White Christmas Double Take: 1995 BMW M3

Update 1/25/2018 – the first of this duo has dropped in price from $19,997 to $17,997.

Recently I found myself looking through some old car literature I had amassed over the years. In particular, I was completely enamored with the brand-new E36 M3 when it launched on U.S. shores. I’m not sure why, but of all the E36 variants that were produced, that first-year M has always stuck out to me as the most desirable in the lineup. And now as these cars are on the verge of being considered “antique” and with the E30 market still silly (and the E46 market rising), these early Coupes seem like a great balance of driving, collector-potential and somewhat reasonable pricing.

I say ‘somewhat’ because sellers have steadily been raising the bar to the point where it almost feels like price fixing. When I looked for ’95s on eBay the other day, I started laughing – there were five listed, and their prices were all within $1,000 of each other – and none were cheap. So with that in mind today I’m looking at twin Alpine White ’95s. They’re almost identically equipped. They’re priced within $2 of each other. That’s not a misprint – only a small coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts divides the asks on these two. But there’s a huge difference in mileage; some 60,000 between these two. So clearly the one with lower mileage is automatically the better bet, right?

Not so fast…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW M3 on eBay

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1995 BMW M3

A little over a year ago, I took a bit of a gamble and plunged into M3 ownership. At the time, I was reasoning that the E46 market wasn’t likely to dip much lower in the immediate future, as the E36 market was already trending upwards. As a result, I paid (what I felt was) a reasonable premium for a low mileage, excellent original condition example in a very rare color. At least on the surface, it would seem that my decision was correct; since purchasing that car, some E36 sales have gone through the roof as documented on these pages. Further, E46 sales of clean, original examples (especially 6-speeds) appear also to be heading upwards, as witness by the 2003 currently on Bring A Trailer. With a few days to go, bidding is past $25,000 – money that until now was considered reserved only for the Competition Package cars.

But back to the E36 market and this particular example. The cars that have pulled really strong numbers in the second generation M3 are the European specification models or the super-limited Lightweight edition. Still, that doesn’t mean that a clean normal U.S. specification M3 also isn’t heading upwards. Take this early ’95, for example:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW M3 on eBay

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Northern Exposure: 1994 BMW M3 Canadian Edition

I promise that it was not my original intent to run a Canadian market car this today, but it’s pretty apropos for this morning’s coffee intake. The Canadian Edition M3 is no stranger on these pages; I’ve written up two of the original 45 in the past few months. First was the Mugello Red car which had undergone some changes for stock.. Second was the staggering Individual Giallo example which set what I believe may be a record price for a non-Lightweight car. Today #40 has come up for sale and seems to lie between the condition of the two cars. Presented in fetching Dakar Yellow, where will the price of this E36 end up?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW M3 Canadian Edition on eBay

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1997 BMW M3 Coupe with 45,000 Miles

The value of E36 M3s has been much debated over the past few years, with detractors snickering and deriding every asking price and speculators suggesting their worth is many times the average selling price. While it’s true you can find cheap E36 M3s, the question remains – where is the market going on these cars? The result of their relatively low value for such a protracted period means that today there just aren’t the glut of good examples that there once were, so when a really nice one comes along, now too do the bids. Case in point – today’s 1997 Coupe. A quick search of my local Craigslist ads suggests I can buy one of these for $6,500. No, actually, I can buy four of them, all for $6,500 (or less). So why would I pay more for this one?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW M3 Coupe on eBay

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1995 BMW M3 Individual

Back from the brink of total nausea and bankruptcy inducing cars, let’s look at one of arguably the best values going in the used German car market – the E36 BMW M3. You could make a pretty persuasive argument that it was not the best quality product BMW produced and in fact there are some who will claim it’s not a true M-car, and in some ways they may have a point. However, let’s boil down what it is at heart – a front-engine, rear-drive manual equipped car that offers style, performance and practicality on a budget with strong aftermarket support. You can buy one of these still for well under $10,000, and while that might not yield the best example and 240 horsepower is positively blas√© these days this is still a potent package. As a mass-produced car, too, there are many to chose from any day of the week. For example, right now on eBay there are 178 cars listed in the category “M3”. At the same time, there are 14 pre-2000 Audis available. How does one stand out from such a glut of examples then? How about a BMW Individual example painted in rare-to-see Morea Green Metallic?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW M3 on Seattle Craigslist

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1995 BMW M3 Lightweight

The year was 1994, and BMW brought some pre-production M3s in Dakar Yellow to various tracks around the U.S. to engage their primary target audience; enthusiasts. I still remember seeing them and being both very excited and slightly let down. From a performance standpoint, even in turned-down U.S. form the M3 was a potent small sedan. 240 horsepower was top of the small car market back then and around a track, stock for stock the E36 was easily a match for the outgoing fan-favorite E30. Coupled with an eye-searing color, it was an impressive and modern package that I loved. But I also loved the street-racer aspect of the E30, and that was something that the E36 didn’t capture well….at first. That was remedied later in 1995 with the introduction of the “CSL” version of the E36. Stripped out, available only in Alpine White and with Motorsports GmbH details throughout, the M3 Lightweight channeled both the E9 3.0CSL racers that started the M trend and captured the spirit of the E30 with its giant, adjustable rear wing and splitter. Instantly these began popping up at track events; despite the entire production run of only 126 cars, it wasn’t uncommon in 1995 and 1996 to see 4 or 5 of these special cars turn up and trounce all the other cars with ease. Since new, these limited edition M3s have always held more value than nearly all of the rest of the model run – and as prices of all things M rise, it’s no surprise that it appears the tide is carrying them up as well:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW M3 Lightweight on eBay

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