Looking for a 3-series to make a splash with at the next European car show? Want a BMW but really want to stand out from the crowd? Just like being esoteric? I’ve got the car for you – this BMW 326. You can go to a party of petrolheads and drop that designation; you’ll immediately stump the crowd, most of which will think you’re off by a few numbers. Surely, you have a 328 and just misread the badge, newbie? No, your car would be from the heyday of fledgling BMW – or, at the very least, the automobile branch of BMW. BMW was pretty well established by the outbreak of World War II as a top-tier producer of both motorcycles (the primary transport in Pre-War Germany) and airplane engines. But it had yet to really establish itself well in automobiles. The sporty 328 helped to change that, winning many sports car races in the shadow of the successes of the Silver Arrows Grand Prix cars. But the 328 was still quite expensive and compromised as a road car, so most would have chosen either a 326 or 327. The 327 was the sportier of the two, closer in purpose to the 328 but a little more forgiving in the ride comfort department. The 326, though, was the company’s first sedan, so this really is the first 3, properly. As with today, BMW also offered both two and four-door cabriolet versions of the chassis, and while they’re rare to find there is currently one for sale on eBay:
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While there are iconic liveries that permeate motorsports, sometimes there are equally iconic aerodynamic aids. The 1970s and 1980s saw some incredible experiments, from the Brabham BT46 ‘Fan Car’ which sucked all of the air out from underneath the chassis, literally sticking the car to the road to the 935/78 ‘Moby Dick’ car, which somewhere underneath the long tail and stretched front end was actually a 911 (in theory, at least!). For BMW, exploiting the Group 5 FIA rules to suit their E9 chassis and make it competitive with the Porsche 911. That meant the aerodynamics of the 3.0CS had to be altered, and the result was wings, fins, and flares. But if the road going version of the also lightened 3.0CSL looked outrageous, the racing version simply took the recipe and turned it up to 11. Giant boxed flares widened the E9 half again. A huge front air dam looked capable of clearing cattle on the Sante Fe railway. Huge centerlock BBS magnesium wheels sported a footprint that would make most large commercial planes jealous. And if the tires didn’t shock them, the huge cantilevered wing protruding from the back of the trunklid certainly would spoil their plans to go airborn. This was the legendary car which gained the name “Batmobile”, and though they were not ultimately able to defeat Porsche in the Group 5 contest for 1976 (you know that, of course, because of the many Martini Championship Edition Porsches we feature), they are no less memorable than the 935:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1975 BMW 3.5 CSL at Jan Luehn Cars
The 325iS is one of the more desirable versions of the E30 3-series, perhaps the third most desirable model after the M3 and the Euro-market 320iS (the “Italian M3”). Showcasing precisely the sorts of features that make the E30 a contender for the “definitive German sport sedan” title, it’s a simple and fun little car with a five speed manual gearbox, a sweet six cylinder motor, a nicely balanced chassis and firm, sporty suspension. The ’87 models also featured a unique and aggressive front spoiler, nicknamed the “cowcatcher” by E30 aficionados. They don’t come much nicer than this one – a low mileage example that appears to be in mint condition. It’s not cheap, but it’s certainly a lot cheaper than an M3.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 BMW 325iS on eBay
The E31 8-series (1989-1999) was available in 840Ci, 850Ci and 850CSi guises. The 840 came with a 4.0 liter V8 (later upgraded to 4.4 liters), while the 850 was powered by a 5.0 liter V12 motor. This engine was bored out to 5.6 liters for the range-topping CSi version. (The cousin of an abandoned project to build an M8, the CSi also came with a 6-speed manual gearbox, stiffer steering and suspension, and a model-specific bodykit.) Low slung and sleek, with pop up headlights, no B-pillars and a wedge-shaped profile, the 8-series was undeniably gorgeous. It was also incredibly expensive, both to buy and to repair, and a little underwhelming, particularly in entry level form, where the car’s performance never really matched the highly exotic exterior. That last criticism now seems a little unfair, since these cars were sold as grand tourers, not out-and-out sports cars. Still, the 8-series has remained somewhat under appreciated. As a result, entry level models can be found for a fraction of their original cost. This car is indeed a base model 840Ci, but it’s definitely not cheap. That’s because it carries a number of desirable features and upgrades, including some more usually found on the CSi model.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW 840Ci on Bimmerforums
What is the price for perfection? We saw Andrew look at a perfect and near brand-new W220 S500 yesterday, but his cutting critique of that car was, as several people noted, spot on. It’s not a desirable model, nor is it one that is likely to be collectable anytime soon. For some time, the same was said of the E36 M3. However, quickly things are changing. Several high-priced examples have come to market recently that have investors questioning if the E30 is the go-to it was for the past two years. Most notably, we saw the one-off Giallo Canadian Edition ’94 M3 hit near $65,000. That car looked near showroom fresh, having only accrued 30,000 miles since new. Today’s example has only about one third of that: