Much like the E28 M5, the E82 was a legend before it even hit the market. Press releases and journalists gushed over its superlatives; while most felt it was a return to the classic BMW form, some went so far as to suggest it was the best M product ever. Debate still rages over that and generally fans of each chassis manage to come up with plenty of justification as to why theirs is the most special M produced. However, one thing is undeniable; the 1M might be the only M car to ever immediately appreciate on the market. Perhaps it was the combination of those aforementioned press articles or the limited nature of the model; a scant 983 were produced for the U.S. market over a 10 month production cycle in 2011. As with the E28, color choices were quite limited (though, thankfully more than just black!) – 326 Alpine White III (300), 222 Black Sapphire Metallic (475), and 435 Valencia Orange Metallic (B44) – the model’s signature color. All were mated with the same interior: LWNZ Black Boston leather with contrasting orange stitching. They all featured the same drivetrain specification, too – the boosted twin-turbocharged N54 turned up to 335 horsepower and mated only to a 6-speed manual with a limited slip differential. Wheels were the Competition Package BBS-made Style 359M 19″ options from the E9x. The result was magical – if you can afford it…
As with the first 5-Series, the E21’s reputation has suffered in the wake of the models that replaced it and the legend which preceded it. The US-market models were long on bumpers and short on engine choices and while a lot of them sold here when new, they just never really grabbed the enthusiast following of either the ’02 models or the E30.
Yet there are good examples that pop up from time to time, especially when they’re presented in European guise and with the gutsier inline-6 under the hood. The model that often pops to mind is the 323i, one of which I looked at back in 2018. But there was also a carbureted version called the ‘320/6’, which used the M20 hooked to a single Solex. That’s what we’re looking at today, but this one not only has the more desirable look at motor, but also a host of period-style mods to go with it:
Being an Audi fan, I’m aware of what a bad reputation can do to cars. In the 1970s, Audi gained a reputation for unreliability and poor electronics; perhaps justified, considering the many stories that people have about early Audi 100 ownership. However, it’s a haunting reputation that nearly 40 years on they’re still trying to shake. It looked as if by the early 2000s they had done so, but now a generation on, the cars from the Y2K generation have their own problems and have bred more discontent generally from enthusiasts on the outside looking in. The result is that it’s damn near impossible to find a nice condition Audi from the 1970s, and in just a few years we’ll see the same thing with 1990s Audis, too.
Where am I going with this, considering this is a listing for a BMW? Well, the early E12s had their own problems, but notably that was an issue in the U.S.. That’s because to meet U.S. market regulations, the E12 was made slower and more ugly. Large 5 m.p.h. bumpers were fitted, and compression on the M30 was dropped to meet lower fuel standards. Additionally, to burn off hydrocarbons to meet emissions regulations, the 530i was fitted with thermal reactor manifolds. They did as their name suggested, though the reaction unfortunately many times was with the internals of the engine – warping heads and frying valves. It was a debacle which spelled the death of the 530i, reborn as the 528i in 1979. Coupled with rust issues that this generation BMW had, it’s now quite hard to find an original U.S. spec 530i. Yet here’s a lovely one with some nice mods:
In the realm of unappealing BMWs, the Z3 might just take the cake. Sure, it’s partially rescued by unusual body styles or a big motor in the case of the Coupe or the M editions. But for a standard Z3, there seems to be little appeal. It was not the best built car from BMW, it was certainly not the best looking car they’ve made, and in the case of the four-cylinder models, you didn’t have much in terms of performance, either.
Here we have a ’98 Z3 1.9. Under the hood was the 138 horsepower M44, and since the Z3 wasn’t exactly the feather weight of the original Miata, it resulted in pretty average acceleration. It would wisk you to 60 mph in just a hair under 10 seconds, and hitting 100 would take the best part of half a minute. It did return nearly 30 mpg on the highway, but then my 135i does that too, and it has a bit over twice as much horsepower. Heck, go easy on the throttle and the M3 will return almost 30 on the highway.
But if you want a budget convertible, the Z3 is a solid German option. First, you could get a manual. Second, they’re cheap to fix and cheap to run. There were a lot of them, too, so used parts are available. And this one is presented in a pretty neat color – Violett-rot 2 (328) with some good options. Is there hope?
The Golf R Color Spektrum wasn’t the green hot hatch you were hoping for? Well, here’s a potential alternative that’s a lot cheaper – and probably more fun, though certainly not as practical.
Evergreen is certainly a polarizing shade, but it’s also one of the neater and more rare tones offered on the Z3 Ms when they were released. Because it was unique, BMW often chose it to run as its press fleet – and that seems to be the case with this car. One of a claimed 27 Evergreen M Coupes with an Evergreen and black Nappa leather interior produced, this one is also claimed to be the first made in this combination, and is claimed to have been used by Motorweek in their test of the model. Whether you want to sit in the throne once occupied by John Davis is another matter, especially when you couple it with its subsequent history:
80s M Mania continues with little abatement, and the spill-over effect has impacted the rest of the lineup. Manic pricing increases have rivaled the Porsche 911’s market stardom in a smaller audience. For the most part, outrageous bids have been limited in the general enthusiast world to the M3; but within the E30 sphere of influence, outstanding examples of each particular model have reached astonishing levels of pricing. How crazy has it gotten? How about consistent mid-to-high $20,000 pricing on 325s? Granted, that is reserved for the best examples, but it shows the massive swing in values of the highly desirable platform.
Stepping up to the M3 will cost you a lot more – even if it’s not as nice an example. Of course, there’s an alternative if you really desire M DNA in the form of the screaming S14. BMW slotted a de-stroked 2.0-liter version into the Portugal and Italian-market 320is – and as luck would have it, one popped up on eBay recently:
For many, the E38 represents the zenith of large German executive sedans. It took the best ingredients of the E32 and E34 designs, slimmed them down a touch visually, updated the power plants and equipment, and Voila! Instant classic. It didn’t hurt that the E38 also played a starring role in two pretty popular movies in the period, either – but let’s be honest, you’d have loved it anyway.
As with Audi’s D2, early examples of the E38 were already in production in 1994, but the best of the bunch came towards the end of production. LCI models hit showrooms in 1999, and the refreshed look is what you see here. The long, low package was best expressed with the optional M Parallel wheels, which had carried over from models like the E31 8-Series and E34 M5. It imbued the 7-Series with just enough sport to look purposeful, but not so much as to masquerade as a Porsche. Lightly flared arches cut high in the front fenders were finally filled out, and the refreshed looks worked really well in light colors.
Today’s example is just that – an Alpine White long-wheelbase example. And while some 7s are too used up today, or too far away, or far too expensive if they’re not, this one promised to be the remedy to your problem. With 86,000 miles it’s just getting broken in, and it’s in California. There’s recent maintenance performed, too. But the best part? It’s no reserve:
Looking through today’s BMW lineup, where everything has a million M badges to accompany the gazillion horsepower, I’ll be honest – little excites me. The M2 is pretty awesome, and a properly equipped 4-Series is a nice looker, but most I have trouble distinguishing from the Kia lineup. So it’s nice to head back in time a bit to something that’s both unique and understated at the same time. Of course, you’ll also want rear-drive only, and a singing naturally-aspirated inline-six.
Today’s Z4 has all of those things. In front is the N52 inline-six, here rated at 261 horsepower and 232 lb.ft of torque. For those counting, that’s a bit more horsepower and nearly the same torque as the S52 had only a few years earlier, and N52 has a lighter alloy block. They sound great, too. The E86 was rear-drive only, too. And rare? You better believe it. We’ve all grown accustom to the unique looks of the M Coupe and its resultant low production numbers. But the 3.0si barely sold better. Just over 2,100 were sold here in just two model years, a few hundred more than the M variant. You’re not likely to see them cruising down the road in your commute, in other words. And while the looks are polarizing, I think they’re rather pretty. The best part? They’re also pretty affordable.
No, you’re not reading the headline wrong. But if you’re clever, you know this is special right away. Because the title specifically says ‘Sedan’, and because the M3 Sedan didn’t arrive on these shores until 1997, that must mean one of three things.
- I didn’t have enough coffee when I wrote this
- I got the year wrong
- It’s a European-market example
(please be 3 please be 3 please be 3)
Yep. While it’s true that I most likely have not yet had enough coffee at time of writing, I assure you – this is not a typo. This 1995 M3 Sedan is sitting up in the Great White North, ready for your consumption. But the story on this one doesn’t end with the special motor under the hood. No, this one’s also a very special color combination, too – Daytona Violet over a BMW Individual interior called Saffron with wood trim. Yeah, it’s worth a look!
Following up on the recent Callaway Stage IIs, the other best-known American turbocharger of German products in the 1980s was Steve Dinan. Equally highly regarded, Dinan’s products have made their way from a small independent to being offered in BMW dealerships across the country, and the quality of his work is on par with the best independent tuners from Germany – Hartge and Alpina. Dinan has taken on tough projects – turbocharging the S38, BMW’s first V12, and punching out their V10 to 5.8 liters – and come away smiling.
Today, one of his less-exotic historical products is on the market. In this case it’s a 1989 535i that was turbocharged, lowered and stiffened, and given a big set of wheels. It’s the classic recipe, and sure enough, the outcome looks nice. But what makes this car notable is that it was reportedly Steve Dinan’s personal car, and is presented as the poster pinup probably more than a few of us reading about in Car & Driver when new: