves some attention.

The name Strada was only given in North America. Elsewhere, it was the Ritmo, a compact front-engine, front-wheel drive car produced from 1978-1988. It seemed like it was Italy's answer to the Volkswagen Rabbit, though much less good looking.

The Strada was only sold in the U.S. from 1979-1982. It featured the same puny 1.5-litre engine as in the Fiat X1/9 that produced a mere 69 horsepower. At least the mid-engine X1/9 handled well.

The seller lists all of the issues they know of with the vehicle. They start by saying it would be good for "some parts". They say they acquired it in 2003 and has essentially been sitting since then. They say the engine is not original because it's from an X1/9, but it makes no difference because the Strada had the same engine as the X1/9. It also makes no difference because the car doesn't even run.

What do you do with something like this? Is it worth the cost of repairs? And then there is the issue of documentation. You'd have to go on a bill of sale alone. Since every state has different title requirements, you could run into trouble registering this vehicle.

Since these cars had a poor reputation in the U.S. and never sold well, it's perhaps fitting to find one in such all around poor status.

Still, somewhere, a foreign econobox collector's heart is racing.

Find it here on ebay in Clarkston, Georgia, with no bids and no reserve starting at $500.

Shades of Grey: Euro 1984 BMW 745i Turbo

Sometimes I am compelled to just make this a used BMW-only site. Old BMW cars from the 70s to the early 90s fascinate me.

Look at this machine for example. BMW had many lead designers during the late 20th century, but all of the cars shared a common genetic link. They have this kind of techno-industrial look because the front end incorporates these rudimentary geometric shapes that look more functional than decorative.

The 1977-1986 E23 was one of their best designs, thanks to Paul Bracq. Bulky but lean, wider looking than it seems long, it leans forward like a shark in predator mode, the quad round headlights and dual ractangular grilles mimicking eyes and nostrils perpetually flared and alert. This thing has character.

This is an grey market 1984 745i Turbo. The 745 was the top-of-the-line E23, although the numeric designation is a bit of a misnomer. No, it's not a 4.5-litre V8. It's the tried and true 3.4-litre inline 6-cylinder engine, but turbocharged. BMW calculated the increased boost would equal to a 4.5-litre, hence the name. Frankly, calling it the 734 Turbo would have been fine to me but the Germans have their idiosyncrasies, too.

Name issues aside, the turbo produced a whopping 249 horsepower.

All 3.4-litre turbo cars had automatic transmissions.

The 745i was never offered in North America. Thankfully, due to a combination of lax importation rules and lavish tastes in the 80s, many did make their way there as this lovely example has. Note the European specification short small bumpers, flush foglamps in a plastic molded front spoiler, flush turn indicators, and larger outer headlights.

The seller doesn't provide any backstory on where or how this car came to the U.S.

Cosmetically there are a couple of dings and dents visible in the photos, but the seller says there is no rot.

Mechanically, they say it starts and runs fine and the transmission shifts fine.

They do say the odometer is not working.

These cars are awesome and this example is aesthetically perfect in dark grey over black leather. If the car checks out with no rust and no major mechanical issues, this could turn out to be delightful daily driver or a weekend cruiser. I would do some paintless dent removal to straighten out the dents, a full tuneup, hand wax the body and just drive it.

Find it here on ebay in Cleveland, OH with no bids starting at $3,800 and 1 day left.

Good Cop Bad Cop: 1992 Ford Mustang SSP

Have you ever wondered what it was like to sit behind the wheel of a police car (rather than the back seat)?

Now is your chance.

Up for grabs is this Mustang Special Service Package formerly used by the Nevada Highway Patrol. That's right. This is the cop car that would have chased your getaway through the desert at 100 miles per hour.

The seller states only 15 SSP Mustangs were ordered by the state of Nevada.

They say this vehicle was used as a patrol car, then used by the military, before it ended in private hands and has now been restored back to Highway Patrol-spec. This includes new paint and new front seats. The seller states there is no rust and no bodywork was needed. Maybe this thing didn't see much action after all.

Fox-bodied Mustangs split the critics. I think about everyone dislikes how they look, and then half think they're a hoot to drive and the rest think they're just awful. But let's face it: with a V8 engine, rear-wheel drive and a 5-speed manual transmission, you'd have to be a stiff not have a blast in this. Who cares if they look best in front of a Domino's Pizzeria on a rainy Friday night, or on the set of Married With Children?

Inside is a feast for techheads...that is, for a techhead from the early '90s. All of the equipment looks outdated, like a bunch of cable boxes (remember those) piled on the dash. How is any of the street legal, anyways? I guess, until you get caught with all of it...

The most interesting thing about this Mustang actually aren't the flashing red and blue lights. It's the fact that you have the moderately rare notchback body coupled with the V8, stick shift, dual exhausts and Pony wheels. This is a better Mustang than your average Fox Mustang, police equipment or no equipment.

Find it here on ebay in Byron, California with bidding at $4,050 and a buy it now of $10,495.

Orion's GT: 60k-mile 1988 Mitsubishi Starion ESI-R

The Starion was named by Mitsubishi as a contraction of the words "Star" and "Orion".

I like these things a lot. They were produced from 1982-1989. There were so many cool compact 2-door coupes coming out of Japan in the eighties, of varying performance ability, but all seemingly marketed to flashy young people and thus styled accordingly.

Power came from four cylinder engines and was directed to the rear wheels.

The Starion also did double duty as the Chrysler/Dodge Conquest, in a sly move by Lee Iaccoca.

This is the top-of-the-line ESI-R trim. The engine is a SOHC Astron G54B 2.6-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. Horsepower was probably close to 200, decent for the time.

The seller states it is a two-owner vehicle and they seem to be selling it on behalf of their uncle, the second owner. The list the odometer as reading 60,700 and say it is original miles.

Styling is more chiseled and angular than the typical Japanese designs from the era, but it still looks sharp, especially with the original alloy wheels. Both interior and exterior colors on this example flatter the design.

Mechanically, they say the engine, transmission, air conditioning and radio all work well.

Cosmetically, they say the driver's seat has some wear and there are scratches on the body but nothing major, although the rear bumper looks pressed in on the driver's side.

Find it here on ebay in Roselle Park, New Jersey.

Oil Baron Worthy: 1978 Mercedes-Benz 350SE Euro

I call this an 'oil baron' not because it takes a lot of oil (although it may) but because a very similar car was driven by Larry Hagman's character on Dallas and was quite fitting of him and the whole show.

This example is even better in Euro-spec, with the short slim chrome bumpers, square headlights and full-orange rear turn indicators.

The W116 chassis was the Mercedes sedan of the 1970s. It was produced from 1972-1980 and was a big leap ahead from its predecessor in terms of styling and engineering.

The seller is a dealer and provide no details, other than stating the vehicle was "collector owned", which could mean anything.

They list the mileage as 126,084.

Inside are cloth seats with a charming plaid pattern. I prefer leather or MB-Tex but this is rarely seen and adds to the car.

Underneath the hood is the 3.5-litre M116 8-cylinder engine which produced around 200 horsepower, respectable for the time.

They just don't make Mercedes that look, drive and feel like this anymore. On top of that, this is a rare Euro-spec survivor in what looks to be pretty decent shape, although there is paint cracking and some rust behind the driver's side wheel well.

Find it for sale on ebay here for $6,800 and the dealer page here.

You Spin Me Round: 60k-mile 1991 GMC Syclone

The Syclone was a high-performence version of GMC's otherwise sedate Sonoma pickup. These mark the rarely trotted intersection where the red-blooded truck guys meet the diehard speed heads.

This was definitely a highlight from General Motors. Specifications are extremely impressive: a turbocharged 6-cylinder Mitsubishi engine, all-wheel drive and four-wheel anti-lock brakes.

They were produced from 1991-1992. Only 3 1992 models were made before the program was canceled. In total, only 2,995 were made, making this a bona fide future collector classic.

1991 models only came in black.

Styling is rather intriguing. American designers have had a lot of trouble over the years with compact cars and sedans, but were always comfortable designing wagons, vans, pickup trucks and large SUVs. The GMC Syclone is no exception. In the same way that European designers had mastered the art of the frugal compact car (Giugiaro's Volkswagen Rabbit, for example), American designers mastered the art of the small pickup truck with trucks like the Sonoma/Syclone. Hard angles, straight lines, simple, lean, efficient. No baloney here. Sure, the single-unit sealed-beam headlights are foolish, but they work with the rest of the simplistic shape.

The Syclone modifications only enhance the design, with smooth beefy body cladding, lowered stance and crisp alloy wheels. These looked great in black with red logos.

The seller says this example is #535 and has been the recipient of new high quality paint on the. They say some issues are some cracks in the dash and the shift needle stays in park. They do mention is includes the bed cover.

Find it here on ebay in Austin, Texas for $16,250 buy it now.

Just Plain Cool: 1988 Mazda RX-7 Turbo II 10th Anniversary

The second generation or "FC" Mazda RX-7 continued the oddball rotary engine setup of the iconic first generation but with major revisions. It was produced from 1986-1988.

The body was all-new. Mazda made no secret it was inspired by the rival Prosche 944. Like a lot of other Japanese car designs of the '80s, the RX-7 is not at all original, but instead a sleek, strangely muted interpretation of German aesthetics. In some ways, it's astonishingly successful in that it really is better looking than the 944. For that, they definitely deserve some credit.

The rotary engine was situated in the front, but closest to the cockpit as possible for better weight distribution. Power was directed to the rear wheels. Naturally-aspirated engines produced anywhere between 146-160 horsepower. Turbocharged engines produced between 182-202 horsepower, pretty decent for the time.

The FC RX-7 was only 80 lbs. heavier than the previous generation.

It was met with critical and popular success. Over 270,000 were produced, with 86,000 sold in the first year alone. These are not rare cars by any stretch.

This version of the RX-7 is hard to find, however. It's a special 10th Anniversary Edition. These were made in 1988 to commemorate a decade since the launch of the original RX-7 in 1978. According to wikipedia they feature "Crystal White monochromatic paint scheme with matching white body side mouldings, taillight housings, mirrors and 16-inch alloy 7-spoke wheels. Another distinctive exterior feature is the gold rotor-shaped 10th Anniversary Edition badge on the fenders. The interior is all black with leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel (with 10th AE centerpiece) and genuine MOMO shifter and boot. Glass windows are bronze tinted."

In addition, the seller is offering up a pristine example with only 23,030 miles on the clock. The car looks stunning. The seller says it was only used as a weekend driver and has never been altered or modified in any way. They say the interior still smells new.

Only 1,500 10th Anniversary cars were made.

This is not going to go for cheap.

Find it here on ebay in Los Angeles, California with bidding at $11,100 and 5 days left.

Improbable: 1989 BMW 324TD Touring (In The U.S.?)

I couldn't believe my eyes when I first found this.

It's an E30 wagon. Never available in the U.S. It's a turbodiesel. Never available in the U.S. And it's red over black. Which just plain looks good.

And yet there it was, sitting on Boston craigslist.

The E30 was BMW's legendary 3-series from the '80s. The car only really got great looking for U.S. buyers from 1989-1991, when universal short body-colored plastic bumpers replaced the hideous U.S.-spec diving boards. These cars, when coupled with the bulletproof 6-cylinder engine in the 325i, were awesome: relatively lightweight, rear-wheel drive, superb handling and driving characteristics and, above all else, fun. That they were brilliantly styled is just a cherry on top.

So it's all rather surprising to find a New Hampshire dealer advertising this extremely amazing rare car in the United States. Unfortunately, the photos show the car with European plates, suggesting it may still be in another continent.

Either way, it warrants an investigation.

The E30 Touring was added in 1987 along with a change to the rear-taillights and some other minor adjustments for every 3-series. This is a 324TD, which indicates it is powered by a 2.4-litre inline 6-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that produced a mere 113 horsepower. This is no racecar, and it is also unfortunately coupled with an automatic transmission. You can probably count on it being a endless tank, however.

Inside, we see a non-airbag three-spoke steering wheel and black leather seats. The interior of the E30 is a great place to be, all hard angles, lines, and high-quality plastics. Instrument cluster is stark and crystal clear. Everything is where it should be: within reach of the driver.

The seller doesn't provide any other info besides the VIN and the mileage (100,000), leaving the story behind how and why this rare car is for sale by a U.S. dealer a mystery. I've spotlighted a couple of vehicles from this dealer before, and they certainly have an eye for rare European cars. But condition, documentation and pricing are still up in the air. They list this vehicle for sale at a rather high $9,995. A forum discussion on this same classified here suggests no 324TD came with an automatic, and that would make sense, as an auto somewhat defeats the purpose of a diesel.

But if it is here, you can probably count on it being the only one here.

Find the craigslist ad here and the dealer listing here.