Diet M3: 1994 BMW 325is M-Design

Just prior to the launch of the E36 M3 for North America, Canada got a special run of European-specification M3s. However, they weren’t alone in terms of custom E36s available. 1994 also saw the United States get a pretty unique, and quite limited, E36 model.

It was the 1994 325is M-Design. Fans call it the M-Tech, and it was very similar to the Clubsport Coupe that was available in Europe.

While underneath this was basically a stock 325, it was still pretty special. It included nearly all the items that the M3 would have outside of the motor and brakes. You got the M-Tech body kit, mirrors, steering wheel and shift knob, along with the Anthracite M cloth (0506). Many (if not all) were painted Germany’s racing color – Alpine White. Additionally, the M-Tech included a cool set of 17″ BBS 2-piece wheels. They were referred to as Style 29s, but were actually a multi-piece version of the forged BBS RG wheel. A limited run of only 150 (according to fans, BMW isn’t sure) were produced by BMW Individual with a $4,700 premium on the base price of the 325is.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW 325is M-Design on eBay

1999 BMW 328i Convertible

5I think that one day we’ll look back upon the E36 generation 3-series and regard it as a classic. The “dolphin” body shape continues to age well, and sits atop a finely balanced chassis that makes for a spritely and engaging drive. The six cylinder motors found in these are smooth, stout units that offer satisfying (if not blistering) performance and return decent fuel economy. When they do go wrong, they are quite simple to work on and spare parts are relatively cheap and plentiful. The M3 of this generation is already quite desirable and is a bit of a performance bargain, especially since it remains cheaper to pick up than the E30 and E46 versions that sit either side of it. But clean, low-mileage non-M cars often get overlooked, and I think this is a little unfair. Take this 328i for example. It’s a convertible and an automatic, both potential turn-offs for some. But a 3-series in this configuration is not supposed to be a track car or a street racer. It’s supposed to be a classy little boulevard cruiser. And on that score it’s a winner.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 BMW 328i Convertible on eBay

Row Your Own? 2000 BMW 528iT v. 2003 BMW 540iT

I have a bit of an interesting comparison today, and I think in many ways it’s harder than it would first appear to be. If you said to most enthusiasts “Would you rather have a manual or automatic?”, the collective ire of autophiles towards self-controlled cars is akin to suggestion a revision to the 2nd Amendment at a NRA rally. And outwardly, today’s two E39 5-series wagons seem quite similar. But they represent two different directions for BMW and I think it will be interesting to see which foot enthusiasts land on. So, what would it be, then – a 5-speed 528i Sport Touring or a 5-speed (automatic) 540i M-Sport Touring?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2000 BMW 528i Touring on eBay

1987 BMW 325is

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Here’s a sweet little 325is that is deceptively unique. With no trunk badges, a first glance at the side skirts may lead you to believe it’s a 325ix, but a closer look reveals an E30 that has been given quite a bit of attention. Under the 9 year-old repaint, the side skirts are actually BBS, and the front and rear M-Tech I valences have been integrated into chrome Euro bumpers. It’s also lacking the M-tech wheel arches, but I don’t miss them. Inside, E30 M3 seats in Natur are a nice touch (though I’ve never liked the bulbous M-Tech II steering wheel), and the mechanicals seem to have been thoroughly maintained and upgraded with nice bits like a Conforti chip and Dinan Stage 2 suspension. With no reserve, it’s time to let the eBay junkyard dogs feast.

Click for details: 1987 BMW 325is on eBay

Less is More? 1990 BMW 320is

The perfect counterpoint to Volkswagen’s GLi 16V like the one we featured earlier has to be the BMW 320is. Ostensibly, these two cars were aimed at close to the same market although the BMW was a fair chunk of change more expensive than the Jetta. But both were sports sedans, both came only as manuals, both had BBS wheels, grippy Recaro seats and sport suspension, and critically both featured a 2 liter 16V motor. But it’s there where the similarities end, because while Volkswagen rung 134 horsepower out of the 9A, BMW squeezed a seemingly unbelievable (for the time) 192 horsepower out of the lower displacement S14. For some time, the 100 hp/liter mark was considered about as good as naturally aspirated motors got and the 320is was hauntingly close with 192 ponies from 1,990 CCs – proportionately, more powerful than the larger 2.3 and 2.5 variants. We’ve previously covered this model a few times and so won’t go into lengthy detail about the history (plus, some of it is included in the listing), but if you wanted to understand why you’d pay more for one of these BMWs in the late 80s, that engineering feat alone was a good indication. As the E30 market has been red hot and importation becomes possible for more of these cars, we keep seeing them pop up:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 BMW 320is on eBay

1987 BMW M535i

There’s been a fair amount of talk on these pages about M branding, as BMW has moved towards slapping badges on seemingly every single model regardless of their sporting potential. Can you blame them? Perhaps, but obviously they’ve done their market research and just as Audi and Mercedes-Benz have similarly increased the breadth and scope of their limited run production, BMW has offered the public an ever increasing and diverse range of M badged products. It’s as if these three are cowboys on the range, fearful of each other’s steeds and stoking the fire to brandish their labels on the rear ends of their flock in a futile attempt to establish dominance and feign individuality. But, in all honesty this isn’t a new trend. As far back as the mid 1980s, BMW was offering badge engineering on some of its finest products, and the M535i is the best example of this. Essentially this was a 535i with a M Technic body kit and no real performance changes outside of an optional suspension package. Does that make it less desirable?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 BMW M535i on eBay

Honorable Mention Roundup

Time for another Honorable Mention Roundup, and we’re sporting some great 1990s style with one throwback to the 80s in this edition. With lovely coupes from Volkswagen, Porsche and BMW, two Audi sedans round out the lineup. Which is the one you’d like to grab for this holiday season? Thank you again to our readers who sent in suggestions, we always appreciate them!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 BMW M635CSi at Bonhams Auctions

Tuner Tuesday Axis Power: BMW Skyline v. Supra Power

This isn’t the first time I’ve written up sacrilegiously swapped cars, so it’s probably no surprise to see two Japanese-powered BMWs pop up. And in each of their own ways, neither is on the surface, at least, a car we’d typically cover. But before you judge a book by its cover, are either of these cars executed well enough to be a neat package?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 BMW 325is on eBay

2 Liter Terror: 1988 BMW 320is

There’s something I can appreciate about the 320is versus the M3. On the surface, the M3 with its iconic boxflares and big wing is the DTM star you want, right? But if you’re a connoisseur and you’re looking for the driving experience, the narrow body 320is offered nearly the same experience. Sure, it was down a bit on power thanks to the destroked 2.0 S14 compared to its more illustrious brother. But it was lighter too, being a base model. The same thing happened in the Audi Coupe world in the 1980s; on paper, the Quattro was the model you wanted. However, if you were an enthusiast, the last of the 1987 Coupe GTs offered the same performance as the Quattro did thanks to their lighter weight and upgraded engine over earlier models. The result is that these narrow-body cars offer discrete performance in a less showy package for those in the know. aSo that means that the 320is is a lot cheaper than a normal M3, right? Not so fast….

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 320is on eBay

1993 BMW M5 3.8 Euro-spec

An interesting discussion developed around Andrew’s E39 540i post and my subsequent E12 520i post; what’s the best looking 5-series? One of our readers, William, suggested that it was the E34 – certainly a sentiment that I can appreciate. As his evidence, he submitted this car, probably the best example of how good a E34 can look – a European market M5 with the potent 3.8 liter S38. Whether or not you agree or contend that this was the best BMW, best E34, best M5 or best looking sedan ever, nearly everyone passing through these pages can appreciate that this is one great looking Teutonic piece of engineering; a driver’s car in true sleeper form. It might not be the definitive M5 for everyone, but it’s a pretty darn good example of how wonderful those two letters can be:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 BMW M5 3.8 Euro-spec on Craigslist