Welcome to the latest edition of “For the Money,” where we examine auction sales from the prior month and see which rides you’d pick with a stack of theoretical cash. Last time, we looked at August and set our sights at $50K, far lower than the unobtanium at that month’s Monterey auctions. This time, we looked at September, nearing the end of driving season for many enthusiasts, and set our cap even lower at $40K.
Plenty of interesting options presented themselves, including strong sales and some bargains. Here are a few—which would you bring home?
2009 Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe
Sold by Barrett-Jackson for $38,500, including buyer’s premium
The Solstice is on that far-too-short list of American sports cars that aren’t Corvettes. The four-cylinder Pontiac Miata-fighter had a decent 2006-10 run but was ultimately one of the many casualties of GM’s Great Recession bankruptcy. Base-model cars are still budget two-seaters and the Solstice will never be a Blue Chip collector car, but some of the rarer performance models are already on the expensive side.
The Solstice GXP, introduced in 2007, got a new 2.0-liter engine with direct injection and a dual-scroll turbocharger for 260 hp and 260 lb-ft, a standard limited-slip diff, and a new ratio between second and third gears. Then, when Pontiac was approaching the chopping block, a Solstice coupe arrived to the lineup in both base and GXP forms. As both a GXP and a coupe, this Solstice at Barrett-Jackson’s inaugural New Orleans auction one of only 781 built. It also has just 12(!) miles, so it’s a collector-grade example and just about the closest thing you can get to a brand-spanking-new Pontiac in 2023. At $38,500 it sold between its #1 (Concours) and #2 (Excellent) condition value and was appropriately discounted for its automatic transmission.
2005 BMW M3 ZCP
Sold on Bring a Trailer for $34,650, including buyer’s premium
The 2000-06 BMW M3, aka the E46 M3, is one of BMW’s last real analog “Ultimate Driving Machines,” while its clean, understated styling make it one of the nicest-looking cars of the 2000s. The press gushed about it when it was new, and it’s still an impressive thing 20 years later. The available Competition Package (a $4000 option also called “ZCP”) made things even better with an M Track mode for the Dynamic Stability Control, bigger brakes, and quicker steering.
An E46 M3 Coupe carried a $45,400 MSRP when it was new, but these modern collectibles stopped depreciating years ago and these days clean, lightly used, low-mile #2 (Excellent) condition cars can sell for nearly 70 grand. This one sold for half that, and there are reasons why. Although it has the Competition Package and is finished in the desirable shade of Interlagos Blue, it has 99K miles and a fairly long list of little things that don’t work. These include a finnicky trunk latch, inoperable front seat bolsters and lumbar support, pixel damage in the nav screen, and both EGT sensor and DSC pressure switch need replacing. Still, for someone who knows their way around an E46 or just wants an M3 to daily drive and fool around with, it’s a lovely German coupe with a reasonable price tag.
2016 Jaguar F-Type Coupe
Sold on Cars&Bids for $34,485, including buyer’s premium
For those with tastes a little more…British, this F-Type Jaguar coupe with rare 6-speed manual sold for about half its original MSRP. A supercharged V6 model (the only engine available with the manual) with 52,000 miles and a few light mods, it’s neither the best nor the fastest F-Type out there, but it’s still a lot of modern style and speed for well under 40 grand. For anybody looking for a more premium badge, a 2007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage manual in similar condition also sold for $35,530 on Cars&Bids last month. Both of these beautiful British shift-it-yourself GT cars were on Rob Sass’s recent list of bargain collectibles.
1961 Borgward Isabella
Sold on Bring a Trailer for $36,750, including buyer’s premium
For those who have eccentric tastes or just love an oddball, one of the most unusual cars we saw change hands last month was this Borgward Isabella. Its red and white diamond badge is an obscure one today and especially in America, but Borgward was one of Germany’s largest car companies during the 1950s and until its demise in the early 1960s. The Isabella was Borgward’s most popular model and could be had as a coupe, cabriolet, station wagon, even a pickup. Slotting in above Ford and Opel models but below Mercedes-Benz, the unibody Isabella is a handsome little car in any form, but the coupes are downright sexy, even if a 75-hp, 1.5-liter, single Solex-fed four is all they have to work with.
The one sold on Bring a Trailer last month looks particularly sharp in white over two-ton red and white, and received some refurbishment in 2019 including new paint and upholstery. There are certainly faster cars for 36 grand, but few as exclusive or unusual.
1963 Lotus Super Seven S2
Sold by Bonhams for $30,240, including buyer’s premium
As a bare bones driver’s car, the Lotus Seven is so damn good. Don’t just take my word for it, though. The original Seven may have debuted in 1957, but the same basic concept is still around today in the various cars offered by Caterham, and dozens of other companies have have tried their hand at selling replicas. Other than the Shelby Cobra, there is perhaps no other car more aped by kit and replica manufacturers than the Seven. With their complete lack of creature comforts (Sevens have neither a trunk nor real windows) and unbelievably low weight (about 1200 pounds), these cars take Colin Chapman’s love of light weight to an extreme and offer motoring in one of its purest forms.
Lotus sold the Seven and Super Seven, mostly in kit form and with four-cylinder Ford power, before selling the rights to the model to Caterham in the early 1970s. Lotus-badged versions are more desirable and somewhat rare relative to many of the later copies. This Super Seven is an S2 model, the version built from 1960-68, and it features the desirable Cosworth-tuned Ford 116E engine fed by Weber carburetors. Offered from an estate sale, it has apparently been set up for racing with roll bar, fuel cell and harnesses, but has yet to go to the track still has all the necessary equipment to take it on the road as well. It sold at what looks to be a fair price for the equipment and condition, and with a little basic sorting would be a rewarding dual purpose race car/weekend driver. Maybe the most fun-per-dollar we saw all month.