Every once in a while, a car pops up that I’d just love to know more of the history of. Case in point; today’s 2000 BMW 323i. This was the second year for E46 in the US, and frankly the very early E46 323i models were pretty plain. But that’s not the case today, and this one was special ordered from BMW Individual in Dakar Yellow. From there, it gets a bit stranger, because the ticking of special options didn’t seem to continue….
You can say that all examples of a model are the same regardless of color, and I will respect that as you opinion. But let’s be honest, they’re not. Pull up to a stop light in a black M3 and sure, some will take notice. Pull up to a light in a Phoenix Yellow Metallic example, and – love it or hate it – you’ll get attention. Which brings us to today’s car…one of the ultra-rare 850CSis originally imported to the United States.
Though they’re all the same specification, of the 225 imported here, one is a bit special. That’s because it was ordered through BMW’s Individual program in Daytona Violet over Lotus White and Daytona Violet leather. I think I’m in love!
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!
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?
You and a million plus of your internet friends love the E46 M3. With a high-revving naturally-aspirated inline-6, near perfect weight distribution and timeless looks, how could you not? So how to stand apart from the crowd? Well, this ’05 might be just the right ticket. First, you’d want to source one of the elusive BMW Individual examples. Like Porsche’s Paint to Sample, these were custom-ordered Ms with near limitless options, and the E46 was the first to really exploit this before it was the popular trend. 58 Coupes were optioned in E36-spec Estoril Blue Metallic for the U.S. market, and admittedly it looks great on the newer generation too. This one goes one step farther with M Texture Anthracite Alcantara that is very infrequently seen in the modern Ms. Not done yet, it was opted with a 6-speed manual to sooth the Internet’s fears. For good measure the ZCP Competition Package was ticked on the order sheet. And to scare everything else on the road, it was then sent to Dinan where just about every conceivable option was fit. The resultant supercharged S3-R package was good for 462 horsepower. The seller describes this combination as a unicorn, and it’s pretty hard to argue with that assessment.
BMW’s second generation M5 followed the same recipe as the outgoing E28; manual transmission, rear-drive, howling inline-6 under the hood. But the E34 was far from a copy of the car that was really credited with being the first super sedan. BMW upped with power first with the 3.6 liter version of the S38; though the increase in displacement was a scant 82 ccs, the result was impressive. BMW Motorsport GmbH fit a new cam, a higher compression head, and a new engine management system to yield 311 horsepower at a rev-busting 6,900 rpms. They weren’t done.
In 1992 M upped the capacity again, this time to just 5 cc shy of 3.8 liters. Even higher compression, a further revision in electronic management, and a few other odds and ends now netted 340 horsepower and 300 lb.ft of torque. Again, they weren’t done. Perhaps tired of Audi cornering the go-fast-5-door market with their 200 20V Avant, in 1992 BMW launched the M5 Touring. Production began in March 1992 and ran through 1995. All E34 M5 Tourings were left-hand drive 3.8 models, and a total of 891 were produced.
BMW opted not to bring the enlarged motor or the M Touring model to the United States, as the 540i took over the top rungs of North American production. But now legal for importation, these rare Ms have been trickling in:
The success of the Motorsport derived versions of each generation of the venerable 3-series mean that it’s both easy and a natural choice to concentrate on them in the used market. But BMW has also offered some pretty special non-M models in the 3-series lineup, and the 2003-2006 330i. Much like the M3, the 330i was available in 2-door coupe and convertible no surprise there – but the 330i was also quite popular as a sedan and the E46 M3 never came in that configuration. If you ticked the ZHP Performance Package box, you paid an additional $3,900 on top of the premium for your top-of-the-line 330i. While that was no small amount of change, what that amount resulted in was actually quite a bargain.
Developed by BMW Individual, you got a plethora of performance details throughout the package. Outside, M-Tech body pieces adorned the car front, sides and rear and blacked out trim replaced the chrome. So too were M-branded special Style 135 18″ wheels, with tires to match the width of bigger brother M3. Lower and stiffer suspension was met with more negative camber, special reinforcement and control arms. The engine was upgraded too, with unique cams and a revised engine map resulting in 10 more horsepower, but the ZHP was more than 10 hp quicker off the line thanks to a shorter final drive and a 6-speed manual borrowed from M. Performance wise, the ZHP split the difference between the 330i and M3 in acceleration and cornering, so it really was a performance package to live up to its name. Inside, too, many special details adorned the ZHP – from small items like lightly revised gauges with special needles to unique shifter, steering wheel, seat fabric and eggcrate dash trim. Just like the S-Line Titanium Package Audis, these more potent 330is have a cultish following who proudly claim they’re not only special, but one of the most special BMWs made:
If I’m honest, most newer cars bore me. I’m much more excited to see a clean ’85 GTI than I am to see a modern M anything, frankly. I don’t live in the most expensive or opulent area in the world, yet within a shockingly short drive from me there are several new M3s, M4s, M5s and the like being daily driven. It’s not unusual for a Ferrari or Lamborghini to roar by my house. Porsches are downright commonplace. Please understand, this is not intended to elevate my status as a braggart. But when I was a child you just didn’t see these things, and I grew up very close to where I live now. I still remember the excitement of egging my father on as he chased a Ferrari 308 down the highway just so that I could get a closer look. My son doesn’t even turn his head when the multiple 488s cruise by.
I’m not just spouting off a baseless ‘back in my day’ statement as I shake my fist towards the clouds. I was a bit older than my son is now when the E28 M5 launched. 1,340 were shipped to the United States. The same was roughly true of the replacement E34; 1,678 shipped here. Then the markets went wild; 9,992 E39s, 9,491 E60s and 8,088 F10s. While they’ve steadily been losing ground to the growing field of competition and fast SUVs, the fact is they’re far more common than their ancestors. So how do you stand apart from the crowd? Well, BMW’s Individual options are certain to assist:
Having not really checked in on E30 M3 pricing lately, I decided to take a gander this week. The situation has not improved. Pristine examples are still asking north of $80,000. If you want one on a budget that’s no reserve, there’s a rusty example with little documentation and 200,000 miles with a wrecked interior for…$20,000 so far. That’s pretty insane for a car that needs a full mechanical and cosmetic restoration, because that money gets you into a pristine E36 or E46 and you’re knocking on the door of the E92s, too.
So I’m taking a different path today. Let’s say you want a collector-grade car but don’t want something old. Well, as I’ve mentioned previously there are a lot of special edition M3s out there. One that quietly slipped through in 2017 was the 30 Jahre Edition of the M3 Sedan. Built on a Competition Package base, the 30 Jahre added Macao Blue Metallic over full Merino leather in Black/Fjord Blue from BMW Individual. The exterior trim was treated to BMW’s high gloss Shadowline treatment and there were plenty of special badges to go around both inside and out. For the 150 out of 500 produced sent to the U.S. market, these cars came equipped with the Driver Assistance Plus Package and LED lights. With the boost turned up on the S55 and hooked to the dual clutch, the 444 horsepower was good for 3.8 second sprints to 60. Check that box for the DCT, and you were $86,150 lighter in the wallet – about the same ask as that E30 I posted earlier. So what does one of these limited models set you back today?
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: