Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The $30k Collection. The Q car.

Let us keep all the following on the hush-hush. The down low. The Da Vinci Code. Let us not let out that there are some automobiles around that have a bit of the Bruce Wayne/Clark Kent in them. That there are autos that from the general looks have that reputable air. That outward facing appearance of propriety of a car that is suited to running to church on Sunday or knocking out the commute in boring efficiency. Or, some times, in portraying a fa├žade of idle, slow luxury. “Ah,” you’d say, “that car just seems to ooze along the highway like its banker owner.” But you’d be wrong. Because the car that you are looking at is a Q car. One of the rarest breeds of car on the road. Outside it says it is slow. But inside it has got the goods for speed. Think of it as the polar opposite of a Lamborghini. Many people build their own Q cars, stuffing a V8 into a TR7 or some such other ridiculousness. But there is nothing quite like factory-fitted performance. Let us check out these three cars that had the engineers giggling with delight, thinking that they had passed by the board of directors something naughty. Something they shouldn’t have. The production team equivalent of getting the PA announcer at the mall to page Mike Klitoris.

1985 Buick Skyhawk T-type. $4,000 will buy a well-loved example riding high on original suspension. To say that mid-eighties Buicks are a bit mingy would be polite. They are square and humble and devoid of style. But those Buick engineers must have gotten sick of getting automotive sand kicked in their faces to they sent off from the back of the comic book for some more power. And it came in the form of the T-Type. Turbo charged cars. The most famous being the T-Type regal. But the Skyhawk was basically a mini Regal. With a Turbo 4, manual transmission and lightweight (brought on by cheapness not any other reason) this little car could fly. It even shared a similar striped, sporty interior with its bigger brother. Well-bolstered seats, a stick shift and enough torque (175ftlbs) to fry the tires make this quite the Q car. With plus size front tires for some more grip go surprise those Mustang 5.0 lovers light after light.

1995 Audi S6 Avant. $10,000 will land one with under 100,000 miles and no modifications. Unfortunately, the ultimate Audi wagon sleeper the Porsche-built RS2 was never sold in the US so you will have to do with Audi’s own S division’s product. The S series Audis were all, up until the past few years been Q cars. Subtle executive expresses. The newest models have too much flash and flares. Not so with the mid-nineties offerings, most of all the Avants. But with a 20valve Turbo making 227HP, all-wheel drive and a 5-speed this was no Brady Bunch behemoth. This was a sports sedan. They grow like weeds in Colorado because it is one of the best ski cars ever made. Remove the two S badges, jump into the left lane and give the cars in front of you the high beams. And when they move over, you and four friends can watch their jaw drop.

1987 Mercedes 190E 2.3-16. $16,000 for the rare one with fewer stories than Steven King. This is one of the finest Q cars around. It looks like a stripped out German Taxi but goes like a World-record holder. The only outside signals are subtle bodywork and a badge which reads like a math equation. Sure it has a Cosworth head with twin cams that made 167HP and an equal amount of torque but what makes this car special is the whole package. Again balance. The LSD was standard. Only lawyers opted for the automatic so most are manual shift. The car only seats four with two rear buckets. If you have no imagination and like to garner attention from young boys with hair gel go buy an E30 M3 for similar money and performance. If you do not like garnering attention from said spikey-haired teen males buy a Benz that has been tweaked by Cosworth.

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