Double Take 540i/6: E34 or E39? 1995 BMW 540i Sport v. 2003 BMW 540i M-Sport

My recent M5 v. Alpina B10 post took a look at two exotic versions of the E34. Of course, BMW offered their own alternative to the M5 late in the production cycle, as the introduction of the M60 V8-powered 540i produced nearly as much usable power as the more expensive M variant. Such was the success of the 540i that BMW initially judged the M5 dead in this market; it was removed from the U.S. in 1993 after slow sales and wouldn’t return until the new millennium.

As a result, the 540i flew the 5-series performance flag for two generations and still is very popular today. Especially in Sport versions, the E34 and E39 540is offered power, refinement and outstanding chassis dynamics in a package that was attainable for more people. So which is the better buy today – the first or second generation?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 BMW 540i M-Sport on eBay

Tuner Tuesday: 1993 BMW M3 iDing Power S3

Looking for a subtle performance sedan? Today’s not your day.

You probably haven’t heard of iDing Power, because odds are that if you’re reading this you don’t live in Japan. And even if you’re an afficiando of M3s, you’d probably dismiss this particular car as a M3 GTR replica for the street like I did. But this car is far more than that, and much more interesting.

The M3 GTR launched in 1994, and the United States did (technically) see it in the form of the Prototype Technology Group-run team in IMSA race series. The same year in Japan, iDing Power revealed the plans for their turned-up E36 M3. They had acquired an early production second generation model; production started for the E36 M3 in February, 1992 – and the particular example you see here was produced on February 3, 1993. iDing then added a plethora of unique touches, from upgraded suspension, wheels and brakes, special interior items, and some body modifications. By “some”, of course it’s hard to look past the W201 190E-Evo inspired rear wing and massive tacked-on flares. iDing also took the S50B30 European motor, rated at 286 horsepower stock, and modified it to a claimed 330 horsepower. iDing widebodies are pretty rare finds, but even among them this one is particularly special. With only 7,600 miles on the odometer, this example appears to be the original prototype and test car:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 BMW M3 iDing Power S3 at Cool Running Japan

Affordable E34 Face-Off: 1990 Alpina B10 3.5/1 v. 1991 M5

Just because it’s got an exotic name or badge doesn’t mean it’s automatically out of your reach. That’s the lesson for today’s twin E34s. If you’re willing to undertake a bit of a project you can certainly save money up front. Just like we saw with the S65 AMG Andrew wrote up, the initial cost you pay only going to be part of your total outlay but for the price of a small economy car, you can grab another league of luxury, performance and exclusivity that a Nissan Versa could never dream of matching. So which of these project E34s is the one you’d chose, or are both busts?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Alpina B10 3.5/1 on eBay

1986 BMW M635CSi

The M635CSi somehow gets lost among the other greats of the period from BMW. Perhaps, for U.S. fans, it’s the nomenclature that’s confusing. After all, there was a M1, an M3, and a M5, but when it came to the M version of the E24, BMW stuck with the moniker M635CSi in all markets but the United States and Japan. Confounding that decision was the launch of the E28 M535i. Like the M635CSi, it had additional body pieces, special interior trim and wheels from M-Technic. But while the M535i had a fairly normal M30 under the hood, the E24 received the full-fat M88/3 that was shared with the M5. Like the European M5 production started in 1984, well before they were available to U.S. customers. But while the M5 only sold in very sparse numbers over its short production cycle (about 775 sold in Europe between 1984 and 1987), the M635i was a relative hit, with just over 3,900 selling overall – far more than made it the U.S. market. Additionally, the European models were a slightly more pure form of the design; smaller bumpers, less weight, and about 30 more horsepower on tap without catalyst.

These European spec models were offered with some color combinations and interiors that never came to the U.S. market. A great example of the combination of these factors is today’s 1986 right hand drive model in the striking “Akaziengrün” – Acacia Green Metallic:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 BMW M635CSi on Classic Driver

Steve Jobs’ 2000 BMW Z8

In my time looking at cars owned by the famous, I’ve run across a wide variety of people. From earlier this week of the ‘King of Basketball’ to the ‘King of Rock & Roll, I’ve even looked at actual kings. Sometimes the cars have a cool story but most of the time it is merely a name on an old piece of paper or if I’m really lucky, a photo or two of that person in the car. But today’s car, the gorgeous BMW Z8, was owned by a guy who changed technology and how we use it forever  — and I could really care less.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: Steve Jobs’ 2000 BMW Z8 at RM Sotheby’s

Roll the Dice? 2002 BMW M5

As we drove home in our E61 the other day, an E60 M5 with temporary plates sat in front of my wife and me at a light. She commented “Are those getting cheap? Because I’m seeing them more often…” She’s right. The E60 M5, with its screaming 500 horsepower V10, now can be had for around the same price as an entry level Hyundai. Pound for pound, they’re now the cheapest way to get into an M-branded 5-series. But though we own a fifth generation five, I’ll admit frankly that it’s not a car that’s for everyone. It’s big, heavy and complicated – and can be quite expensive to fix. Couple that with any M engine and drivetrain, and these cars are capable of draining your wallet as fast as they can accelerate.

So although the power levels are lower and they’re not as flashy or modern, for many the E39 model that preceded the one we saw is still the epitome of M5s (though they’re often challenged by an equally vocal group who says the first one is the only one!). We’ve seen them start to trend upwards after dipping a bit low over the last few years, and now places such as Enthusiast Auto Group have a plethora in the $35,000 – $80,000 range depending on mileage. So you missed out on this fan-favorite, as well?

Not so fast.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 BMW M5 on eBay

“3/4/5” Double Take: 1997 BMW M3 Sedan

Continuing on the theme of adding diverse tones to your life, BMW’s M3 has been traditionally one of the most colorful pallets in the Bavarian lineup. We saw the late shade of Fern Green on the late-model Convertible the other day. But fans of the E36 lust much more after the favorite “M3/4/5” model – the limited 1997-1998 3.2 sedan in manual form. It offered practicality and reportedly slightly lighter weight than the Coupe. And just like the Coupe and Convertible, it was available in all sorts of eye-catching shades. Today I have two of the most conspicuous: Techno Violet Metallic and the very limited Byzanz Metallic. Which is your favorite?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW M3 Sedan on eBay

Tuner Tuesday: 1982 Alpina B7S Turbo Coupe with 20,000 Miles

Continuing on today’s green theme and moving up the pecking order a few notches from the E12 duo from the other day, here we have something of a monster. Alpina offered E24 fans a special treat with a turned up turbocharged variant of the 635CSi that was good enough not only to rival BMW’s own M6/M635CSi, but indeed to better it.

The M88 was already a bit of legend before BMW offered derivatives in the /3 and catalyst-equipped S38. With 256-286 horsepower depending on tune, it was about as good as non-exotic normally aspirated motors got in the 1980s. But Alpina had always had a knack for outdoing the cars their creations were based upon, so in went the turbocharger. The result was impressive in any form; the Turbo Coupe/1 was good for 300 horsepower and could match the acceleration of the M cars. But matching wasn’t enough, so Alpina upped the power with the B7S. Now up to 3.4 liters and good for 320 plus horsepower and nearly 400 lb.ft of torque, it was a car which could rip your face off anytime, anywhere. Like all Alpinas, they were lovingly crafted and full of exquisite detail work and limited to only 30 examples:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 Alpina B7S Turbo Coupe on Enthusiast Auto

Double Take Period-Correct-Off: 1978 and 1979 BMW 528is

While pristine, all-original examples of classic and collector cars certainly have a cadre of devotees, there’s a slightly smaller and equally evangelical group of “period correct” piece lovers. From aftermarket wheels, body bits, seats and gauges right through to stickers, even if the car isn’t the most desirable model it can be brought up to snuff with some appropriate modifications. Today’s duo of E12s are good examples. Both start as 528i models; by themselves, certainly not the prettiest or most desirable BMW even within the period of the late 1970s. But both have gone through some modifications which make them desirable, though they take very different paths. Which one would you like?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 BMW 528i on eBay

1999 BMW M3 Convertible

As they had with the first generation, with the E36 BMW continued the tradition of chopping the top off its curb-hopping M3 to alter the character of the model substantially. The resulting “BK” models are the least produced of the second generation. In European form, some 3,800 were produced with a bulk of them heading to England starting in 1996. The U.S. model began production as the model’s run came to a close; in March 1998, the first of what would become 6,269 U.S. spec 3.2 M3 Convertibles rolled off the production lines in Regensburg. That meant the M3 outlasted normal E36 production, as if you walked into a dealer you’d find the all-new E46 model being sold along side these topless M3s. As they came towards the end of production, most of these M3s came as well-equipped as the E36 was available, and options included forged M-Double Spoke wheels and a removable hardtop. Extra bracing went in to stiffen the chassis, which resulted in a 10% weight penalty and slower performance – but I’d wager that wasn’t on most buyer’s minds. Of the just over 6,000 models sold here, the majority – about 60% at 4,017 – were sold with the 5-speed automatic. So today’s example is already in the minority; a last year example, it’s also a 5-speed. But to push it just that little more over the top, it’s also in the rare shade of 386 Fern Green Metallic:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 BMW M3 Convertible on eBay