I give Audi a lot of credit for bringing the R8 to market. It took a fair amount of gall for a company best known for mid-range all-wheel drive luxury sedans to up and produce a supercar-beating mid-engine road car capable of being used year-round and every day. It’s a feat nearly without precedent. Of course, I said “nearly”.
That’s because BMW pulled off a similar trick the best part of thirty years before Audi did it. And arguably the development of what would become BMW’s fledgling Motorsports division was even more impressive than what Ingolstadt pulled off. The M1 burst onto the scene at a time of economic austerity, global oil crises and came from a company who not only didn’t have a history of producing such cars, but didn’t have connections to others who did (unlike Audi’s corporate Lamborghini partnership).
Speaking of Lamborghini, because of BMW’s lack of expertise in supercar design it was the Sant’Agata firm that was employed to produce the M1. But because of Lamborghini’s lack of expertise at being…well, a company capable of producing something on a schedule, BMW engineers had to first liberate the early molds from Italy and then find someone who could produce the car. Ultimately, it was a combination of ItalDesign in Turin, Marchesi metal working in Modena to build the frames and Karosserie Baur in Stuttgart that stuck the M1 together. Though it doesn’t exactly sound like a match made in heaven, and indeed the M1 was a relative sales flop, it has nonetheless grown to cult status as one of the most user-friendly supercars of the late 1970s:
The M3 Convertible isn’t a car I spend a lot of time on. However, the recipe is hard to argue with; you get the beautiful lines of the E46 mated to the sonorous S54 with limitless sky over your head at the touch of a button. When this car was new, it was the fastest production 4-seat convertible available, though at nearly $60,000 it was hardly cheap. Fast forward to today, and it’s generally become the cheapest way to experience BMW’s gem of a motor in the ultimate development of the naturally aspirated inline-6.
Though I don’t write of them often, I do keep my eye on them from time to time. And today’s particular 2003 is a very special package. Presented in Oxford Green Metallic over Cinnamon leather, visually this car is quite a looker. Inside you’ll find a 6-speed manual, too, and a few choice options and modifications have this one looking impressive. Is it the one to buy?
The E86 Z4 was a fairly radical departure from the E36/8 that it replaced. In many ways, the Z3 was born out of a series of spare parts and in some ways almost seemed an afterthought. It wasn’t as innovated as the Z1 and while the original M Coupe has become a fan favorite, the Z3 just overall seemed the odd-man out in the BMW lineup. On top of that, the design just overall hasn’t aged particularly well in my mind. But in 2002, the redesigned Anders Warming penned E85 Z4 roadster launched. It was bigger in every dimension, with cutting edge new styling that managed to incorporate both round and angular designs into one fluid package that somehow worked well. Over a decade on, it still looks quite new to me – one of the best tests of the staying power of a design. Also one of the best tests is that it was somewhat controversial at the time, but by 2006 and the launch of the M models most critics were convinced that it was a nice package. The addition of the stellar S54 powertrain certainly didn’t hurt, and with just 1,800 examples of the new Coupe design in the U.S., it was guaranteed classic status.
Despite the limited production numbers, neat looks, and legendary power plant, getting into a Z4 M Coupe won’t break the bank today. And if you’re willing to accept a less-than-perfect example, you can have one for a relative song:
Launched in 1992 for U.S. shores, the third generation 3-series instantly cemented itself as the new benchmark. In fact, for all of the attention fawned on ‘God’s Chariot’ (the E30), the reality is that the 3-series didn’t appear on notoriously BMW-leaning Car and Driver‘s Ten-Best list until the 1992 model year. Equipped with the M50 DOHC 189 horsepower inline-6, the modern yet still driver-oriented design would go on to become a regular thereafter. They were a sales success too, and like the E30 was for some time, they’re currently being largely ignored in the used market. After all, if you can get a clean M3 in the teens, why would you buy a 325i instead?
Well, this one is an interesting counterpoint. Someone obviously loved it a lot, and this E36 convertible is chock-full of options and neat accessories. And, it’s only got 18,000 miles:
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!
Having just looked at a few modded fails, I think it’s relevant to remind ourselves that not all modified cars are in bad taste! And where better to start than one of the most popular classics that people like to customize; the BMW 2002.
A few months back I took a look at a wild Zender-bodied example that pulled it all together rather well, if a bit extreme:
1973 BMW 2002tii Zender Widebody
Today’s example is one year newer and a lot more tame, but no less shouty. This example has undergone the knife and come out sporting Turbo-style flares, an M42 DOHC inline-4, and a host of other mods all draped in Porsche’s Miami Blue. Does it pull it off?
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: