Among potential future classics, few shine quite as bright as the E46 M3. As a car that’s (currently) affordable and still fairly new, the E46 M3 offers performance levels few sports cars reach. It’s also one of the last BMWs mere mortals can work on, the last offering of the S54 motor before the M division switched to twin-turbocharged inline-6s and V8s. To some, the E46 was a mass-produced marketing tool; but to me, the E46 M3 corrected many of the perceived faults of the E36 M3. Of course, the motor was a large part, but outside the M3 was now really set off by flares, quad exhausts, bulges, gaping intakes and vents that really made it look as special as it was. Denied the CSL, for U.S. customers the most special of the breed were the late run ZCP “Competition Package” cars like today’s Interlagos Blue example.
The ZCP Competition Package added quite a few special details to an already special car for the end of the run. Cross-drilled front brakes were enlarged and lighter thanks to a two-piece design and hid behind spun-cast BBS RC wheels. Those wheels measured 19″ x 8″ in front and 9.5″ out back and not only managed to look more menacing, but were lighter than the Style 67 18″ standard wheels despite being larger. Turning those wheels was a quicker steering rack spun by an Alcantara wheel and containing a special “M” track-mode with revised software for the stability control. The ZCP package also had the aforementioned Interlagos Blue Metallic (A30) as its signature color and specific code ZCP milled aluminum effect interior trim. Reportedly, Interlagos could not even be ordered through BMW Individual – if you liked the color, you had to get the Competition Package. While the same S54B32 as standard production lay under the hood, the 333 horsepower screamer wasn’t exactly a bad thing. 2,410 ZCPs were sold in the U.S., with 843 of them being Interlagos – making for not only a great driver, but an instant collector:
Update 1/25/2018 – the first of this duo has dropped in price from $19,997 to $17,997.
Recently I found myself looking through some old car literature I had amassed over the years. In particular, I was completely enamored with the brand-new E36 M3 when it launched on U.S. shores. I’m not sure why, but of all the E36 variants that were produced, that first-year M has always stuck out to me as the most desirable in the lineup. And now as these cars are on the verge of being considered “antique” and with the E30 market still silly (and the E46 market rising), these early Coupes seem like a great balance of driving, collector-potential and somewhat reasonable pricing.
I say ‘somewhat’ because sellers have steadily been raising the bar to the point where it almost feels like price fixing. When I looked for ’95s on eBay the other day, I started laughing – there were five listed, and their prices were all within $1,000 of each other – and none were cheap. So with that in mind today I’m looking at twin Alpine White ’95s. They’re almost identically equipped. They’re priced within $2 of each other. That’s not a misprint – only a small coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts divides the asks on these two. But there’s a huge difference in mileage; some 60,000 between these two. So clearly the one with lower mileage is automatically the better bet, right?
Not so fast…
As the E30 remains unreachable and E46 pricing quickly heads upwards, the E36 remains a slightly less-appreciated alternative that is affordable for most enthusiasts. While it’s still possible to find wrecks of the popular chassis for only a few thousand dollars, if you’re willing to spend a bit more you can still find reasonably priced and clean examples. Admittedly, the pool is drying up as speculating vultures start to circle what was once an oasis of cheap speed. But this early ’95 in a fetching (and rare) color combination is more than just a distant mirage:
A little over a year ago, I took a bit of a gamble and plunged into M3 ownership. At the time, I was reasoning that the E46 market wasn’t likely to dip much lower in the immediate future, as the E36 market was already trending upwards. As a result, I paid (what I felt was) a reasonable premium for a low mileage, excellent original condition example in a very rare color. At least on the surface, it would seem that my decision was correct; since purchasing that car, some E36 sales have gone through the roof as documented on these pages. Further, E46 sales of clean, original examples (especially 6-speeds) appear also to be heading upwards, as witness by the 2003 currently on Bring A Trailer. With a few days to go, bidding is past $25,000 – money that until now was considered reserved only for the Competition Package cars.
But back to the E36 market and this particular example. The cars that have pulled really strong numbers in the second generation M3 are the European specification models or the super-limited Lightweight edition. Still, that doesn’t mean that a clean normal U.S. specification M3 also isn’t heading upwards. Take this early ’95, for example:
A few weeks ago I wrote up a lightly modified 26,000 mile Dakar Yellow M3 coupe; in that post, I said that the $25,000 asking price was out of line with the market in my opinion. Perhaps it was the mods that really threw me off, but I set out to prove my point the following week by showcasing two original M3s that I thought were better propositions in my “Teens Well Spent” post. Both cars were available in the mid-teens and both highlighted how for about $10,000 less than the asking price of the 26,000 mile example you could get a neat, original M3 still with low miles and in great condition. Well, this week I have two more to once again underscore that point – as the 26,000 mile example continues to languish on eBay with no bids and an unchanged $25,000 asking price, I have a stellar original Dakar Yellow example and a mysterious ’94 Canadian one to consider:
Last week we featured a string of E36 M3s, culminating in a very low mileage but high priced, lightly modified Dakar Yellow priced at $26,000. To me, it was a strong as considering there are many other very good E36 deals in the teens that would be equally striking and potential investments down the road. So, today I’m taking a look at two other E36 models, both priced about $10,000 less than the low mileage example, that I’d jump into first: