Ending Soon – What We’re Watching

Ending Soon – What We’re Watching

I’ve got my eye on another interesting and diverse set of affordable no reserve auctions this week. Take a look and feel free to chime in where you think cars will end! Let’s get things rolling with this BMW E28 with only a few hours remaining:

Click for Details: 1987 BMW 535is

This 1987 BMW 535is is definitely on the driver-quality side rather than a show piece; but all the important bones are there and the rust-free claim is worth its weight in 1980s Bavarian metal, anyway. Overall, though there are some obvious needs, for a 200,000 mile car it looks reasonably tidy and so far bidding is only at $2,500.

Click for Details: 2002 Volkswagen Jetta TDi Wagon

In an era of Volkswagen production that saw a sharp upswing in quality and performance, who would have guessed that the second most desirable model in the used market (outside of the R, obviously) is a Jetta Wagon with the diesel motor? Unlike its bigger brother Passat TDi Variant, the Jetta could be had with a 5-speed manual and they’ve developed a cult following. This one ticks the right boxes with lower miles, what appears to be good condition and the ALH/5-speed manual combination in a wagon, so bids are nearly at $7,000 with a few hours to go on the no reserve auction.

Click for Details: 1997 BMW M3 Sedan

After yesterday’s polarizing M3 Lightweight, we’re back to normal series production (and lower prices) with this still desirable M3 Sedan. In -3/4/5 configuration, these have quickly become the preferred weapon of choice for the practical E36 lover. In Artic Silver with Dove interior, this one isn’t stock, but with under 100,000 miles and in good condition, it looks like a solid investment at under $9,000 at time of writing.

Click for Details: 2000 Audi S4

An interesting, and more potent, counterpoint to the M3/4/5 is the Audi S4.…

1995 BMW M3 Lightweight

1995 BMW M3 Lightweight

For some time, critics have claimed that the E36 chassis was just too prolific and not special enough to be considered by collectors. They weren’t built well enough, they didn’t have the pedigree of the E30 or the power of the E46, and since you could buy one on your local Craigslist for $5,000 (less, sometimes!), why the hell would you pay a premium for one?

It’s been about a year and a half since we last looked at a M3 Lightweight. The ask was $90,000 on a model with below 30,000 miles, and it was no surprise that for many that ask was far too strong, though I suggested opportunities like that weren’t going to come along every day. In that time, we’ve seen some big numbers start to roll in for special E36 variants, like the $65,000 Canadian Edition M3. But all expectations on the E36 market, and especially those on the Lightweight model, were thrown out the window this past March when a lower mile, all original example came up for auction at Amelia Island.

The price? After hot bidding and when the hammer finally fell, it hit $145,750. I was astounded, even though for years I’d been claiming these cars would increase in value in the not too distant future. What does that number mean for the rest of the run?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW M3 Lightweight on eBay

2006 BMW M3 Competition Package with 11,600 Miles

2006 BMW M3 Competition Package with 11,600 Miles

To me, this M3 is a very interesting counterpoint to yesterday’s RS6. Many aspects are the same; pristine original condition, lower mileage, mid-2000s leading edge performance car.

It’s there where the similarities end.

While the RS6 represented the stepping over a threshold of performance into a war of escalation, the E46 M3 was, in many ways, BMW’s equivalent of the Porsche 993. It was the ultimate development of the normally aspirated inline-6, and to many (this author included), it was the best of the breed.

The third generation M3 is simply a marvel. It took the basic layout of its predecessor and improved essentially every aspect. The E36 wasn’t aggressive looking enough? Fixed. The motor wasn’t the technical marvel that was the European version? Fixed that, too. And the build quality and plastic materials in the second generation were a bit lacking? Solved that one, as well.

Are there drawbacks to the E46? Sure, it only came in two-door guise. There are also some known weaknesses in the chassis, like the subframe problems that can be a costly repair. The S54 is also a more expensive motor to repair than the S50/52 had been, and requires more maintenance (and, super costly oil).

But enough gripes, because while there isn’t a collector market for 2000s Audis, the E46 never really went through the dip in value that the E36 did. Prime examples have always demanded strong money and appear to be on the rise, with several notable auctions recently hammering for ever increasing numbers. Today’s example comes from the end of the line for the E46, and is about as desirable as they come to market. One of 2943 A08 Silvergray Metallic coupes imported, it has the desirable N51M Imola leather interior, the even more desirable 6-speed manual transmission and equally sought ZCP Competition package, and it’s only traveled a reported 11,600 miles since new.…

2002 BMW M3

2002 BMW M3

My dad’s E46 M3 was by far and away the best car he ever owned (though I guess that’s not saying much, since he mostly owned Fords). It was a convertible and, as a result, the chassis was somewhat compromised – the dash would shake at the slightest provocation from a pothole. Still, it was a great car, mostly because it was such a perfect all-rounder. It was fast, handled like a precision instrument and looked sufficiently aggressive without being too shouty. It was also very practical. If you took it down to the shops to pick up a pint of milk, and resisted the temptation to mash the throttle, it could be a very docile car to drive. But if you did open it up, the sound of that 3.2 liter straight six was pretty incredible. There’s nothing else I’ve heard that’s quite like it. It wasn’t a growl. It was a rasp, a sinister, menacing one. I hope that one day I’ll own one too.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 BMW M3 on eBay

Double Dose of Insanity: 1988 BMW M3 v. 1994 BMW 325i

Double Dose of Insanity: 1988 BMW M3 v. 1994 BMW 325i

In my usual searches I had an interesting dichotomous reaction to one number: $16,500.

The first I came across was a 1988 BMW M3 with a no reserve auction bid up to $16,500. “Wow! That’s actually pretty reasonable! I thought. Next, I saw a 1994 BMW 325i with a ‘Buy It Now’ of the exact same $16,500. “What the hell is the seller thinking?!? How absolutely ridiculous!” I scoffed.

Yet, neither car was as it originally seemed once the descriptions were opened, and suddenly a comparison was in order…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW M3 on eBay

Imola Overload: 2004 BMW M3

Imola Overload: 2004 BMW M3

I’ll admit that I seem to be unnaturally drawn to yellow M3s. I can trace that back to the launch of the E36 and the twin Dakar Yellow examples that turned up at Watkins Glen International for a HPDE; like a newborn, I was apparently imprinted upon them. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like other colors, though, and this Imola Red example certainly caught my attention. It ticked the right boxes; post-LCI example, low miles, 6-speed, great condition and a fantastic exterior color with the optional Fuchs 19″ Style 67 forged alloys. But even more impressive when scrolling through the images was the interior shade of matching Imola Red leather. Who would have ordered such a specification when the majority of new M3 purchasers were considerably more conservative? The answer was a bit surprising:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 BMW M3 on eBay

1999 BMW M3 Convertible

1999 BMW M3 Convertible

The E36 M3 is frequently regarded as the awkward middle child between the classic E30 and the accomplished, grown-up E46. As a result, it doesn’t usually command the kind of values attached to its older and younger siblings. But I think that one day, mint examples of these cars – which are increasingly thin on the ground – will be sought after as classics. The E36’s “dolphin” bodyshape marks an important transition point in BMW’s design history, as the angular lines of the 80s would begin to give way to the rounder, softer shapes of the late 90s and early 00s. The trademark four round headlights are still there, but now set back behind glass panels, and the dual kidneys are now more gently integrated into the front nose, all for the sake of aerodynamic efficiency. The M3, available during this period as a coupe, sedan and convertible, was externally distinguishable from the standard model range only by more aggressive front and rear valances, revised side skirts, and rounder side mirrors. But under the hood was a spritely and free-revving 3.2 liter inline six powerplant. Infamously down on power in comparison with the Euro market S50, the S52 motor in the US-spec car was nonetheless good for about 240 hp and, when combined with the lithe chassis and sharp manual transmission, made for a lively and fun car to drive. The E36 M3 may not have been an out-and-out track monster like its predecessor, but it was fast (for its time), practical and easy to live with on a day-to-day basis.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 BMW M3 on San Francisco Craigslist

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