Time capsule cars are fascinating. It doesn’t matter whether they’re high-performance exotics or run of the mill, entry level econoboxes, there’s always something deeply weird and alluring about finding a car built decades ago that still looks brand new today. It’s even more interesting when that car is an E36. This generation of 3-series will, I think, one day be regarded as a classic, but you’d be forgiven for doubting it, since so many of them out there for sale today are such dogs. For every nice example on the market there are ten cars that have been driven hard and put away wet. This ’93 325iS however looks pretty much the same as I imagine it did the day it left the showroom, which is not too surprising since it only has 34k miles on the odometer.
All posts tagged e36
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
While the E36 M3 coupe is known to be a relatively quick, dynamic and fun car to drive, it’s often hard to find a good one. That’s largely because so many of the coupes have ended up as thrashed track-rods with dubious modifications. On the other hand when they do turn up for sale, the relatively uncommon sedan versions are more likely to be found in stock, unmolested condition and as such have tended to keep their value. This is probably because they’re more likely to have been used for trips to the organic grocery store rather than to a track. (There’s an Arctic Silver one with Yakima roof racks that I often see where I live in DC, parked near a place colloquially known as Whole Paycheck, and yes, I eye it jealously every time I see it). The two extra doors do not fundamentally alter the M3 package, except to add a healthy dose of everyday practicality, while the M-tech bodykit that distinguishes the Ms from ordinary cars lends the already handsome sedan body shape just the right amount of sporting aggression. I think these cars are well on their way to becoming a bit of a cult classic. This M3 has those two extra doors plus the all important 5-speed manual gearbox, making it an “M3/4/5” in enthusiast-speak.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW M3 Sedan on eBay
While derided by some for being a bit watered down compared to its European counterpart, there is no denying that the E36 M3 was a wildly popular model and widened the appreciation and market of BMW and the M brand. This particular model alone – the BG93 North American 3.2 Coupe – accounted for 11,793 examples produced. That’s greater than the total number of M products that had been imported to the U.S. prior to the E36 (E24, E28, E30, E34, and 850CSi) and doesn’t account for the 10,000 plus 3.0 Coupes, 6,300 convertibles and and 8,600-odd sedans. You’d expect, then, that finding good examples of the E36 would be quite simple as there are some 35,000 to choose from. But the popularity of the E36 M3 was in part its undoing, too. The flood of the cars devalued the market; many fell into hands unable to maintain them or who treated them like a pinball, bouncing them off every curb, guardrail or other cars. Additionally, the E36’s shift towards mass production did have tangible effects on the long term quality of the product. It’s not unusual to see rusty examples with the trim falling off and headlights so nebulous they’re useless. As a result, finding excellent examples of the E36 is somewhat cause for celebration and really nice ones have been finding a greater appreciation in the enthusiast world. This ’98 Coupe is certainly one of the better quality examples out there for sale today: