Back in February, I took a look at very hot item in the marketplace – a clean, European-spec BMW E30 modified by Alpina.
Or, at least that was what was claimed.
Further research pointed out some problems. I found it to be a car I looked at two years ago in 2015, then listed as a 1986 C2 2.5. The VIN was transposed incorrectly, but the stranger item was that the year was wrong. Stranger still was that a tremendous amount of the car didn’t seem to work. Yet it was a lot of Alpina for the money even as an automatic, as it was relatively clean and priced well below other similar E30 Alpina asks.
Well, here we are some ten months later and it’s popped up in a new listing with a new seller. We’ve seen that before, so no big surprise there. As I started to look through the listing, though, I was struck by just how lazy it was. Okay, there were new photos, but none of them were detailed. The VIN is filled in with “1”s. Then I got to the text, which is a near-carbon copy of the last listing. I say near for two reasons – one, the current listing cut and paste the prior listing….twice. So, halfway through the details, you start all over again!
But perhaps that was done to distract you from the one detail which was added to this listing. Cleverly stuck in after the copying of the prior listing, just before all the fees you’ll need to pay, was a second change and the line which finally answers the questions about this car:
Note this is an Alpina clone with correct Alpina numbered engine.
That’s a pretty frustrating statement to bury in the end of the listing. The ad listing has, for the last several years, maintained how rare this car is and they’re just now getting around to admitting it’s not a real example?…
Normally, our dual posts have two comparable cars to consider. But while typically that manifests itself in one model, one price point or one performance group, today it’s something very different.
Although both of today’s cars come from one marque – BMW – there is literally and figuratively a huge chasm of development between them. There’s also a vast gulf between performance, desirability and price. Yet each reflected the time point in which it was made; the austere 1960s, emerging from the fog of war into a bustling economy when average Germans could for the first time contemplate automobile ownership, and the exotic 1980s, with its new computer designs and technology rapidly forcing car designs forward. For the company, each car represented the future in many ways even if the results and their impact was so vastly different.
It’s only been a little over a week since I last looked at an E30 M3. A 297,000 mile example with extensive rebuild work, it brushed up against $40,000 in bidding in the no reserve auction.
Clearly, M3 mania hasn’t died down all that much.
Sellers have taken note; at any given time, there are a plethora of E30 M3s available on the market. Today’s search yielded no less than eight examples on eBay; average asking price? About $64,000. But that’s nothing compared to the nine that Enthusiast Auto Group have, including no less than five Sport Evolutions. If you have to ask….
But not many sellers are laying it out on the line. If the market really is plum crazy for these cars, why are more people not rolling the dice and taking market value? For example, if a nearly 300,000 mile example hits the best part of $40,000, what would a much lower mile example bring?
We’re about to find out.
I believe this is the perfect counterpoint to yesterday’s 968 Coupe. The recipe is much the same, though the result is even more legendary. But what I find so interesting in considering these two cars is not how similar they are, but indeed their opposites. Unlike the 968, this M3 was driven with aplomb, eclipsing nearly 300,000 miles so far. It’s not a particularly special color combination; Diamantschwarz Metallic (181) over Black leather is pretty standard though admittedly it looks very nice. It wasn’t unusually specified, as it carries the normal assortment of M3 options; air conditioning, sunroof, cruise control and electric windows. While yesterday’s 968 was basically factory fresh, obviously with the amount of miles on this chassis, to look anything like the photos it’s had to go under the knife and from the inside out this M3 has been thoroughly rebuilt. But the real tell will be what the hammer falls for in two days. While the immediate reaction of many to yesterday’s 968 was that it was heavily overvalued in asking price, I’m curious to see what the reaction to the bidding on this M3 – already at $28,200 at time of writing – is:
Update 11/22/2017 – Asking price on this M3 Convertible has dropped to $94,995.
I bet more than a few of you think I have it out for the E30. And, true enough, it’s not a chassis that gets nearly the press on this site that it does on others. Perhaps it is the culture which has emerged around the Cult of E30, maybe it’s just jealousy at the plethora of options and availability of parts that are both none existent in the E30 world.
Most likely, it’s because I like to be a little bit different than the crowd, and truth told that’s a hard thing to do in the E30 world.
But I have the potential solution for my problem right here.
In my usual searches I had an interesting dichotomous reaction to one number: $16,500.
The first I came across was a 1988 BMW M3 with a no reserve auction bid up to $16,500. “Wow! That’s actually pretty reasonable! I thought. Next, I saw a 1994 BMW 325i with a ‘Buy It Now’ of the exact same $16,500. “What the hell is the seller thinking?!? How absolutely ridiculous!” I scoffed.
Yet, neither car was as it originally seemed once the descriptions were opened, and suddenly a comparison was in order…
The US-market never received the touring (wagon) version of the E30 3-series. But these cars are now old enough to import under the 25 year rule, which means you can find a steady trickle of these popping up on eBay for sale over here, and various accounts of enthusiasts’ attempts to bring them over. And no wonder: the E30 estate is a handsome and utilitarian looking car, practical and quite stylish.
The E30 was offered in Europe with a wider range of engines than we received here, so there a variety of different longroof options to choose from. There were two four cylinder models (a 1.6 liter and a 1.8 liter), two six cylinder models (a 2.0 liter and 2.5 liter, with the latter also being available in “iX,” all wheel drive spec), and a 2.4 liter naturally aspirated diesel inline six. This particular car is a 316i, the entry level model. While the car is currently located in Germany, it’s being advertised on US eBay to tempt American E30 fans with a taste for forbidden fruit.
We’ve been witness to an interesting trend over the past few years in the E30 lineup, as manic pricing increases have rivaled the Porsche 911’s market stardom in a smaller audience. For the most part, outrageous bids have been limited in the general enthusiast world to the M3; but within the E30 sphere of influence, outstanding examples of each particular model have reached astonishing levels of pricing. Just the other day, a Hodge-podge of parts assembled on a 325i hit $19,000 on a no reserve auction. Granted, it was a good-looking example, but it shows the massive swing in values of the highly desirable platform.
Today I have an interesting comparison to consider. Like the $19,000 example linked above, one of the models I have here is admittedly not original. However, it’s the swap that is very interesting, as the builder managed to source and stuff a M3’s S14 power plant into a 318i, bringing with it the brake and wheel upgrades. Of course, BMW also did this themselves in the Portugal and Italian-market 320is – coincidentally, one of which is also on eBay at the same time. What does the market look like on these two shining examples of 4-cylinder fun?
Alpina mania continues unabated on these pages. And why not? Rather than hastily assembled montages of aftermarket accessories or tasteless timepieces of a bygone era, Alpinas were artfully crafted bits of perfection. They were intended to be, and often were, as good as a BMW could get. The market has recognized this in their value, which when correctly presented far outstrips that of a normal – or even special – model from Munich. But that’s led to a variety of half-baked, poorly presented or just plain questionable examples that pop up on a regular basis. Is today’s ultra-rare C1 2.3/1 a case of the former, or the latter?
It’s been a balmy couple of days in DC, with temperatures shooting up to around 60 degrees. One could be forgiven for wondering where the winter went. It will soon be here, I’m sure. And with it the snow and ice, the city-wide shutdown, and the terrible drivers causing pile-ups around the beltway. What would be the ideal winter warrior for times like these? The E30 325iX quickly comes to mind. A brief search on Craigslist throws up a number of tidy options (as well as the usual plethora of over-priced rust buckets). But one in particular stands out, a bit of a unicorn. AWD? Check. Manual? Check? Wagon? Check! Eye-watering price? Double check!