Welcome back to Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness! As you know, I love picking up dirt-cheap cars and motorcycles and then telling you lovely readers about the dumb things that I do with them. Since I’m shopping all of the time, I always have an evolving list of vehicles I want to buy. Here’s what I’ve been obsessed with lately.
This week, we have plenty of oddballs, from a genuine Holy Grail BMW to a ridiculously huge Freightliner. For the motorcyclists out there, I’ve also found a beautiful sportbike with a V4 nested in its cradle.
Here’s what I’m looking at this week!
1955 Ford Thunderbird – $29,995
The Ford Thunderbird is often credited with helping to pave the way for the personal luxury car. For a quick rundown, a personal luxury car is a sporty vehicle, but one that leans more toward luxury over outright performance. Personal luxury cars featured flashy styling, loads of comfort, and backed it all up with power. Here’s what Ford says about the original Thunderbird:
The Ford Thunderbird was the brainchild of two men—George Walker and Louis D. Crusoe. The car was born from the idea that Ford Motor Company should have a sportier vehicle as part of their automobile line. This idea was pursued by the company who decided to pursue a “true Ford sports car” for their 1955 model year.
The initial guidelines called for a two-passenger, canvas-topped open car that would make maximum use of standard production components. The design objectives included a weight of 2,525 pounds, an Interceptor V-8 engine, a balanced weight distribution, acceleration better than the competition, and a top speed of more than 100 miles per hour. The new Ford sports car also was to retain Ford product characteristics and identification to the extent necessary for a ready association with the standard production car.
The first appearance of the Thunderbird was February 20, 1954 at Detroit’s first post-war auto show. The vehicle featured a more personal than sports car concept with its two-seater feature and build that would allow it to carve its own niche in the existing vehicle market. The first Thunderbird came off the line at the Dearborn Assembly Plant in September of that same year. With a price tag of between $2,695 and $4,000 the vehicle was an immediate hit, with buyers describing the car as a “morale builder that is real fun and sport to drive.”
Ford called the Thunderbird “a personal car of distinction.” For a fun fact about the original Thunderbird, Ford says 5,000 names were considered for the vehicle, including “Beaver, Detroiter, Runabout, and Savile.” Imagine if the Thunderbird was called the Beaver!
This first-year Thunderbird has a two-tone turquoise and white color scheme. Power comes from a 292 cubic inch Y-block V8 making 193 HP and 280 lb-ft torque, transmitted to the rear wheels through a three-speed manual transmission. It’s $29,995 from the dealer in Concord, North Carolina. The odometer reads 39,015 miles, but it’s unverified mileage.
2003 Jeep Wrangler Sport Limo – $29,000
Have you ever wanted a Jeep Wrangler, but find yourself bummed that you don’t get three rows of seating? Well, this seller in Summerville, Georgia has the exact vehicle you’re looking for. Apparently, elongating Wranglers is a thing. I wrote about one of them two years ago at the old site. The seller doesn’t say who built this, but notes that a lift kit has been added. Maybe this one can still do some wheeling without getting stuck.
The base vehicle is a Jeep Wrangler TJ. Now, I won’t pretend to be anywhere nearly as knowledgeable about Jeeps as David is, so I’ll hand Jeep the mic:
The new Wrangler had a retro-look very similar to the CJ-7, but was very different from a mechanical standpoint. Nearly 80 percent of the vehicle parts were newly designed. Starting with the basic Wrangler platform, Jeep Brand engineers gave the Jeep Wrangler the most thorough overhaul since the Quad evolved into the MB.
The biggest engineering change on the TJ was the new Quadra-Coil suspension, which replaced standard leaf-springs and provided a greatly improved on-road ride. Off-road capabilities were enhanced with increased axle articulation, ground clearance and more aggressive approach and departure angles. The TJ also featured a new interior, including driver and passenger airbags. The TJ retained several classic Jeep Brand features such as round headlights (no longer square), a fold-down windshield (first seen in 1940) and removable doors, as well as a choice of a soft top or removable hardtop. A factory-fitted sport bar was also standard. The TJ engine is the same 4.0L AMC Straight-6 used in the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee.
The seller of this one says it was converted into a four-door immediately after it was purchased new. Power comes from the aforementioned 4.0-liter AMC Straight-6 making 190 HP and 235 lb-ft torque. That reaches all four wheels through a manual transmission. It’s $29,000 from the seller with just 3,265 miles.
1989 BMW 735i – $18,800
Here’s a genuine Holy Grail that you can buy today. Back in April, I wrote about the BMW 735i and how very few buyers opted to buy one with a manual transmission.
In June 1986, BMW gave the first-generation E23 7 Series a sequel with the E32. The E23 was known for having the latest technology and the E32 continued that theme. BMW’s design head at this time was Claus Luthe. His team, which included Ercole Spada and Hans Kerschbaum, was tasked with following up on the E23, which was designed under Paul Bracq and Manfred Rennen.
ABS came standard and the 7 Series was available with a parking distance control system. These sedans also had dual-pane glass and in 1989, owners could get features like a refrigerator and a car phone. In 1991, BMW added further upgrades in the form of Xenon headlights. BMW claims to be the first automaker to do so with a production car.
Power comes from a 3.4-liter M30 straight six making 208 HP and 225 lb-ft torque. With a manual transmission, this car reaches 60 mph in 8.5 seconds. That’s a second faster than the automatic.
For months, I’ve been unable to find a single 735i with a manual transmission. That changed a couple of days ago when Thomas found a crashed, but running example for just $1,000. It sold faster than I could think about making a bad decision. Now, I’ve found just one more, and guess what? This one isn’t even in America. Production numbers are believed to be in the hundreds.
This one is being sold by Gallery Aaldering in the Netherlands for the equivalent of $18,800 with 98,248 miles on the odometer. It’s described as being in original condition and in excellent shape. The car doesn’t even have rust.
1985 Honda VF700F Interceptor – $3,600
Here’s a sporty motorcycle that looks fantastic and has a treat under its fairings. That engine is a 699cc V4 making 76 HP. Yes, a V4! The National Motorcycle Museum describes how this engine came into existence:
After development on Gran Prix road race circuits, in 1982 Honda debuted a radical V-Four engine in 750 and 1100 displacements, but offered it in their shaft driven Sabre and Magna models; a “standard” and a cruiser, maybe to have time to work out bugs. In 1983 they reworked that shaft-drive 750 and built a steel perimeter framed sport bike called the VF750F Interceptor and offered it in pearl white with candy red or candy blue for America. AMA Superbike class regulations had just changed. Displacement went from 1000cc’s down to 750cc, with the race bikes needing to be production based. The 1983 Honda VF750F Interceptor was designed to win the AMA Superbike class. Some would call it a “homologation special.”
Late winter of 1982 Honda had been conducting secret tests of a mean looking all black mule at Daytona, had AMA personnel there to make sure it could be homologated for 750 Superbike in the up coming race, March 1983. Ducati and others had begun to offer sport bikes with half fairings in the mid-1970’s. The VF750F’s half fairing exposed the entire engine in side view, but went a step further with a chin spoiler. AMA OK’d the bike for the Superbike class, but only without that chin spoiler; too much streamlining.
The VF750F offered a perimeter frame, cast alloy wheels, cast alloy swingarm and single shock rear suspension, an adjustable anti-dive fork, clip-on bars, somewhat rear-set pegs, the upper fairing and a nicely integrated dash, and in a time of widely varying wheel/tire experimentation, a radical 16 inch front wheel focused on quick handling. It was also liquid cooled and used a slipper clutch, a first for street bikes.
Now, you’ve noticed how this bike is a 700 and the museum up there kept talking about a 750. Well, there’s an explanation for that. See, Japanese motorcycle manufacturers were importing so many bikes in the early 1980s that Harley-Davidson begged the U.S. Government to do something about it. The result was a tariff on imports with greater than 700cc displacement. So, even though this Interceptor didn’t compete with Harley, it was still impacted. Honda got around tariffs by de-stroking the 750 engine by 3.2mm, creating the VF700F. Honda then compensated for the loss of displacement with a one-tooth-smaller countershaft sprocket and a change to the camshafts.
This Interceptor appears to be in good condition. The seller wants $3,600 in Franklin, Vermont with 27,165 miles.
1962 Lotus Elite Series 2 – $81,609
Here’s a Lotus that could be described as adorable. This is what our friends at the Lane Motor Museum have to say about this classic:
The Elite, or Lotus Type 14, was the first purpose-designed road coupe from the innovative mind of Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus Cars (1952). This endeavor followed his open Six and Seven roadsters and a series of very successful sports racers, starting with his first fully enclosed aerodynamic 1954 Lotus Mk VIII.
Chapman’s approach was always to “add lightness,” instead of moving to bigger, heavier engines. He achieved this for the Elite by pioneering an all-fiberglass monocoque with only localized steel reinforcement. The 1953 Corvette showed the potential of a fiberglass body on a steel chassis, but Chapman took it a step further. The Elite was entirely fiberglass, including its load-bearing structure. Suspension parts and the front subframe supporting the engine, bolted directly to three box sections molded into the fiberglass body. His advanced glass-reinforced composite body panels were lightweight and cost-effective but, more importantly, it was the world’s first fiberglass monocoque production car.
The curvaceous body style was the work of Peter Kirwan-Taylor, John Frayling, and aerodynamicist, Frank Costin. The resulting design had a low drag coefficient of only 0.29. Underneath was an advanced suspension derived from Lotus 12 Formula 2 racing car and used “Chapman struts” at the rear. You can see their tops poking up through the rear window.
The Lane notes that S2s, like the one here, benefit from an improved rear suspension and a better body from Bristol Aircraft. Power comes from a 1.2-liter Coventry Climax “Feather Weight Elite” four-cylinder making 75 HP. Also, what a fantastic name for an engine!
This example, located in the UK, sports 38,825 miles on its odometer and comes with a file with the vehicle’s history in it. This car has received a mechanical overhaul, which also included a reconditioned steering rack, front and rear wishbones, driveshafts, and more. It’s $81,609 from Autostorico Ltd.
1978 Oldsmobile Toronado XS – $14,300
This Oldsmobile Toronado is a genuine barn find. The seller says it was pulled out of a barn after 30 years of sitting. It’s been revived since then. The seller says the tank was drained and the vehicle was detailed inside and out. Meanwhile, the engine’s cylinders were soaked in Marvel Mystery Oil before the engine was brought back online. Since then, the car has gotten new tires and it’s said to run and drive fine without leaks.
The Oldsmobile Toronado is famous for bucking convention. Launched in 1966, the Toronado was America’s first mass-produced front-wheel-drive car since the Cord 812 from 1937. The first-generation Toronado was a personal luxury car meant to go up to bat against the likes of the Ford Thunderbird. As Hagerty writes, the drivetrain in the first Toronado worked using a two-inch-thick chain that rode on a carrier bolted to a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic turned 180 degrees. The chain transferred power from the torque converter to the transmission’s planetary gears.
This Toronado comes from the vehicle’s second-generation, when the design changed to a more traditional luxury car. As Mac’s Motor City Garage explains, American Sunroof Corporation decided to make a Toronado concept called the XSR. ASC fitted the concept with a power T-top system and a rear window made from a novel system created by Pittsburgh Plate Glass. PPG created something called Hot Bent Wire, which allowed for tempered glass to get folded into different shapes. The result was a rear window that bent its way around the rear of the XSR.
Oldsmobile apparently liked the concept enough to put it into production. The power T-tops were lost, but the window stayed. Reportedly, just 2,714 Toronados had the cool window in 1977 and a further 2,453 units were made in 1978. Power comes from a 403 cubic inch V8 making 185 HP and 325 lb-ft torque.
It’s $14,300 from the seller in Spokane Valley, Washington with 49,300 miles.
1960 BMW 700 Coupé – $24,275
Here’s another adorable classic and it seems to be pretty affordable for a vintage BMW, too. This vehicle was also important to BMW’s growth after World War II. Here’s what our friends at the Lane Motor Museum say:
The little-known and rarely seen BMW 700 Coupé is arguably one of the most important models in BMW’s post-war history. The first of the series and highest-selling variant in the 700 family (Coupé, Luxus LS, Limosin, Cabrio), the 700 Coupé was the brainchild of Austrian BMW importer and racer Wolfgang Denzel. Denzel convinced the BMW Board to allow him to have a new, more stylish body designed for the BMW 600’s drivetrain. Italian stylist Giovanni Michelotti was commissioned to design this new shape in January 1958. A completed prototype was presented to BMW in July; the Board then had their in-house stylists, led by Wilhelm Hofmeister, refine the design and at the same time develop a saloon version. While BMW’s first unibody design was being fine-tuned, the engine was also receiving attention from Alexander von Falkenhausen, BMW’s head of engine development. His team eked 30% more power from the flat air-cooled twin, making for a truly sporty car.
The 700 debuted at the 1959 IAA (International Auto Show) in Frankfurt – 3 Coupes and a Limousine; test drives around the building were even offered. While the car lacked traditional BMW styling cues – kidney grilles and the Hofmeister Kink – it captured the public’s attention. Here was an affordable, stylish BMW with good performance – the first since the war, and BMW’s last economy model until 2002’s MINI was introduced.
This car isn’t just a pretty pint-sized classic, it also has some of BMW’s typical traits going on under the skin. The BMW 700 is notable for having the marque’s first monocoque construction. It also runs using a 697cc flat-twin making all of 40 horses and the car was good for a top speed of 77 mph. BMW made just 8,213 Sport Coupes, which might explain why you don’t see them often. For another fun fact, these cost the equivalent of $1,250, or $12,942 today.
This one is $24,275 by LM Sportcars in Belgium with 60,635 miles.
2007 Moto Guzzi Griso – $5,800
If I asked you to name an Italian motorcycle manufacturer, many folks would say Ducati or Aprilia, but Moto Guzzi is older than both of them, though, it’s beaten by the likes of Piaggio, Gilera, and Benelli. Moto Guzzi was founded on March 5, 1921 by Emanuele Vittorio Parodi, his son Giorgio, and Giorgio’s friend Carlo Guzzi. Parodi was a high-profile ship owner while Guzzi was an Italian Airforce pilot alongside Giorgio. Giorgio and Carlo were also friends with Giovanni Ravelli, a pilot who died in 1919. Moto Guzzi’s logo was made in that Ravelli’s honor. Moto Guzzi is known for stylish machines powered by a V-twin mounted transversely. These motorcycles have a distinctive look you won’t really find unless you buy an old Honda CX.
This striking motorcycle comes out of Piaggio Group’s ownership of Moto Guzzi. The Griso, which launched in 2005, is styled after Moto Guzzi’s historic racing motorcycles. Power comes from a 1,064cc 90-degree transverse-mounted V-twin. It’s making 86.8 HP and 65 lb-ft torque. It’s a roadster offering up some sporting credentials. This one has a Zard muffler and is $5,800 from the seller in Clarkston, Michigan with 6,300 miles.
2007 Freightliner M2-106 SportChassis P2XL – $62,500
Have you ever wondered what’s the maximum amount of pickup truck your money could buy? Well, I think I found it. Meet the Freightliner M2-106 SportChassis P2XL. This massive commercial truck-turned-pickup truck comes from that wild time in the aughts when people bought commercial trucks and converted them into pickups.
This isn’t exactly a factory build. SportChassis opened its doors in 1995 with Tim Sinor. At first, the company constructed ambulance bodies. The company built ambulances until 2002, then shifted its business to building massive luxury pickup trucks. SportChassis says its typical customers are either hauling heavy horse trailers or equally giant camping trailers. Other customers are famously large people like Shaq. In 2016, the reported base price of a SportChassis was $130,000, though it isn’t said if the truck itself is included in the price.
This yellow beast is built on a Freightliner M2-106 medium-duty truck. Normally, you might find one of these as a box truck or a flatbed. Power comes from a Mercedes MBE 900 7.2-liter straight-six diesel making 330 HP and 1,000 lb-ft torque. That’s backed by a six-speed Allison automatic.
This build is pretty ridiculous. Inside, you get two rows of ostrich leather seating and the second row turns into a bed. Apparently, this truck racked up 437,000 miles hauling bumper pull trailers all over America. Incredibly, the truck’s GVWR comes in at 19,500 pounds, which makes it an under-CDL truck in many states, though the air brakes may complicate that depending on where you live.
It’s $62,500 from the dealer in Bloomington, Indiana. That price is definitely high, so this addition to the list is more just to stare at the thing. I’d love to drive this beast.
That’s it for this week, thank you for reading!
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