Welcome back to Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness! As you know, I love picking up dirt-cheap cars, motorcycles, and campers, then telling you lovely readers about the dumb things that I do with them. I’m always looking for the next deal, but most of the time, I’m left empty-handed. At the same time, I love building a list of cars, trucks, and motorcycles that I would buy if I had the money.
Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness turns the long lists of vehicles I’d love to buy into something for you all to enjoy. Some of them are cheap and some of them are not. Some of the vehicles I find are purely window shopping for everyone other than a collector like Beau or Myron.
This week, I’ve chosen a theme of cars to dream about. A number of these will be expensive, but I like staring at them and thinking “what if?” I mean, who wouldn’t want to drive around in a van with a Martini livery or cruise down Woodward in a clean Chevelle SS?
Here’s what I’m looking at this week!
1996 Alfa Romeo GTV – $11,000
The 1990s Alfa Romeo GTV is technically a spiritual successor of the classic Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV. Penned by Pininfarina’s Enrico Fumia and launched for the 1995 model year, the GTV coupe and Type 916 Spider have long-polarized enthusiasts. I remain a fan of this bold design.
Unlike Alfetta of old, the newer GTV is front-wheel-drive. According to the seller, this one was recently imported from the UK, bringing along a logbook full of service and MOT history. The car even still wears its original plates. Power comes from a 2.0-liter Twin Spark four making 150 HP, directed through a manual transmission. It’s $11,000 from the seller in Orlando, Florida with 102,000 miles. New parts include a timing belt, water pump, idle control valve, and more.
2005 Mercedes-Benz E320 CDI – $2,999
Usually, selecting a diesel engine option means getting a vehicle that’s slower than its gas equivalent. The W211 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is one of those weird times where the diesel is a faster, better option.
In 2002, Car and Driver reported that Mercedes had spent $1,750,000,000 to replace the outgoing W210 E-Class. Part of the mission of the vehicle’s designers was to create something new, but not so out there that then-current W210 owners would feel unfamiliar with the vehicle. On top of this, of course, the engineers were working with a vehicle with an impressive breadth of variants, from the inexpensive taxi to the Autobahn stormer.
At 3,665 pounds, the W210 Mercedes-Benz E430 weighs less than a comparable BMW 540i by 150 to 400 pounds. To ensure the W211 stayed in the lead, engineers stamped the hood, fenders, decklid, parcel shelf, and front bumper out of aluminum. Yet, because Mercedes focuses so much on safety, the body still weighed more than the outgoing W210. The E320 CDI weighs in at 4,002 pounds.
In 2004, the 2005 Mercedes-Benz E320 CDI joined a surprising list of diesels sold in America. Volkswagen had the Beetle, Jetta, Passat, and Touareg all in diesel flavor and Jeep was preparing to launch its own diesels. As Car and Driver notes, Mercedes dropped out of the diesel game in America and in 2004 it was making a comeback.
Under the hood is a 3.2-liter turbodiesel six. It’s making 201 HP and 369 lb-ft torque. That’s fewer ponies than the equivalent gas V6, but a ton more torque. As a result, the diesel boogies to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, 0.3 seconds faster than the gas version. The diesel’s lead continues as it can go from 30 mph to 50 mph in 3.5 seconds (the gas engine does it in 3.8 seconds) and it’ll go from 50 mph to 70 mph in 4.8 seconds (5.4 for the gasser). Oh, and the diesel will do it all while scoring 37 mpg on the highway, compared to the 27 mpg highway found with the gas V6. Car and Driver even found the diesel to be quieter than the gas version.
For a wild twist, this car is only 45 state legal due to the lack of urea injection. It does not meet emissions requirements for California, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont. If you live outside of those areas, this 2005 example is $2,999 from a seller in Columbus, Ohio with 279,000 miles.
1938 Chrysler Royal Business Coupe – $26,000
Chrysler’s Royal nameplate dates back to the early 1930s, when the name denoted a top sedan trim level. It became its own eight-cylinder engine-powered model in 1933 before getting replaced in 1934 by the revolutionary Airflow. Royal would return in 1937, but this time it would be a six-cylinder car replacing the Chrysler Six. The Royal boasted a shorter chassis and modern design for the era. Royal features included integrated windscreen defroster vents, padding on the back of the front seat, a rubber-insulated body, and a rubber-insulated steering wheel. In 1938, Chrysler sold the Royal for $1,010, or $21,742 today.
This 1938 Chrysler Royal Business Coupe has spent most of its life in Oregon and one of its previous owners kept the car from 1973 until 2016. The seller reports that the vehicle was restored back in the 2000s. The restoration appears to be holding up, save for some paint bubbling. Power comes from a 228.1 cubic inch Gold Seal engine rated at 95 HP backed by a three-speed manual. It’s $26,000 from the seller in Salem, Oregon with 66,000 miles.
1997 Grinnall Scorpion-III – $16,800
Have you ever wanted a car-like trike but find the Polaris Slingshot too garish and the retro style of a Vanderhall isn’t for you? Check out this little guy. Grinnall isn’t a known name here in America, but it is over in the UK. I’ll let the company explain:
In 1991, in search of a radical but affordable high-performance vehicle, Mark Grinnall combined his passion for motorcycling and his skills as an engineer to produce an innovative three-wheeler, which unlike any of its illustrious ancestors, would be high-tech, mid-engined and rear wheel driven. This was to be the first in a family of unique, niche-market sporting vehicles. The Scorpion-III made its debut in 1992 when it was featured prominently in CAR magazine. Interest in the S-III exploded in the mid 90’s, with the breathtaking featherweight being featured in dozens of magazines worldwide.
The S-III is still in production over 25 years after its launch. This is testimony of the design aesthetic and quality build. Evolved and refined over the years, the latest S-III features the state-of-the-art BMW 1300cc 4-cylinder motor from the K1300S motorbike. With 185bhp, wider track, billet uprights, stiffened rear suspension and many other new features, this machine is lots of fun and very rapid. With 460bhp per tonne this little cycle car is guaranteed to surprise Ferrari drivers, and can still return over 50 miles per gallon.
Yep, as it says on the tin, this is a trike with mid-engine BMW power and power routed through the rear wheel. The body is glass reinforced plastic and it’s bonded to a space frame. Power comes from a 1,093cc four borrowed from a BMW K 1100 and outputting 100 HP. This is good for a 60 mph sprint in about 6 seconds and a top speed of 125 mph.
This example is the only one for sale in the whole country and it’s said to be in good mechanical condition, but has clearly visible paint problems. The windscreen also has a crack. It’s $16,800 from the seller in Corona, California with 80,000 miles.
1984 Fiat 242 – $27,368
This van drew my attention because of its Martini livery. Is there any practical reason to own this in America? Probably not, especially at the asking price. But I do enjoy looking at it. Martini Racing used vans like these as rally support vehicles and fans have created clones of those vans. Sadly, the seller does not say anything about this van’s history.
The Fiat 242 was created in a joint venture of sorts. In 1968, the controlling shareholder of Citroën, Michelin, sold a 49 percent stake in the company to Fiat. During this joint ownership, the Fiat 242 was developed alongside the Citroën C35 van. Production on the 242 started in 1974 and the van was successful due to its reliability and low load floor. That low floor was achieved thanks to its front-wheel-drive layout. Power comes from a 2.5-liter diesel four making 71 HP and is routed through a five-speed manual.
It’s $27,368 from Ruote Da Sogno in Italy with 178,725 miles.
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 – $57,995
Back in 2011, Chevrolet held a contest to nominate its best vehicle of all time. The 1969 Camaro won the contest with 25,058 of the 124,368 votes cast, barely beating out the 1970 Chevelle SS. The Chevelle launched in the 1964 model year as an intermediate model between the compact Nova and the larger Impala. Today, one variant of the Chevelle is a poster-worthy dream car for many. Why is this model so beloved? I’ll let GM explain:
The muscle car era peaked in 1970, and leading the way to the summit was the SS 454 Chevelle. Chevrolet’s 454-cid big-block, the largest displacement production Chevy V-8 ever, was new for 1970. That same year, GM first permitted engines larger than 400-cid in its intermediate-sized cars. One result was perhaps the most legendary of all Chevy Super Sports, the SS 454 Chevelle. The available 450-hp LS-6 big-block could launch the SS 454 to 100 mph in about 13 seconds. Original, unmodified LS-6 SS 454s are rare, investment-grade, collectibles today.
The Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 before us today is not the mighty 454 and as Chevrolet notes, those ones are often purchased as investments. Power comes from an L34 396 cubic inch V8 rated for 350 HP. This example is said to be numbers-matching, including the original 12-bolt rear end. The selling dealership, Streetside Classics of Concord, North Carolina, says the vehicle was restored to stock condition. That means you’re getting this muscle car more or less as GM made it, and you can either enjoy it as it is or turn it into whatever your dream is.
The dealership notes that the six layers of what was show-quality paint is still holding up well and that either the interior is original, or at the very least wasn’t completely transformed. The engine shoves its power through a TH400 3-speed automatic. It’s $57,995 with 12,246 miles on the odometer. True mileage is unknown.
1968 Mazda Cosmo Sport – $64,112
This car is the genesis of Mazda’s obsession with Wankel engines and honestly, it’s arguably still the best-looking out of every Mazda rotary since. I’ll let Mazda explain why its flagship was so awesome:
The Mazda Cosmo Sport (sold overseas as the 110S) – the world’s first volume production sports car powered by a two-rotor rotary engine – was unveiled to the public at the Tokyo Motor Show in October 1963. When the president of Mazda, Tsuneji Matsuda, drove the prototype into show venue it was a surprise to everyone. The Mazda Cosmo Sport featured beautiful, futuristic proportions and exceptional driving performance. It was a vehicle that clearly deserved the comment, “More like flying than driving.”
The Mazda Cosmo Sport was formally announced at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1964. Thereafter, Mazda engineers continued to work on quality and durability improvements to produce more refined performance. After completion of the Miyoshi Proving Ground in June 1965, Mazda carried out continuous high-speed endurance tests, covering a total test-drive distance of 700,000 kilometers from the time development began. The Mazda Cosmo Sport was eventually launched on May 30, 1967.
Power in this Series II model comes from a 982cc twin-rotor making 128 hp and 103 lb-ft torque. That’s paired with a five-speed manual transmission and it’s good for a top speed of about 120 mph.
This example is said to have a condition grade of 3.5 with 48,466 miles, which should mean it shouldn’t have major faults, but it always pays to get an independent inspection. It’s $61,377 before shipping from Japan from the exporter at Car From Japan.
1970 BSA Thunderbolt – $3,750
As you could probably tell, I’m still on a vintage motorcycle kick, and I especially adore the designs churned out by British firms decades ago. Well, I adore them maybe a little less than a certain teal BMW. Still, this Thunderbolt looks like a great ride. Here’s some history from the National Motorcycle Museum:
Birmingham Small Arms was founded in 1862, started making bicycles in the 1880’s and true motorcycles around 1910. Though gone from the scene at the end of the 1972 manufacturing year, BSA had a glorious history and successes even after “the Japanese invasion” of the mid-1960’s. Few realize that BSA was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world in the 1950’s, even bought Triumph in 1951! In 1954 BSA swept the top five places in the Daytona 200 on the old beach course. Jeff Smith rode Gold Stars to scrambles and MX championships, Dick Mann won on BSAs as well, even winning the Daytona 200 as late as 1971 on a Rocket III. Much like Triumph they designed machines for basic transportation like the diminutive Bantam, and for high performance in the desert and on dirt tracks, the Hornet.
Some say the 1970 Thunderbolt is the best of that nine year model run. It incorporates dual horns, a one year only detail. The cylinder base studs were strengthened, enlarged to 3/8” diameter. Also, the clutch actuator design was borrowed from Triumph and was a great improvement. Driven by American transportation laws, the brake and clutch lever perches were designed with holes for mirror mounting. Most important, and already mentioned, in 1971 the oil-in-frame design came on completely altering the seating height, and appearance changes were many. Per laws, turn signals were added and most fans felt the classic BSA had met its demise.
This BSA is said to run and ride great, but it has a problem with draining its battery when it’s not running. It also has an oil leak. A quick band-aid fix for the battery is a disconnect, but you’ll probably want to find the parasitic drain eventually. It’s $3,750 from the seller in Marshall, Michigan with 20,000 miles.
2009 Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe – $37,989
Let me get this out of the way immediately: Yes, this car is very expensive! Remember, I paid just $8,500 for this car’s convertible sibling, the Saturn Sky Red Line. With that said, I found this car fascinating because with just 9,308 miles on its odometer, it’s basically a time capsule into Pontiac’s great roadster. The targa coupe version of the Solstice went on sale in 2009, selling just 1,266 units.
The Solstice is an awesome roadster to come from the brain of legendary auto exec Bob Lutz. One of Lutz’s dreams was to create an affordable, rear-wheel-drive American roadster. When Lutz took the helm at GM, he finally realized that dream. The General’s engineers created the Kappa platform, and riding on it is a handful of low-slung roadsters. It launched with the Pontiac Solstice, a curvaceous drop-top roadster that was America’s answer to the Miata. It robbed GM’s part bins with engines from the Chevy Cobalt, reverse lights from the GMC Envoy, a transmission from the Chevy Colorado, and more. But the end result is something that looks gorgeous even today.
Toward the end of Solstice production, Pontiac decided that the Solstice needed a hardtop, and created a fastback out of its roadster. This one is also the best spec. There’s a 2.0-liter Ecotec LNF turbo under the clamshell hood. That gives you 260 hp and 260 lb-ft torque to the rear wheels through a manual transmission.
That’s it for this week! Thank you for reading.
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