By on December 2, 2010

What is white, powerful, a ton of fun, and comes with a ‘retractable’ top? If you said the author well, you’re mostly wrong. My top happens to be aerodynamic and I only have powerful eyeglasses. But when it comes to cars we’re talking about convertibles in the wintertime. This week there are a massive amount of convertible trade-in’s at the auctions. A lot of folks here in Atlanta want to forgo the delayed gratification of a spring day for a winter shopping spree. Black Friday shopping sometimes requires divestments and some folks have decided that the least favorite toy must be exchanged for the most recent shopping season. Is this the right decision? Well, it depends on how you measure value.

The auction offered no less than four outstanding convertibles. Their selling prices were…

2004 BMW Z4 3.0i, $12,200 48k, – Clean – 6-Speed

2002 Audi TT, 90K, $7200, 90k – Average – 5-Speed

1997 Jaguar XK8, $6800, 82k – Clean – Automatic

1994 Mercedes SL320, $5650, 90k – Clean -Removable Hardtop

I have a very soft spot for the 1st generation BMW Z3. In nearly every respect it’s the embodiment of a ‘simple’  BMW at it’s best. The 2nd Gen Z4? Way too much. There’s a reason why this one was only driven 48,000 miles and though it was the second most immaculate car at the auction, and a BMW at that, it fell far short of the clean book price.

Silver Audis like the 2002 TT, are all over the friggin place. Throw a rock in the direction of any Highline auction (where only higher end vehicles are sold) and chances are you’ll hit at least two silver Audis. Silver has become the new ‘forest green’ of the luxury market which is why the local Audi dealer still has 2008 Audis avaliable. All silver. All A6’s.

This non-Highline sale offered a clean 2002 A6 in silver with the 3.0L and 89k that went for $5100. The same year Pathfinder with a cloth interior and 134k miles went for more money. Why? The Nissan will be easier to keep on the street (lower repair costs, fewer wear issues), which yields higher bids from the buy-here pay-here dealers who need the finance fodder.  As for that TT, it was in average shape with the usual dings, dents, scuff and wear of a daily driver. Mileage was higher than normal. The $7200 was a little cheap, but fair given the amount of reconditioning that the TT will need to get it moved. .

My heart and soul went to the Jag and Merc. You sit in the Jaguar, and it doesn’t want to let you go. The wood. The smell. The feeling that you’re in something that was timeless.. for the Clinton era. Well, the wood did seem a bit shiny and the center console was a bit cheap looking. But compared to the interiors of the Z4 and TT? This was a convertible for the upper echelon. It sold for $6800 which was a steal even with a $200 auction fee. The dealer will have no trouble holding it for a while and may even get a customer before Christmas time. Even at $10k retail, it would be a reasonable buy.

Finally there was the museum piece. A 1994 Mercedes SL320 that was so clean you could eat off the tailpipe. What color may you ask? Why forest green of course! The official color of early-90’s luxury. Yours truly was willing to bid $5000 for it. The SL went for $5650. The hardtop and all the fragile features were in amazingly good shape. The owner must have been small because the seats didn’t have any of the creases and tears that are common for this era of Mercedes seats. I’m sure it went to a good home.

Other sales, and no-sales included:

2007 Pontiac Solstice GXP – no sale at 12k Average – Zonker Yellow

2005 VW Beetle – 55K – no sale at $7000 Clean – Floridian Blue

2000 Chrysler Sebring JXi – $2800 – 107k – Clean – Automatic/Leather

2001 Toyota Solara, True Miles Unknown $1900  Rough/Crap

1997 Ford Mustang, True Miles Unknown $1650, Rough/Crap

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29 Comments on “Hammer Time: Cruisin’ In The Wintertime...”

  • avatar

    This is the first time in a long time,that I havn’t had a convertible in my garage. I’m already missing having a car to detail through the long Canadian winter. I’m looking at something 2005 or better Mustangs,but the dealers up here want a fortune for anything thats any good.

     BTW …I’m not a BMW guy, but that photo makes me cringe. Snow and a convertible do not mix.

    • 0 avatar

      Snow and a convertible are a great mix.  I had snow tires on my Miata!  It was a handful, but tons of fun.

    • 0 avatar

      Snow tires on an S2K. That thing was amazing, even in 6″ of Ohio snow.

    • 0 avatar

      Snow and a convertible do not mix.
      Agreed.  A foot of snow on a convertible roof could weigh 200 lbs, which can’t be good for it.

    • 0 avatar

      If you drive it, you won’t accumulate 2 feet of snow on it :)

      Honestly, I put more miles and have more fun with my Boxster in the snow than I do during the summer (I put a lot of miles on the motorcycle in the summer).  With a good set of performance winter tires, a convertible will work just fine all year long and will handle better than any pickup truck on ice and plowed roads (less weight = better stopping/turning ability).  And it’s so much easier to do controlled power slides.

      NOTE: I live in northern Minnesota (near Canada) so, yes, I see a lot of snow and ice.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Funny you should mention the question.  In early 2003, have secured a clearance from my SO to replace my ’92 Taurus SHO (owned from new) with something more frivolous, I went roadster shopping.  Certain ones were crossed off the list as being too small to accommodate my 6’4″ frame (Miata, S2000).  Others because they were available only with an automatic and had an engine that sounded like a transplant from a farm tractor (M-B SLK).  That left two under consideration: Boxster and Z3.  Fearing expensive repair bills, a little quick shopping on the ‘Net revealed that a sub 40K miles Boxster was out of my price range, but a Z3 of similar usage was.  Having first rejected a very cherry (literally!) ’99 2.8 with low miles (My only red car was a ’78 Accord, and even that got pulled over a few times for the tiniest of infractions.  I could only imagine the reaction of the local constabulary to a red roadster.)
    So, on the Saturday of Presidents’ Day I find myself at a BMW dealer looking over a silver (yeah, I know) CPO ’01 Z3 3.0 that is just about perfect in every respect.  About 20-odd thousand miles; looks like a lease return.  The package includes a bra for the front and a car cover: the previous owner was obsessive about this car.  Only problem is that it’s many thousand over my self-imposed $24K limit.  I already know from my carfax research (back in the day when you could get an unlimited number of searches for a relatively small amount of money) that this one has been on the dealer’s lot since the end of the previous year.  So,l I make the lowball pitch.  The salesman is cool . . . he says he has to check with his manager.  He leaves to do that, some time passes, he returns and tells me that his manager called my offer “ridiculous.”  Conveniently, at that moment, snowflakes start falling outside in pretty substantial numbers.  So, I suggest to my friendly salesman that he take a look outside and ask himself how many convertibles he thinks he’s going to sell this weekend.  I remind him I have a checkbook in my pocket and more than enough money in the account to cover the cost of the car . . . and there’s no trade-in to complicate things.  So, we can do this deal right now … or not.
    He leaves, then returns with a counter that’s a few thousand above my offer but comfortably under Blue Book retail as well as under the asking price of the low-miles ’99 that I rejected because of its color.
    So, we exchange signatures all around, I drive home in my new Z3, and 20 inches of snow proceeds to fall on metro Washington DC, pretty much shutting the place down for several days.
    Poor guys probably didn’t sell any more cars that weekend, covertible top or otherwise. And my Z3 stayed in the driveway under its cover for the next week.
    I still own the Z3 and — knock wood — never collected on the extended warranty other than to have the water pump replaced somewhat gratuitously because it was noisy.  It’s not the ultimate sports car, but it’s a fun car for me . . . which was the whole point.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey, the Z3 was/is a great car.  Sure it’s not got the most sophisticated rear suspension, but it has a ton of power for such a small car and is great fun to drive.  Many kudos on your excellent score and for hanging onto the car for a while.
      I still kind of regret not getting a Z3 when the base model moved over to a 6-cylinder.  I test drove one when they were offering crazy lease deals to get them off the lot, and it was a  great car.  Something like $250/mo to lease!  I couldn’t bring myself to do it, having never leased a car before, and ending up dumping more than $250/mo on average into my Range Rover to keep it on the road.  Sigh, the exuberance of youth.

    • 0 avatar

      Not that long ago I sold my ’01 3.0i roadster to a guy in Gaithersburg.  I simply wasn’t using it enough to justify the outlay any longer.  I took some of the profit and bought a nice 1991 318iS out of Georgetown.  It’s as fun to drive, I can see out of it, and it’s apparently bulletproof.

      But I’m going to miss the living snot out of the Z3 in April.

  • avatar

    Frankly I’m shocked that the Sebring garnered $2,800. My father has sold two of them private party this year for elderly friends and non-car savvy family members (they’re obviously not car savvy—they bought a Sebring!). Mileage and condition was similar to what was stated above, and he couldn’t move either of them until he dropped the price to $1,500.
    FWIW, having spent some time in and around those cars while they were prepped for sale, they are absolute junk. Theoretically this won’t come as a surprise to many of you, but it was shocking to me to see how bad they really were in person.

    • 0 avatar

      This was a previous generation Sebring, not the montrosity that Daimler forced on us. It was actually a pretty good car, designed in part by John Herlitz (God rest his soul), and based on solid JA mechanicals. I wouldn’t mind having one myslef if I could find a clean example.

  • avatar

    My convertibles went through Ohio, and New York winters with no problems. The top of my daughters S2000, in Virginia, almost never goes up, even in snow flurries (very rare , but fun).

  • avatar

    I’ve owned a few convertibles thru the years and currently own an MX5 (why call it a “Miata” when the name appears nowhere on the car?). I don’t plan on driving it in the snow, either, as I refuse to buy snow tires for it, but it is a barrel of fun otherwise as a “fun” car, although I’d prefer something with more panache – like a Cadillac XLR – but you buy what you can afford, plus my wife actually likes it, too – and drives it, 5 spd and all!

    • 0 avatar

      IMHO….Winter hastens the death of all cars, but convertibles,really take a beating. I had a 1972 Impala with a white top, you could not get the winter grime off. I just sold a 2000 Firebird, I got it fairly cheap because it had started life in Quebec,and had suffered untold of abuses. Not the least of wich,was the three Quebec winters. I could never get that car to look really detailed,to my standards. I also believe that it might of been hit,another reason to park a rag top in the winter.

  • avatar

    When I was shopping for a Miata recently, almost all the leftovers from 2010 are silver. Hopefully that means that the monochrome colors of the past few years are giving way to more colorful cars. I don’t like driving down the highway in a sea of white, silver, gray, and black.

    • 0 avatar

      My 2007 MX5 is “Granite Gray”, actually a beautiful color, and not many of them in that color around that I’ve seen. The bright red they use is much too loud and screams “pull me over, please, and gimme a ticket!”

    • 0 avatar

      Originally I wanted that “True Red” cop magnet color. I just got a deal on a “Copper Red” which is really growing on me.
      Each individual decision to buy a gray car makes sense and quite a few cars look great in those colors, but in aggregate, it is a bit depressing. When I drive to work, I see only a few colorful cars over the course of 10 miles.

  • avatar

    As a high school student I drove a 71 MGB.  I broke the rear plastic window when trying to get the snow off.  It shattered like glass in the sub zero Minnesota winter.

    • 0 avatar

      Ouch. The last time I had to deal with anything plastic (the plastic wheel wells in an 03 Accord to change headlights) it was about 5 degrees outside in Minnesota. The plastic was so brittle it cracked all the way across. Luckily it wasn’t a window, but still.

  • avatar

    Cool, so maybe this is the winter I buy my miata. I hear tell that everyone should own a convertible sometime in their life.

    • 0 avatar

      You do want to own a convertible at some point in your life. I got mine during a pre midlife crisis moment, and would have gotten it much sooner had I known how much fun it would be. You just have to get used to eyes on you all the time though, so hoonage has to be kept to a minimum. The cops and most other drivers almost always seem to give a vert a second look.

  • avatar
    thats one fast cat

    Like you, I have always thought the XK8 was absolutely gorgeous (even better as a coupe, IMHO).  Anyway, I’m shocked at how cheap they have become — our local DC craigslist has 97 with sub 100K for ~9 and it apparently is getting no bites.  The number at auction really seems like a steal, with a lot of upside for the seller at retail.  If I recall correctly, that era of jag is relatively bulletproof (with the exception of some engines that have a liner issue, which I thought was correlated to low use, but I could be wrong.)
    What a deal that would be come springtime.  Thanks for the story

  • avatar

    if they make AWD in a rag top i guess more folks would drive them, they also make hard top for certain cabrios, so u can still enjoy the solid fun, no rips & tears made during the cold season.
    i fellow in Seattle drives his porsche carrera 4 all yrs round.

  • avatar

    Steve, too bad about the forest green on the SL. That generation (the R129) was one of MB’s last gasps of “engineered like no other” and has aged very well, both mechanically and aesthetically. That I6 is surprisingly thirsty, though.

    The XK was a lovely car in it’s day but that vintage of Jag seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

  • avatar

    2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder 5 speed – Michigan Winter No. 7 coming up. Never ever been stuck.

    • 0 avatar

      Everyone should own a conv during their lifetime. I am on my third. A 1991 VW Cabriolet white with a dark blue top and white leather interior. The top is fully insulated and the heater will drive you out of the car with the output of heat. We use the car year round and when i have to make a run to Home Depot for some 2 x 4 8 footers i just put down the top and turn up the heater. This car only has approx 44,000 miles and runs as new. Body is mint and not a spot of rust after 20 years. My wife has a station wagon but i rather put the top down in the winter.
      As far as traction i have never been stuck in the snow. If we get a very heavy snow fall i have 4 show tires on my other car.  

    • 0 avatar

      I never had any issues keeping warm except this year it’s not heating up on the drivers side … isn’t that the way it goes. I think I have air in the system and need to burp it correctly this weekend.

      I currently have 144K miles on it and the winter driving is starting to show with rust on the weld joints and several other underbody areas. Honestly I could care less since I drive these types of vehicles to enjoy every mile of it, not to keep it pristine after 10 years.

      I started looking at manual convertible Mustangs and most likely will get one next year … in the winter of course to take advantage of lower pricing.

      I’ve made many trips to Home Depot 2 miles away from home and bypassed the Durango when I didn’t have much to pick up.

      This whole convertible vehicles for me started when I bought  a Jeep CJ7 when I was 19 and loved the feeling of openness. Only reason I didn’t continue with Jeeps is because it took too long to mess with the top. In a convertible it’s just a matter of seconds with a push of a button any time of the year.

  • avatar

    What does it take to tag along to the auction house ? You can claim me as your intern/entourage or whatever.

  • avatar

    I’ve never really liked convertibles, but IMO VW builds the best-looking ones.  Exposing a convertible to snow seems like heresy.

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