For some time, there was a giant gulf in between European-spec cars and U.S. spec cars. Granted, part of that divide still exists today if the large assortment of cars that do not make it to these shores, but at least enthusiasts can rejoice that at last – for the most part – performance versions that are available in Germany are very close to the same that we receive here. One of the last notable cars to exhibit the large divide was the E36 M3; while Europeans enjoyed over 280 horsepower from the individual throttle body S50B30 in 1992, the later released U.S. spec M3 carried an entirely different motor with some 40 horsepower less. Though the S50B30US is certainly a great motor by itself, the knowledge that the “better” version existed across the pond somehow took a bit of legitimacy away from it for a lot of fans of the marque. Also differentiating the European versions were better floating rotor brakes, better glass headlights, better lower and stiffer suspension; you get the point. We could bang on all day about how the US-spec model was pretty much as quick as the Euro cars, is a lot cheaper to run, and is…well, you know, already here. But when a Euro car pops up for sale, I still take time to take notice, and it’s hard not to notice this Dakar Yellow ’93:
While the step up to the Mk.3 added a fair amount of size – and accompanying weight – to the Volkswagen Golf, the GTI emerged with the much more potent VR6 engine borrowed from the Passat and Corrado. While admittedly the power and the exhaust note was very appealing, and in hindsight the third generation Golf looks positively tiny compared to cars today, I have always lamented the loss of the what I consider the best GTI – the 1990-1992 16V model.
But, what if that model had continued? Well, it did – just not in the U.S.. What we have here is a 1994 GTI 16V from Europe. Replete with Recaro interior, blacked-out rub strips and fender flares, beefy wheels, and dual-chamber headlights with foglights. But the best part is under the hood, where the 9A lived on as the ABF. With Digifant engine management power was up to 148 at 6,000 RPMs, while torque remained at 133 lb.ft but again higher in the range. One of these gems has turned up for sale on Ebay:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 Volkswagen GTI 16V on eBay
The 964 Porsche 911 Speedster has always been a cool novelty, but that doesn’t mean it is only that. I think these stayed true to the original 356 Speedster compared to Turbo-bodied 3.2 Carrera-based 911 Speedster, 997 Speedster, and 991 Speedster that is basically just a GT3. Porsche also blessed the US market with the fixed-back lightweight seats that were in the 964 RS for that extra feeling over the 964 Cabriolet. Only 936 examples were produced, with 427 Speedsters heading Stateside. These pop up for sale from time to time, but most are tucked away in collections given their rarity and the aircooled boom. This example up for sale in California checks in with 34,000 miles and some odd little custom touches that makes Porsche so unpredictable at times.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 Porsche 911 Speedster on eBay
Okay, the messy M3 Lightweight was too much of a heavy lift, and the ’94 M-Design – while cool – really isn’t an M car. So where to look if you want a collector-grade E36 today?
Well, I think this is a good starting point. What at first glance may just seem like another silver M3 is revealed as something more special if you consider the date: 1994, in this case. Since there were no US ’94s, that automatically means it’s a European-specification car, with the stronger motor, better lights, and better brakes. Sweet! And it’s in the US already! Double sweet! Throw in that it’s got under 60,000 miles, Hurricane cloth Vaders, and an affordable entry price point (relative to some others we’ve looked at, at least) and this one seems a winner:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW M3 on eBay
Just prior to the launch of the E36 M3 for North America, Canada got a special run of European-specification M3s. However, they weren’t alone in terms of custom E36s available. 1994 also saw the United States get a pretty unique, and quite limited, E36 model.
It was the 1994 325is M-Design. Fans call it the M-Tech, and it was very similar to the Clubsport Coupe that was available in Europe.
While underneath this was basically a stock 325, it was still pretty special. It included nearly all the items that the M3 would have outside of the motor and brakes. You got the M-Tech body kit, mirrors, steering wheel and shift knob, along with the Anthracite M cloth (0506). Many (if not all) were painted Germany’s racing color – Alpine White. Additionally, the M-Design included a cool set of 17″ BBS 2-piece wheels. They were referred to as Style 29s, but were actually a multi-piece version of the forged BBS RG wheel. A limited run of only 150 (according to fans, BMW isn’t sure) were produced by BMW Individual with a $4,700 premium on the base price of the 325iS. What does that translate to today?