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:
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Here’s an interesting one that has had me scratching my head quite a bit. What originally caught my eye was the bright Estoril Blue Metallic sitting on some refinished E46 Style 67 wheels. It was worth a second eyeball, which resulted in me noticing it was a 4-door. CLICK – I’m interested in seeing more. Once in the posting, the title became even more interesting – Racing Dynamics RD Sport? Lesser known than Alpina or Hartge, but still producers of some pretty trick products. 3.6 liter motor? 6-speed? TELL ME MORE!!!
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW M3 Sedan 3.6 Widebody 6-speed on eBay
The E36 M3 has a curious reputation. Not quite a legendary track machine like its predecessor, the E30, and not quite a sublimely complete driver’s car like its successor, the E46, the E36 is the awkward middle child of the M family. Even BMW themselves seemed only half-heartedly committed to the car in America, choosing to offer it here with a less powerful engine than its European cousin. The resulting antipathy felt toward the car by some M-purists, who regard it as little more than a 328i with M-badging, has kept values low on these for quite some time. As a result, many of the used examples you find on Craigslist have been bought cheaply and thrashed, crashed or otherwise abused.
Still, they are very good cars – torquey, well-balanced and offering a dynamic driving experience. It’s always nice to come across a low mileage example in mint condition that has been kept in stock form. This convertible in stunning Techno Violet is such a car.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 BMW M3 Convertible on Hemmings
The E36 M3 Sedan holds a very special place in my heart and played a large part in turning my attention away from Audis and VWs towards BMW M-cars. Colloquially known as the M3/4/5, one car specifically turned the tide: an Estoril Blue M3 with 4-doors, 5-speeds, and some Dinan bits that was the fastest car I’d driven up to that point. It was smooth, connected, and aggressive, packed in a beautiful sedan that is subtle enough to blend in but aggressive enough to put plenty of distance between it and the base-model E36. I had a chance to buy that car a few years back with 47k miles for $14k but I didn’t have the money. A few years on, this red on black example with similar miles is asking almost $11k more. The red/black isn’t quite as sexy as the Estoril/Caramel combo, but the M Double Spoke II wheels are personal favorites. Despite (or because of?) high production numbers, most E36 M3s have been run hard and disrespected. This one looks to be in great shape but not perfect. Are low-mile E36 M3s chasing the E30s, or is this seller hitting the pipe?
Click for details: 1997 BMW M3 on eBay
Nate has been on a run of covering some great classic Alpina models, and it’s very easy to see the appeal of the brand. Their tried and true recipe of taking the motor out of a higher-end model and swapping it into the smaller chassis might have seemed a simple task, but the execution of Alpina was always top notch and the results were undeniable. Coupled with upgraded wheels and suspension and full of lovely details, they always managed to feel like a premium product and today that appreciation is shown in high asking prices. In the same vein as the legendary Alpinas, many enthusiasts have tried to take the motor out of M models and fit them to lesser 3-series and 5-series models with varying success. But if done right, the result can be a very tidy looking and appealing package on a more friendly budget: