Choose Wisely — or Not at All

From the beginning, the Fiat 850 Spider has been overshadowed by its big sister, the 124 Spider. The 124 was prettier, more powerful and arranged as a proper sports car with the engine in front and the drive wheels in back. In contrast, the 850 Spider had its engine in the back. Although the little Fiat still pushed from the rear wheels, it never pushed very hard.

The Fiat 850 was developed in the early 1960s from the same underpinnings Read More

The Virtue of Patience

Of all the variations made of VW’s venerable Type 2 van from the first model in 1950 through the end of the air-cooled engine in 1984, the Westfalia camper is probably the most recognizable and the most popular among American buyers. Further, if there was a vehicle that could capture the hippie spirit of the 1960s, what else could it be but a VW Microbus kitted out for camping?

A better camper van

From the beginning of the line in Read More

Volkswagen’s Hot Hatch Turns Collectible

By 1970, Volkswagen’s “People’s Car,” the venerable Type 1 Beetle, was long in the tooth. The company knew it was time for a successor — something cleaner than the stinky old air-cooled model, with a modern body design. The company got to work on a new project called the Type 17.

The new car used a transverse engine and front-wheel-drive layout borrowed from VW’s Audi subsidiary, and Italdesign Giugiaro provided the bodywork for an attractive compact hatchback car.

Most of Read More

Playing Whack-A-Mole in Monterey

It’s August 2015 on the Monterey Peninsula, and the results are in from the International Whack-A-Mole competition! Apply your knowledge of this zany arcade game to the recent auction scene. Where are the prices going next? What’s going to pop up in value and surprise you and what is going to get walloped and go down and shock you?

Here are the rules:

Attend a major auction, take whatever knowledge you have as a professional, amateur or swanky European consultant, Read More

Toyota’s Under-the-Radar Sports Car

Some marques, even in the affordable category, seem to engender passionate supporters. Mention Alfa or Porsche, and the swooning starts. Even the humble Miata has a plenty-of-fans.

The Toyota MR2? Not so much.

But if you are looking for an affordable two-seater, it should be on your list to investigate. They are plentiful and have performance on par with the competition — across nearly 25 years of production and three wildly different design envelopes.

The accidental sports car

The MR2 Read More

Easy on the Eyes and the Checkbook

There’s nothing like a little wind in the old scalp, but if you were a BMW fan last century, there wasn’t much to choose from except a truly vintage two-seat roadster or the “rare-and-should-be” Z1 from 1989. That is, until the introduction of the Z3, way back in 1995.

The Z3 was a response to the wildly popular Mazda Miata — and recognition of the reappearing two-seater market niche. The successful introduction of the Miata in 1989 represented a sea Read More

VW’s First Sports Car is Still Winning Hearts

Almost every classic car enthusiast has owned an air-cooled Volkswagen somewhere along the line — generally very early along the line. But even though most of us soon moved on to more rarefied marques, the old rattletrap VWs with stinky exhaust heat, iffy brakes and glacial acceleration still hold a special place in our hearts — the glad memories of youth.

Introduced in 1953 and first produced for the 1955 model year, the VW Type 14 — better known as Read More

A Mercedes for the Farm, Woods or Battlefield

In the United States, Mercedes-Benz Unimogs are rare enough to qualify as mild curiosities, but these tough, fear-no-road trucks are also inching up on the cool meter, especially with military-vehicle buffs.

You’ll see them scattered around the countryside — often in the mountain areas of the western United States — but few know their long, fascinating history.

For example, Unimogs were originally designed as farm vehicles. Let’s jump into the Wayback Machine for a little Unimog history.

Out of the Read More

Mercedes’ Little Road Rocket

Most motoring enthusiasts are aware of the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3 16-valve cars. These models have acquired several nicknames, such as “Cosworth” or its diminutive “Cossie.” Although they have become famous, good examples remain elusive. But these are tough little cars, and refurbishing a driver is affordable, so you don’t have to “buy the best.”

These cars only came in Smoke Silver and Pearl Black. Powered by the Mercedes M102 4-cylinder engines, U.S.-market Cossies made 167 horsepower and European versions made Read More

Toyota’s Fast and Furious Turbo

It’s hard to see Toyota as a performance brand, especially given the current state of their offerings, but for a time the staid Japanese megabrand produced some real hot rods.

The Toyota Supra started life as the performance model of the sporty Celica line. Designed to compete with the Nissan/Datsun Z-cars, the Supra was always given an overhead cam inline 6-cylinder engine. Horsepower ranged from an anemic 110 ponies in 1979 to a reasonably respectable 232 horses for the last Read More

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