Keith’s Blog: Audi S6 Avant vs. P1800—And the Rovers Are Ready To Rumble

In Michigan, there’s a 1969 P1800S (coupe) that was restored some time ago, being sold by a dealer. It’s an attractive green/tan. There is some rust in the jacking areas, but the car looks very straight otherwise. It hasn’t been driven much in the past few years, so current operational status is unknown. The Buy-It-Now price is $14,900.

And finally, there is a 1970 coupe in Portland being sold by a relative of the long-time owner. It sports an incorrect-for-the-year orange/black combo, but seems to have substantial rust in the rockers and wheel arches. The asking price is a modest $6,500.

And here are my thoughts on each. The Audi has a high 175,000 miles, although it’s claimed to have been properly maintained by an enthusiast owner for the past ten years. I don’t find the styling very compelling, and we’ve already got three all-wheel-drive rigs in our stable so that feature isn’t a deal-maker. The car looks decent and properly cared for. But I’ve heard from more than a few of you that repairs can be crazy expensive on Audis. When I talked to a local used car dealer, Doug Blizzard of Blizzard Motors he was adamant that nearly any BMW M series would treat me better. However, I’ve also been told that these earlier (seems strange to call a 1996 car “early”) cars have less problematic electrical and mechanical systems, and a well cared for and well sorted car could go 250,000 miles before exploding. My interest here is primarily in an affordable exotic experience—the chance to drive a low-production (less than 200 1995.5 Avants in the U.S. by some accounts) period supercar. I just don’t want to have to sell the house to pay for the upkeep.

Upkeep on the Volvos isn’t the issue, but true current condition is. With our 544, we spent three years fighting it into shape and never could get it to run right. I ended up not wanting the car around because it just took too much energy and provided too little in positive returns. (With the last of its demons extinguished, the car has now gone to an SCMer in Mexico City, via eBay.)

The white ES in Washington is appealing as it comes from a long-time enthusiast owner, and other members of the club have seen the car. White/blue is not a terrific color combination, and all things being equal, I’d prefer a coupe to a wagon. But of course, with 40-year-old cars, nothing is ever “equal.” Of course, the $15,000 Buy-It-Now price is wishful thinking, but that’s why the word “dickering” was invented.

The green coupe in Detroit is visually appealing, but the rust in the rockers and the lack of continuous operation are bothersome. Also, figure it will take $1,500 to get it to Portland–and then whatever reconditioning is necessary. I’ve really had my fill of wipers that don’t wipe, heaters that don’t heat and blowers that don’t blow. And the 1969 model had Stromberg/Zenith cars—not my favorite setup. That all said, if this coupe were in my backyard, I’d be test-driving it today and making an offer if it ran out well (though the Buy-It-Now price of $14,900 is as fantastical as the asking price on the ES).

The (non-original-color) orange car with rust IS in my backyard. 1970 is a good year—first year for injection and a good year for engine power. But with nearly 200,000 miles on the car, and rust, who knows what you’re really dealing with?

But if it turns out to be a neat car that just needs, say, $4,000 of work, and I could be in it for $10,000 or so (at $6,500, the price is declared to be “negotiable”), the car bears consideration. Then again, how often do rusty, neglected cars turn out to be “better than expected”? I’d probably be better off buying a lottery ticket than looking forward to three months and $8,000 spent before I’ve got a driver that still needs to be sorted.

As always, I value your opinions and hope you’ll share them by commenting below.

The Rangie Gets New Shoes

On a simpler note, this Saturday is the annual Pacific Coast Rover Club Christmas run in Tillamook Forest, and to get ready for the event I took the 1989 Range Rover Classic to Ship’s Mechanical and showered some money on it. At 153,000 miles, it was time for a new metal timing gear and chain, and I went ahead with a 2” lift kit, Bilsteins, traction-arm bushings and to top it off, a set of BF Goodrich All Terrains—and a CB radio for in-group communication on the run. It’s become one of the nicest 1989 rigs around, so I don’t intend to do any serious off-road body bashing. Wendie will be my co-pilot, and Bradley will be in charge of back-seat navigation.

I’m saving the rough stuff for our 1984 RHD Defender 90 turbo-diesel, which has just had a few minor electrical fixes taken care of at Ship’s, and which will be driven by SCM iPad app developer Michael Cottam on the run. As the D90 is already battle-scarred, he’s free to “climb every mountain.” Riding with him will be Andrea Allen of Wendie’s Enthusiast Media Group, and Michael’s five-year-old son Benjamin will be trying out the newly installed front-facing rear seat.

We’re looking forward to snow, mud, lunches on the road and the traditional PCRC Christmas party afterwards. Oh—did I mention the Alfa Club is having its annual Christmas dinner the next night?

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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