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 for sale. Here’s what I’ve been obsessed with lately.
This week, we look at some imports that don’t come from Japan, a really really long Chevy Suburban, and one of the last Saabs you could buy in America.
Here’s what I’m looking at this week!
1985 Toyota Celica GT-S Convertible – $17,500
There was a time when Toyota’s Celica was a popular sports car here in America. Today? It seems that the name is fading into history. As Toyota UK Magazine writes, when the Celica launched in December 1970 as a two-plus-two variant of the Carina, it was Toyota’s answer to the rise of the pony car. Toyota UK admits that when the liftback model showed up in 1973, it was clearly influenced by America’s own pony cars.
This car comes from the last year of the third generation of the Celica. That makes this car among the last Celicas to feature rear-wheel-drive. It’s also pretty interesting due to the fact that it has a convertible top. Following up on the idea of the Sunchasers of the late 1970s and early 1980s, in 1985, Toyota teamed up with the American Sunroof Company to send out the third generation in style. The result was the one-year-only Celica convertible.
ASC added underbody bracing and body reinforcements plus a hydraulically operated Cambria cloth roof. There are just 4,498 of these out there out of the 153,550 Celicas sold in 1985.
This 1985 Celica GT-S convertible is said to be in mostly original shape. Power comes from a 2.4-liter 22RE four making 114 HP and 140 lb-ft torque sent to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual. In 1985, opting for the GT-S got you Celica Supra seats, a premium stereo, cruise control, and other options. This one is $17,500 from the seller in Asheville, North Carolina with 114,950 miles.
1996 Volkswagen Polo Harlekin – $13,000
Back in 1994, Volkswagen started producing the first Polo Harlekin (spelled with a “k” in Germany, not “qu”). We got the Golf Harlequin for just a single year in 1996 and that was it. A relatively small number of Volkswagen fans got to own their own rolling circus. Why did Volkswagen create such striking cars?
The Polo Harlekin was designed to showcase Volkswagen’s Baukastensystem — a modular system that cut the Polo’s build into four categories. Customers configured their Polos through a color-coded system to select the desired drivetrain, equipment, options, and paint color. The Polo was a visual representation of that system, and the cars came painted in Ginster Yellow, Pistachio Green, Chagall Blue, and Flash Red.
Just 264 Golf Harlequins were put on the road, making them a rare sight in America. The last time I saw one in the wild was maybe in 2013. Originally, just 1,000 Polo Harlekins were supposed to be made but by the end, Volkswagen says that it made 3,100 units. 500 units were raffled off by McDonald’s. Enthusiasts estimate the real total number reaches just above 3,800 units.
This Polo Harlekin has a 1.4-liter four making 60 HP delivering power to the front wheels through a manual. This Polo was imported in 2021 and is noted to have a little rust and no air-conditioner. The fenders have been replaced and repainted, too. It’s $13,000 from the seller in Kissimmee, Florida with 135,000 miles and the seller is willing to take GTIs and R32s as trades.
2011 Saab 9-5 Aero Turbo 6 XWD – $10,993
The final days of Saab were sad to watch. Once a great manufacturer of quick and quirky cars, Saab was barely hanging on in the late 2000s and into the 2010s. As Motor Trend explains, in February 2010, General Motors passed the torch to Spyker. It came after a proposed sale to Koenigsegg fell through and Saab itself went into Administration, the equivalent of Chapter 11 Bankruptcy here in the States. The sale to Spyker kept things going for another year before Spyker and Saab both ran out of money to keep things going. The zombie of Saab was pitched to various Chinese automakers before the corpse was picked up by National Electric Vehicle Sweden, or NEVS. NEVS somehow kept a Frankenstein monster variant of the 9-3 alive until this year, when NEVS itself became defunct.
Anyway, the 2011 9-5 was the first new car launched under Spyker ownership. This car was designed during the GM days, but Spyker took over Saab in the final hours. The 9-5 was placed higher up in the lineup and rode on the GM Epsilon II platform. At the top of the 9-5 line was the 9-5 Aero Turbo6 XWD. These came with 18-inch wheels, leather sport seats, a central information display, Bi-Xenon headlamps, titanium-style trim inside, aluminum pedals, and a sport suspension with real-time damping. Other features include a panoramic sunroof, headlight washers, keyless start, parking assistance, and rain-sensing wipers. These were available with Harmon-Kardon audio and the night panel makes a return. In other words, this is a luxury cruiser.
Power comes from a turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 making 300 HP. Sadly, automatic is the only transmission choice, but at least the engine drives all wheels through a Haldex system. This one looks to be in good shape save for some curb damage on its wheels. It’s $10,993 by Geneva Foreign & Sports in Geneva, New York with 118,000 miles.
1969 Autobianchi Bianchina Lutèce – Inquire
Here’s an adorable little car dripping with style. The Autobianchi Bianchina Lutèce looks like a family car that shrunk in a washing machine. I’ll let our friends at the Lane Motor Museum explain:
The principal derivative of the Fiat Nuevo 500 was the Autobianchi Bianchina. A chic, upmarket product conceived in parallel with the Fiat 500, the Autobianchi firm was part-owned (and later fully-owned) by Pirelli and Fiat.
The Autobianchi Bianchina was presented to the public on September 16, 1957 at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan. Initially, the car was equipped with Fiat’s smallest engine, an air-cooled 479 cc twin, producing 15 hp. In 1959, the engine power was increased to 17 hp.
This car was available in a number of body styles. You could get it as a Berlina (sedan), Cabriolet (roadster), Trasformabile (convertible with roof bars), Panoramica (wagon), and Furgoncino (van). The seller notes that this car was designed by Luigi Papi and it was introduced in 1962, replacing the Trasformabile. In 1965, the Bianchina got a facelift. In France, Berlinas like this one were sold as the Lutèce.
This Lutèce has enjoyed an easy life in southern Italy, which spared it from becoming rusty as so many old Italian cars do. Power comes from a 499.5 cc twin cylinder making 18 HP. This baby sedan is one of a production of 38,500 units and can be found for sale in France by Automobilia Franco Lembo. Inquire with the dealership for its price.
1972 Chevrolet Monte Carlo – $18,500
Here’s a classic personal luxury car painted in a stunning color and healthy power under the hood. The story of the Chevrolet Monte Carlo starts in the 1960s. In those days, the personal luxury coupe was alive, well, and gaining traction. The first Monte Carlo was Chevrolet’s variation on the G-body platform that was introduced the year before in the third-generation Pontiac Grand Prix. This wasn’t meant to be a muscle car, but an exclusive luxury model that also had some firepower under the hood.
This 1972 falls into the last year for the first-gen Monte. The seller states that a 350 cubic inch V8 resides under the hood and is fed from a 4-barrel carburetor. It should be making 175 HP net driving the rear wheels through an automatic. This one has gotten refreshed and includes an aftermarket power sunroof, a Bluetooth radio that looks period-correct, new shocks, springs, dual exhaust, and recently adjusted brakes. Interior and exterior are noted to be in great shape.
It’s $18,500 from the seller in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey with 65,000 miles.
1952 BMW R51/3 – $29,500
I adore classic motorcycles and this one caught my eye because of its captivating paint scheme. That creamy tan and copper accents work so well. This motorcycle is said to have been restored, but it’s a numbers-matching machine with just 1,687 actual miles. Here’s what our friends at the Lane Motor Museum say about this piece of history:
In 1923, the first BMW motorcycle was produced; in 1949, the first post-war bike appeared and demand for motorcycles was high. With the r51/3 model, BMW turned their attention to the engine. This engine remained, on the whole, unchanged until 1969, retaining the tried and tested boxer layout. It was universally accepted as being one of the best motorcycle engines ever made. This motorcycle has a single spur-gear driven camshaft which operates pushrods that run from the top of the crankshaft. The r51/3 model has no chains in the motor, and the oil pump and camshaft are gear driven. Coil ignition was abolished and a Norris magneto provided the spark. Weight is 418 pounds. Fuel consumption is about 62 mpg. The “/3″ designation behind the number refers to the 500cc low tuned motorcycles made during 1951-55.
The seller for this one says that the motorcycle’s frame, body, fenders, and wheels have been repainted. And those black pinstripes? Those aren’t decals; they were painted by hand! The engine saw a refurbishment that included new valves, guides, and seats. Even the wiring harness and switches are new. Of course, the copper accents are not original, but I love the touch. Motivation comes from a 489cc twin making 24 HP.
It’s $29,500 from Classic Cars of Sarasota in Sarasota, Florida.
1988 Chevrolet Suburban Limousine – Make Offer
In suburbs and towns all over America, the Chevrolet Suburban can be found transporting families, hauling trailers, and doing work, bringing home the bacon. SUVs like the Suburban are as tied to America as the pickup truck. Here’s what Chevrolet has to say about how the Suburban got started:
Car-based wagons for professional use were offered by most manufacturers throughout the early 1930s. Most of these early vehicles featured wood sides and canvas tops; and while they were versatile, their car-based platforms and damage-prone bodies were not suited for continuous commercial use.
It was clear that customers required something more. Chevrolet began testing an all-steel wagon body mounted on a commercial chassis in the mid-1930s. This research and development resulted in the launch of the Suburban Carryall in 1935 – the first heavy-duty, truck-based wagon of its kind.
The one before us today is no regular seventh-generation Suburban. According to the seller, this Suburban’s original owner commissioned DaBryan Coach Builders of Springfield, Missouri, to build this limousine. The interior is original as it was built in 1988 and features two VHS players, two televisions, a bar that dispenses 5 different beverages, an intercom, its own glassware, a cell phone, CB radio, three rows of passenger seats, and more.
Power comes from its original 454 cubic inch big block Chevy V8 making 230 HP and 385 lb-ft torque. That chunky engine sends its thrust to the wheels through a TH400 automatic. The seller notes that it has just 5,100 miles on the odometer and indeed, it’s a real-time capsule in there. If you want it, the seller is taking offers and the vehicle is located in Atlanta, Georgia.
1992 Alfa Romeo SZ Coupé – $87,005
Here’s a rare Alfa Romeo with a distinctive design. The Alfa Romeo SZ has a wedge shape, a tall beltline, and almost a brutalist design. As Evo magazine once wrote, the Alfa SZ was nicknamed ‘Il Mostro’ (the monster). It may not be the most pretty Alfa on the road, but it meant business. From Alfa Romeo:
It was the result of the ambitious project called ES30 (for “Experimental Sportcar 3.0 litre”), an attempt by Alfa Romeo to reaffirm its tradition as a manufacturer of rear-wheel drive sports cars, but using new technology. The production of 1000 units was also commissioned to coachbuilder Zagato.
Besides its innovative composite fibre bodywork, the car was the first in the industry to be produced using computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) systems. The unprecedented use of this technology significantly reduced design lead times and, most importantly, the need for refinements and modifications during production.
The heart of the S.Z. was its impressive V6 “Busso” engine (named after the designer), which equipped the 75 3.0i Quadrifoglio Verde in 1987. It incorporated electronic injection and a three-way catalytic converter, delivering 185 hp and up to 204 hp in the S.Z. version. The mechanics also included a 5-speed rear axle gearbox integrated with the differential, as well as suspension and brakes lifted from the 75 1.8 Turbo Evolution competition car. The chassis consisted of a steel underbody covered by a modern, composite-fibre bodyshell.
Alfa Romeo says it built around 1,000 of these, or 1,036 SZs, to be exact. Power comes from a 60-degree 3.0-liter Busso V6 making 207 HP and 181 lb-ft torque. Top speed is about 152 mph and these have been known to generate 1.1g of lateral load.
This one, serial number 901, was sold new in Belgium. It has just 29,987 miles on its odometer and is noted to be in original condition, save for maintenance items and tires. It’s $87,005 on Classic Driver by Albion Motorcars in Belgium.
2005 Saleen N2O Focus – $6,500
In 2004, Saleen did something bonkers. It took the Ford Focus, a fine, if not forgettable compact, and turned into something raucous. It was a Ford Focus that you could buy that ran a 14-second quarter mile and came equipped with a 75-shot of Nitrous Oxide ready to fire. In a press release, Steve Saleen explained the development:
“During development we evaluated both turbocharging and supercharging, but our real world research out on the ‘streets’ led us to the nitrous ready concept,” said Steve Saleen. “As we expected, the N2O Focus has been a hit with Gen Y buyers. They like being able to purchase it from a fully certified Saleen dealer,” Saleen continued. “They also appreciate the ability to finance the car. And that, unlike most other similar cars, it comes fully equipped so they don’t have to lay out several thousand dollars after taking delivery to add all the performance features we build into every N2O Focus at the factory.
Power comes from a 2.0-liter four making 150 HP, 150 lb-ft torque, and is backed by a manual transmission. Saleen says when you give it a hit of giggle gas, you get 225 HP, 250 lb-ft torque, and a 60 mph sprint in 5.8 seconds. It’s surprisingly hard to find one of these in good condition. I’ve found many that don’t run, have crazy high mileage, or have been wrecked. This one appears to be in decent shape with 148,000 miles. It’s $6,500 from the seller in Mt Pleasant, Texas.
That’s it for this week, thank you for reading!
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I’ll never understand the appeal of the Harlequin VW’s, sure they are eye catching but they aren’t attractive. And at the end of the day you’re driving a min spec golf/polo which makes me yawn just thinking of it.
For me a collectible car should be interesting to drive as well as to look at but each to their own I guess.
I have seen a few SAAB 9-5 Aero in Munich and Nuremberg. Sadly, all of them have missing chrome and rubber trims along with broken external rear view mirror housings banded together with black tapes.
I chanced on meeting an owner who shared his experience. While he loved driving 9-5 Aero, he worried a lot about the replacement part availability, especially ones that are unique to 9-5 Aero (windscreens, trims, headlamps, taillamps, and like). He mentioned a watch group that monitors “all” of 9-5 Aero on road or at the graveyards. If one was involved in an accident and written off, it’s quickly tagged for part out. He often missed out the chance to bag the chrome trims because others beat him to the punch. His insurance carrier indicated that if the car was involved in a minor accident, it would have to be written off automatically due to “non-existential” availability of replacement parts.
So, I would not want to buy SAAB 9-5 Aero…
Sounds perfect for Lemons/ChumpCar. Take off all the bright work, remove all the glass. Send them off to good homes and then RACE!
Damn, I really want one 🙁
I have had OG 9-5 aeros for the past 15 years so i guess I stay with them as long as I can.
Was lucky enough to get to the Lane Motor Museum last week, and an SZ was one of the cars that took my breath away. Adore it.
Mercedes’ Marketplace Museum?
I always look forward to these.
It’s like a mini-tour of a random car museum.
There’s no madness involved.
It’s just a well written and researched little museum tour of cars, motorcycles, airplanes etc that I’ve never heard of before.
Ignore the price tags and it’s brilliant.
Ooh ooh the Saab. Those blacked out body pillars are the bees knees.
Blacking out the A’s and B’s with that roofline really knocks it outa the park for me.
Nice picks Mercedes.
“Those blacked out body pillars are the bees knees.
Blacking out the A’s and B’s with that roofline really knocks it outa the park for me.”
This is the most correct thing I have read all month.
I’m not a motorcycle guy, but that R51/3 is mallarding gorgeous. I love the copper accents.
Cream and copper. Oh hell yes.
The cream of the crop of color schemes.
One of the few times that colour scheme would work, but it’s gorgeous and prob worth the asking price
Take the Saleen. 6k is hoon-able…
I’ve seen Youtubers that live in cars like a Prius or a Rav4. Now, that Suburban is a car that I could maybe live in. It’s bigger than some RVs,
Oh that Alfa, it’s definitely on my Lottery List.
No it’s not pretty, and it’s slow by modern standards, but what a machine. Yes please.
An Icon build of the Suburban would be epic
The R51/3 wow! I never imagined transportation could be so damn sexy. Great find, Mercedes!
I wholeheartedly agree.
Suburban make offer = $125,000. Was $135,000 if you google around:
Oof! Something tells me that they aren’t getting $125k. It’s a cool limo, but six figures cool?
No limo is worth 6 figures, unless you’re including 2 decimal places in that count.
low mileage square bodies are worth a fortune, though. worth more in that aspect.
When I saw the picture of the stretched Suburban I thought that’s gotta be in Utah.
Georgia, I was wrong.
Mormons drive some crazy monstrosities (large families).
Or to get you and your friends up the canyon to the ski lifts in dependable style.
Oh, that comment makes a little more sense now.
The n2o focus is my favorite today. I loved the weirdness of Saleen back then. From a mustang modification company to then doing the focus and the bonkers S7, it was awesome and I wish they hadn’t gone under.
Once again some amazing different vehicles. However today none that i would pay the ask or want.
I grew up in the back seat of Suburbans like that. Standard length, of course. They were great on road trips for a kid with a walkman and book to read (high tech, I know!).
Me too! Spent a lot of time in a ’90 Suburban; it was perfect for vacations and class field trips. I remember when Dad traded his late-’80s Suburban for the ’90; I thought the push-button map lights were luxurious. No more reading by flashlight on long road trips! (I always liked the little “Built Flint Tough” sticker on the inside of the driver’s door.)
And there I was crammed in the back of an 83’ Pontiac 6000 LE with an Etch A Sketch to play with and an older siblings elbow in my face.
The final Saab 9-5s are a pretty rare car, in general–only 3400 or so of them made it to the ‘States in the two/final years of production–pretty grail-like. All of those V6/turbo cars (Aero/Turbo6) were automatics.
The real ‘grail’ of the final 9-5s would be one of the 150 manual-transmission cars (six-speed ‘box) that made it to the US market in 2011. All of those used the GM/Opel A20NFT turbo 4 as used in that same generation Buick Regal (direct injected, Borg-Warner K04 turbo, VVT). Since there’s few spare body parts available, and people are still driving 9-5s like normal cars, they keep hitting the junkyards for minor fender-benders… even though fenders are STILL available new — it’s just bumpers, headlights, tail lights, trunk light bars, etc., that are no longer available.
Otherwise, the final Saab grail might be the 9-4X sport-utility, that was made on the same platform and production line as the second-gen Cadillac SRX. 800-some of those were made, period.
Deep respect for these Saab. I certainly wouldn’t mind owning one. Manual please.
I had a NG 9-5 for a year or two. Lotsa’ projects built in (turbo replacement, timing chain job, tail light and light bar repair, among other things). I’d have kept it, but the combo of a dark interior, no sunroof and a high beltline got it sent down the road after I had my fun/did a ton of work on it. MT car? Yeah, I’d be all over it, as well.