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

Feature Listing: 1995 BMW M3

Feature Listing: 1995 BMW M3

The U.S. version of the E36 chassis Motorsport offering has steadily begun to emerge from its “also ran” position in the category of favored M products. It has languished in value since the introduction of its replacement, the wildly popular and more aggressive E46 M3. Long derided for being a bit too cost-conscience of BMW, the reality is that the car that came to the U.S. might have been a bit better.

Yes, I just said that.

It is true that the North American M3 made due with a less powerful and certainly much less exotic motor. The U.S. S50, based upon the 325i’s M50, displaced the same 3 liters as the European S50B30, but the two differed in nearly all other aspects. Only items like the oil filter are shared between the models; in Euro guise, the engine sang with individual throttle bodies. The engine also sported the trick continuously variable VANOS system to optimize performance. After finally being convinced to bring the second generation M3 to North America, the news came down that the western-bound motor would be less exotic; static VANOS, lower compression, and no individual throttle bodies.

Frustrated though enthusiasts may have been to not be getting the “true” model, many were just happy it was coming here at all. But the amazing thing was what the USA motor offered. At 240 horsepower, it was indeed 46 down on the European cousin. Yet other numbers told a different story; torque was nearly the same between the two, as was weight, and the real advantage of the Euro motor was only quite high in the rev range. That meant acceleration in the real world was effectively identical between Euro and USA models. Sure, you lost a bit of top speed – but where in the U.S. were you hitting 155, anyway?…

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

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

1995 BMW M3

1995 BMW M3

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I’ve been seeing a pristine white E36 M3 coupe on perfect Style 22s, looking like a wonderful mix of stock daily driver that gets pampered in the garage every night. Even though history has shown it to be the most banal M3, there are still so many things right about this car. It’s sized right. The simple but aggressive lines perfectly support the car’s ethos. Just as I imagine that white example is cared for, the E36 M3 is the perfect car to dote upon, drive every day, and enjoy the hell out of.

This one-owner silver 1995 coupe is not quite the same stock-queen as the local white one, but it’s has just 90k miles and a host of well-chosen modifications. Suspension upgrades, chip, brakes, exhaust, and wheels complete the standard modification lineup on this now two-decades-old M3 that brings a few nice stock options like the slicktop sunroof delete and Vader seats. For just $10,500, it’s the perfect representation of why the E36 M3 is in the running for best performance value available.

Click for details: 1995 BMW M3 on eBay

1995 BMW M3

1995 BMW M3

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Many people love the E36 “M3/4/5,” the 5-speed manual, 4-door sedan sleeper. It was the first M-car I fell in love with (and drove… funny how that works). This M3/2/5A is the opposite, the only less desirable version being the convertible. An automatic sedan is unfortunate but perhaps defensible as a family car. This coupe, looking hot in Hellrot and on the perfect Style 22s, deserves to be the Ultimate Driving Machine. Without the lovely 5-speed manual to play the S50 as you please, it’s just not. Dang pretty though.

Click for details: 1995 BMW M3 on eBay

1995 BMW M3

1995 BMW M3

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The E36 M3 is hands-down one of the performance bargains out there right now. Even as we’ve seen E36 prices come up a little, they’re still pretty much the cheapest entry point into an ///M car – of any generation. This 1995 Coupe exemplifies this value, looking nearly perfect in black on black after 114k miles, but asking less than $9k. E24, E28, E30, E34, E36/8, E39, E46, E92, etc… all of their ///M models, in this condition, would cost significantly more. The only blemish I see here is some worn paint on the front of the engine, but the interior and exterior both look pristine. I may be partial towards the E36 sedan, but I could do without a couple doors for this price.

Click for details: 1995 BMW M3 on eBay

Feature Listing: 1991 BMW 318is S50 swap

Feature Listing: 1991 BMW 318is S50 swap

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What constitutes an ///M car? That’s a pretty confusing question these days as an M760Li is announced, ready to pile on to with decidedly non-Motorsport badge bunnies like the X4 M40i to rake up premium profits. If those cars can be ///Mified, then this E30 would certainly qualify as an M318is. Or M330is rather, as it now sports the early E36 M3s’ S50B30. The only mileage listed is 140k, perhaps the engine and chassis covered similar distances before they were joined. Said original chassis, body, and interior look pretty decent, with some paint issues and a little wear on the seats. Those will be forgiven as the E30 relishes in its newfound 240hp glory in the hills. It would probably make a great cruiser too, if not for the low gearing that makes it do 4k RPM at 70mph. Overall it’s a pretty tidy E30 package as they experience never before seen levels of demand.

Click for details: 1991 BMW 318is S50 on Bellingham Craigslist

1995 BMW M3 Individual

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 blasé 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

1995 BMW M3 Lightweight

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

Double Take: Red E30 M3s

Double Take: Red E30 M3s

Ahh, red E30 M3s. Sure, these boxy bulldogs look good in just about any hue, but red as a symbol of lust and speed is not the exclusive property of the Italians. Red also plays an interesting part in the E30 M3’s history, as the striking, orange-tinted Hennarot was discontinued after one year in the US and supplanted by Zinnoberrot, a deeper and more classic hue. Both are beautiful in their own right, but Hennarot’s intensity and rarity has elicited more fandom and desire in an already-vociferous market.

Today we have two beautiful M3s from the same seller and in the same price range, each a shining example of its chosen red with a couple of unique touches.
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Click for details: 1989 BMW E30 M3 on eBay

Teens Well Spent 3: 1995 and 1996 M3s

Teens Well Spent 3: 1995 and 1996 M3s

In my recent posts Teens Well Spent, I’ve tried to compared some good value M3s to the high-dollar, low mile example we looked at a while back. That particular example was Dakar Yellow with only 26,000 miles, but an asking price to match each one of those miles. It wasn’t stock, and I was a bit dour in my evaluation of what you were getting for your money. Again, I’ve rounded up three coupes as an alternative to that example; two 1995s and one ’96, two with lower miles and one budget coupe. They’re flying the colors of the German flag appropriately, so you also have your choice of shade that you’d like. Which is the winner for your M budget?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW M3 on eBay

Teens Well Spent 2: 1994 and 1995 BMW M3 Coupes

Teens Well Spent 2: 1994 and 1995 BMW M3 Coupes

A few weeks ago I wrote up a lightly modified 26,000 mile Dakar Yellow M3 coupe; in that post, I said that the $25,000 asking price was out of line with the market in my opinion. Perhaps it was the mods that really threw me off, but I set out to prove my point the following week by showcasing two original M3s that I thought were better propositions in my “Teens Well Spent” post. Both cars were available in the mid-teens and both highlighted how for about $10,000 less than the asking price of the 26,000 mile example you could get a neat, original M3 still with low miles and in great condition. Well, this week I have two more to once again underscore that point – as the 26,000 mile example continues to languish on eBay with no bids and an unchanged $25,000 asking price, I have a stellar original Dakar Yellow example and a mysterious ’94 Canadian one to consider:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW M3 on Craigslist

Well Spent Teens: 1995 BMW M3 and 1996 BMW M3 Euro Convertible

Well Spent Teens: 1995 BMW M3 and 1996 BMW M3 Euro Convertible

Last week we featured a string of E36 M3s, culminating in a very low mileage but high priced, lightly modified Dakar Yellow priced at $26,000. To me, it was a strong as considering there are many other very good E36 deals in the teens that would be equally striking and potential investments down the road. So, today I’m taking a look at two other E36 models, both priced about $10,000 less than the low mileage example, that I’d jump into first:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW M3 on Craigslist

Motorsports Monday: Think you can build it cheaper? M3-off

Motorsports Monday: Think you can build it cheaper? M3-off

Race cars are a fickle friend; countless smiles on the track come from often well counted currency leaving the pocket of the driver off-track, as the sometimes referenced 10:1 ratio of time spent preparing for the track versus time on track ultimately results in huge bills. So, what costs separate a $5,000 M3 from a $25,000 M3 – certainly, with that huge chunk of change it would seem certain that one could build a reliable racer rather than forking over what would seem to be an unbelievable amount to purchase a non-street worthy, home-brewed racer, right?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW M3 on eBay