9 German performance cars to remind you how rad the '80s and '90s were

More and more, '80s and '90s cars are breaking into the market as desirable collector vehicles. It’s a trend we’ve been observing for several years, and one that is accelerating as a solid contingent of cars from this era make a splash at high-profile auctions. Performance models are often on the avant-garde of such trends, and auction house RM Sotheby’s is (in the parlance of our times) blowing up the spot at Paris Rétromobile with some seriously cool ‘80s and ‘90s metal from Germany. Here are nine we’ll be watching when they cross the block later this week:

1989 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC AMG 6.0 Widebody

1989 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC AMG 6.0 'Wide-Body'
RM Sotheby's
1989 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC AMG 6.0 'Wide-Body'

Lot 122 (RM Sotheby’s)

Pre-sale estimate: $171,500 - $229,000 (€150,000 - €200,000)

Before AMG officially partnered with Mercedes in 1993, the low-volume hot-rod brand sold its cars in Mercedes dealerships with full warranties in a fashion similar to what Roush and Callaway currently do in Ford and Chevy stores. As you’d suspect, they were exceedingly rare and expensive. Estimates put total volume for the 560 SEC AMG 6.0 at fewer than 50 cars, making this murdered-out 385-hp two-door a special German muscle car, indeed. Think of it like a two-door version of the famous 5.5-liter, 355-hp AMG Hammer—only bigger, and angrier.

1983 BMW Alpina B9 3.5

1983 BMW Alpina B9 3.5
RM Sotheby's
1983 BMW Alpina B9 3.5

Lot 131 (RM Sotheby’s)

Pre-sale estimate: $46,000 - $57,000 (€40,000 - €50,000)

Are you the kind of buyer who admires the first-generation M5 but would prefer something for around the same price that’s older, subtler, and guaranteed to not ever see its twin at Cars and Coffee? Check out the B9, where Alpina took the 3.5-liter straight-six from the E28 5 Series and cranked it up from 218 to 245 horses courtesy of high-compression pistons, new camshaft, and a reprogrammed ignition system. The M5, which launched two years later in 1985, is more powerful with its 286 hp, but this Alpina has a flavor all its own—those funky striped seats indicate as much. This example uses an automatic gearbox rather than the more desirable five-speed manual.

1987 BMW M6

1987 BMW M6
RM Sotheby's
1987 BMW M6

Lot 135 (RM Sotheby’s)

Pre-sale estimate: $68,600 - $91,500 (€60,000 - €80,000)

The M6 hasn’t experienced much buzz in the market lately, but if this car sells at the upper end of its price estimate it could signal renewed interest in the model. E24 M6es remain stylish, powerful, and luxurious, as befits of a German touring car of this caliber. Not to mention it has the same 3.5-liter straight-six as the wedge-shaped M1.

1985 Audi Quattro

1985 Audi quattro
RM Sotheby's
1985 Audi quattro

Lot 154 (RM Sotheby’s)

Pre-sale estimate: $46,000 - $57,000 (€40,000 - €50,000)

By now an established legend of Group B rally dominance, the Audi Quattro has the pedigree of a true German performance car that captured podium after podium in racing. Values of the homologation-special Sport Quattro reached the $400,000-$500,000 range several years ago and they’re not coming down anytime soon. The standard Quattro has a longer wheelbase, a much less manic personality, and comes at a 90 percent discount, but there’s no mistaking its unique design and significance when it comes to the popularization of all-wheel drive.

1982 BMW Alpina B7 S Turbo

1982 BMW Alpina B7 S Turbo
RM Sotheby's
1982 BMW Alpina B7 S Turbo

Lot 174 (RM Sotheby’s)

Pre-sale estimate: $229,000 - $274,500 (€200,000 - €240,000)

Much like AMG with Mercedes-Benz, Alpina modified fully warrantied BMWs during the ‘80s and sold them in dealerships, which is different than an aftermarket tuner or an in-house performance arm like BMW M. Alpina has been around since 1965, but the company really made a splash when it built the original Alpina B7 Turbo for 1978—then the most fearsome four-door in the world, based on the E12-generation 5 Series and packing a 3.0-liter KKK-turbocharged, 296-hp straight-six.

This car, the 1982 Alpina B7 S Turbo, had big shoes to fill. The solution was a 3.5-liter straight-six with more boost and host of other upgrades that made it capable of 325 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque—figures that shame the 286 hp and 251 lb-ft the first M5 had when it came out three years later in 1985. We are not aware of any B7 that has sold for more than $62,100, and that was a coupe with 52,000 miles, versus this car which has two more doors and 36,000 miles. Even though the S Turbo is rare, being the 22nd of 60 total cars built, any sale finishing within sniffing distance of the low estimate would be a spectacular result.

1994 BMW 850 CSi

1994 BMW 850 CSi
RM Sotheby's
1994 BMW 850 CSi

Lot 133 (RM Sotheby’s)

Pre-sale estimate: $160,000 - $206,000 (€140,000 - €180,000)

The BMW 850 has been spiking in value lately, and none more so than the top-spec 850 CSi. Although the 8 Series was in truth more luxury grand tourer than outright sports car, the CSi still packed a potent 5.6-liter V-12 with 375 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque—a significant lift from the standard 850i’s 322 hp and 361 lb-ft. BMW’s M division made additional changes to the CSi, including a specially-tuned suspension, quad exhaust, unique bodywork for better aerodynamics, stronger brakes, and other improvements for durability. For a long time the 8 Series was a tough ownership proposition, given how expensive and difficult repairs can be, but rising values are finally making these cars viable collector options.

1994 BMW Alpina B12 5.7 Coupé

1994 BMW Alpina B12 5.7 Coupé
RM Sotheby's
1994 BMW Alpina B12 5.7 Coupé

Lot 123 (RM Sotheby’s)

Pre-sale estimate: $200,000 - $257,000 (€175,000 - €225,000)

When the 850CSi just isn’t enough in terms of performance, turn your attention to the Alpina B12. Bored out to 5.7 liters, the upgraded V-12 benefitted from new camshafts, intake, crankshaft, and a modified exhaust. All told, the B12 was good for 416 hp and a stunning 420 lb-ft of torque.

The example headed to Paris is one of 57 built, and like the 850CSi above, it comes with a six-speed manual transmission. Red, if I may say so, is a lovely color on this car, and the Alpina wheels totally seal the deal. Given the rarity of these cars and the reasonable mileage, the estimated price seems about right.

1992 Porsche 928 GTS

1992 Porsche 928 GTS
RM Sotheby's
1992 Porsche 928 GTS

Lot 132 (RM Sotheby’s)

Pre-sale estimate: $80,000 - $97,000 (€70,000 - €85,000)

In the early 1970s, when Porsche was seriously thinking about how to make its next major step as a company and spread its wings beyond the 911, the 928 was the answer. The front-engine design was considered heresy by purists, but the car’s excellent balance, V-8 engine and unique styling proved attractive to many buyers.

With 345 hp and a top speed of 170 mph, the GTS—first offered in 1992—is the most powerful variant of the 928 and is widely considered by enthusiasts as the best one to have. Low-mile examples of the 928 GTS are on a sharp rise, and with just 10,500 miles on the odometer, this car will probably fetch top dollar.

1994 Mercedes-Benz E500 Limited, 1994 Mercedes-Benz E500

1994 Mercedes-Benz E 500 Limited
1994 Mercedes-Benz E 500

Lots 184 and 192 (RM Sotheby’s)

Pre-sale estimate (each): $46,000 - $57,000 (€40,000 - €50,000)

With its history as a rare intra-Stuttgart partnership and the sheer performance from the 315-hp Porsche V-8, the 500E (later called E500) is a fascinating hot-rod luxury sedan.The $100,800 sale of a squeaky-clean 15,000-mile 500E at the Quail Lodge last year officially set values for this Mercedes-Porsche collaboration on the rise. Neither of these two cars headed to Paris is expected to go quite so high, but we should nevertheless get a good sense for the temperature of this market. The Limited model wears a funky two-tone interior, which might be too tempting to pass up if you’re hankering for something a little less sober-looking from the driver’s seat.