If you aren’t in the know, this weekend was pretty special for BMW folks in Asheville, North Carolina – the site of ‘The Vintage’. My Instagram and Facebook feeds were flooded with images of all the best of Bavaria heading towards the quaint western North Carolina city. It got me thinking – what was the best way to make a splash at such an event?
Of course, showing up in a fresh Euro 1983 635CSi surely would do it, and it’d be the perfect car for the roughly 14 hour drive for me to get there, too. When I wrote that 635 up, the competition that I suggested should be considered wasn’t the U.S. spec 635, though, it was the M6. The big ‘bahn stormer had the chops to overcome the weight of the large 2-door Coupe with the 256 horsepower S38 under the hood. It also has enough luxury to make the half-day drive feel like a blink of an eye.
Some considered the Euro car to be a bit on the pricey side. But when I came across this equally restored U.S. spec M6, it was a good thing I was sitting down. Suggestion: move the coffee away from your electronic device!
So, you have to drop $40,000 for a unique M Roadster? Hardly. If you’re willing to forgo the additional grunt of the S54, S52-powered Roadsters are still very affordable. And, they can be plenty unique in their own right. Take today’s ’98 for example. Evergreen is probably a bit polarizing in tone, but it’s also quite distinctive. The total pool of Evergreen examples represents only 2% of overall production of M Roadsters, though. Out of the 10,501 produced, 201 were shipped in the bright green shade – and out of those, 176 were equipped with the equally distinctive two-tone Nappa leather interior color matched to the outside. I’ve looked at a few of these examples previously:
Evergreen Forest, Part II: 1998 BMW M Roadster
So you get an unusual color, a more unusual interior, and still quite a potent convertible in the early M Roadster. What is the price delta, though?
Let’s pretend for a second that you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years. Welcome back! Donald Trump is President of the United States, the Cubbies won the World Series and Kanye West has alienated the 50% of America that you wouldn’t have expected him to. A Castro is no longer in charge in Cuba, Facebook sells your information to make money and if Bill Cosby offers you a Jello pudding pop, I’d be suspicious.
While we’re on recent trends, have you checked out the pricing on Z3 Ms lately?
What used to be the cheapest foray into one of the most polarizing designs offered by BMW in modern times has become a cult classic and increasingly expensive, especially in Coupe form. But select the right options on a Roadster, and the price will still shock you. Take today’s, for example. Produced in August 2001, it’s a later example and that means something special is under the hood. That’s right, it’s a S54 cranking out 321 horsepower. Only ~1,600 were produced with that motor for North America, so that makes it pretty special. More special is the color; in total, only 39 E36/7 M Roadsters were specified in Phoenix Yellow Metallic. This is one of fourteen PYM/Black Nappa produced for 2001. As if that wasn’t outstanding enough, this particular M Roadster has turned only 19,760 miles since new. Guesses on the price?
I give Audi a lot of credit for bringing the R8 to market. It took a fair amount of gall for a company best known for mid-range all-wheel drive luxury sedans to up and produce a supercar-beating mid-engine road car capable of being used year-round and every day. It’s a feat nearly without precedent. Of course, I said “nearly”.
That’s because BMW pulled off a similar trick the best part of thirty years before Audi did it. And arguably the development of what would become BMW’s fledgling Motorsports division was even more impressive than what Ingolstadt pulled off. The M1 burst onto the scene at a time of economic austerity, global oil crises and came from a company who not only didn’t have a history of producing such cars, but didn’t have connections to others who did (unlike Audi’s corporate Lamborghini partnership).
Speaking of Lamborghini, because of BMW’s lack of expertise in supercar design it was the Sant’Agata firm that was employed to produce the M1. But because of Lamborghini’s lack of expertise at being…well, a company capable of producing something on a schedule, BMW engineers had to first liberate the early molds from Italy and then find someone who could produce the car. Ultimately, it was a combination of ItalDesign in Turin, Marchesi metal working in Modena to build the frames and Karosserie Baur in Stuttgart that stuck the M1 together. Though it doesn’t exactly sound like a match made in heaven, and indeed the M1 was a relative sales flop, it has nonetheless grown to cult status as one of the most user-friendly supercars of the late 1970s:
I count myself lucky that my formative BMW experience was in an E24. Around 1990, my father finally gave up riding motorcycles and decided it would be more fun to have company on his trip. He traded his RT1100 for a much older BMW, but this one had doors. The shape was outrageous to me; coming from a family that had almost exclusively owned Toyota products to that point, the low and long 633CSi he purchased had so much more presence and so much less plastic. The interior was lined with rich carpet and supple leather, and it just oozed class and style. It just felt special.
A few years later, he picked up a second E24. It was a 1985 635CSi, and the character of the two cars was remarkably different. Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was in part thanks to the mid-82 swap to E28 underpinnings. Dynamically, the ’85 was a much better driver, and while the revised M30 only had 1 more horsepower, it felt gutsier and revved more freely. It was Arctic Blue Metallic with Pearl Beige leather, and it was just a beautiful car. It only had one real downside – it was an automatic, and after a few years my dad decided he’d have a lot more fun in a M5.
While that would certainly be hard to argue, I wonder if he would have been so motivated if today’s E24 Feature had been his original purchase. There were several distinct advantages to the European model, not the least of which was of course the lack of the DOT bumpers. But one thing that always really bothered me about the U.S. E24 was the front corner lights. They stuck out a strange amount while the European units smoothly followed the fenders.…
In my mind, Alpina’s mystique has dimmed slightly over the past decade. Still capable of producing monsterously powerful luxury machines, the proliferation of options that are also insanely fast and luxurious has meant that the company’s original niche has become substantially more commonplace. And while it’s been awesome that Alpinas started being imported through BMW dealerships in 2007 and now offer several models to U.S. fans who can stomach the serious price tags, it also made them much less exclusive.
While products have widened over the past few years to include the 6-series, most of what Alpina sent to the U.S. market was based on the 7. The supercharged B7 was quite potent, but didn’t solve the problem of the E65’s looks all that much. Arguably, no amount of anything could do that particularly well.
But the B7’s supercharged 4.4 V8 was also available to Europeans in a (slightly) smaller package – the B5. Based on the E60, what would have started as a 330 horsepower 545i was transformed into a 500 horsepower, 500 lb.ft torque weapon. In typical fashion, Alpina revised the wheels and suspension, exhaust and interior, and of course added body kits to the E60. With 133 lb feet more torque than the V10 M5 produced and at a more reasonable 4,000 rpm rather than 6,000, the B5 could actually out-accelerate the M product. 0-62 was tested to arrive in 4.6 seconds, and the fun didn’t run out until you were just 5 mph shy of 200. Best yet, you could have this speed in a wagon!
Unfortunately for U.S. fans, the B5 and even more powerful B5S weren’t imported to the U.S.. Production of the B5 was limited to only 428 sedans, and the quite believable claim is that this is the only one in the United States:
Back in November of 2017, I looked at an early special-order 540i Sport Package. It ticked many of the right boxes; while the later cars gained the shouty M5 exterior bits, the early cars are understated in a nice way, yet still potent. I’ve especially always been a fan of the Style 19 BBS wheels on the early Sport cars, but the follow up wasn’t bad, either. The turbine Style 32s mimicked Alpina’s signature style, but looked right at home and as if they were always intended for the E39.
But this car has some other items going for it that the first didn’t. While both are M62/TU 6-speeds and carried the M-Sport suspension, this one also has the M-Sport steering wheel and sport seats. The downside?
Update 4/14/18: After not selling last year for $7,300, this beautiful E12 is back up for $9,000 Buy It Now this Spring. Will Amazonitgrün Metallic be not only the sign of warmer temps, but also more money?
This probably seems strange at first, but to me this 1977 BMW 525 is the perfect counterpoint to yesterday’s Jetta. Like the Jetta, this Euro-specification 525 is on the low-end of the totem pole in the production scale of even the early E12 5-series. Granted, the introduction of the M30 into the E12 did up the power over the early E10 4-cylinder models; however, in 1977 this M30B25 produced 145 non-fuel injected horsepower – only 15 more than the 520i. The early 5s didn’t have much in terms of luxuries that we’ve come to associate with the benchmark sedan, either – they were fairly basic. But just like yesterday’s Jetta, this 525 located in Bulgaria is worth a long look because of the beautiful condition, which is enough to draw you back to a more simple time:
It’s interesting to consider how enthusiasts today view the E36 M3. Generally speaking, you’re either a completely devoted fan who insists that the E36 is not only the best M3, but perhaps the best BMW ever made. Why stop there? Why not go straight for best car in the history of the world, ever? On the other side of the coin, detractors love to point out that the second M3 was softened up for the U.S. market, that it wasn’t as potent, as pure, as Motorsporty as the original curb-hopping, box-flared legend.
Arguably, they’re both right. It’s certainly true that BMW made the decision to tone down the M3 for North American consumption. That was a really good thing for two reasons: one, that we got it at all, and two, that it remained affordable. Consider, for a moment, that the E30 M3 had grown quite expensive to sport all of that motorsport heritage. By 1991, the base price of the M3 was $35,900. Of course, it was competing against even more expensive cars like the Porsche 944S2, which was a further $10,000 more dear. While we can talk about driving spirit all day long, if we look at the fact sheets what you got was a bit soggy in comparison to today’s cars. Inflation corrected, the M3 would be around $62,000 – pretty much spot on the entry price for today’s M3. The new car has more than double the horsepower of the original and enough tech to launch all of the Apollo program missions.
So what was really exciting when the new M3 was launched in late 1994 was that price point; $36,000. That was some $14,000 less expensive than the European model, and yet performance was within a few clicks thanks to a revised version of the 325i M50 engine.…
The Goggomobil TS400 isn’t the kind of car you see every day. In fact, it’s not the kind of car that pretty much anyone ever sees. It’s the kind of car you might expect to see Jerry Seinfeld show up with if he invited you out for coffee, or perhaps the camera might pan by one in Jay Leno’s garage. They’re obscure, but they’re also odd – so you probably won’t see Wayne Carini seeking one out. Yet the model played a very important part in the development of German car manufacturers pertinent to our interests.
That’s because of where they were produced. Goggomobiles were bubble cars produced by Hans Glas GmbH in Dingolfing, Germany – in the heart of Bavaria. Yes, that’s the same Glas that built the beautiful 3000 V8 Grand Tourer and lovely 1700GT. The Goggomobil was far less glamorous, but no less important in the survival of the Dingolfing plant – in total, over a quarter million sedans and coupes were produced, and a few were even brought stateside. Like many bubble cars, the technology was 2-stroke motorcycle-based, which kept production costs very low and the car affordable to the masses. Goggomobiles even outlasted Glas itself, as BMW swallowed up its competitor in 1966 and used the Dingolfing plant for some of its newer models.
Goggomogiles are quite rare to find today, despite their relatively prodigious production (consider, for a moment, that there were only about 8,500 DeLorean DMC12s produced – and that this car ended production only 12 years before the gullwing time traveler emerged on the market!) so it’s neat to remember their quirkiness: