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 rare, desirable motorcycles, a car that was sold through the Sears catalog, a one-off adorable Fiat, a pickup truck with fins, and a sweet Volkswagen pickup that America never got to enjoy.
Here’s what I’m looking at this week!
1952 Allstate – $18,000
As the Sears Archives writes, the Allstate brand name was launched in 1925 after Sears held a contest to brand its new line of tires. 937,886 people submitted a total of 2,253,746 names and the winner was Hans Simonson, who won $5,000 ($86,947.98 today) for the name Allstate. The tires, which were guaranteed to last 12,000 miles, were huge sellers at Sears, Roebuck and Co.
Sears would later use the Allstate name in 1931 for the insurance company of the same name. In the 1950s and 1960s, Sears applied the Allstate name to a wide variety of products from fire extinguishers and camper shells to radios and garage door openers. Sears even partnered up with Kaiser-Frazer to build a car. That’s the car you’re looking at right here. The Allstate was a warmed-over Kaiser Henry J. Henry Kaiser reportedly saw Sears as the perfect place to market cars and entered into a partnership with the brand. The Allstate version of the Henry J would have Allstate branding all over from the tires and battery to the cylinder heads. Starting price was $1,395, or slightly cheaper than the Henry J.
Ultimately, the idea of selling an entire Allstate car didn’t really work out. In 1952, around 30,000 Henry Js were sold compared to just 1,566 Allstates. Total production hovered around 2,363 units before the plug was pulled after 1953. It seemed people just weren’t interested.
This 1952 Allstate comes with a 161 cubic inch L-head straight-six making 80 HP. Apparently, it was sold new to a farmer in Lubbock, Texas before it was saved from a barn. It has since been repainted with its interior refreshed because of rodent damage. It’s $18,000 from the seller in Anna, Texas with 32,878 miles.
1960 Dodge D100 – $10,000
As Hagerty writes, Virgil Exner’s ‘Forward Look’ design swept across Chrysler’s line of products. By 1957, the styling reached the automaker’s trucks. Chrysler’s pickups got new, single-piece hoods and mechanical refinements under the metal. Hagerty notes that internally, Chrysler called the revamped trucks the K-series, but Dodge-badged trucks were named D100 through D300, depending on capacity. These trucks were rear-wheel-drive while four-wheel-drive versions were badged as W100s and up.
This 1960 Dodge D100 Sweptside comes from an interesting time. Starting in 1957 and reportedly fizzling out after 1959, Dodge replaced the stock rear quarters of the trucks with the rear quarters of Dodge two-door wagons, creating the Sweptside. The result is a classy truck with fins on its bedsides.
Power comes from a rebuilt 318 cubic inch V8 making 200 HP with a three-speed column-shifted manual transmission. New parts include a rebuilt starter, Borla exhaust, water pump, and tires. The seller says it’s a nice old truck, but not show quality. It’s $10,000 from the seller in Los Angeles, California with 220,000 miles.
2015 Ford Fiesta ST – $10,000
The Ford Fiesta never had a lot of staying power in the American market. We got the first-generation just for just a sliver of time between the 1977 and 1980 model years. Then it disappeared for decades until its sixth-generation model made a return to North America for the 2011 model year. Then, for the 2014 model year, Ford kept its heritage of making hot Fiestas alive by giving us the wonderful ST.
Here’s Ford’s recalling of the story:
Several decades before there were Ford SUV models named Edge, Escape, Explorer or Expedition, subcompact cars were all the rage — and what the market demanded. Ford’s move to develop a competitive subcompact three-door hatchback coupe was spurred by global competition, and by the so-called OPEC Oil “Crises” of 1973. Customers were willing to give up large helpings of vehicle size, room, trunk space and big-engined performance for affordable small cars that were light, inexpensive to buy and run, and squeezed the most possible mileage out of the new unleaded gasoline blends mandated by ever-increasing emissions reduction requirements.
Recognizing that this product type would not only fill an empty void in North America, but could also offer considerable sales potential in many markets around the world, Dearborn greenlighted a subcompact car development program in late 1972, originally codenamed Bobcat (not to be confused with the later Mercury badged Pinto of the same name). The development job was handed to Ford’s Italian design subsidiary Ghia, this specific project assigned to the late Tom Tjaarda, he of DeTomaso Pantera, Deauville, and Longchamp note, plus a handful of Ferrari designs while at Pininfarina. Tjaarda was an American expat born in Michigan with an interesting Ford connection. Tjaarda’s father, John, was the principal designer of the original Lincoln Zephyr of the 1930’s.
Tom’s design for the Bobcat project, headed up by Lee Iacocca’s special assistant and product guru Hal Sperlich, clearly had the Fiat 127 and Honda Civic in its sites, but was innovative in several ways. Based on a 90-inch wheelbase, the car that became the Ford Fiesta had a relatively low coefficient of drag, with its trim nose, aerodynamically shaped grille bars, and slight kick up at the rear of the roofline.
For money that doesn’t break the bank, you net 197 horses from a 1.6-liter turbo four and a manual transmission. Lately, I’ve been watching Fiesta ST prices creep up, but if you look hard enough, you might be able to find a bargain. Here’s one that doesn’t have a ton of mods and is listed for just $10,000.
This example has a blow-off valve and a cracked front bumper. It comes with an uninstalled RS-style bumper and lowering springs, also uninstalled. It’s $10,000 from the seller in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin with 106,000 miles.
1994 Volkswagen T4 Transporter Doka – $15,500
The Volkswagen Transporter T4 hit the road in 1990, ditching the previous T3’s rear-mounted engine and rear-wheel-drive layout for a front-mounted engine and front-wheel-drive. When this modern interpretation of Volkswagen’s classic van reached America in 1992 for the 1993 model year, Volkswagen christened it the EuroVan. EuroVan buyers had the choice between getting a regular three-row passenger van with the CL or GL, or they could have opted for a neat little camper van with the MultiVan.
[Correction: T3s initially launched with air-cooled engines, then later got water-cooled plants. We regret the error.]
However, America got the T4 Transporter only as the EuroVan or as a Volkswagen Rialta camper. Other markets got the T4 as a cargo van or as a pickup truck. What we’re looking at here is a “Doka,” which is a long-wheelbase double-cab pickup that takes its name from the German word “Doppelkabine.” This truck is some forbidden fruit in two ways. The first is the fact that it’s a truck and the second is the fact that it’s powered by a diesel engine, something else the American market EuroVans didn’t get.
There were three diesel engine options in 1994 and it’s unclear which one this T4 has. The most powerful of the three is a 2.4-liter indirect injection four making 77 HP and 121 lb-ft torque. So, not a fast truck. The seller says this one has been repainted, but the quality of the work isn’t the best. It’s $15,500 from the seller in Chino, California with 200,000 miles.
1989 Yamaha TZR 250-3MA – $9,500
What you’re looking at here is a little 250cc two-stroke road bike that sounds like a serious racer. Here, just listen to this:
Here’s what Yamaha says about the motorcycle:
Entering the 1980s, Yamaha not only succeeded in recovering its reputation for the excellence of Yamaha Handling with the masterpieces of its 4-stroke, 4-cylinder XJ Series but also quickly showed renewed vigor by reviving the 2-stroke supersport bike category with models like the RZ250 at a time when the need to clear emissions and noise standards had even brought forth talk that 2-stokes had no future as power units for supersport models. The success of the RZ250 prompted Yamaha’s competitors to launch a number of 2-stroke “racer replica” models, but Yamaha responded by releasing the TZR250, a model that remains a symbol of Yamaha Handling. One of the defining characteristics of the TZR250 was that it was developed by Yamaha’s proud team of race machine engineers, and knowhow directly from the latest factory machines of the time was implemented in its design.
The 500cc class GP machines were especially difficult to achieve the right combination of high power and handling, and the development theme for the YZR500 had already entered the same realm of “achieving a balance in tune with rider perceptions” that Yamaha engineers continue to strive for today. The ideal of valuing the basic characteristics of the model’s engine and handling in order to achieve a smooth, easy-to-use character for both was applied to the TZR models just as it was for the YZR.
Power in this TZR 250-3MA comes from a twin with a reverse-cylinder engine layout. What this means is that the carbs were up front and the exhaust was out back, the opposite of usual. A regular TZR 250 made 50 HP, but one of these had the power cranked up to 65 HP. Yep, that’s 65 ponies from a 250cc screamer!
America never got to taste these wild machines, but some are trickling in through importation. This one is $9,500 by the seller in Litchfield, Connecticut.
2012 Fisker Karma EcoSport – $24,900
Once upon a time, I was a 19-year-old college student. Back then, the Karma was still on sale and I thought it was one of the coolest things ever. Today, 11 years later, I still think these things look fantastic.
Here’s how Henrik Fisker’s website describes the journey of the Karma:
Fisker Automotive was started in 2007 when Henrik Fisker realized that the industry had lost much of its emotional appeal. It was time for the world to fall back in love with cars. The Fisker Karma, with its provocative design and groundbreaking EVer(TM) technology, was just the car to make that happen. In 2011, the Karma officially went into production, making it the world’s first luxury Electric Vehicle with extended range–and one of the only cars to come onto the market exactly how it was envisioned.
It wasn’t enough to create a car that simply reduced CO2 emissions. That was just the first step. Fisker Karma was created as an environmentally responsible car all the way through. From sourcing materials differently to creatign new processes and developing original technology, Henrik Fisker wanted to change both the way cars are produced and what it truly means to be green.
Fisker is famous for car designs from the BMW Z8 to the Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Deliveries of the Karma began in 2011, but it wasn’t long before issues started chipping away at the Karma and Fisker itself. A series of recalls, fires, breakdowns, and the closure of supplier A123 Systems all worked against Fisker. Then, Mother Nature gave Fisker a middle finger with Hurricane Sandy, and over 300 Karmas were destroyed in floodwaters at Port Newark. Production halted in late 2012 after the closure of A123 Systems.
Between 2008 and 2012, Fisker burned about a billion dollars and built just 2,450 Karmas. Of those, around 2,000 reached buyers’ hands.
This 2012 Fisker Karma EcoSport is being sold for a fraction of its original $110,000 price. Power comes from a 2.0-liter turbo four making 260 HP and 260 lb-ft torque, which powers a generator. This unit is the Ecotec found in cars like the Chevy Cobalt SS, HHR SS, and Saturn Sky Red Line. Thrust comes from two electric motors. Total output is 403 HP combined with 959 lb-ft torque. There’s a 20.1 kWh battery in the car that Fisker said is good for up to 50 miles on a charge. Using the range extender gas engine buys you 250 miles.
This all sounds pretty super, but acceleration to 60 mph takes about 6.3 seconds and the Karma also weighs in at 5,300 pounds. If you’re interested in this orphan, it’s $24,900 from the seller in Leesport, Pennsylvania with 45,998 miles.
1932 Fiat 508 Balilla – $40,000
According to RM Sotheby’s, when Fiat released the 508 Balilla in 1932, it was supposed to be a people’s car of sorts. It was designed to be easy to use, inexpensive to buy, and reliable; all traits you want in a car to get a country on wheels. Power comes from a 995cc straight-four making 20 hp and backed by a three-speed manual. Fiat built around 40,000 units between 1932 and 1937. Balillas were built in body styles ranging from coupes to commercial vehicles.
This Balilla is said to be a one-off and apparently comes with the documentation to prove it. From the seller:
Car is a truly barn find in great running condition.
Born as 1932 Balilla Spider, the car was later rebodied upon request of his original owner by the famous Carrozzeria Farina (later Pininfarina) in first half of the ’40s, estimated between 1944/1946.
Car was deeply inspectioned by many expert and has been certified that no body work or repair has been done since than.
Paint and material used are date correct for the period of the rebody. Purchased as part of a collection near Milan. It was stored in a climate controlled area.
We have a letter from Fiat registry that affirms the car was sold by a Fiat dealer in Milan in 1932 as a Fiat Balilla Spider; has lived all his life in Milan area.
The seller calls it a prototype, but it just sounds like a coachbuilt custom. Either way, it looks so adorable! I would happily rock this little guy at its gentle top speed of just 50 mph.
It’s $40,000 from the seller in Caponago, Italy.
1992 BMW 850i – $39,900
As Motor Trend writes, in the 1970s through the 1980s, BMW reeled in the cash and gained popularity with cars like the E30 3 Series, E28 5 Series, and the E24 6 Series. Customers piled into dealerships and BMW eventually found itself in a position to continue its meteoric rise by building even far more advanced vehicles. The automaker set its sights on building the best grand tourer in the world, and in doing so, BMW would create its most advanced vehicle of the era.
BMW arrived at the 1989 International Motor Show in Germany with its successor to the E24 6 Series. The E31 8 Series sported a wedge design penned by Klaus Kapitza with a front end inspired by the M1. The coupe wasn’t just grand in its appearance but in its technology.
BMW says that the E31 offered drivers an optional self-steering rear axle, variable-speed power steering, stability control, and an electronic damper control. The E31 was also the first BMW to achieve a coefficient of drag of less than 0.3 and the first BMW to have an implementation for the control systems to network with each other.
The headline feature is a 5.0-liter V12 that makes 296 HP and 332 lb-ft torque. What catches my eye here is the metallic green paint and its six-speed manual transmission. This example has a clean title, a tan interior, and 119,231 miles. It’s $39,900 from Auto Spot in San Jose, California.
1989 BMW R 100 GS PD – $14,000
BMW Motorrad says that the GS story starts in 1978 when the company’s engineers built a road-legal enduro motorcycle prototype. This bike performed well on and off-road, convincing company brass to put it into production. In 1980, development led to the R 80 G/S dual sport. With the R 80 G/S, BMW saw itself building a motorcycle that you could use for touring and for off-roading, a formula not unlike what you see today. The R 80 G/S was also notable for winning the Paris-Dakar rally four times between 1981 and 1985.
As the GS evolved, it gained technology, power, and comfort features along the way all while remaining a durable machine. The R 100 GS launched in 1987 as a replacement for the R 80 G/S. How does BMW follow up a legend? By evolving it into something better. The boxer twin grew from 797.5cc to 980cc and power bumped from 50 HP and 41 lb-ft torque to 60 HP and 56 lb-ft torque. This GS also gained a Paralever front suspension, better wind protection, and little better road manners while maintaining its off-road prowess.
The PD (Paris-Dakar) version of the R 100 GS got some nice upgrades over the regular one. You got a long-range 6.3-gallon fuel tank, hard bags, crash bars, and a luggage rack. These appear to be rare, but I have not seen any confirmed production numbers.
This one is $14,000 from the seller in St. George, Utah with 62,000 miles.
That’s it for this week, thank you for reading!