The tail ‘wagon’ the dog

23 November, 2015

Don’t tell your copier rep, but Mercedes-Benz’s latest version of the C63 AMG has arrived.

Moneyed Kiwis fell in love with the first-generation C63 thanks to its compact frame and rear-drive whimsy created by the seismic 6.2-litre V8. The newer car promises to be slightly more refined with a more emission-friendly four-litre twin-turbo V8, with the ability to still offer a very quick trip to the shops. Based on the success of its predecessor, the C63 will find plenty of garage space in New Zealand as a new car and a used import. 

The C63’s competitors are the creations of BMW and Audi — with the M3/M4 and RS4/5 on offer respectively. Problem is, these guys haven’t quite managed to tick all of the body-shape boxes. Mercedes-Benz have, and, let’s face it, if you’re in the market for a plush, relatively small German muscle car for around $150,000, it’ll be one of these three. 

But what if you want a choice of how many doors it has? First off, the BMW M3 is now only built as a sedan. The coupe version — the M4 — is the same car with two fewer doors. The Audi RS4 is only available as a wagon, so if you want a coupe, it’ll be the RS5, and if you want a sedan, you could have a look at the RS7 — although you’d be putting yourself in a different price bracket altogether. Whew, it seems Leonardo DiCaprio has fewer models to deal with.

The most obvious question to this ‘too many / not enough’ body-type argument is this: why has BMW steadfastly refused to build an M3 wagon to compete with the C63 and RS4? Word from the motorsport division at BMW is that there isn’t the market for it. If the internet is to be believed (but as we know, there’s always a reason to doubt what you read on the internet), they’re wrong — an M3 wagon would be a runaway success. Mere hours after the release of the first-to-be-seen picture of the M3/M4 in 2013, renderings of a wagon version had popped up online, and the BMW forum fanboys were demanding this car be built to accommodate their imaginary wife and kids.

You might think BMW would be scrambling to manufacture this car given the success of the RS4 and C63 five-doors, but it seems they may be a bit gun-shy when it comes to go-fast family haulers. The E60 M5 Tourer, whilst a magnificent beast, was a sales flop. Only 1000 units were ever produced of the 20,000 total E60 M5 run. While these big wagons now demand a premium in the used-car market, the figures just weren’t there to justify continuing production of a wagon with the F10 M5. Unfortunately, this trickles down to the smaller models, despite their competitors giving them successful case studies, proving their inevitable success.

Your only real alternative (other than sensibly going for the very viable oil-burning 335d) from the Bavarian manufacturer is the new 3.0 straight-six 340i Touring, which is due out later in the year. This car is being built to compete directly with the now long-in-the-tooth B8 Audi S4 Avant (due to be replaced next year), and Mercedes-Benz’s new twin-turbo V6 C450 Estate. The 340i will come packing 320 horses. Not bad, but still a fair way off the M3/4s equivalent 425hp. As with the previous generation of the 335i, it is rumoured that the 340i will be able to be pushed out significantly by way of a remap, which will unfortunately put the manufacturers warranty in jeopardy, scaring away most potential tinkerers.

So — unless you’ve got a donor car, a written-off M3, and a mountain of cash — ensuring you get the dog, the kids, and the golf clubs to the bach in a blaze of ‘Germaniacal’ noise and glory, you may well be forced to suckle at the teat of Audi and Mercedes-Benz for a bit longer yet.

Travelling companion

It’s easy to see why the Morris Minor Traveller was one of the best-loved variants of the Morris Minor. Introduced in 1953, it was equipped with the same independent torsion bar front suspension, drum brakes, and rack and pinion steering as its saloon sibling but, with their foldable rear seat increasing versatility, many Travellers were used as trade vehicles, says Derek Goddard. Derek and Gail Goddard, the owners of this superbly restored example, have run Morris Minors since before they were married in 1974.
“Our honeymoon vehicle was a blue Morris Minor van — it was a rust bucket,” says Derek.

Super Leicht Gullwing

It’s fair to say that nothing much in the classic Mercedes world gets past Mercedes-Benz Club stalwart Garry Boyce so it wasn’t surprising to learn that around 15 years ago he had sniffed out an extremely rare 300SL lightweight Gullwing as well as a 1958 300SL Roadster hiding away in the Waikato. The cars were not for sale but Garry eventually managed to persuade the owner to allow him and his restoration team to take a look at the Roadster. They discovered a very distressed but largely unmolested car. The car was so original that the body had never been off the chassis, meaning most of the parts and fittings were still present and correct, as they had been fitted by the factory.