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:
Just prior to the launch of the E36 M3 for North America, Canada got a special run of European-specification M3s. However, they weren’t alone in terms of custom E36s available. 1994 also saw the United States get a pretty unique, and quite limited, E36 model.
It was the 1994 325is M-Design. Fans call it the M-Tech, and it was very similar to the Clubsport Coupe that was available in Europe.
While underneath this was basically a stock 325, it was still pretty special. It included nearly all the items that the M3 would have outside of the motor and brakes. You got the M-Tech body kit, mirrors, steering wheel and shift knob, along with the Anthracite M cloth (0506). Many (if not all) were painted Germany’s racing color – Alpine White. Additionally, the M-Tech included a cool set of 17″ BBS 2-piece wheels. They were referred to as Style 29s, but were actually a multi-piece version of the forged BBS RG wheel. A limited run of only 150 (according to fans, BMW isn’t sure) were produced by BMW Individual with a $4,700 premium on the base price of the 325is.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW 325is M-Design on eBay…
Most of our ‘Roll the Dice’ series involve cheap asking prices, needy restoration candidates, or oddball cars that are great values. This is not one of those.
The BMW 2002 is a legendary giant killer, and the predecessor of the market darling M3. Introduced before the M1 and 3.0CSL, BMW’s Motorsport division designed and modified the E10-based model to such an extent that it received its own model code – E20. A KKK turbocharger was fit to the M10 2.0 inline-4, generating 8 lbs. of boost at 3,500 rpm and a screaming 170 horsepower. Only available in two colors, the expensive ($6,600 list price in 1974) 2002 Turbo sold in scant numbers – a total of 1,672 were produced. And since all things special BMW are highly prized in today’s market, you can bet that when 2002 Turbos come to market, those in the know take notice.
So, how is this one a ‘Roll of the Dice’?
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1973 BMW 2002 Turbo on eBay…
The E28 M5 that Carter wrote up the other day was a nice piece of kit. But the E34 remains my favorite version of the M-powered 5-series. Sure, it was heavier than it’s predecessor. But even with the additional heft, the dynamic chassis and dialled-in suspension setup meant it was still a spritely, potent car. It was also subtle, distinguished from lower models only by a few, discreet M-badges, restyled lower valances and unique alloys. That’s no bad thing. Super sedans should be understated, in my view, and the conservatively styled E34 was handsome then and remains so now. That understated exterior conceals a glorious, screaming 3.6 liter inline six, replete with six individual throttle bodies, a motor that was good for just over 300 hp when new.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW M5 on eBay…
Such was the depth of BMW’s great designs from the 1980s that often the E32 is overlooked. Unlike the E23 it replaced, the scaled-up Claus Luthe-inspired design really worked and the heavy-weight look of the 5-series in a fat suit was met with more aggression, yet still elegantly. As you’d expect from a car intended to challenge the W126, BMW threw the kitchen sink at the 7-series, upping not only the technology, luxury and interior materials utilized in the E32, but the engine offerings, as well – the M70 and later M73 V12s beat Mercedes-Benz to the market with silky smooth and powerful twelve cylinder motors that were the trump card with the Trump types.
Yet while popular and well built, finding good examples of especially early 7s has become quite difficult. Today we have two interesting examples to consider. Both are far from original, though each in their own way is compelling. For those who like subtle speed, there’s a M70-powered, low mileage 750iL Alpina B12 5.0 clone from Japan. If you’re a little more in-your-face and like to row your own, there’s a Racing Dynamics-inspired 735i 5-speed. Which would you choose?
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 750iL Alpina Clone on eBay…
Let’s get the elephant in the room out in the open: this 1988 BMW M5 has 225,000 miles, and the asking price is $42,000. It’s also pretty far from original.
That’s good, because there’s really a lot to like in this particular example of the legendary chassis. First off, it’s one of the very, very few of the already scarce U.S. spec E28s that were imported with option 0232 – full black leather. That makes it one of 101 imported to North America as such, and of those only 30 were sold in the U.S.. That alone makes it quite desirable. But then this M5 goes a step farther, and by a step I mean several flights of stairs. Outside we have a European bumper and headlight swap; I know, some people prefer the U.S. setup in the same way that some people consider Marilyn Manson a musical artist. It’s also ditched the original M5 rolling stock for wider, modular and forged BBS RS wheels. And that high mileage? No worry, the S38 has been rebuilt and turned up a few notches, while the upgraded suspension has dropped down and stiffened the ride.
The result? Boy, does this look like one mean super sedan.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW M5 on eBay…
Although BMW finally equalized the all-wheel drive advantage of its rival Audi as early as the E30, it would take a few generations for the company to offer a truly potent variant of the small four season executive sedan. But when it finally got around to it with the E90, it was a great package. Although the E46 was a hard act to follow, the Bavarians stepped up with an all new 330 model. Now powered by the N52B30 rated at 255 horsepower, it packed even more punch than the outgoing E46. And like its predecessor, the top-of-the-range 330 could be selected with BMW’s constantly variable x-drive all-wheel drive system.
Utilizing a central multi-plate clutch and many computers to monitor vehicle and wheel speed, steering input and throttle/braking, the intelligent all-wheel drive system took the guess work out of poor weather situations. But it was far from the only trick item in the 330’s arsenal. The N52, one of the last developments of the naturally aspirated inline-6 that had been the anchor of the BMW lineup for decades, was a truly special unit. The block was cast from magnesium with an aluminum core. Variable valve timing for both cams meant a guttural screaming at up to 7,000 rpm, yet it was able to return over 30 mpg on the highway. It’s a mind-blowing type of motor that’s just good in every situation and sounds great, too. While the change to the new square dashboard was less driver-oriented, the E90 packed serious computing power beneath its Swiss chalet look; a minimalist design with high quality materials that has stood the test of time well.
Of course, the most desirable of these models were the sport package equipped examples. And, of those, the manual transmission option is the one to get. Welcome, everyone, to just that car:…
I recently sold my E34 525i and replaced it with a W126 300SE. I’ll post a write up on my new car next week. I love it, but let’s just say I learned a few valuable lessons about buying cars sight unseen from the whole episode. As potential buyers came to view my BMW, a funny thing happened. The more I explained my ownership experience while they test drove it, the more I began to wonder why I was selling it. In fact, I concluded, if space and money had allowed, I would have preferred to keep it alongside the Benz. In one year of ownership, I put an unusually high number of miles on it while doing a mega commute. During that time, it never once failed to start or gave me any reason to worry. I replaced some suspension parts that were worn out. But other than that, all I did was drive it and feed it fuel and oil. It was remarkably fun to drive, which I credit to the 5-speed manual gearbox and sweet chassis setup. Sure, it wasn’t terribly powerful or fast, but it was certainly fast enough for me. And it made for a good commuter, getting 28 MPG on the highway. In all, I think the E34 525i is an under-appreciated gem. I’m sad I let it go.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW 525i on eBay
For some time, critics have claimed that the E36 chassis was just too prolific and not special enough to be considered by collectors. They weren’t built well enough, they didn’t have the pedigree of the E30 or the power of the E46, and since you could buy one on your local Craigslist for $5,000 (less, sometimes!), why the hell would you pay a premium for one?
It’s been about a year and a half since we last looked at a M3 Lightweight. The ask was $90,000 on a model with below 30,000 miles, and it was no surprise that for many that ask was far too strong, though I suggested opportunities like that weren’t going to come along every day. In that time, we’ve seen some big numbers start to roll in for special E36 variants, like the $65,000 Canadian Edition M3. But all expectations on the E36 market, and especially those on the Lightweight model, were thrown out the window this past March when a lower mile, all original example came up for auction at Amelia Island.
The price? After hot bidding and when the hammer finally fell, it hit $145,750. I was astounded, even though for years I’d been claiming these cars would increase in value in the not too distant future. What does that number mean for the rest of the run?
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW M3 Lightweight on eBay…
“If you’re looking at this ad, you know what it is. Yes, this is the real deal.”
It was a simple, straightforward solution – but its effect was profound. By adding a KKK K27 turbocharger to BMW’s M30 inline-6, Alpina made quite a splash and firmly cemented its name in the hallowed halls of the ‘World’s Best Tuners’. The result of that marriage coupled with adjustable boost, an intercooler and special injection was 300 horsepower and 340 lb.ft of torque – in 1978! Even the much lauded and celebrated Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera had less power from more displacement; the 3.3 turbo flat-6 produced 265 horsepower and 291 lb.ft of torque. If the Porsche 911 Turbo was a supercar killer, the B7 Turbo was a 4-door 911 assassin. The Alpina was the real deal, and ever since then they’ve been at the sharp end of the world’s fastest sedans.
Beyond just looks, the Buchloe firm of course added signature deep chin and pronounced trunk spoilers. Large (for the period) 16″ alloy wheels wore 225 section tires in the rear to help transfer that power, while specially specified Bilstein shocks were mated with stiffened and lowered Alpina-spec springs and sway bars. Inside, Sheel seats were outfit with Alpina’s beautiful striping, while extra gauge pods read out critical engine performance measures.
A total of 149 of these sedans were produced, each in a slightly different and unique specification with numbered dash plaques. This example, #209, was specified in Sapphire Blue Metallic with Alpina’s bespoke cloth:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1981 Alpina B7 Turbo on Seattle Craigslist…
At first glance, I was sure we’d covered this car before. After all, it’s not often that European specification 3.8 liter M5s come to market in Daytona Violet.
Or, is it?
Believe it or else, this is actually no less than the third Purple Porsche Eater that we’ve covered for sale in the U.S.. Back in September, Craig spotted chassis GD63734for sale. If that wasn’t surprising enough, I was pretty sure when Craig wrote that car up that it was the identical twin of chassis GD63657 – a car I thrice covered with three different sellers. But, no – today’s car is a chassis GD63375, produced before those other two 1993 examples, yet in the same outrageous shade of Daytona Violet Metallic:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 BMW M5 Euro 3.8 on eBay…
While it’s easy to be a ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ and scoff at the prices for lightly used cars from the recent past, true time capsules like the Porsche Rob just wrote up are generally the domain of pure wonderment. How have owners been able to restrain themselves for decades without driving a car? This afternoon’s M6 is in a similar vein to the lineup we’ve been looking at; pristine, original condition, and low mileage. While the 36,800 accrued far outstrip those of the RS6, M3 and especially the 911 RSR, finding an all original M6 with below 40,000 miles in near perfect shape is certainly worth a look:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 BMW M6 on eBay…
To me, this M3 is a very interesting counterpoint to yesterday’s RS6. Many aspects are the same; pristine original condition, lower mileage, mid-2000s leading edge performance car.
It’s there where the similarities end.
While the RS6 represented the stepping over a threshold of performance into a war of escalation, the E46 M3 was, in many ways, BMW’s equivalent of the Porsche 993. It was the ultimate development of the normally aspirated inline-6, and to many (this author included), it was the best of the breed.
The third generation M3 is simply a marvel. It took the basic layout of its predecessor and improved essentially every aspect. The E36 wasn’t aggressive looking enough? Fixed. The motor wasn’t the technical marvel that was the European version? Fixed that, too. And the build quality and plastic materials in the second generation were a bit lacking? Solved that one, as well.
Are there drawbacks to the E46? Sure, it only came in two-door guise. There are also some known weaknesses in the chassis, like the subframe problems that can be a costly repair. The S54 is also a more expensive motor to repair than the S50/52 had been, and requires more maintenance (and, super costly oil).
But enough gripes, because while there isn’t a collector market for 2000s Audis, the E46 never really went through the dip in value that the E36 did. Prime examples have always demanded strong money and appear to be on the rise, with several notable auctions recently hammering for ever increasing numbers. Today’s example comes from the end of the line for the E46, and is about as desirable as they come to market. One of 2943 A08 Silvergray Metallic coupes imported, it has the desirable N51M Imola leather interior, the even more desirable 6-speed manual transmission and equally sought ZCP Competition package, and it’s only traveled a reported 11,600 miles since new.…
The U.S. version of the E36 chassis Motorsport offering has steadily begun to emerge from its “also ran” position in the category of favored M products. It has languished in value since the introduction of its replacement, the wildly popular and more aggressive E46 M3. Long derided for being a bit too cost-conscience of BMW, the reality is that the car that came to the U.S. might have been a bit better.
Yes, I just said that.
It is true that the North American M3 made due with a less powerful and certainly much less exotic motor. The U.S. S50, based upon the 325i’s M50, displaced the same 3 liters as the European S50B30, but the two differed in nearly all other aspects. Only items like the oil filter are shared between the models; in Euro guise, the engine sang with individual throttle bodies. The engine also sported the trick continuously variable VANOS system to optimize performance. After finally being convinced to bring the second generation M3 to North America, the news came down that the western-bound motor would be less exotic; static VANOS, lower compression, and no individual throttle bodies.
Frustrated though enthusiasts may have been to not be getting the “true” model, many were just happy it was coming here at all. But the amazing thing was what the USA motor offered. At 240 horsepower, it was indeed 46 down on the European cousin. Yet other numbers told a different story; torque was nearly the same between the two, as was weight, and the real advantage of the Euro motor was only quite high in the rev range. That meant acceleration in the real world was effectively identical between Euro and USA models. Sure, you lost a bit of top speed – but where in the U.S. were you hitting 155, anyway?…
My dad’s E46 M3 was by far and away the best car he ever owned (though I guess that’s not saying much, since he mostly owned Fords). It was a convertible and, as a result, the chassis was somewhat compromised – the dash would shake at the slightest provocation from a pothole. Still, it was a great car, mostly because it was such a perfect all-rounder. It was fast, handled like a precision instrument and looked sufficiently aggressive without being too shouty. It was also very practical. If you took it down to the shops to pick up a pint of milk, and resisted the temptation to mash the throttle, it could be a very docile car to drive. But if you did open it up, the sound of that 3.2 liter straight six was pretty incredible. There’s nothing else I’ve heard that’s quite like it. It wasn’t a growl. It was a rasp, a sinister, menacing one. I hope that one day I’ll own one too.