Feature Listing: Supercharged 1995 BMW 540i 6-speed

In the early years of the 1990s, the writing was on the wall for the high-strung M88 derivatives. They were excellent motors, no doubt, but power levels were rising to the point where the M5 was no longer top trump. It enjoyed a small power advantage over cars such as the V8 4.2 quattro, true – with 276 horsepower and 295 lb.ft of torque, the Audi had less punch but more pull. But cars like the M119-equipped 500E changed the playing field; 322 horsepower was enough to overcome the S38 in the M5, but the big number was the 354 lb.ft of torque. That was nearly 100 lb.ft more than the S38 and it was more usable, too.

BMW wasn’t to be outdone, launching its own series of V8 for the 1992 model year. in 3.0 and 4.0 form, the modern aluminum motors dubbed the M60 brought new levels of power to the third generation 5. In fact, so potent was the 4.0 version that BMW decided the more expensive M5 was effectively redundant in the marketplace. The M60B40 was rated at 282 horsepower and 295 lb.ft of torque and and good enough to scoot the luxury car from 0-60 in 6.9 seconds even when equipped with a 5-speed automatic.

But there was a 6-speed manual option as well, and of course you could opt for the sport package that would give you better seats, springs and a limited-slip differential. These options turned the two-ton Teuton into an athlete. While this particular E34 started life as a 525i, it’s been given the full 540 treatment and then some, culminating in a Vortech supercharger for some serious punch:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW 540i 6-speed on Autotrader

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Outrageous E21: 1979 BMW 320i Dinan 4.6

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?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 BMW 320i Dinan 4.6 on eBay

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2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed

I always get a bit of a chuckle at the keyboard warriors who love to denigrate manufacturers for not offering the full European catalog to U.S. customers. Really, you’d buy a RS6 Avant if it was offered here? You and what bank account, Mr. Sittinginhisrentedapartmentstealinginternetfromtheneighbors? Manufacturers need to live in the real world, and in the real world of the United States, while there is in fact a market who would purchase top-tier cars like the RS6 Avant, the reality is that the vocal majority of enthusiasts barking about how they’d snap them up like hotcakes would – at best – be hoping to buy a lightly used one downstream. At worst, these super wagons would only become affordable after ten years, at which point their complicated systems would render ownership prohibitively expensive for most. So, they kick tires, simultaneously ruing that such options aren’t available to them while secret thankful that they don’t have to put their money where their mouths are. We don’t have to look back far to find why this market departed the U.S., because when we were afforded the option to buy these cars, we found them unaffordable. Witness the very expensive W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant on eBay

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2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion 6-speed

The words “Q-Ship” and “Sleeper” get tossed around a lot when describing the super-performing sedans, coupes and wagons from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW – but truth be told, virtually any enthusiast and most non-enthusiasts can spot a high performance model a mile away. We have to go really pretty far back to find examples that were true sleepers – models where it was only the number of tail pipes, subtly wider wheels, or maybe one single badge that hinted at their greater performance. There were no extra gills, bulges, flared fenders, red trim, flashy colored brake calipers and 29″ wheels with 375 section tires. For models like the 450SEL 6.9, you had to know what you were looking at to fully appreciate the performance. But even as we got towards the E28 M5, manufacturers were slapping badges, lowered suspensions, spoilers and special trim to help set their client’s substantial investments apart. In the vein of the 450SEL 6.9, though, Volkswagen launched a discrete performance sedan – a true sleeper – in the Passat W8:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion on eBay

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Motorsports Monday: 2008 BMW M3

A truism of motorsport is that to make a small fortune in racing you need to start with a large fortune. Building race cars is very expensive; strange, considering that there is much less of them when you’re done than the road car that was started with. If, for example, you wanted to go racing in the GT3 class, the ostensible car to get would be the multi-class winning Porsche GT3R. Smart choice. Now, fork over your half a million hard-earned trust fund dollars, since before you turn a key the GT3R stickers at 429,000 Euros plus taxes. Run a race weekend, and presuming you don’t crash or have a mechanical, you’ll be several tens of thousands of dollars more in the hole, since race cars consume consumables at an alarming rate. Tires, brake pads, clutches – you name it, it’s expensive if it’s top-tier racing goods. And then come the realities that after a staggeringly short amount of time, you need to completely rebuild your race car. According to the Census Bureau, the average American spends 50 minutes a day commuting in their car. In race car terms, that would mean that after a little over a month you’d have to completely rebuild your car. Nuts, right?

But you still want to do it. Okay, a much more affordable way to go really, really fast is to buy a last generation car. Just past the current vogue, they tend to be considerably more friendly on the wallet. Yet, top tier cars are still very, very expensive to run. Perhaps, then, a smarter choice would be to look at a car based upon more pedestrian internals:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 BMW M3 on eBay

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Tuner Tuesday: 1996 Alpina B8 4.0

While Ruf and AMG grab most of the big tuner headlines from Germany, Alpina quietly and competently produced some of the wildest and best executed BMWs ever made. Simply put, Alpina made already good BMWs better – and arguably still do today. One of the most interesting aspects of the company is the close working relationship they have with the factory; a partnership which results in truly special treatment. Take the Alpina B8 for example; any normal tuner might have simply enlarged the inline-6 under the hood of the already potent M3. Or, in the tradition of the 1980s Alpinas, they could have turbocharged the engine. But instead Alpina asked BMW to make them a special V8. And, somewhat surprisingly, BMW did – a new block was designed for Alpina since the normal 4.0 couldn’t be bored out. The result was a 4.6 liter motor which was fit to the B8 4.6 and B10 as well. The motor was so large in the E36 that a special oil pan had to be designed, and neatly a German camera maker had to be employed to design and build a special oil pump to run it. Yet in true Alpina tradition, the fit and finish was factory and accompanied a host of suspension, interior and aerodynamic tweaks. Capped off by special Alpina paint, these B8s are truly special E36s. While the B8 4.6 is the headline grabber, Alpina built a short run of 5…or perhaps 6….4 liter models that were sold in Japan:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Alpina B8 on Bimmerforums

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How rare? 2003 and 2004 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion 6-speed

We talk at length about the rarity of various cars, and when it comes to the W8 Passat 6-speeds, that’s more than just lip service. Only a bit over 450 6-speeds were imported to North America in sedan and Variant form, making them quite rare amongst any measure of car. But when you break down the color combinations that were available and especially factor in the wagon, you can get production numbers down to single digits in some configurations. Considering the sedan outnumbered the wagon over three to one, you’re more likely to find a 6-speed sedan than wagon, but today we’ve got one of each to look at. Which is the rarest of the rare?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion 6-speed on eBay

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Motorsport Mondays: Unconventional Updates – V8 E30 M3 and 944 3.0 16V

The Porsche 944 and BMW E30 are two of the most popular chassis to use in drivers events and club racing. Cheap, plentiful and effective, they’re usually turned up with race suspension, cages, and once you’ve run out of gusto, it’s not uncommon to see them get greater motivation. Generally for the 944, this means looking towards the turbocharged variant of the 2.5 liter inline-4 that was available from Porsche themselves; similarly, E30s receive a great swath of later Munich-based motors including the S50, S52 and even S54 if you’re really racey. But today there are two lesser-used mills powering this pair of perennial favorites. Which is the one for your sporting needs? Let’s start with the 944:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Porsche 944 on eBay

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10K Friday: Grand Tour Ready – 1993 Porsche 968 v. 1994 BMW 840Ci

You don’t have to despair if you’ve missed out on the E30 M3 and Porsche 911 market – there are still plenty of alternatives that make great occasional vehicles with enough sport to have fun with and enough presence to make you feel really special. Two of the best coupes from the early 1990s are often overlooked and are still very affordable – the Porsche 968 and the BMW 8 series. Now, truth be told most 968s are out of the “10K” price range, and 850i/Cis are often close in disrepair if they’re at or below $10,000. But if you’re willing to take higher miles on the well-built 968 chassis and opt for the smaller motor in the E31, you can find examples of either that fit a budget. Which would you choose?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Porsche 968 on eBay

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2011 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0

As the 997’s model run slowly wound down Porsche released a variety of special models that showcased both its history and also its engineering and racing prowess. One of those cars is the car we see here: a 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0. The GT3 RS went through a constant evolution during the life of the 997, debuting with the 3.6 liter flat-six found in the standard Carrera and GT3, then enlarged to 3.8 liters with modified suspension, and finally the 4.0 liter 500 hp flat-six of the car we see here that featured further modifications to the body and suspension in an effort to reduce weight and improve overall performance. Needless to say, these were serious cars designed to showcase the limits Porsche could push the 997 chassis, without being a full-on race car. Only 600 were produced and with a price approaching $200K they weren’t cheap. But as a final send-off for the 997 the GT3 RS 4.0 was a fantastic display!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0 on Autotrader

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