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:
Update 1/13/19: After failing to sell in October 2017 for $8,500, this very rare and special E32 has been relisted for $8,100 today.
The 7-series never really developed the cult following of some of its countrymen or the rest of the BMW lineup. It wasn’t as luxurious as either the W126 or W140 Mercedes-Benz competition. It wasn’t as clever as the Audi V8 quattro. It wasn’t as good a driver as the E30 or E34. There was never a Motorsports division version, and it wasn’t quite as good-looking as its successor, the already legendary E38. As a result, the E32 was – in many ways – a disposable luxury car, much like some of the Audis of the period. They’re mostly gone and forgotten, but every once in a while a really neat one pops up and is worth a look.
I grew up in my formative driving years with a 5-speed 735i E32 in the family stable, and it was a wonderful car. It rode well, it was comfortable, the 3.5 liter M30 was turned up over 200 horsepower and so it was plenty quick. Generally speaking, the U.S. spec 5-speeds are the most highly sought E32s here and it’s easy to understand why. But this particular E32 turns the desirability up a few notches:
Speaking generally, there aren’t too many new cars that cross the pages of this site. It’s even somewhat rare for us to breach the decade-old mark; that’s the point where really nice used examples of our favorites start to become hard to locate. And, frankly since anyone can walk into a dealership, sign a few papers and walk out a lot lighter but with any specification car they can afford, the older metal is typically what draws our (and, hopefully, your) interest.
But once in a while something pretty special comes along, from a 911R to this car. The fifth generation F80 M3 has taken a huge leap forward in complexity, technology and performance. The S55 twin-turbocharged inline-6 is an absolute tower of power; while ultimate horses didn’t increase much version the E9x S65 V8 (425 versus 414), the torque was the big news. It was in part the final number – 410 lb ft., up an amazing 90 over the V8, but it was also the reality of when you could use that torque. The S65 developed peak twist at just shy of 4,000 rpms; the S55 does it at 1,850. Not only that, but the torque curve is billiard table flat until 5,500 rpm. The result, despite the heavy weight stature of the new gigantic F80, is astonishing speed.
By itself, the F80 M3 is a force to be reckoned with. However, this particular M3 is just that bit more special, as it was handed over the group at BMW Individual and painted in E46-signature Laguna Seca Blue:
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-Tech 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.
“Too expensive” shouted a few Facebook comments on yesterday’s 330xi Feature Listing. “It’s 11 years old with 130K. WTF!”
He wasn’t alone, and I find that strange. Because, well, here’s a 14 year old 325xi. It’s got 159,000 miles. And, the asking price is a latte away from $8,000. There’s no maintenance disclosed, nor the careful care shown to our Feature Listing car, either.
But my guess is no one will be complaining that this particular all-wheel drive BMW is overpriced. That is simply because of the configuration in this case. While it’s certainly very rare to come across the E90 sedan in the specification of the Feature Listing from yesterday, I’ve never seen an E46 in this spec – nor are you likely to see another. That’s because this particular car is claimed to be one of one – the sole BMW Individual spec’d Dakar Yellow 325xi Touring 5-speed Sport Package.