Tuner Tuesday: 1994 Alpina B10 4.6 Touring

While the B10 BiTurbo generated the headlines as the world’s fastest sedan, BMW’s replacement M60 V8 motor was making its way into production and the M30 inline-6 was on its way out. Of course that meant it wasn’t too long before Buchloe got their hands on one, and in turn it wasn’t too long before the B10 4.0 replaced the BiTurbo as the top offering. But a year later, Alpina had already punched out the block to 4.6 liters. Now generating 340 horsepower, the new B10 4.6 not only was as quick as the M5, it was considerably cheaper and less complicated than the BiTurbo had been too.

Like the 4.0 before it, the standard 17″ Alpina wheel treatment, upgraded suspension, larger and less restrictive exhaust, aerodynamic tweaks and unique interiors all made their way here. Also like the 4.0, the 4.6 was available as either a sedan or Touring, and as either a 6-speed manual or 5-speed Switch-Tronic automatic. A scant 46 were built before the end of E34 production, of which only 19 were Touring models – making this one of the most limited Alpinas produced:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 Alpina B10 4.6 Touring at Springbok.de

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1989 BMW Z1

BMW took a big leap at the end of the 1980s and introduced some pretty extreme design language. First was the E31 8-series, a seeming quantum leap from the outgoing 6-series. That chassis pioneered, for better or worse, a tremendous amount of technical and electronic innovation for BMW. The 8s relied on a bevy of computers to control its chassis, electronic suite and engine. Side by side with the more famous Grand Tourer though was a diminutive roadster BMW produced based heavily on the E30 chassis. Instead of a heavy reliance on computer technology, the futuristic (hence Z for the German word for future – Zukunft) plastic bodied Z1 looked like a supercar even if it didn’t go like one. Park one next to a E30 convertible and you’d never know the two are related!

The Z1 was a complete departure for BMW; while they were not strangers to small cabriolets, their previous efforts were in the 1930s with the 315/1 and the 1960s with the 700. BMW went away from the idea of an integral body and frame to a separate chassis with removable, plastic body pieces. The idea was that the owners could replace the panels themselves to “repaint” the car with minimal effort. It was something the Smart car would be notable for – a car that launched a decade following the Z1. To get the paint to adhere to the bodywork, BMW had to partner with AZKO coatings to develop a flexible paint which they termed ‘Varioflex’, while the bodywork had to be attached using a unique elastic joint technique. The doors didn’t open out – the slid down into the supporting chassis structure. The underbody was flat, not only for aerodynamics, but the tray turned into a diffuser towards the back, assisting in sticking the rear to the ground as speeds rose. In front was nothing new – the venerable M20 from the E30 popped up here, too – but in the rear the Z1 was new with a multi-link rear axle of its own. This new design would later be incorporated into the E36. It’s interesting that with the Z3 BMW opted to go the opposite route and incorporate earlier E30 pieces into the rear of the /7 and /8. While performance was relatively leisurely, the Z1 nevertheless garnered praise for its innovation, unique design and great looks. They never made it to U.S. shores and only around 8,000 examples were ever produced, but a few have crossed the Atlantic now that they’re old enough to be more easily imported:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 BMW Z1 on eBay

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2011 BMW 1M with 10,600 miles

The BMW 1M is safely now into cult status. Values for used examples very rarely dip below $40,000 with the nicest one selling for tens of thousands more. Does it surprise me? Yes, a little. I think we all knew it was a really fun car, but I don’t think anyone knew they’d still be trading hands close to MSRP some eight years later. Good value for money? I can’t argue it. These cars are a hoot in daily driver situations as well as the track. Yeah, the N54 has its drawbacks (this example needed new spark plugs at 8,000 miles), but if you stay on top of things, nothing is too severe. Today, I came across an example painted in signature Valencia Orange with just over 10,000 miles. Even better, it was for sale at a BMW dealer in San Francisco. Great news, right? Nope. You aren’t prepared for how much they are asking for this car. Trust me.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2011 BMW 1M Coupe at BMW San Francisco

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2011 BMW 550i 6-speed

I’ve recently noticed a large amount of second-hand F10s hitting the market, and what’s been surprising to me is just how cheap they’ve gotten so quickly. Perhaps I just haven’t been paying attention, but suddenly the asking prices on the early F10s are precariously close to $10,000. I suppose it makes sense; the F10 is out of production and no longer the “new thing”, with early examples over 100,000 miles and 8 years old. That’s pretty much a death sentence for a mid-sized executive sedan.

But before you entirely dismiss the F10 line and commence your search for lightly used G30s, there are a few reasons to consider some specific trims in the lineup. For one, the F10 was a lot less controversial of a design than the E60 had been. Second, they seemed to integrate the technology better into the platform, making it a lot less glitch-prone than its predecessor. And, as with all 5-series iterations, power was once again up in the newer models across the board.

But within the F10 lineup for the U.S., there was one particular model which was quite special – what’s listed here as a 550i M-Sport 6-speed. Some 611 550is were equipped with manuals, but of those only 269 were made with the M-Sport package. Today’s example is one of just 16 550i manuals produced in Cashmere Silver Metallic:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2011 BMW 550i 6-speed on eBay

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The World’s Most Famous M3? 2013 BMW M3 Competition Package Individual

Update 5/2/19: This M3 sold for $66,500 plus premium (~$70,000).

I own a M3. It’s a fairly rare M3, too – at least, in the grand scheme. But my car is far from famous, and likely never will be. That’s because while Phoenix Yellow Metallic was reasonably rare, BMW still managed to churn out nearly 3,000 Coupes in that tone alone out of the total E46 M3 production. Given that number is relatively large compared to earlier M products (about 56,000 total Coupes produced), buyers who selected PYM represent a fairly low percentage of 5.3. The percentage of U.S. cars in PYM is even lower; 514 were ordered out of 26,202, meaning your chance of running across one when new was only about 2%.

But compared to some of the individual colors, that’s downright commonplace. Since we’re looking at an E92, let’s crunch the numbers – a total of 40,092 Coupes were produced worldwide, and of those 15,799 came to the U.S.. 8,299 of those were post LCI cars like today’s example. 6,235 came as manuals (both pre- and post-LCI). 865 were sent through BMW’s Individual program and painted a variety of colors – but this one, Atlantis Blue Metallic, accounts for only 3 total Coupes. Three. That’s .019% of imported E92s.

Of course, it’s not the color of this car (as stunning as it is) that makes it really famous. No, it’s the story about how it came to be:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2013 BMW M3 Competition Package Individual on Bring a Trailer

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1991 BMW 850i

The E31 was BMW’s first real attempt at integrating lots of computer designs and controls into one of their road cars. The clean-sheet design resulted in a 2-door grand tourer that shared some visual similarities with the great M1, but stood apart as a more practical cruiser. Unlike the E24, the windows could fully drop, revealing a graceful pillarless design to match the sweeping greenhouse. The sharp nose amazingly hid an even larger motor than its predecessor; in fact, it was basically two conjoined M30s. That configuration certainly has some drawbacks, but there was no denying that the 850i had serious presence and credentials with the M70 V12 kicking out 300 horsepower.

However, BMW softened the character of what potentially could have been a screamer. Many were outfit with 16? wheels for a better ride and tied to an automatic transmission. This was truly a GT car, and not the supercar slayer that BMW teased with its M8 Concept. Still, there are a few which were hooked to 6-speed manual transmissions prior to the launch of the manual-only 850CSi, and they’re a whole lot cheaper than the M-modded model is trading for today:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW 850i on eBay

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1995 BMW 540i M-Sport

Although the letter “M” attached to a BMW has generally represented the pinnacle of performance for the brand, the reality is the term “M-Sport” has not always denoted the same characteristics. Take the E82 135i, for example. The M-Sport package for that car consisted of slightly different 18″ wheels than the standard 18″ wheels and a black headliner. That’s it.

But zoom back in time to the beginnings of the title “M-Sport” and it meant a bit more. If you wanted a fast, executive super saloon in 1995, your options were dwindling. 1995 was the last year of the Audi S6, and one year after both the V8 Quattro and 500E were taken away. 1995 would also be the last year of the iconic M5, and hints were that it might be a long time before we’d see another. Why? Well, the reality was that with the 6 speed 540i the performance gap between the “super” M5 and the “normal” V8 engined 540 was so close it just didn’t make a lot of sense to have the premium model anymore. The S38 was by now a quite old motor and was getting harder to pass increasingly strict emissions standards; indeed, shrinking sales and high price had resulted in the M5 being pulled from the U.S. in 1993.

As a result, BMW offered a hint at what it could do with the V8 in the form of the M540i in Canada and the 540i M-Sport in the U.S. market. The Canadian model was quite close in spec to the European M5, except that in place of the venerable S38 it ran the M60 V8 out of the normal 540i. If that sounds like a letdown, it wasn’t – mated to the Getrag 6-speed transmission it was a great driver, and with the M5 adjustable suspension, brakes and cosmetic details it was 95% plus of the M5 for most drivers. The 540i M-Sport that the U.S. received differed a bit in not having the trick floating rotors of the M540i, but with nearly everything else out of the M bag of tricks these are cool cars, great drivers, and even more rare than the M5:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW 540i M-Sport on eBay

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Feature Listing: 2008 BMW 550i M-Sport Dinan 5

It seems that with every progressive generation of BMW 5-series, the gap between the outgoing M5 and the top of the line non-M 5 series narrows considerably. While there wasn’t much of a contest between the E28 M5 and E34 535i, by the end of the E34 run the 540i M Sport was – for all intents and purposes – a M5 without the S38. BMW upped the ante to 400 horsepower in the new E39 M5, once again widening the gap to the 540i model. But the successor E60 545i offered 330 horsepower with matching torque in 2003 alongside the outgoing E39 and once again the gap in performance became much smaller. That gap was made almost imperceptible in 2005, when BMW revised the E60 with the increased displacement in the N62 motor.

Now sporting 4.8 liters from the N62B48, the new “550i” now had 360 horsepower and 361 lb.ft of torque – a near match for the S62. What was perhaps more amazing was that the new N62 also nearly matched the torque of the new E60 M5’s S85 V10. But while that screaming V10 produced far more horsepower, the peak torque was reached only at 6,100 revolutions – hardly practical in your daily commute. In comparison, peak twist on the N62 came at a much more realistic 3,400 r.p.m.s, and on the fly these 550is were – and still are – seriously quick sedans. They also introduced the next generation of design language and computer technology into the 5-series. Some love the look while others lambaste the design. While it’s certainly not my favorite 5, at least it’s distinctive and different in a world full of cookie-cutter designs and dare I say I think it may look better today than it did new – perhaps a testament to its avant-garde lines. While the lust-worthy V10 captures the imagination of enthusiasts, day-to-day the 550i is likely as fast 95% of the time and much cheaper to get into and run. Couple that with a host of Dinan upgrades and you’ll easily surprise M owners for half the price of the V10:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 BMW 550i M-Sport Dinan 5 on Dallas Craigslist

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Feature Listing: 2012 BMW M3 Competition Package

Update 5/7/19: This beautiful low-option E92 is on to a new owner!

While there’s no doubt that the E9x M3 was instantly recognizable as the replacement for the outgoing E46 model, there was an inconvenient truth that had snuck into the lineup: weight. Part of what had made the E30 such a curb-hopping maniac was that lack of heft even with all the accoutrements. By the time the E92 launched, the M3 had put on nearly 800 lbs of weight.

To motivate it the extra mass, BMW did effectively what it had done with the S14; it took its top-tier motor in the S85 V10 and removed two cylinders. The result was the S65 V8, and 414 horsepower was on tap for your right foot’s pleasure. That was a monumental leap from the E46; when the E46 launched with 93 horsepower more than the prior generation, I thought there was no way BMW could do it again. But they did, tacking on 81 horsepower to the prior generation’s total without forced induction. BMW topped the E46’s specific output per liter, too, besting 103 in the E9x – in a package which was 40 lbs lighter despite two more cylinders. Impressive, indeed.

Granted, if you were plunking down $60,000-odd worth of your hard earned credit, you’d want amenities like power seats, a nice radio, air conditioning – the normals that made it a better road car to live with day-to-day. But if you were clever in the boxes you ticked, you could still get the essence of what made the M3 the greatest car in its segment without a lot of frills. First would be the Competition Package, which gave you more variability on the suspension and more sideways action from the dynamic stability control. You got bigger wheels and stickier, wider tires to make use of that harder suspension.

Tick the 7-speed M-DCT dual-clutch transmission, and that track-readiness was taken to the next level. Then, you’d want to stop right about there. Of course, few people selected such a targeted, bare-bones performance oriented M3 out of the gate, which makes finding one today difficult:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2012 BMW M3 Competition Package on M3 Post

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1999 BMW M3 Convertible with 3,800 Miles

It’s interesting to consider how enthusiasts today view the E36 M3. Generally speaking, you’re either a completely devoted fan who insists that the E36 is not only the best M3, but perhaps the best BMW ever made. Why stop there? Why not go straight for best car in the history of the world, ever? On the other side of the coin, detractors love to point out that the second M3 was softened up for the U.S. market, that it wasn’t as potent, as pure, as Motorsporty as the original curb-hopping, box-flared legend.

Arguably, they’re both right. It’s certainly true that BMW made the decision to tone down the M3 for North American consumption. That was a really good thing for two reasons: one, that we got it at all, and two, that it remained affordable. Consider, for a moment, that the E30 M3 had grown quite expensive to sport all of that motorsport heritage. By 1991, the base price of the M3 was $35,900. Of course, it was competing against even more expensive cars like the Porsche 944S2, which was a further $10,000 more dear. While we can talk about driving spirit all day long, if we look at the fact sheets what you got was a bit soggy in comparison to today’s cars. Inflation corrected, the M3 would be around $62,000 – pretty much spot on the entry price for today’s M3. The new car has more than double the horsepower of the original and enough tech to launch all of the Apollo program missions.

So what was really exciting when the new M3 was launched in late 1994 was that price point; $36,000. That was some $14,000 less expensive than the European model, and yet performance was within a few clicks thanks to a revised version of the 325i M50 engine. In fact, many – including notoriously BMW-savvy Car and Driver – suggested that the U.S. spec M3 was a better choice than the more exotic Euro model for our roads.

Today, the E36 M3 remains for many the smart choice within the lineup. Long overlooked as the obvious choice, prices have remained low relative to its predecessor and even its replacement. Modern comparisons often skip the E36 entirely. But that doesn’t mean all E36s are affordable:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 BMW M3 Convertible on eBay

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