It’s interesting to consider how enthusiasts today view the E36 M3. Generally speaking, you’re either a completely devoted fan who insists that the E36 is not only the best M3, but perhaps the best BMW ever made. Why stop there? Why not go straight for best car in the history of the world, ever? On the other side of the coin, detractors love to point out that the second M3 was softened up for the U.S. market, that it wasn’t as potent, as pure, as Motorsporty as the original curb-hopping, box-flared legend.
Arguably, they’re both right. It’s certainly true that BMW made the decision to tone down the M3 for North American consumption. That was a really good thing for two reasons: one, that we got it at all, and two, that it remained affordable. Consider, for a moment, that the E30 M3 had grown quite expensive to sport all of that motorsport heritage. By 1991, the base price of the M3 was $35,900. Of course, it was competing against even more expensive cars like the Porsche 944S2, which was a further $10,000 more dear. While we can talk about driving spirit all day long, if we look at the fact sheets what you got was a bit soggy in comparison to today’s cars. Inflation corrected, the M3 would be around $62,000 – pretty much spot on the entry price for today’s M3. The new car has more than double the horsepower of the original and enough tech to launch all of the Apollo program missions.
So what was really exciting when the new M3 was launched in late 1994 was that price point; $36,000. That was some $14,000 less expensive than the European model, and yet performance was within a few clicks thanks to a revised version of the 325i M50 engine.…
Just last night, a friend informed me he had “acquired an older BMW”.
“Willingly?”, I asked. He affirmed he had contractually agreed to this life changing experience. “What model?”, I furthered.
Now, supportive friend Carter probably should have nodded in approval. After all, the Z3 is great value for the money. They’re cheap to buy, cheap to maintain, and fun to drive. But what actually came out of my mouth was laughter. Not maniacal laughter, mind you, but just the uncontrollable mocking type that you immediately feel a bit bad about. Hoping to redeem the situation a bit, I prodded “Six cylinder…?” Nope. 4. I contained further laughter at this point, but I was grasping for straws. Meekly, I ventured “…..manual….?” hoping for some affirmation. “YES!” he happily retorted, glad to finally confirm a question of mine.
It’s actually a nice car, and it’s in great shape, and he paid almost nothing for it. But from the same period, BMW had some other affordable, fun to drive and even more potent options for enthusiasts. Take, for example, the M3 Sedan. Like the Z3, it was rear drive. Like the Z3, it has a manual, and they share some achitecture. But while the Roadster has a bit of a stigma that results in enthusiasts’ dismissal, the M3/4/5 has developed into a legend in its own right. Damn the fact that it didn’t have the more exotic Euro motor, if you want a cheap and pure driver’s car while still being able to comfortably transport 4 adults, they don’t come much better than this platform:
Update 4/4/18: After selling for $27,300 in February this M3 parts build is back, and this time bidding is even higher, with the current auction set to end in a few hours around $35,000. Has no one noticed what the car is and where it is?
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck in today’s collector world, you might still be looking at a turkey. So valuable have some cars gotten that it’s worthwhile for enterprising individuals to undermine the market with a less-than-honest example. The problem is that it seems all too easy for those sellers to misrepresent the vehicle, so it then becomes incumbent upon the buyer to investigate the background. Beyond that, though, sometimes I think buyers are so eager to get a “deal” that they’re often willing to overlook what’s highbeaming them right in the eyes.
Case in point; today’s E30.
Obviously, the M3 is a hot and desirable car. That’s nothing new and we’ve talked about it plenty of times. But there are quite a few less-than-desirable examples out there. It’s also possible to create a replica of the M3, because of the relative plethora of replacement parts or wrecked examples. Granted, this comes up in the 911 and muscle car market a lot more, but it’s happening for BMWs, too.
So while the photographs of this “1988 M3” look great at first glance, what’s wrong with what you’re looking at?
I’m going to continue on the M3 theme, and again we’re looking at a ’95. Just the other day, I pointed out how the E36 M3 – even in ‘diluted’ USA form – was a great value for a driver-oriented enthusiast compared to the E30 M3. But that’s not true of all E36s. There’s the Canadian M3 – essentially, a Euro import with all the verboten goodies we didn’t get here, one of which we saw sell last year for $65,000. There the M3 GT, which also upped the ‘special’ quotient quite a bit on the mass-produced M, and also will cost you a pretty penny. But for U.S. specification collectors, there’s really only one option in the E36 catalog: the Lightweight.
Over the past few years I’ve written up several of these cars as speculation has continued to grow that this will be the next logical step in market capital following the E30. Asking prices have been, at times, what most would consider outrageous for the E36. But never quite this outrageous. I hope you’re sitting down, swallow and move the drink away from your computer. Consider yourself warned.
Update 4/20/2018: After showing sold again at no reserve for $46,400, this 1991 M3 is back again on a new no reserve auction. Bidding is currently much lower, but I have a feeling that even if you’re the high mark at the end there might be shill bids involved here.
Update 3/28/2018: Although it was listed as no reserve and sold at $39,900, the 1991 M3 I looked at in February is back again on a no reserve auction. With a day to go, bids are already in excess of February’s auction. Will this one actually sell this time?
I’ll refrain from my typically verbose introductions, as even the few who only occasionally peruse our pages will need to hear about how, when, or why the E30 M3 came about. There’s not really much point in talking about the mechanicals, either – ‘S14’ has become nearly as recognizable as the chassis designation. Nor is this particular M3 a special edition, limited run, or race car. It’s not completely stock, it’s not perfect, it doesn’t have super low mileage, and it’s not the best color combination. No, there’s really only one reason to talk about this car. Price.
For a while it was only really outstanding M3s that were bringing big bucks. Pundits called it a bubble that was due to burst at any moment. I’m not here to say they’re wrong; it certainly does seem unsustainable. But, then, the U.S. economy also is pretty unsustainable if you boil it down to some basic facts, yet it seems to keep on rolling. And just two weeks ago another (albeit low mileage) example sold for $102,000. So today’s M3 is particularly interesting not because it’s the best or most rare example out there, but because it represents a much greater majority of the pool; cars that were driven and modified, even if only a bit, from their stock configuration.…
So guess what caught my eye here? No surprise, if it’s a yellow M3, I’ll bite. This one grabbed my attention first because of the hue, then the price – just under $14,000 on a no reserve auction? Well, it must have a million miles rig….nope, not here. So it MUST be an SMG then, right? NO ONE wants a SMG because the moment you buy one they will murder you in your sleep and kick your dog and shut down the government (*according to actual internet comments I’ve seen). But nope, it’s a 6-speed manual.
But the more I looked at it, the more questions were raised. Why was no one bidding on this slick E46?
While the name “Evolution” become synonymous with Mitsubishi’s WRX-fighting Lancer for the X-Box generation, the term had much greater meaning for racing fans in the 1980s and 1990s. That was the period where homologation really took off; in order to be eligible to race, the FIA stipulated a certain amount of vehicles generally matching the race version of a car would have to be produced. This resulted in some great race-inspired production cars, and in order to best each other on the race track manufacturers would be forced to modify those cars. In order to have the modifications legal to race, the maker would have to introduce those significant changes to the road-going model, too. Those changed models would be termed “Evolution” to differentiate their model changes. As a result, enthusiasts ended up with ‘Evo’ versions of the Ford RS200, the V8 quattro, the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 and, of course, the M3.
The M3 Evolution I was first introduced in 1987 with only a slightly revised motor. The Evolution II followed in 1988, and signaled the first real changes in the lineup. Major alterations to the aerodynamics, bodywork, chassis, and engine netted more power, more downforce and less weight for the FIA-regulated 500 units sold to market. Iconic even within the impressive normal M3 production, these fan-favorites generate feverish bids when they come to market.
But there is an even more desirable variant: The Sport Evolution. BMW Motorsport GmbH maxed out its E30 development in an all-out attempt to dominate the world’s racetracks. A new 2.5 liter S14 cranked out nearly 240 horsepower, while the same ‘add lightness’ recipe was prescribed; lightweight glass and body panels were met with adjustable front and rear spoilers. Signature 7.5″ wide BBS wheels were now darker Nogaro Silver and 10mm closer to the body thanks to lower suspension, while special Recaro seats kept you firmly planted inside from the g-force they were capable of generating.…
Some cars clearly have interesting stories associated with them. A few of those stories are very compelling; cars that have lived their entire lives with a single owner who lovingly lavished gifts of unfettered maintenance and weekly detailings. Other times is a car which has somehow beaten the odds, appearing in completely original and untouched condition.
But more often than not the stories make you want to run away. Perhaps it is an accident history, lack of detail, or high price – whatever the case, there’s reason to be suspicious. With that in mind I consider today’s M3. What initially caught my attention, obviously, is the color. Phoenix Yellow Metallic was not a standard color on the E9X chassis, so finding one in that shade must mean that it was a BMW Individual car, right? Well, that would make this car very, very rare. There were a total of 865 Individual colors for the E9X, and of those only 2 are recorded to be Phoenix Yellow. That’s right, there are more E46 models painted Phoenix Yellow by BMW Individual after the color was discontinued in March 2005.
On top of that, the car has Fox Red leather. Now, that combination may not be for
anyone everyone, but it certainly makes this car pretty special. Mileage, while not very low, also wasn’t outrageous. To add to the positives, there’s a host of Dinan upgrades and even disclosed maintenance. For all you DCT haters, it’s a 6-speed manual, too. And then there’s the price – $26,000. This car is into the same price bracket as prime E46 models. So, what gives?
Looking for a subtle performance sedan? Today’s not your day.
You probably haven’t heard of iDing Power, because odds are that if you’re reading this you don’t live in Japan. And even if you’re an afficiando of M3s, you’d probably dismiss this particular car as a M3 GTR replica for the street like I did. But this car is far more than that, and much more interesting.
The M3 GTR launched in 1994, and the United States did (technically) see it in the form of the Prototype Technology Group-run team in IMSA race series. The same year in Japan, iDing Power revealed the plans for their turned-up E36 M3. They had acquired an early production second generation model; production started for the E36 M3 in February, 1992 – and the particular example you see here was produced on February 3, 1993. iDing then added a plethora of unique touches, from upgraded suspension, wheels and brakes, special interior items, and some body modifications. By “some”, of course it’s hard to look past the W201 190E-Evo inspired rear wing and massive tacked-on flares. iDing also took the S50B30 European motor, rated at 286 horsepower stock, and modified it to a claimed 330 horsepower. iDing widebodies are pretty rare finds, but even among them this one is particularly special. With only 7,600 miles on the odometer, this example appears to be the original prototype and test car:
Continuing on the theme of adding diverse tones to your life, BMW’s M3 has been traditionally one of the most colorful pallets in the Bavarian lineup. We saw the late shade of Fern Green on the late-model Convertible the other day. But fans of the E36 lust much more after the favorite “M3/4/5” model – the limited 1997-1998 3.2 sedan in manual form. It offered practicality and reportedly slightly lighter weight than the Coupe. And just like the Coupe and Convertible, it was available in all sorts of eye-catching shades. Today I have two of the most conspicuous: Techno Violet Metallic and the very limited Byzanz Metallic. Which is your favorite?