Pre-Production: 2001 BMW M3

I mentioned yesterday I’d look at a M3, and here it is. There were some 26,202 E46 M3 Coupes to choose from when considering the model. So, often sellers and buyers are looking for something special to help differentiate their M3. Usually that manifests itself in color, miles or mods, but today’s example is quite unusual. Official production started rolling in early in 2001, but today’s M3 is claimed produced in June of 2000, making it a pre-production example of the legendary coupe. There seems to be good documentation to back up the claims that are made, along with a very unusual-to-see set of options. So is this the one to get?

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2001 BMW M Roadster with 8,600 Miles

Recently I looked at both the E36/7 M Roadster and 36/8 M Coupe. Both have developed cult status, yet values vary dramatically within the short production range depending on configuration. Early S52 M Roadsters are the least expensive of the bunch, with the unique Evergreen/Evergreen example I took a peek at selling under $13,000 despite lower mileage and great condition. Compare that to the S52 Coupe, which sold at $16,100 with 260,000 miles on the clock.

So what does a late model, equipped with the more potent and more desirable S54 bring? Again, that depends on a lot of things. Let’s start with mileage – here, it’s a mere 8,600. Then color? Well, this Phoenix Yellow Metallic example is one of the most infrequently specified combinations, with only 14 produced in the 2001 model year. You can probably guess where the price is heading already…

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Phoenix Rising: 2001 BMW M Roadster

Let’s pretend for a second that you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years. Welcome back! Donald Trump is President of the United States, the Cubbies won the World Series and Kanye West has alienated the 50% of America that you wouldn’t have expected him to. A Castro is no longer in charge in Cuba, Facebook sells your information to make money and if Bill Cosby offers you a Jello pudding pop, I’d be suspicious.

While we’re on recent trends, have you checked out the pricing on Z3 Ms lately?

What used to be the cheapest foray into one of the most polarizing designs offered by BMW in modern times has become a cult classic and increasingly expensive, especially in Coupe form. But select the right options on a Roadster, and the price will still shock you. Take today’s, for example. Produced in August 2001, it’s a later example and that means something special is under the hood. That’s right, it’s a S54 cranking out 321 horsepower. Only ~1,600 were produced with that motor for North America, so that makes it pretty special. More special is the color; in total, only 39 E36/7 M Roadsters were specified in Phoenix Yellow Metallic. This is one of fourteen PYM/Black Nappa produced for 2001. As if that wasn’t outstanding enough, this particular M Roadster has turned only 19,760 miles since new. Guesses on the price?

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Roll the Dice? 2004 BMW M3

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?

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2001 BMW M3 with 10,000 Miles

EDIT 8/10/2017 – IT’S BACK! Now with a $58,900 asking price, according to Hunting Ridge Motor’s site. With prices on the rise when the right combinations appear on these E46s, it will be interesting to see when and what amount it finally sells for.

EDIT 7/25/2014: with a few well placed seeds and some research, it appears that this car is the same one as the 10,000 mile M3 I wrote up in May here. That makes the asking price and modifications all the more puzzling. Thanks for the interest and sorry that I didn’t catch it the first time around!

What is the price for perfection? What would you be willing to pay for a brand new example of the car you love? There are certainly a lot of people who love the E46 M3 including me. I really think it was a high point of design for BMW; those sweeping arches, the delicate lines in the hood, the hunched, angry stance – it’s perfect, and best of all, it’s relatively affordable still. But many have already begun to fall into disrepair, and of course when you’re buying an older car you’re subject to what comes to market and managing repairs, restoration and asking price. But what if the car was effectively brand new? Chances are everyone would say “Sign me up!”, especially if that car was in one of the most sought after color combinations. They would, that is, until they saw the price tag:

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2002 BMW M3 with 11,000 Miles

A familiar face popped into my usual searches this week. It was a 2001 BMW M3 in Laguna Seca Blue. What stood out immediately were the wheels (okay, and the color); BBS CH and near faultless condition throughout pointed towards the example I looked at twice in 2014. Three years later, it’s still for sale and though the price has dropped, the seller is still looking for the best part of $60,000.

In the future, that price may not seem quite that outrageous. After all, finding a perfect condition, 10,000 mile M3 in one of the two signature colors isn’t something you come across everyday, right?

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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.

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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.

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Imola Overload: 2004 BMW M3

Update 11/7/2017 – the seller of this car has raised the asking price to $27,490 and provided new photos.

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:

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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.

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