Seven Picks from the 2017 Legends of the Autobahn
A field of German dreams
One of the premiere free events during Monterey Car Week (well, nearly free-it costs $20 per car to park), Legends of the Autobahn is a must-see if you have any love for German dream machines. This year's event was heavy on BMW and Mercedes-Benz attendance, with a smaller side of Audis and other German brands to round things out. We spent a couple hours walking around the show, which has a casual, spectator-friendly vibe and lots of great cars and owners to meet. Here are seven of our favorites from this year's show.
1988 BMW M3
This first series of M3 has long been regarded as the most pure of the on-going breed of M-cars, but it wasn't until the past several years that values have reflected that popular opinion. These were slow sellers in BMW showrooms when new and most were run hard and put away wet. That's why this three-owner, 71,000-mile example is such a rare example today.
1969 Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3
It can be argued that Mercedes-Benz is at least as well-known for its big, brutish sports sedans as it is for its popular SL range. The 300 SEL 6.3 stole its 250-hp, V-8 engine from the large 600 limousine to become what was then the fastest sedan in the world, capable of traveling at triple digit speeds with five adults inside for hours on end (or at least until the fuel ran out). With classic Paul Bracq styling and exceptional MB build quality, many of these German hot rods are still on the road today-there were several at Legends alone.
1958 NSU Prinz
In the post-war world, virtually every established automaker was seeking a return to business as usual - and some took longer than others to make that a reality. The NSU Prinz was the German brand's first new model following WWII and was designed as a people's car that fit four people in moderate comfort. With an air-cooled, 0.6-liter two-cylinder engine producing about 20 horsepower, the Prinz wasn't quick, but it was an effective city runabout. The owner of this example from the second year of production calls its performance "adequate."
1987 Mercedes-Benz 6.0 AMG "Hammer"
If you've been reading Automobile since its inception, you'll know all about the car affectionately known as The Hammer. In 1987, AMG was still a tuning company, owned and operated independently of Mercedes. Released in 1986, The Hammer was based on the contemporary W124 E-Class sedan, but featured a significantly modified 5.0-liter V-8. For 1987, that engine was replaced with a 5.6-liter mill with around 360 hp, along with the option of a 375-hp, 6.0-liter one, which this example was fitted with. In its day, it was the fastest production sedan in the world and it ushered in a new era of midsize sedan performance—not just for Mercedes, but for the whole industry.
1955 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL "SLR tribute"
The Mercedes 190 SL was designed as the smaller, less-expensive sibling to the company's all-conquering 300 SL sports cars. But while the 300SL was a fuel-injected, tube-framed, racing derived performance machine, the humble 190 got by with a sedan-based chassis and a little carbureted 1.9-liter four making around 100 hp—a bit under half the output of big brother. This one has been converted to the rare factory-offered SLR look by the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, California.
2001 Audi S4 "Competition"
Audi and its Quattro all-wheel-drive systems go together like peanut butter and strawberry jelly, but when the brand decided to go racing in the SCCA Speedvision World Challenge GT series at the turn of the millennium, it chose the very non-Audi rear-wheel-drive configuration. It proved to be a wise decision, as the S4 Competition-this very one, in fact-won the 2001 driver's championship with Mike Galati behind the wheel, beating race-spec Porsche 911s, Dodge Vipers, and Chevrolet Corvettes in the process. Before you try beating Vipers in your stock B5-series S4, realize this one has a race-tuned 2.7-liter V-6 that produces more than 400 horsepower.
BMW Z3 "ZGT"
This cool, little, rebodied BMW Z3 caught our eye (and those of many others) with its distinctive retro looks. The body kit, produced by Reaction Research, is made of fiberglass and actually saves a few pounds over the stock Z3's steel panels. The kit is supposedly a bolt-on affair and retails for around $10,000 (not including paint or installation). The looks may not suit everyone, but with clean, used Z3s starting at around $5,000 this is a unique and attention-getting sports car for not a ton of money.