Saturday, November 17, 2018

1999 BMW 540iT

Something quick for the weekend...

BMW never made an E39 M5 wagon. This is the most powerful wagon you could get. And although it doesn't have an M badge on it, it is still a very desirable car.

The E39 is not without its faults. The cooling system has been known to cause problems. Suspension bushings fail often. Valve cover gaskets also fail. Most of these problems are, by BMW standards, relatively easy to fix. Upgraded parts will make these issues less frequent. The one big - expensive - problem the E39 sometimes has is automatic transmission failure. I say "sometimes" because there seems to be no consistency in when (and if) they fail. I recently sold my 2000 528iT with 278,000 miles on it. The automatic transmission was fine. But, do a search on the web and you'll see plenty of stories about them failing at 60,000 miles or less. All things being equal, I have no idea why some last damn near forever and some fail early. Driving style, maybe? I don't know. (BMW calls its ATF "lifetime" fluid. Many people claim you can extend the life of the transmission by changing it at around 100K. My car had over 100K on it when I bought it. I've heard enough stories about high mileage transmissions - not just the ones installed in BMWs - failing after changing the fluid to decide to leave it alone. Oddly BMW used two different automatic transmissions in the E39; one made by ZF and one made by GM. Both are prone to early failures or to not fail at all. Why? I have no idea. It's one of those mysteries of life, I guess.)

If all that hasn't scared you, lets talk about this car...

This appears to be a very well cared for 540iT. It has a few upgrades including M5 wheels and angel eye headlamps. The body looks very clean and the interior looks immaculate. It has 177,000 miles on it.

You really would want some maintenance history with a car like this. Unfortunately, it's being offered by a dealer and it has been my experience that dealers rarely have service history. However, this dealer deals in high end cars. If this was a trade-in he may (and that's a big "may") allow you to contact the previous owner. If not, have a very knowledgeable BMW mechanic go over it.

Located in New Kensington, PA, click here to see the Craigslist ad. Click here to see the dealer's website which has more pictures, but less info, than the Craigslist ad.

Friday, November 16, 2018

1960 (1959?) Renault 4CV Race Car - The "Freak" Is Back...

I wrote about this car 9 years ago (almost to the day).

Nine years ago the seller titled his eBay listing "Gotta See This Freak."

It's still a freak and its back up for sale.

You can read my original thoughts about it here.

When it was for sale the first time, it was listed as a 1959 model year. The current owner says its a 1960. Not that it matters. This is still one of the coolest "freaks" around.

Now located in Macon, GA, click here to see the current Craigslist ad.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

1978 Renault R17 Gordini - The Renault You Need To Own

Wow. Just wow.

Most likely everyone reading this post has an automotive regret. One of mine is selling my 1979 Renault R17 Gordini. I bought it in 1981. I traded my 1975 R17 Gordini in on it. The '75 R17 was a nice car, but the '79 was so much more refined. I was enamored with it the minute I drove it off the lot. It was a wonderful car. It looked great. It was fun to drive and reliable. There really was nothing wrong with it.

In 1983 I was at a Renault dealer picking up an oil filter for the R17. Somehow I got talked into buying a Fuego. It made some sense at the time. The Fuego was based on the R12 / R15 / R17 line of cars. It had a turbocharger. It had the big cloth sunroof, like the R17. It had super comfortable, supportive seats, like the R17. It had a modern body. It should have been at least as good at the R17. It wasn't. (Lesson learned. As Joni Mitchell sang, "you don't know what you got til it's gone.") There is just something about the R17 that makes it special.

The R17 Gordini is based on the same platform that gave us the R12 and the R15. The 1600cc engine gave it adequate performance and it's suspension had a great combination of handling and ride.

The interior was, in my mind, the best ever from Renault. The later (1977 - 1979) cars had a well laid out dash and Recaro seats. A giant cloth sunroof (insulated and power operated) gave it an almost convertible like feel. For the cooler months Renault provided a fiberglass hardtop to cover the sunroof, making it as warm and quiet as any hardtop.

Renault never sold many of these cars in the U.S. Until they merged with AMC they had a tiny dealer network. The Dauphine - and all the problems it had in the U.S - was still fresh in many people's minds. They were also expensive by Renault standards. ($7,000.00 plus, if I remember correctly.)

I have not seen an R17 Gordini this nice since... Well, since I owned mine 35 years ago. This car is remarkable.

According to the seller is was a one owner car. It has 69,000 miles on it. He says it is "completely original accept for the exterior paint and the upholstery on the seats." The seller says it needs exhaust work and a respray. Other than that, there is really nothing wrong with it.

I wrote a post in 2009 about an R17 Gordini and titled it "The Renault You Want to Own". I'm changing that a bit. If you have the space and cash, the R17 Gordini is the Renault you need to own.

Located in Knoxville, TN, click here to see the eBay listing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

1960 Borgward Isabella

A number of car companies have had strange endings. Tucker comes to mind right away. The demise of Borgward is just as controversial as Tucker's ending.

This is from a Borgward post I wrote in 2014...

Introduced in 1954 (and originally called the Hansa 1500), the Isabella was stylish, modern, and, after Borgward corrected a few flaws on the early cars, well built. It was a successful car for the German Borgward brand. They sold over 200,000 of them.

In Germany, the Isabella was priced higher than sedans from Opel and Ford, but lower than a Mercedes-Benz 180. In the US, where it was briefly sold, it was a "middle class" German car, a niche that didn't really develop here for another couple of decades. It was far more expensive and much, much better equipped than a VW, but cheaper than a Mercedes. At one point, dealers in the US had ordered over 9000 cars, but the US distributor ran into financial problems and most of those orders were cancelled.

Unsold cars remained on the lot at Borgward's factory and things started to unravel quickly. In 1961, despite Carl Borgward's insistence that his company was solvent, his creditors forced the company into bankruptcy. As the bankruptcy process moved forward, his creditors were paid in full and they soon learned that Borgward was actually in the black. The bankruptcy was - and remains - controversial. It was handled by Johannes Semler, who was chairman of the board at BMW at the time. BMW was just about to introduce the 1500 (Neue Klasse cars), a car that filled a similar niche as the Isabella. After the bankruptcy, many of the key Borgward personnel went to work for BMW. Hmmm... The Borgward factory was taken over by Mercedes Benz and is still in use today. The Borgward production line was sold and shipped to a Mexican firm which produced some Borgward cars in the mid-to-late sixties. The Isabella wasn't one of them.


This car was posted today on a Facebook group called Obscure Cars For Sale. The person who posted it lives close to where the car is located. He believes the seller is “a mechanic who works only on classic cars." Whoever owns it took very good care of it.

The seller does not list a price, but despite their rarity and German heritage old Borgwards do not sell for huge money.

Located in Vermont, click here to see the Craigslist ad.

PS - In 2015 a grandson of Carl Borgward revived the Borgward name with a line of SUVs. Recently it introduced a new Isabella sedan. With Chinese investment money it looked like it might do well. But according to this recent Autoweek article, things are not going smoothly.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

1989 Shelby CSX - A Sleeper If There Ever Was One

Talk about a sleeper. The CSX was based on the Dodge Shadow, a completely forgettable car if there ever was one.

Lee Iacocca joined Chrysler in 1978. His basic task was to keep the company in business. This was no small task given the state of Chrysler's finances. In 1981 Chrysler introduced the K car. It saved Chrysler. The Aries and Reliant were not exciting, but were good enough to be awarded Motor Trend's “Car of the Year” award. That award, along with Iacocca's “if you find a better car – buy it” ad campaign bought Chrysler back from the brink.

In 1982 Iacocca brought old pal Carroll Shelby to Chrysler. His job was to ad some excitement to Chrysler's lineup. His first cars were the Shelby Charger and Omni GLH. While not on the same level - or anywhere near the same level - as the Shelby Mustang, they did grab the attention of the automotive press. (Especially the GLH which was one of the earliest "hot hatches" offered in the US.)

In 1987 Shelby created the incredibly fast Shelby Lancer sedan and this, the Shelby CSX, based on the Dodge Shadow.

The first CSX had a 2.2 L inline-four engine. It made 175 hp and 175 lb ft of torque. It made it to 60 MPH in around 7 seconds, which was quite good in 1987.

In 1989 CSX was given had a Garrett variable-nozzle turbo (VNT). This turbo all but eliminated turbo lag. The torque was now 205 lb-ft, and full power was available from around 2100 RPM right up until the redline. Horsepower remained at 175 and the 0-60 time of the 1989 was similar to the earlier model, but the engine was much more refined. Top speed - depending on the source - was between 132 and 156 MPH.

This CSX looks to be in nice shape. We're not given a lot of information in the ad, just that it has "been stored by the original owner for the last 12 years" and that it "runs and drives great."

The asking price is $5500.00. That's not a lot of money for a car that offers the performance that this car does and has the Shelby name attached to it.

When you drive down the street in this, no one - other than car geeks, Mopar fans and Shelby fanatics - will know what this car is and what it can do. It is the perfect low key performance car.

Located in Hartford, WI, click here to see the Craigslist ad.