As it has aged, the BMW Z3 (with exception of the M Coupe) has become a bit of an unwanted step child amongst pre-owned BMWs. They aren’t new enough to be considered cool and aren’t old enough to be considered classic. Most of those in the states would be forgiven if they thought this was BMW’s first crack at the roadster format, but it wasn’t. Dial back to the late 1980s and you’ll find this rather strange convertible called the Z1. Built in limited numbers from 1989 through 1991, it was a bit of a test bed for new technologies, such as removable plastic body panels, a “Z” axle rear suspension and underbody aerodynamic tray. There were only 8,000 of these funky roadsters ever made and a few have started making their way to the US as they have now breached 25 years of age. This example is for sale in Texas.
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In 2001, BMW wanted to race the new E46 M3 in the Le Mans GT series. But in order to really be competitive, it needed more power – after all, it would be racing the likes of the Corvette C5R, the Porsche 911 GT3, and even Ferraris. As stout as the S54 was, BMW opted to stick a V8 into the E46. Not only did the V8 produce more power, but a look under the hood revealed that it moved the weight back – far back – from where the inline-6 would normally hang. Run by Schnitzer in Europe and PTG in the U.S., they were quite successful if often protested, and in 2001 the PTG developed car won the Petit LeMans in the U.S. and continued to win until 2005 in Europe. They also won the imaginations of BMW fans across the globe, with the the necessary road-going 380 horsepower GTR model a mythical beast of near biblical proportions. Some went a step farther, though, and made track ready weapons. To lower the M3 and be able to run massive wheels – like the 18×11 and 12″ variety of this particular replica – it required some work. Well, a lot of work:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 BMW M3 GTR Replica on eBay
We’ve reached a point where the BMW E36 has probably dipped about as low as it will go in terms of value, with exception of some mint M3s on the upward tick and the exclusive M3 Lightweight. Most of us are familiar with all the different models of this range, including some of those which did not make it to US shores, like the Touring. This 318i Baur TC4, however, is a different proposition altogether. The relationship between BMW and Baur goes back a ways. Baur is a coachbuilder based in Stuttgart, Germany that has been collaborating on BMW convertibles since the 1930s. Their targa variants of the E21 and E30 3 series helped them gain notoriety, but they didn’t stop there. When the E36 3 series debuted in the early 1990s, Baur decided to try something different.
What you see here is a rarity amongst modern day automobiles, the four-door cabriolet. From the side profile, you’d be hard pressed to figure out this was a convertible of some sort, with fixed door frames and a canvas roof which would fold discreetly behind the rear seats. This 318i Baur TC4 is claimed to be the first on US shores. While it wouldn’t be an easy claim to verify, it is probably valid, as a little over 300 of these unique open-roofed sedans were made.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 BMW 318i Baur TC4 on eBay
Conventional wisdom would have it that North America was robbed of the “real” M3; the undiluted, S50B30/B32, individual throttle body, floating rotor, continuously variable VANOS enthusiasts’ dream. Conventional wisdom, though, is wrong. Exploiting a loophole in importation laws, in 1994 BMW Canada commissioned a run of 45 exclusive European-spec E36 M3s. These were the full-fat BF91 rather than the BF93 which would come slightly later to U.S. shores. That meant the full spectrum of Euro goodies were optional on these cars, but most notably the 286 horsepower engine was the highlight. Each got a numbered plaque to commemorate fooling “The Man”, the only real changes from standard specification were the additions of daytime running lights and a third brake light to meet Canadian road laws. Sure, your E36 M3 is special, but these Canadian Edition cars are more specialerer. And this one isn’t in Canada anymore – it’s in the U.S.. Feel cheated no more, E36 fans!
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW M3 Canadian Edition on eBay
When I went away to university, my dad finally got his hands on the best BMW he ever owned: a six-speed E46 M3 convertible in carbon black. He would put the roof down whenever he could, just to hear the raspy S54 motor sing from those quad tail pipes, even if the weather was crap (which, being England, it frequently was). With 333 hp squeezed from that naturally aspirated, race-tuned straight six it was fast, comfortable and relatively practical; a performance car you could daily drive. I’d like to own one myself one day, though I’m not willing to put up with the compromises made for the convertible, so I’d go with a coupe instead. I even have my ideal spec picked out: a six speed manual in stahlgrau (steel gray), a gun metal color discontinued after the facelift of ’03 and replaced by the more mercurial silver gray. While steel gray was not unique to the M-cars, I’ve always thought it suits the bulging lines and wider track of the M3 very well.