Today’s Bad Idea: 1990 Renault Alpine GTA V6 Turbo

As I’ve lamented before, French automakers have never really found much success in the United States. Lackluster dealer networks, questionable corporate acquisitions, and ultimately the assassination of Renault’s CEO Georges Besse (!) kept some truly interesting vehicles out of the hands of American consumers; this Renault Alpine GTA is one such example. The awful timing of Renault’s American operations collapsing just as these went to production leaves one wondering if the Alpine GTA could have been the product that turned it all around. While we will never know, now it’s at least possible to get a taste of what we missed out on. In this case, anyone with $9500 burning a hole in their pocket can grab this scruffy Alpine GTA on Craigslist in Seattle and finally experience the joy of a rear-engined, turbocharged V6 French sport coupe leaving them stranded on the side of the road.

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Project BMW update: I fought the car…

…and the car won. Some time ago, actually. It was mid-September when I finally said “enough is enough” with this rare BMW touring. In my case, realizing I’d be lucky to get $3500 out of a car I had nearly $10k dumped into incentivized me to walk away the next time something went wrong. I continues losing the faith when it was discovered that the behemoth was loo long to fit in the garage of our rented urban cottage…and then stuff happened.

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Famous last words: 1992 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16v

I have always really wanted to like Volkswagens. Flat-brim hatted “stance bruh” culture aside, VW is one of a very few mainstream car manufacturers that consistently cranks out interesting products. The various generations of Golf GTI and Jetta GLI, Corrado, Scirocco, their seemingly wonderful TDI diesel powerplant and many other offerings would seem to establish them as a true enthusiast company…if it weren’t for the fact that every one of their cars I’ve ever attempted to own has been absolute garbage. One of the most heartbreaking was my 1992 Jetta GLI, the ultimate A2-chassis Jetta with the wondrous 2.0 16V powerplant, lovely Recaro interior, factory BBS wheels and lots of other car nerd-loving goodies. A friend of mine offered it to me in late 2013 for the low price of $1000; it had been sitting for a while, but was in remarkably nice shape. At least it seemed that way. Oh, how wrong I was…

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Project BMW update: Expensive Maintenance Likely

Since purchasing the 528it, it would occasionally have the traction control and check engine lights come on along with a small light that simply said “EML.” When this happened, the car would immediately start running rough, stall out, or otherwise become kind of a pain to drive. Initially stopping the car and restarting seemed to solve the problem, but it began occurring with such frequency (and at completely random times) that I had to dive in and fix it. Turns out “EML” stands for “Elektronische Motorleistungsregelung;” translated as “Electronic Engine Power Control,” I soon found out that “Expensive Maintenance Likely” is also a pretty close translation.

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Project BMW update: new shoes!

Temperatures have been above freezing for almost three whole days in Wisconsin, so you know what that means…time to put on the summer wheels and tires! Sure, Mother Nature could very well dump another six inches of snow on us in April, but the forecast is in the 50’s for the next few weeks and that’s just fine with me. Besides this thing has traction and stability control…that’s good enough, right?

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CCG Project: 1999 BMW 528i touring

I like BMWs. I like station wagons. I like manual transmissions. Combinations of the three are pretty uncommon, so when I found this 1999 528i touring for sale in January, I picked it up! An E39-chassis station wagon with an extremely rare 5-speed manual, I purchased it for $3200 after finding it on Craigslist in Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve always wanted one of these, so I’ll be putting the time and effort into it to put it together exactly how I’d like.

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Nordic blunder: 1991 Saab 9000 turbo

In the fall of 2012, I was looking for an interesting daily driver and winter car so that I could store my beloved Alfa Romeo Spider. I loved the classic Saab 900s I’d owned over the years, and also recently had a great experience with a cheap used Saab 9-5, so another Saab seemed like a great option. After some typical Craigslist searching and poking around on Saab message boards, I found a Saab fanatic in northern Wisconsin who had this really slick 1991 9000 Turbo. He said that it had been sitting for quite some time, but offered to do all of the work to get it running and said he’d sweeten the deal by throwing in some very desirable extra parts, all for a mere $2000. Like most colossal mistakes, it seemed like a great idea at the time.

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