Derek And Doug's Fantastic Crapwagons: 12 Cylinders, One Emptied Bank Account
“I believe that anyone who is worth their salt should drive a V12 once before they die.“
Actually, I didn’t write that. But that line was actually spoken (spake?) by David E. Davis, a man who we know never let reality stand in the way of a carefully constructed image. I tend to give the opposite advice when it comes to V12s. Those who aren’t fortunate enough to return their V12 powered automobiles after a 12 month long-term loan (or, a week) must live by the maxim “if you can’t afford it new, you can’t afford it used”. This is advice I frequently dole out when people ask me about buying a BMW 850i, since the words “two Inline 6s joined at the hip” somehow isn’t sufficiently scary.
This week’s instalment of “Crapwagons” may be the most wretched in terms of reliability, but also the most compelling way to get a dopamine high from throwing good money after bad.
First up is the legendary BMW 850i, with a very rare 6-speed manual. Only 60,000 km, no winters and apparently, a very rare color combination. It costs as much as a new Hyundai Accent, and you can probably expect to incur monthly fuel bills equivalent to the Hyundai’s monthly note as well.
But if we’re going to go down the V12 rabbit hole, we might as well go out in a blaze of financially irresponsible glory. For less than $15,000, you can own perhaps the Uber-crapwagon of the last decade, a W12 Phaeton. I can say without a hint of irony that I would do terrible things to own this car – likely because running it would require a side foray into prostitution. The amount of motors and solenoids and other finnicky componentry makes a Citroen SM look hearty and robust by comparison. Still, I don’t think there is a more elegant and understated luxury car, just as long as you don’t mind people asking you what year your Passat is.
Although I often complain about Atlanta car culture, we apparently love our V12s. I discovered this when I set my AutoTrader.com search parameters to “12 Cylinders” and “Within 200 miles” and returned 164 cars. So I instituted a price cap – $30,000 – and still ended up with 47 listings. This may say more about monumental V12 depreciation than it does Atlanta car culture.
Anyway: with the price cap now at $25,000 (still 39 cars), I found it easy to pick some rather dubious 12-cylinder models in my area. Here goes:
This one is a pure curiosity. Yes, it would be impossible to run this segment without an XJS V12. But how about a 16,500-mile XJS V12? Offered by a Hyundai dealership? For $20,000? That’s precisely what we have here, along with 40 pictures and a surprisingly thorough description of the car that includes the words “John Egan.” Not what you’d expect from a dealer whose primary business involves helping customers decide between a $14,000 Accent and a full-year transit pass.
Here’s a 2003 S600 that I chose almost entirely because it’s painted Rental Car Blue Metallic. According to the seller, it’s “as luxurious as a Rolls-Royce,” “safer than a Volvo,” and “still faster than a Ferrari.” Unfortunately, he forgot “as expensive to run as Mozambique.” Still: at $16,000, there is absolutely no way to go wrong in this one, provided you have a close friend who buys it and gives you rides.
Finally, we have a 1998 CL600 located at a business entitled “Zam’s Used Cars.” My guess: Zam bought this at auction, drove it for a few weeks, then realized that a turn signal bulb costs the same as a 2001 Jetta. Now he’s trying to pass along the chrome-wheeled ticking time bomb to you for a mere $7,900. Never mind the fact that the Carfax clearly shows the odometer’s been rolled back. And it recently had an accident. And those wheels.
Ladies and gentlemen: there are many 12-cylinder used cars out there, especially if you live in Atlanta. But there are also many eight-cylinder cars, and six-cylinder cars, and five-cylinder cars. Buy one of those instead.
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I have a friend who bought a car from Zam’s Used Cars once. Due to the litigious nature of our society that's all I'm going to say about that.
I've only experienced a V12 once - an XKE that a friend owned from the passenger seat but that experience was enough to convince me that DED was on to something. The sound, the smoothness...there's nothing else like it. For me, it would have to be the 8 series, as I want my 12 cylinders hooked up to a manual. given that the only other option for under $30k would be a Ferrari 400/412, the BMW actually looks like the sane financially prudent move.