1995 BMW M3

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

1997 BMW M3 Sedan Dinan

1997 BMW M3 Sedan Dinan

I’m a fan of the sedan version of the E36 M3 and often wondered why BMW declined to build a four-door version of the E46 M3 that followed. (At least one person has tried it – click here to read an account of a wild and very successful E46 M3 sedan home-brew build.) In the sedan, you get the same basic ingredients as the coupe – a revvy engine and dynamic chassis that’s fun to throw around yet easy to live with – with the added practicality of a rear set of doors, useful if you have family or friends to cart around. Even if the US-spec cars were a bit “neutered” in comparison with the more powerful version offered in Europe, the E36 M3 offers a nice, well-rounded package and remains relatively inexpensive, although nice condition examples get thinner on the ground every year. The M-Tech bumpers and side skirts look neat on the sedan body style, and remain subtle enough that passers by might just mistake it for a plain old 328i.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW M3 Dinan on eBay

2001 BMW M3

2001 BMW M3

Of all the various iterations of the M3, the E46 version is my favorite (and the only one that I’ve actually driven. My dad owned one for a while). I love the S54 engine. The 3.2 liter, straight six powerplant emits an intoxicating, raspy howl when you mash the throttle and puts out just over 330 hp, enough to get the car to 60 in under 5 seconds – numbers that remain respectable today. I love the looks. The standard E46 coupe is attractive, in a sober and responsible way, but the bulging wheel arches, wider track and squat stance dial up the menace and aggression without overdoing it. And finally I love the everyday usability of these cars. The E46 cabin, for example, is a study in perfect ergonomics, offering a comfortable driving position and thoughtfully laid out controls. The chassis is taut and communicative, equally at home on the track or on the street doing the grocery run. Either way, it’ll put a smile on your face every time you drive it, which you can comfortably do, every day. These cars were produced in large enough numbers that finding one isn’t difficult, but you might have to wait a while (and spend a bit more) to get one in your ideal spec. For me, that would be a 6-speed manual coupe in a dark metallic color.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 BMW M3 on eBay

2017 BMW M3 Competition Package Individual

2017 BMW M3 Competition Package Individual

Over the past few years, I’ve increasingly noticed mainstream dealers taking their wares to eBay. Usually we don’t cover these cars much – frankly, as a new car, basically you don’t need us to find it for you. Anyone can pop on to their marque of choice and dream away with the builds. But this particular M3 caught my attention because of two reasons; first, the screaming Fire Orange II paint from BMW Individual, and second – the price; at $110,000, nearly double the standard MSRP on a F80 M3. What’s going on?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2017 BMW M3 Competition Package Individual on eBay

1995 BMW M3

1995 BMW M3


Alex over at Car Throttle recently posted a neat video entitled “10 Things I’ve Learnt After 1 Year Of E36 M3 Ownership” (h/t to Jalopnik).  He talks about lusting after the M3 as an “affordable dream car” only to find that, when he finally gets his hands on one, he doesn’t fall immediately in love with it. All is not lost however: after spending some time with the car (including a number of weekends in the garage spent fixing all the things that go wrong with it), he’s slowly won over by its charms as a car that’s equally at home on the track or loafing across great distances. While US market cars were famously “neutered” by a less powerful motor than the one offered in their European counterparts, even without individual throttle bodies the E36 M3 remains a relatively fast, fun and capable car that can be picked up for not too much money. Increasingly, the challenge is to find one that hasn’t been beat into the ground or saddled with hideous mods.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW M3 on San Diego Craigslist

2002 BMW M3

2002 BMW M3

The BMW M3 was a massively successful car in terms of sales for the most recent chassis iterations. For the U.S. specification E46 Coupe, that meant some 26,202 were sold. Yet, when I was searching for a nice one to buy, finding a lower mileage, great condition and fully original car was extraordinarily hard. It wasn’t that they weren’t out there – pop on to EAG’s site, for example, and all you need to do is pony up. Pony way up, that is, as most of their E46 inventory is priced above $30,000. However, the delta between really exceptional examples and really poor examples of the model is substantial. Even when not in stock form, such as the 2001 I looked at a few weeks ago, the asking price can be quite strong. However, drop the miles way down and present the car in a rare color, such as this Topaz Blue Metallic example, and sprinkle with some top-dollar modifications, and you’ve got an asking price that’ll get you the much more powerful E92 replacement:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 BMW M3 on eBay

2001 BMW M3

2001 BMW M3

Though I’ve quite happily entered into M3 ownership and don’t regret my choice, I still keep my eye on where similar examples trade for. Just last week an Interlagos Blue ZCP came to the attention of both Dan and I and sold for just below $20,000 – not bad, but the car had quite a few miles and no major services completed and some unoriginal changes, such as darkened wheels. There was another that I was following at the same time – this earlier 2001 example. While not a ZCP, this 2001 had the later look with updated wheels and taillights, plus a CSL trunk. The condition also looks generally a bit better and it has lower miles, but is also missing most of the major maintenance these cars can require. Still, there’s the big draw – that amazing Laguna Seca Blue exterior, this one hiding a rare Gray interior. It was my second color combination choice, and worth a look:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 BMW M3 on eBay

Northern Exposure: 1994 BMW M3 Canadian Edition

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

1998 BMW M3 Supercharged

1998 BMW M3 Supercharged

1I like the E36 M3 sedan because it offers the practicality of a four-door without having to sacrifice much, if anything, in terms of looks or performance over the coupe version. I tend, however, to veer away from modified examples when scouting out cars to write up for the site. There are a few reasons for this. First, I’m a bit of a purist at heart, and I think that cars should probably be enjoyed the way their makers intended. Second, many cars that have had their internals altered also sport grotesque mods on the outside; outsize spoilers and fiberglass bodykits and the like. Third, buying a used, modified car comes with its fair share of risk, particularly if you can’t authenticate the quality of the work that has been done. But this car caught my eye because it is happily free of external modification and looks very neat.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW M3 on eBay

1995 BMW M3 with 13,000 Miles

1995 BMW M3 with 13,000 Miles

What is the price for perfection? We saw Andrew look at a perfect and near brand-new W220 S500 yesterday, but his cutting critique of that car was, as several people noted, spot on. It’s not a desirable model, nor is it one that is likely to be collectable anytime soon. For some time, the same was said of the E36 M3. However, quickly things are changing. Several high-priced examples have come to market recently that have investors questioning if the E30 is the go-to it was for the past two years. Most notably, we saw the one-off Giallo Canadian Edition ’94 M3 hit near $65,000. That car looked near showroom fresh, having only accrued 30,000 miles since new. Today’s example has only about one third of that:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW M3 on eBay

1997 BMW M3 Coupe with 45,000 Miles

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

Tuner Tuesday: 1988 BMW M3 AC Schnitzer S3 Sport 2.5

Tuner Tuesday: 1988 BMW M3 AC Schnitzer S3 Sport 2.5

Though ultimately not as well known as Alpina, AC Schnitzer replaced the more famous brand a the defacto factory race team in the late 1970s and 1980s. To capitalize on their success at the race track (including the successful campaigns in the DTM), in 1987 AC Schnitzer launched their first brand-specific model based upon the new E32. That was followed by a more sporty E30-based model, dubbed the ACS3 Sport in 1989. It was available based upon either a normal 3-series, or those with a bunch of dough could opt to allow Schnitzer to modify their prized M3. And modify it did; subtle changes outside included revised mirrors, a light change to the rear end and a single-wiper conversion to really channel the DTM spirit. Wheels were either 17″ multi-piece Schnitzer design, or the ever-popular BBS RS model in 16″x8 or 9. As Alpina did, Schnitzer included their own steering wheel (4 options available), a numbered plaque, bespoke suspension 20mm lower than the standard ride height, and a unique rectangular-tipped exhaust. However, the real treat was the full 2.5 conversion, which really packed some extra power in the S14. Schnitzer brought the total displacement to 2,431 cc – just shy of the 2,467 BMW themselves would produce in the 1990 Sport Evolution. Coupled with a revised DME, the S3 Sport 2.5 produced an impressive 245 horsepower. They are exceedingly rare to come across, but our reader Daniel spotted this fully converted 1988 example for sale:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW M3 AC Schnitzer S3 2.5 at Garage Current

1 of 45: 1994 BMW M3 Canadian Edition

1 of 45: 1994 BMW M3 Canadian Edition

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

2002 BMW M3

2002 BMW M3

1When I went away to university, my dad finally got his hands on the best BMW he ever owned: a six-speed E46 M3 convertible in carbon black. He would put the roof down whenever he could, just to hear the raspy S54 motor sing from those quad tail pipes, even if the weather was crap (which, being England, it frequently was). With 333 hp squeezed from that naturally aspirated, race-tuned straight six it was fast, comfortable and relatively practical; a performance car you could daily drive. I’d like to own one myself one day, though I’m not willing to put up with the compromises made for the convertible, so I’d go with a coupe instead. I even have my ideal spec picked out: a six speed manual in stahlgrau (steel gray), a gun metal color discontinued after the facelift of ’03 and replaced by the more mercurial silver gray. While steel gray was not unique to the M-cars, I’ve always thought it suits the bulging lines and wider track of the M3 very well.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 BMW M3 on Bimmerforums

1998 BMW M3 Sedan

1998 BMW M3 Sedan

1 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