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.…
Edit 12/9/2017: With new photos, a new description and apparently a few things fixed, the current owner of this ‘346i’ that we looked almost exactly one year ago has it back up for sale in a reserve auction format. Last time it didn’t meet reserve at only $10,000. Will it clear the reserve this time around?
The E21. By far, it is the 3-series we feature least frequently (barring new models). In U.S. trim, it is also by far the least sporting 3-series. But don’t throw the baby BMW out with the bath water, because it’s still a classic BMW, it looks nice and it’s quite affordable relative to some other hyperbolic models.
For one, I really like the E21. I’ve even enjoyed driving a few. Of course, never once did I think when driving one “You know what this needs? A M60 V8.” And certainly, even in the very unlikely scenario that idea sprang into my head, there’s no way I would have said “Right, now, off to Dinan to bump it out to 4.6 liters!”
But, if nothing else, this Golf Yellow example of an extreme E21 dispels the myth that they’re all underpowered?
Update 4/19/2018 – I can’t say that I’m very surprised the price hike to nearly $30,000 didn’t work, and this 645i has dropped back down to $23,750 – still $900 strong of the original ask.
Update 1/22/2018 – After not selling last Fall for $22,850, the seller of this unique period 6-series turbo is now asking $29,850.
I really love how these cars sometimes send you down the rabbit hole. What attracted me initially to this E24 was that it was a European-spec car and it had a pretty high asking price at nearly $23,000. Alone that wouldn’t be enough to warrant a post, especially given that from the first photo I glanced at, it doesn’t look spectacular.
But there’s a lot more than meets the eye when considering this car, and it has a lot more to do with the personality behind it than the current condition.
The name Albert Mardikian probably doesn’t mean much to you. Mr. Mardikian is a partner and the Chief Technology Officer behind ReGreen Organics, a company which deals with a lot of shit, for lack of a better term. I’m not being flippant. They’re an organic solid waste management company.
And it is in this capacity that Mr. Mardikian’s philosophy is particularly interesting when considering this car. He proclaims that he has a “passion for bettering our world”, yet his past would seem to have little to do with environmental improvement. That’s because in a past life Mr. Mardikian was also the proprietor of Trend Imports. Ring a bell? If not, perhaps a perusing of the Tom Cruise movie Rain Man would help you out. Mr. Cruise’s character’s subplot – an importer of exotic cars held up by the EPA – is based upon Mr. Mardikian. Because if you were in L.A.…
Edit 11/3/2017 – I looked at this Dinan modified M Roadster last August, but there was little information and it hung around for quite a while at $25,000. It has now moved on to a new seller who has taken some more photos and raised the price $4,000. After last month claiming it was an ISR3, the seller has confirmed what our comment from Eric indicated – it’s “just” a S3 Roadster. It has about 1,000 more miles since last year but still looks relatively reasonably priced if you like the color combination and gutsy Dinan modifications – Ed
The other day I was talking with my friend about Turner Motorsports. I first met Will Turner when he was a BMWCCA instructor, just trying to establish his business of selling parts on the side. He and his compatriots all sported E30 M3s; this was, after all, the days before the launch of the U.S. E36 M3. Turner managed to parlay early success in a local modification scene outside of Boston into a countrywide business, and after some time in the club race scene he moved into the major leagues. Success against better funded teams was sometimes difficult, but today Turner is still alive and very much kicking, having become one of the two defacto factory-backed teams running the M6 GT3. To get to that point of factory involvement is an arduous journey to say the least, and few who start out make it.
One other who did was Steve Dinan, who took a niche tuning business from the 1980s into a factory option today. You can walk down to your dealer and order up a fully backed, Dinan modified car. That took a tremendous amount of work and is a testament to the quality of the products on offer from Dinan.…
There are a few select automotive tuners who can take an impressive package and refine it into an even better entity. That group includes legends such as AMG, Alpina and Ruf – all of which are staples of this segment.
Yet they are far from alone. Given the task of improving on what is generally considered to be one of the greatest sedans ever made is no small feat, but if there was one group up to it, it was Steve Dinan’s eponymous company in California.
While just about anyone can take a turbocharged engine and crank up the boost, slap a few stickers on it and call it done, the E39 M5 didn’t come with forced induction. On top of that, it was a motor which wasn’t exactly underdeveloped before it went into production. Nor were the brakes, suspension, or any other aspect of the third gen M5. But Dinan thought they could improve upon them, and with a tremendous amount of work, did.
Dinan went to town on the S62 from start to end. Out came the factory air boxes, air meters and velocity stacks, replaced by Dinan units of larger diameter and better flow qualities, along with larger throttle bodies bored out by the company. This necessitated reprogramming of the computer controls for the engine to match the new flow characteristics. To help the exhaust side of the motor, unique tubular headers were fit to a free-flowing, lightweight exhaust system. While this sounds a bit like old-school engineering, it was successful; the result was an additional 76 horsepower and 51 lb.ft of torque – basically, this was like adding a 1980 Rabbit’s worth of power to an already powerful car.
Dinan coupled the engine mods with a shorter final drive and higher rev-limiter to reach fantastic speeds. The S2 was capable of 0-60 runs around 4 seconds flat and, in unrestricted mode, geared out around 190 mph in 6th.…
“Dinan’s latest work of art, he has not only fixed a car that wasn’t broken but also sought to perfect a car that everyone considers to be as close to perfection as is humanly possible: the BMW M5”, Car and Driver wrote in 2002. Dinan had, at that point, already made a reputation for themselves as the premier BMW tuner in the United States to the point where they became offered straight from the dealer. Considering that’s just occurred for Alpina here, the endorsement of the level of engineering from the California firm was resounding. Yet that is in part because Dinan’s modifications are far from just slapping a badge and some wheels on a car and calling it done. Take, for example the M5 S2.
Dinan took what many considered to be a very highly developed 4.9 liter V8 in the S62 and went old-school to up the power; and up it a lot, he did. There was no supercharger or turbocharging here; revised intake and enlarged velocity stacks were met on the other end with tubular headers and a bespoke exhaust. Each throttle body’s bore was increased, too. These changes required a reflash of the computer, but were both lighter and more powerful. As in 76 horsepower more. That’s the best part of a 20% gain on a motor that many considered to be close to peak performance! Dinan further upgraded the suspension, brakes, wheels, and final drive, along with adding a lighter flywheel. As a result, the new S2 was, well, about 20% better than the already awesome M5. But that perfection cost, and it was more than a 20% increase. A lot more.
On top of the M5’s $73,400, if you wanted a fully spec’d out S2 you’d tack on $36,000 to the price. For that amount, you could have grabbed a nice 330Ci in addition to your standard M5!…
Yesterday, Craig took a look at a very nice and quite affordable E32 750iL. These cars have traditionally been one of the most affordable ways to get into a V12 sedan, and consequently coming across a generally well sorted one that doesn’t require an extensive amount of service is difficult.
But the M70B50 also found its way into the replacement for aging E24. The revolutionary E31 signaled a leap forward in sophistication, refinement and styling from other period BMWs. Minus small details, it still looks reasonably fresh today; something that can’t be said of many 1980s-era designs. The three-quarter view above, for example, is mimicked closely by BMW’s own current 4-series today and the Audi A5. Yet as with the E32, the E31 has been the gateway into V12 Grand Tourers for many with aspirations loftier than their bank accounts. Finding a pristine, early 850i isn’t an everyday occurrence, so this one was certainly worth a look. It didn’t hurt that it’s been breathed on by Dinan, either.
Here at GCFSB, we feature a lot of cars. Since I started writing for this site, I’ve composed some 1,773 articles, a fair amount of which cover more than one car. So it would be easy to forget that you’d already seen a car. That would especially be the case if a fair amount of time had passed since you last saw it and it was a relatively plain-jane looking model.
Enter this 1989 535i in Cirrus Blue Metallic. Outside of Hartge wheels, it’s pretty unassuming. That is, except for the “Dinan” badge on the left side of the trunk.
It’s that Dinan badge which unlocks a world of performance that otherwise is the domain of M models, and this sleeper package with low reported miles seems to be a pretty compelling alternative. Immediately, I recognized this car but knew it had been a bit since I last saw it. Since it was originally featured in March of 2014, very little has changed – the seller utilized the same photos and much of the same description from the original ad, disappointingly. He reports about 500 more miles in two and a half years, and unsurprisingly the price has dropped little. The auction is no reserve with an $11,250 starting bid – only about $750 less than the original ask. As the market on E34s really hasn’t improved greatly since then outside of some exceptional M5s, I’d wager this automatic 535i – even with the Dinan provenance – will have trouble this time around, too.
The below post originally appeared on our site March 11, 2014:
The California-based tuning company Dinan has been providing performance upgrades for BMWs since 1979. There’s no shortage of newer cars on the market that purport to have some kind of mods from the firm; 20 cars come up in eBay right now under a search for Dinan, and Carter wrote up this neat ’08 550i M Sport Dinan the other day, for example. But it’s even more interesting to stumble upon an example of an older car with some Dinan components, like this ’95 540i.
I still remember well when the new E60 5-series launched. I was not impressed. It looked modern, sure, but it also looked very heavy and it was full of odd angles. It was expensive, too, and though the M5 came with a massive screaming V10, the rest of the run seemed to be pretty tame. But BMW offered steady upgrades throughout production, and the post-LCI sedans really came into their own with the M-Sport package. A few weeks ago I posted a ’08 550i M-Sport 6-speed on our Facebook page, and its popularity proved that more people are beginning to appreciate the performance value offered in this unique package. Having spent the past half year with a E61 Sport, they are really fantastic cars to drive and ooze quality and you can count me among the converted. Today I have another 550i M-Sport 6-speed, but this one has been turned up a few notches by Dinan: