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

Feature Listing: 2006 BMW M Roadster

Feature Listing: 2006 BMW M Roadster

Like earlier’s Audi TT, BMW’s first successful foray into the roadster market came in the 1990s with the Z3. The Z3’s styling was less aggressive and more organic than the original “Future Roadster” – the Z1 – had been, but initially motivation wasn’t much better. However, when BMW decided to stuff the E36 chassis full of the higher-power M-product motors, they instantly created a hit. Rear drive only with a singing inline-6 and attached to a manual transmission, they were affordable sports cars that offered a very high fun quotient even if they were not the most refined product, style or substance-wise.

At the same time that the M Roadster and M Coupe debuted in North America, planning was already underway for the Z3’s replacement. The new E85 Roadster and E86 Coupe debuted as a fresh face to replace the 90s-era Z3 in the early 2000s, but almost immediately the styling was considered controversial. There were hard edges, curves and cuts integrated into the exterior, and the traditional driver-oriented dashboard was gone, replaced by a more modern flat-cockpit layout. Much like the original Z1, it didn’t look like anything else on the market at the time, and reception was mixed.

Dynamically, though, it was hard to argue that the Z4 wasn’t a vast improvement in refinement over the Z3. The rear suspension was updated with a new multi-link setup which handled power (and bumps) significantly better than the outgoing E36 chassis with E30 bits. A stiffer structure meant more overall composure. And though the interior remained plastic-heavy, the new generation of dashboards looked much more upscale and modern than the dated 90s pieces. Yet the biggest change lay at the end of the run, as it had with the Z3, as starting in 2006 BMW installed the legendary S54B32. Providing 330 horsepower to the rear wheels and trick M-differential via a 6-speed manual, the limited production M Roadster and M Coupe also corrected one of the perceived flaws of the normal Z4 lineup by retaining a hydraulic steering setup.…

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

Motorsports Monday: 2004 BMW M3 GTR Replica

Motorsports Monday: 2004 BMW M3 GTR Replica

In 2001, BMW wanted to race the new E46 M3 in the Le Mans GT series. But in order to really be competitive, it needed more power – after all, it would be racing the likes of the Corvette C5R, the Porsche 911 GT3, and even Ferraris. As stout as the S54 was, BMW opted to stick a V8 into the E46. Not only did the V8 produce more power, but a look under the hood revealed that it moved the weight back – far back – from where the inline-6 would normally hang. Run by Schnitzer in Europe and PTG in the U.S., they were quite successful if often protested, and in 2001 the PTG developed car won the Petit LeMans in the U.S. and continued to win until 2005 in Europe. They also won the imaginations of BMW fans across the globe, with the the necessary road-going 380 horsepower GTR model a mythical beast of near biblical proportions. Some went a step farther, though, and made track ready weapons. To lower the M3 and be able to run massive wheels – like the 18×11 and 12″ variety of this particular replica – it required some work. Well, a lot of work:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 BMW M3 GTR Replica 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

2002 BMW M3

2002 BMW M3

When I pull the cover off my M3, it still seems like a bit of a dream. I can’t believe that I finally was able to get the car that I really wanted for such a long time. Yet, I still wonder a bit – did I pick the right one? With only around 500 Phoenix Yellow Metallic coupes imported to the U.S. there aren’t a lot to choose from any day of the week, so it is always a bit surprising to see one which outwardly looks exactly like my car. Well, almost exactly…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 BMW M3 on eBay

2006 BMW M Roadster

2006 BMW M Roadster

The perfect counterpoint to the pristine Golf Cabriolet from earlier is this E85 M Roadster. Now, the M Roadster – in either guise – is not the favorite German convertible, nor is it the favorite M product. Heck, we barely have ever covered the model, either – I wrote one up 3 years ago, but this may be only the second time we’ve looked at an E85 M Roadster. Critics detest the Bangle-era styling among other things, and some will point out it wasn’t even built in Germany, as the final assembly point was the Spartanburg plant in South Carolina. Excuse that for a moment and let’s consider that the E85 M might be one of the best values going in the used performance BMW market. There’s the classic Roadster recipe; two seats, front engine, rear drive. There’s the legendary S54 inline-6 under the hood, and it’s mated to a 6-speed manual. They’re rare, too as they ran only two years with some 3,041 sold in the U.S., which makes it one of the least frequently seen Ms. While not a market darling at the moment, it wasn’t terribly long ago that buyers ignored the E36/7 so there’s a reasonable expectation that they’ll appreciate. Pick up one in a great color and with low miles and it’s just about a sure bet:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2006 BMW M Roadster on eBay

2004 BMW M3 Individual

2004 BMW M3 Individual

I’ll admit it; I’m a bit of a sucker for off-colored cars. Perhaps it’s having something that most others don’t. Maybe it’s my anti-social id expressing itself through vibrant tones. Or, more likely, it’s just nice to see cars in a shade out of gray scale. In this case, this 2004 M3 is one of twelve imported in the BMW Individual shade of Brass (Messing) Metallic. Are the results of choosing such a different tone on the E46 successful? You bet your brass….

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 BMW M3 Individual on Seattle Craigslist

2003 BMW M3 Individual

2003 BMW M3 Individual

In my search for an E46 M3, one thing became quite clear – finding uncommon colors in good shape was very difficult. When you start to look at the color breakdown of the 2001-2006 M3s imported, it soon becomes clear why. According to the M3 Portal, some 5,853 coupes were ordered in Titan Silver Metallic – basically, one out of every 5 coupes in the U.S. is this color. A further 4,700 are Carbon Black, about 3,400 are Black and and nearly 3,000 are Silver Gray. See where we’re going? A full 60% of E46s were either silver-gray or black, and a further 10% were eaten up by Alpine White or Steel Gray. So only 30% – about 7,500 in total, broken up between the eight stock colors, with a minority – only 321, or just over 1% – being special ordered through BMW Individual. Some of the Individual colors are just about that, with about 30 different shades being selected. For example, there is one Malachite Green Metallic E46 M3 kicking around the U.S. somewhere. But today’s color was a much more popular selection, though it bookends E46 production. Available on the E36 and back by popular demand on the new 3-series, Estoril Blue Metallic certainly looks great on the lines of the E46, and this is one of a reported 58 imported in this color:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 BMW M3 Individual on eBay

Tuner Tuesday: 2007 AC Schnitzer ACS4 Sport Coupe

Tuner Tuesday: 2007 AC Schnitzer ACS4 Sport Coupe

Two weeks ago I took a look at a rare AC Schnitzer ACS3 Silhouette 3.0, the car that predicted the E36 M3 in many ways. Schnitzer has always been a bit left field compared to the more popular Alpina, but their products are generally very tasteful and seem to be sought with equal aplomb as their arguably more famous competitors. In many ways, the same things can be said of the E86 Z4 M Coupe. It’s got all the right components to make a stellar package, but seems to be generally overlooked as a potential classic at this point. Perhaps it’s because it’s too new, or the styling is polarizing? News flash: the styling on the Z3 was pretty polarizing not that long ago, too. Just like the end of the run Z3 M Coupes, the better driving Z4 M Coupes are stylish, different, and absolutely great to drive. Couple the two of these offbeats up and you should have a great combo, right? Well…..

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2007 AS Schnitzer ACS4 Sport Coupe on Boston Craigslist

Tuner Tuesday: 2001 BMW M3 Dinan S3 Convertible

Tuner Tuesday: 2001 BMW M3 Dinan S3 Convertible

For someone who claims to “not get” fast convertibles, I’ve sure managed to post quite a few recently. This one particularly caught my eye first because of the color combination. Imola Red was on the short list of acceptable E46 M3 colors in my search, particularly so when equipped with Imola on the inside. Now, truth told the convertible configuration of this car would probably have turned me off from actually signing on the dotted line, but this car has a lot going for it including $28,000 worth of Dinan modifications. Let’s take a look:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 BMW M3 Dinan S3 Convertible on eBay

Realization of a Dream: 2003 BMW M3

Realization of a Dream: 2003 BMW M3

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To say this has been a long time coming would be an understatement. You see, a small BMW was very nearly my first car some 20 years ago. As a teenager, I had dreamed of driving behind the wheel of a Roundel through many high school classes and once out, I carefully searched for just the right car for my first foray into the Bavarian realm. I had a pretty well established background, too – having grown up with a ’82 633CSi, ’85 635CSi, M5 and 735i 5-speed in the family. But, being a teen, I was not particularly well versed nor was I actually careful about what I looked at. What came up was a somewhat green 2002tii, and without being able to drive it or knowing enough to look under it, I put a deposit on it. When a car-dealer friend of mine came along with me to pick it up, the door of the car we arrived it hadn’t fully shut before he said “Carter, walk away.” The tii was full of rot and while it probably could have been salvaged and would have made a neat car for someone, it was nowhere near my budget level. A few weeks later he turned up with a then-9 year old Audi 4000CS quattro for around the same amount at the BMW, and my two-decade love affair with the Ingolstadt firm began. But BMWs have always been in the front of my mind, and someday I promised that I’d buy one.…

Motorsports Monday: 2004 BMW M3

Motorsports Monday: 2004 BMW M3

Part of my logic for wanting an E46 M3 has been to have a dual-purpose car; one that I can drive in comfort 9.5 out of 10 days, but can take to the track on an occasional weekend and have fun approaching the limit. Few cars achieve the balance of both comfortable road car and formidable track weapon quite as well out of the box as the M3 does, and for some time it was the defacto track-addict car. Truth told, since the early 2000s many more track-focused cars have emerged and even eclipsed the M3 in both purpose and execution. But the M3 remains at the forefront of most enthusiast’s minds as a capable platform, and the E46 has channeled the last of the analogue platforms into a package that many want to upgrade. The result, if you’re willing to put in some time and money, can be a Porsche killing coupe on a more reasonable budget.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 BMW M3 on eBay

2002 BMW M Roadster

2002 BMW M Roadster

A few weekends back I took a ride out into the hills of Connecticut to check out the inventory at Coventry Motorcar. It’s always worth the trip, because though on the grand scale they’re a small dealer they’ve always got some very interesting second-hand cars that you just don’t normally see gathered together at one spot anymore. Like a European-only car show, there were Porsches, BMWs, and of course Audis lining the lot. A cool Volvo C30 T5 stood out, along with a lineup of M3s as my search for a nice one continues. But the car that really grabbed my attention was a M Roadster. It wasn’t a case of the color being outstanding in this case; while some wild combinations were available on the M Roadster, Titanium Silver Metallic was the most popular option, and within that color the Black Nappa Leather was the most common interior. According to the M Roadster Buyer’s Guide, there were some 1,562 (15% of total production) ordered in Titanium, with the majority of those at 1,134 having the black interior. In fact, nearly half of all M Roadsters had all black interiors, amazingly – since it seems the really wild colors are the ones that stand out in my mind. But something else struck me as really special as soon as I saw the date; a 2002 would make it the rarest year of the M Roadster, with only 643 sold. That’s nice, but what’s nicer is what that means under the hood – the full bore, 315 horsepower S54 motivating the small roadster.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 BMW M Roadster at Coventry Motorcar