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. More aggressive exterior styling was met by a refreshingly simple and less gimicky interior than the Z3 had. For some 3,041 original owners, this was Roadster perfection, and today on the used market they’re a steal relative to their exclusivity and performance:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2006 BMW M Roadster on Cars.com

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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