“3/4/5” Double Take: 1997 BMW M3 Sedan

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?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW M3 Sedan on eBay

1999 BMW M3 Convertible

As they had with the first generation, with the E36 BMW continued the tradition of chopping the top off its curb-hopping M3 to alter the character of the model substantially. The resulting “BK” models are the least produced of the second generation. In European form, some 3,800 were produced with a bulk of them heading to England starting in 1996. The U.S. model began production as the model’s run came to a close; in March 1998, the first of what would become 6,269 U.S. spec 3.2 M3 Convertibles rolled off the production lines in Regensburg. That meant the M3 outlasted normal E36 production, as if you walked into a dealer you’d find the all-new E46 model being sold along side these topless M3s. As they came towards the end of production, most of these M3s came as well-equipped as the E36 was available, and options included forged M-Double Spoke wheels and a removable hardtop. Extra bracing went in to stiffen the chassis, which resulted in a 10% weight penalty and slower performance – but I’d wager that wasn’t on most buyer’s minds. Of the just over 6,000 models sold here, the majority – about 60% at 4,017 – were sold with the 5-speed automatic. So today’s example is already in the minority; a last year example, it’s also a 5-speed. But to push it just that little more over the top, it’s also in the rare shade of 386 Fern Green Metallic:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 BMW M3 Convertible on eBay

Tuner Tuesday: 1998 BMW M Roadster Dinan S3

Edit 11/3/2017 – I looked at this Dinan modified M Roadster last August, but there was little information and it hung around for quite a while at $25,000. It has now moved on to a new seller who has taken some more photos and raised the price $4,000. After last month claiming it was an ISR3, the seller has confirmed what our comment from Eric indicated – it’s “just” a S3 Roadster. It has about 1,000 more miles since last year but still looks relatively reasonably priced if you like the color combination and gutsy Dinan modifications – Ed

The other day I was talking with my friend about Turner Motorsports. I first met Will Turner when he was a BMWCCA instructor, just trying to establish his business of selling parts on the side. He and his compatriots all sported E30 M3s; this was, after all, the days before the launch of the U.S. E36 M3. Turner managed to parlay early success in a local modification scene outside of Boston into a countrywide business, and after some time in the club race scene he moved into the major leagues. Success against better funded teams was sometimes difficult, but today Turner is still alive and very much kicking, having become one of the two defacto factory-backed teams running the M6 GT3. To get to that point of factory involvement is an arduous journey to say the least, and few who start out make it.

One other who did was Steve Dinan, who took a niche tuning business from the 1980s into a factory option today. You can walk down to your dealer and order up a fully backed, Dinan modified car. That took a tremendous amount of work and is a testament to the quality of the products on offer from Dinan.…

1997 BMW M3 Sedan

The first BMW to arrive in our family was an Arctic Silver E36. My dad bought the 318iS coupe from the British telecom giant he worked for, some time toward the end of the 90s. It was a manager’s company car and after three years serving on the fleet it was to be sold off. Ever since then, I’ve always enjoyed seeing arctic silver paint on this generation 3-series. Despite articles proclaiming that silver is the new beige, I think the color really suits the clean, crisp lines of the “dolphin” body shape. But the paintwork isn’t the only thing to admire about this particular car – an M3/4/5 (a four door, five speed M3). The sedan version of the E36 M3 is as fast and finely balanced as the coupe, but adds the practicality of two rear doors. A pocket rocket for those with a family to cart around, these cars are fun and practical, even if they are notably down on power in comparison with their Euro-spec counterparts.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW M3 on eBay

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

Evergreen Forest: 1998 BMW M Roadster

This past weekend I drove by the spot where I first encountered the M Coupe. The year was 1998, and to be honest the Z3 lineup had been pretty forgettable. In many ways, the car’s signature launch through the James Bond film Goldeneye summed up how most felt about the Z3:

“Hey, look, a new convertible BMW!” (moves on)

But that changed with the launch of the M-tuned models. The E36/7 and /8 suddenly had the performance to back up the hoopla associated with the launch when the S52 from the M3 found its way under the hood. Augmenting that were upgraded brakes, giant shadowline Roadstar wheels with massive (and awesome) lips, and wide flared fenders culminating in quad exahusts emerging from the rear middle of the car – what would become signature on the next round of BMW M models. It looked great, it drove great, and was available in some pretty wild colors. It was pretty much the instant recipe for a collectable, but values languished for some time before the Coupe models really started taking off a few years ago. But it’s still possible to get into a collector-condition Z M model for not an outrageous sum:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW M Roadster on eBay

2000 BMW M Coupe

The M Coupe has really emerged as the next great thing in the BMW world, with nearly every single for sale advertisement riddled with hyperbole about how they’re the next big thing and how incredibly rare each particular color combination is. The truth is that if you’re just trying to get on to the M Coupe train, you’re a bit late to the party – but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile to check out a good looking one:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2000 BMW M Coupe on eBay

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

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

Feature Listing: 1998 BMW M3 Coupe

While derided by some for being a bit watered down compared to its European counterpart, there is no denying that the E36 M3 was a wildly popular model and widened the appreciation and market of BMW and the M brand. This particular model alone – the BG93 North American 3.2 Coupe – accounted for 11,793 examples produced. That’s greater than the total number of M products that had been imported to the U.S. prior to the E36 (E24, E28, E30, E34, and 850CSi) and doesn’t account for the 10,000 plus 3.0 Coupes, 6,300 convertibles and and 8,600-odd sedans. You’d expect, then, that finding good examples of the E36 would be quite simple as there are some 35,000 to choose from. But the popularity of the E36 M3 was in part its undoing, too. The flood of the cars devalued the market; many fell into hands unable to maintain them or who treated them like a pinball, bouncing them off every curb, guardrail or other cars. Additionally, the E36’s shift towards mass production did have tangible effects on the long term quality of the product. It’s not unusual to see rusty examples with the trim falling off and headlights so nebulous they’re useless. As a result, finding excellent examples of the E36 is somewhat cause for celebration and really nice ones have been finding a greater appreciation in the enthusiast world. This ’98 Coupe is certainly one of the better quality examples out there for sale today:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW M3 Coupe on Providence Craigslist