One of the best ways to kill time as an enthusiast is to watch and browse automotive auctions. Whether on a website, on TV, or in person, the cars for sale are often broadly different and can expose us to makes and models we’ve never seen before. They let us drool over classics, take inspiration from clean builds, and wish we had more expendable cash day in and day out, only further bolstering our automotive enthusiasm. Plus, when you have the cash, auctions can be great places to come away with a deal. While we couldn’t go after every car we saw for sale this year, here are some of our favorites broken up into three categories, downright cool, the ultra-rare, and the best deals of the year!
On the face of it, there really isn’t too much special about an early Porsche 911SC. They represent the middle of the air-cooled 911’s existence and are regularly available with nearly 59,000 units built between 1978 and 1983. However, this SC is painted in Moonstone or Lilac, whichever you prefer, because they’re both technically correct. Because of that, it joins a very exclusive bunch of cars painted from the factory in that shade.
The 911SC debuted in 1978 wearing the legendary 2.7 Carrera RS flares and carrying the air-cooled 3.0-liter flat-six derived from the Carrera 3.0. The ‘78 and ‘79 models are unique for the US market in that the engines used the better-flowing European-spec intake runners. The 1979 model is unique in that it was the only year the SC could be specced with Moonstone paint. According to sales figures, this SC was one of six Porsches to wear Moonstone out of the factory and one of two 911SCs. The other four cars are a single 930, two 924s, and one 928.
The 911SC was destined to be the last of the 911. At the time, Porsche executives believed that the water-cooled, V8-powered 928 would be the company’s future. Air-cooling was decades-old technology and was holding the company back. However, new CEO Peter Schutz disagreed, and the rest is history. The Moonstone SC sold in October on Bring A Trailer for $76,000. It wasn’t a perfect example with scratches, chips, and general wear all over the vehicle, but its uber-rare paint and large options list ensured that it brought good money.
The original M cars were all handmade. They were such low volume models that BMW could afford to craft them slowly with the finest assemblymen rather than build them on a traditional assembly line. The switch away from quality to quantity is a shift in the M car story that made them more accessible, into the common but respected cars they are. The E34 M5 was the last of the hand-built Ms, but its place in BMW history often gets overlooked. The first M5 preceded the E34 and the legendary E39 succeeded it, overshadowing the model in the middle.
Every American-spec E34 M5 was a sedan, and it used the S38B36—a 3.6-liter inline-six derived from the M1 supercar and the previous M5. However, Europe received a larger 3.8-liter engine and a Touring wagon body style in the early nineties. Only about 200 were made with a manual transmission, and the example linked above is one of those cars. The E34’s paint is Orinoco Metallic, a silvery-green whose hue changes with the lighting, with the rockers, and valances painted in contrasting Granite Silver Metallic. Not to be outdone by the paint, the cabin is trimmed in two-tone, petrol, and mint-colored extended Nappa leather with graphite Bird’s Eye Maple wood trim. Being a 1995 model, it also wears the Style 37 M-Parallel wheels and wider grille of the later E34s
The exact interior and exterior spec are taken from that of a 1995 UK-exclusive limited edition of the M5. The original owner, reportedly a Swedish professional Hockey coach, ordered it in a nearly identical specification but in a left-hand drive chassis, making it supposedly one of four in that combination. The steering wheel positioned on the correct side cements this M5 as a highly optioned and sought-after example by M collector standards, as seen by the hammer price of $85,000. The collector car market is exploding and previously inexpensive models are now out of reach. Look around for a relatively cheap E34 M5 while you still can.
The first-generation Volkswagen Type 2, better known as the Kombi or Bus, will forever be a classic. Its design made it cheap, reliable, versatile, and practical, leading to its popularity in rebuilding Germany and across the United States. After the initial debut of two models in 1950, many more became available, with pick-up truck variants and those with an increasing number of windows. Though, it was the Westfalia Camper that stole so many hearts and minds with its pop-up roof and camping accessories.
The van’s popularity can be attributed to its scarcity now. Once a common sight, many threw them away when too broken or rusty leaving several variants to become quite rare. The first-generation Type 2 Volkswagen Westfalia Camper is one of those tough-to-find models. One of those Campers was sold in a May 2021 Gooding & Company auction to the tune of $80,300. If that sounds like a lot of money, it is, but likely worth it for this example. The quintessential surfer van has grown beyond the typical surfer ownership, with more than a few examples of the Type 2 vans in expensive and exclusive collections.
This Westfalia Camper was built in 1960 and wears an all “Light Grey” paint scheme with a contrasting bumper and wheel color. Inside is where all the magic is, though, as its camper setup is unique to the model. This particular example came with the period-correct camping accessories such as a stove, pull-out picnic radio, compass, and tent. When new, its 1200cc air-cooled flat-four engine made a screaming 30 horsepower and 56 lb-ft of torque. Adding to the rarity is the right-hand-drive steering wheel positioning; supposedly one of as few as twelve in existence. As a clean and rust-free example of a ‘60s classic, the T2 was always cool to see, but its funky wheel placement and period-correct options make it a Westfalia Camper to lust over.
The Volvo P1800 and subsequent 1800 models are some of the best-looking models to ever come from the Swedish automaker. In the late fifties, Volvo was desperate for a successful sports coupe and came up with a few different designs. The winning design, penned by Pelle Petterson, was almost lost to the history books as Volvo nearly failed to find a company to help them produce their new sports coupe. Production eventually began in 1960, and the 1800 series remained available in showrooms until 1973.
Unlike the Volvos of the late ‘70s through the early ‘00s, the P1800 was full of curves. Pontoon fenders with individual circular headlights and a large, rounded-oval grille presented themselves at the front before following a trim line to the curvaceous cockpit. The roundness continued to the back of the coupe, where rounded fins accentuated the quarter panels. Volvo offered the 1800ES, a two-door, shooting brake version of the sports coupe for the last two years of production. The ES’s roof structure carried over the trunk and came down between the still-included fins. A large glass back window/hatch opened up to access the rear storage area. It was an incredibly handsome design in its heyday and it holds up very well today. If there were ever a Volvo to turn some heads, it should be this one.
This 1972 1800ES was offered at a Bonhams auction by the original owner. The Cypress Green shooting-brake was used as a daily for two years before the owner reserved it for special occasions. Because of its light use, the original Gold Metallic upholstery appears in phenomenal condition, with only light wear marks on the front seats indicating use. The chassis and the numbers-matching 2.0-liter inline-four traveled 64,000-miles from new and underwent servicing several times over the last seven years to bring them to their current condition. It sold at auction for just under $45,000, including auction fees, which sounds like a lot of money on paper. However, take a walk around the 1800ES, and you’ll understand why.
Since the mid-seventies and the W116 S-Class, Mercedes has offered an armored variant to those with deep enough pockets. These days, the latest W223 S680 Guard is VR10-certified (the top level of automotive ballistics resistance) and carries ballistics steel with a minimum thickness of 18mm. Armour-piercing rounds cannot make their way through the polycarbonate glass or doors, and it’s even resistant to multiple explosive charges. All of that life-saving luxury could be yours, in Europe, for around $650,000. For $600,000 less than the new S680 Guard, you could’ve had one about twenty years older.
The W220 was a large update for the S-Class in terms of styling. The classically boxy design was replaced with a turn-of-the-Millenium body with curves, swoops, and rounded edges. This S500 Guard, sold in December of 2021, is one of those lucky W220s fitted with that all-important ballistics resistance. It carries a B4 protection rating, meaning it is only capable of withstanding small arms fire up to .44-caliber, so it isn’t nearly as tough as the S680. Rather than fit for duty in a war-torn country, the W220 looks to be best suited for the curb of a nightclub. The exterior has been fitted with an aftermarket body kit and black 19” wheels. Under those wheels is an XYZ Racing big brake kit to aid in slowing the extra-heavy sedan.
The rest was all very stock, including the factory-fitted self-sealing gas tank. Under the hood was the M113 5.0-liter V8 that produced 302 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque. The cabin is typical S-Class, with grey leather, wood trim, and heated and cooled massaging front seats. With 55,000-miles on the odometer, the W220 sold for $55,000. That sounds like quite a bit of money, especially for a 20-year-old German sedan, but the ballistics resistance cannot be overstated. Let’s hope it went to the right home.
Pre and post-war Mercedes race cars were nothing to mess with. They were the ones taking down the pre-war Auto-Unions and the post-war Ferraris, Lancias, and Maseratis, culminating with a 1952 victory at Le Mans. The W194 LeMans winner was beloved across the globe and created plenty of enthusiasm from customers wanting their own. In that era, Max Hoffman, legendary importer of all things European and Automotive, saw the market for a W194-like sports car and persuaded Mercedes to create the now-legendary 300SL.
The W198 300SL was and is a generation-defining sports car for the 1950s. There was absolutely nothing like it on the road when it debuted in 1954 and became an instant success for Mercedes’ sales department. 1400 of the hand-made Sport Leicht coupes were produced sporting the iconic gullwing doors and a direct-injected 3.0-liter inline-six. Both features were derived directly from the LeMans winning racer, with the gullwing doors being a necessity because of tube-frame chassis. The M198 engine under the hood was closely related to the M194 of the 1952 LeMans racers. It was tilted 50° to the left to keep the hood low for better aerodynamics, and retained the dry-sump oiling system from the race car but added Bosch mechanical direct fuel injection, the first time direct injection was used in a production car. All of that race car tech added up to 240 horsepower and 217 lb-ft of torque in 1954!
The car linked above is a phenomenal example of the iconic Gullwing. It had remained with the same family since new before being sold in August 2021. Its original color, DB190 Graphite Grey, was replaced by black, but it does retain the original red upholstery and numbers matching drivetrain. The gullwing was offered with extensive service records and an overall condition fit for Concours events. At over $1.7 million, the 300SL wasn’t cheap, but it sure looks worth it.
The gullwing Mercedes wasn’t the only beautiful roadster to leave Germany in the 1950s. Max Hoffman saw the 300SL’s success and understood there was a gap in the market between the expensive Mercedes and the small British roadsters from the likes of MG. Confident that there was a sizable gap, he approached BMW with his plan to sell several thousand units a year. BMW shared his optimism and began work on the 503 and 507.
The 507 was to be the middle-ground sports roadster from Germany. Independent designer Albrecht Graf von Goertz penned the all-aluminum body, and consequently, the 507 looked nothing like any other BMW. It was low and wide with a swoopy silhouette that gave the roadster an unmistakable appearance. Under the hood, BMW fitted their 3.2-liter aluminum V8 with two Solex carburetors, good for 150 horsepower. Mated to a four-speed manual transmission and set in a body that weighed under 3000 lbs, the 507 was capable of over 120 miles per hour. Midway through production, the updated “Series II” came along with a different fuel tank and modified interior for easier living. It had all the makings of a dominant sports roadster, but the success never came.
Development costs ended up doubling the roadster’s projected asking price, putting it in line with the 300SL. Down almost 100 horsepower to the Stuttgart special, the 507 didn’t sell well, and only about 250 examples ended up in the public’s hands. The commercial failure nearly bankrupted BMW, which needed a cash infusion to keep the company afloat before the 1500 series provided stable financial security. Its exclusivity and stunning looks have made the 507 one of the most sought-after cars of that era. The Series II 507 linked above sold for $2.2 million with a numbers-matching drivetrain and a history of belonging to private collections. The Concours quality certainly explains the sale price, though it isn’t the most expensive 507 sold. What do you think, is the price justified?
There has always been a lot said about the water-cooled, front-engine Porsches of the ‘80s and ‘90s, and a lot of it is critical. They’re “not Porsches” is commonly the gripe, though that simply isn’t the case. The 924 mainly was a VW/Audi, and that’s a fact, but the 944, 928, and 968 were all Porsche. They were a different approach to sports coupes and provided some remarkable but stark contrasts when compared to the 911. The last of the front-engined coupes, the 968, was the amalgamation of the 944 with the styling of the late 928s, resulting in a relatively powerful and nicely handling sports car.
However, the 944 and 928 were old by the early nineties, and the succeeding 968 was hardly a departure from their architecture and design. It was expensive too, leading to reasonably dismal sales and a larger cause for panic among the Porsche executives. There were plenty of models produced, though, with a handful of special editions reaching the public. One of those unique models was the 968 Turbo S. Porsche built the S to homologate the Turbo RS race car, of which four were produced with little racing success. The only turbocharged 968 to reach the public, the Turbo S used a modified 944 S2 bottom end with a 944 Turbo cylinder head for a total displacement of 3.0-liters. Strapped with a turbocharger, it pumped out 305 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, helping the Turbo S hit a top speed of 175 mph. Much of the rest of the car is an amalgamation of Porsche’s parts new and old, including the three-piece Speedline wheels and brakes from the 964 Turbo 3.6, roll bar and lightweight interior trimmings from the 968 Clubsport, and a unique bumper lip and adjustable spoiler.
It doesn’t really get any better in terms of exclusivity than the 968 Turbo S. The model above, sold at a Gooding & Company auction in May 2021, is one of fourteen Turbo S 968s ever made and one of two painted in paint-to-sample Blutorange (Blood Orange). The 968 was projected to sell for over a million dollars, but it failed to reach that mark, selling for $792,000. This particular example has over 40,000-miles on the odometer and had rock chips and scratches in the paintwork, too. That’s an obscene amount of money for a 968 with no real significance other than its low production numbers.
The E9 3.0 CS is one of the progenitors of all things modern BMW. It was the chassis that brought BMW into a serious fight with Porsche and Ford on the race track, and against the Italians for grand tourer dominance. The original 3.0 CS wasn’t really a sports car, though, so much as it was a sporty grand tourer. It was an instant success in the showrooms, allowing the E9 to steal the hearts of a new generation of BMW enthusiasts. However, BMW lacked success on the race track so they took their new grand tourer and put it on a diet.
The new model was dubbed the 3.0 CSL, and was the first BMW to wear that badge. Each CSL had their body shell crafted from thinner steel for maximum weight reduction. Then, it was fitted with an aluminum hood, doors, and trunk lid. The 3.0 CS glass and carpeting were left behind for Perspex side windows, a thinner windshield, no sound deadening, and thin Perlon carpeting. The M30 inline-six was used in all CSLs but was subject to various improvements throughout the CSL’s development. It started as a 3.0-liter with twin carburetors and ended as a fuel-injected 3.5-liter. Rounding out all of the lightweight improvements was a set of Bilstein sport shocks and lower, progressive-rate springs. The CSL was a hit among the public and, crucially, on the race track as well. Dozens of race wins and thousands of CSLs sold made the model a legend.
The model linked above is a real CSL, built in the early half of 1973 model year production. Because of the build date, the engine carries the original M30 3.0-liter displacement but uses the Bosch fuel-injection like most CSLs. Painted Polaris Silver, it wears almost all of the classic CSL bodywork that we’re accustomed to. Chrome wheel arch extensions, Alpina wheels, a deep chin spoiler and the signature stripe along the beltline all ensure we know that the CSL is special. But what we can’t see in photos is the equipped City Package, designed to make the lightweight special a bit more liveable. The standard Perspex and aluminum bodywork were replaced by the CS’s steel and glass parts. Side windows featured power operation and the rear was heated. The interior was fitted with some sound deadening and thicker carpeting for a skosh more luxury. BMW built less than 100 left-hand-drive City Package cars, making this example a relatively uncommon spec, and with only 8,000-mile on the odometer, there’s no wonder why it sold for $220,000.
Good deals are hard to come by these days, especially with the collector car market in an absolute frenzy. Look hard enough, though, and you might stumble across one. Tough to do with auctions, this Mercedes W115 240D has to be one of the best bargains of the year. The W115 is one of the most beloved, respected, and widely used Mercedes platforms of all time. Its extensive use of diesel engines brought the glow plug to the sedan-driving masses, all while serving as taxis across Europe thanks to their immaculate reliability. With nearly 2 million W115s produced, they aren’t the most exclusive in the world, but one in great shape can be difficult to find thanks to their extensive use when new.
The W115 doesn’t carry the reputation of the W123 that succeeded it, but it laid the groundwork for that successor. Under the hood of this Mimosa Yellow 240D is the OM616, a 2.4-liter inline-four diesel that produced 64 horsepower and 101 lb-ft of torque. Not exactly the same as today’s modern AMG products, but it was plenty for the small sedan fifty years ago, and carried on reliably in the W123. Supporting the sedan was Mercedes’ first new suspension design since the start of the second world war. Front double wishbones utilizing ball joints, and a rear semi-trailing arm setup was everything the W115 needed to get people around comfortably and reliably.
The W115 240D isn’t a fast or exciting model, but this particular car was a near-perfect view of what that era looked like. The paint, lenses, trim, and interior were all largely original. Even the paint-matched hubcaps wore their original paint, showing shockingly little wear. Inside the cabin, the carpeting, door panels, and seats were in immaculate condition. A few knobs, switches, and the gauge bezels all showed signs of wear, but that’s to be expected in an unrestored car. Included with the car were its service history, original documentation, and the data card. All of the above sounds like the making for a hammer price well into the five figures, and the auction thought so too, setting an estimated sale price around $35,000. The no-reserve auction didn’t even come close, hammering home at $15,400.
The Mk2 Jetta is one of the most popular classic Volkswagen tuning platforms. Its sales success in America assured plenty were available for a long time while Europe-only parts kept American fans scouring the internet for the rarest of unobtanium parts. The tuning scene may have moved its attention toward the modern offerings from VAG, but there is still a dedicated and passionate side of VW fans who are eager to keep the oldies around. The Mk2 Jetta linked above is one of those classics that was given a chance to be around longer than the original owner.
The Jetta was built by a relatively well-known builder on Volkswagen forums, Jeff Bynum, and has some highly sought after parts bolted to a clean chassis. Although it dons a GTX badge, the Tornado Red Jetta is a 1992 GLi model. Externally, the Jetta wears the smaller bumpers of the earlier Mk2s, the flares off of the Mk2 GTi/GLi, a GLi rear spoiler, and a set of Fifteen52 wheels that evoke the Mk2’s “Snowflake” wheels. Rounding that up are the rare projector headlights and grille from a Golf Rallye. Bynum was also keen on adding performance, so instead of beefing up the original 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, he swapped it with a 2.8-liter VR6. Take a peek under the bonnet and the VR6 looks right at home thanks to Bynum’s VW parts compatibility expertise. Inside, the Jetta wears a clean black interior befit with power-adjustable Recaro Trophy seats, white-faced Meister gauges, a Votex center console, and a leather-wrapped Momo steering wheel.
Altogether, the rust-free Jetta sports more than a handful of sought-after factory and aftermarket enhancements—also including an Autotech hollow rear sway bar and a Neuspeed upper-stress bar. But as many sellers have come to understand, aftermarket parts don’t always increase the value of the vehicle. The nearly thirty-year-old Jetta ended up selling for $17,000, which probably sounds like a good deal of money if you’re not a VW enthusiast. However, clean Mk2s have become difficult to find, not to mention all of the hard-to-find parts on this one. To put this build together today would likely cost north of twenty-grand in parts and materials, let alone labor costs. Whoever the winning bidder was got themselves a neck breaker and a deal all-in-one.
There are a handful of performance sedans from the nineties that people constantly praise, worship, and drool over thanks to their racing roots and relative exclusivity. Despite having both of those, the Mercedes C36 AMG never seems to be in those conversations. It was the first official Mercedes-AMG model and a direct rival to the E36 M3 but is seldom offered as an interesting alternative. Unfortunately for Mercedes, the C36 AMG had a few flaws that knocked it behind its competition, however, they can still make great cars today with a little elbow grease.
The main gripes against the W202-based AMG are with the transmission offering and the engine wiring harness. The C36 came with monoblock wheels, an AMG exclusive 3.6-liter inline-six with nearly 300 horsepower, luxury interior appointments, and a motorsports-tuned suspension. In typical Mercedes fashion, though, the C36 was only ever offered with a four-speed automatic. Tests and reviews of the C36 in period praised the automatic as being quick-shifting and engaging, but a lack of manual transmission was a large oversight on Mercedes’ part. The other issue was with the engine harness materials. Dieter Zetsche, a head engineer at Mercedes-Benz in the early nineties, chose to use an eco-friendly, biodegradable wiring harness sheathing which then cracked and disintegrated over time. The exposed wires would either break the connection, corrode, or touch a neighboring wire also exposed, causing shorting and expensive electrical damage.
Today, there are plenty of manual-swapped C36 AMGs around with instructions on Mercedes forums. The wiring harness issue has largely been fixed, too, with replacement harnesses made from the proper materials. The 1996 C36 AMG linked above was one of those affected by the bad wiring harness, though the seller claimed that it had been replaced. With 167,000 miles on the clock, $7200 sounds about right, but the condition says otherwise. The silver paint is largely devoid of scratches and dings but its age is shown by the fading black roof trim, while the interior is in a similar shape. Only the driver’s seat shows noticeable wear, though no cracks or rips are present. The carpet and some switchgear show their age but that’s to be expected after 25 years. In a market where an OK E36 M3 is now a five-figure car, the C36 AMG remains a hidden bargain.
America has grown to ignore the wagon and embrace the crossover as the faux wood-paneled wagons of the ‘80s and ‘90s have scarred a generation. A shame too great to fully grasp, the wagon has become an uncommon sight on dealership lots. There were a few offered in the last few years, though, and one of them was from Jaguar. The XF is their handsome midsize sedan and it was offered in wagon form between 2018 and 2020.
Jaguar sold just 99 XF wagons, dubbed the Sportbrake, in 2018, and the example linked above is one of them. All 2018 Sportbrakes wore the XF S trim, and were subsequently equipped with the engine from the F-Type S. The 3.0-liter supercharged V6 produces 380 horsepower and 332 ft-lbs of torque and distributes it to all four wheels through an eight-speed ZF 8HP automatic gearbox. That’s enough traction and power to send the XF S to 60 mph in just over five seconds. All Sportbrakes also included self-leveling air suspension, a panoramic glass sunroof, and a hands-free liftgate. Being a modern vehicle, it is filled to the brim with safety features like front and rear parking sensors with Park Assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and a forward-collision warning system, among others.
All of that power and technology would’ve run prospective buyers about $71,000 in 2018 before options. The second owner of this Sportbrake paid much less than that though. With only 9100 miles on the odometer and time remaining on the 5-year/60,000 mile factory warranty, the XF S Sportbrake hammered through at $44,000. The deficit in the original and selling price leads to a depreciation of about $2.85 a mile. How that makes sense for a handsome car filled with a supercharged engine and luxury appointments, I don’t know, but the second owner sure seems to have come away with a good deal.
The collector market went in a direction few expected this year. Previously inexpensive and fun models have increased in values, pricing some out of the market. Whether or not online auction websites are to blame for that, I don't know. However, I do know that they’re great places to kill time, check out some really cool cars, and look for new ideas. What was your favorite auction from this past year? Let us know in the comments below! As always, follow along on the blog for more great daily content, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the DIYs you need.
Owner of a flat-six swapped 1998 Impreza 2.5RS and a 1973 Porsche 914. Horizontally opposed views, only.