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.
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 5/7/19: This beautiful low-option E92 is on to a new owner!
While there’s no doubt that the E9x M3 was instantly recognizable as the replacement for the outgoing E46 model, there was an inconvenient truth that had snuck into the lineup: weight. Part of what had made the E30 such a curb-hopping maniac was that lack of heft even with all the accoutrements. By the time the E92 launched, the M3 had put on nearly 800 lbs of weight.
To motivate it the extra mass, BMW did effectively what it had done with the S14; it took its top-tier motor in the S85 V10 and removed two cylinders. The result was the S65 V8, and 414 horsepower was on tap for your right foot’s pleasure. That was a monumental leap from the E46; when the E46 launched with 93 horsepower more than the prior generation, I thought there was no way BMW could do it again. But they did, tacking on 81 horsepower to the prior generation’s total without forced induction. BMW topped the E46’s specific output per liter, too, besting 103 in the E9x – in a package which was 40 lbs lighter despite two more cylinders. Impressive, indeed.
Granted, if you were plunking down $60,000-odd worth of your hard earned credit, you’d want amenities like power seats, a nice radio, air conditioning – the normals that made it a better road car to live with day-to-day. But if you were clever in the boxes you ticked, you could still get the essence of what made the M3 the greatest car in its segment without a lot of frills. First would be the Competition Package, which gave you more variability on the suspension and more sideways action from the dynamic stability control. You got bigger wheels and stickier, wider tires to make use of that harder suspension.
Tick the 7-speed M-DCT dual-clutch transmission, and that track-readiness was taken to the next level. Then, you’d want to stop right about there. Of course, few people selected such a targeted, bare-bones performance oriented M3 out of the gate, which makes finding one today difficult:
Let’s say you want to start a car collection, and for ease of argument’s sake, let’s say you’re really into BMWs. Which is the model you want? You could be a 507 enthusiast, love the classic 3.0 CSL or 2002, envy every E30 or lust over the modern muscle the company produces. But odds are if you’re reading these pages you, like me, gravitate towards BMW’s Motorsport models.
Within the Pantheon of classic models, there then comes the difficult decisions. How do you choose between the E30 M3 and the 1M, for example? Well, Enthusiast Auto Group has a suggestion. Why not have them both? Or, even better, why not assemble all of the greatest hits from BMW’s M division over the past 40 years and put them together into one curated, turn-key package?
To me, this M3 is a very interesting counterpoint to yesterday’s RS6. Many aspects are the same; pristine original condition, lower mileage, mid-2000s leading edge performance car.
It’s there where the similarities end.
While the RS6 represented the stepping over a threshold of performance into a war of escalation, the E46 M3 was, in many ways, BMW’s equivalent of the Porsche 993. It was the ultimate development of the normally aspirated inline-6, and to many (this author included), it was the best of the breed.
The third generation M3 is simply a marvel. It took the basic layout of its predecessor and improved essentially every aspect. The E36 wasn’t aggressive looking enough? Fixed. The motor wasn’t the technical marvel that was the European version? Fixed that, too. And the build quality and plastic materials in the second generation were a bit lacking? Solved that one, as well.
Are there drawbacks to the E46? Sure, it only came in two-door guise. There are also some known weaknesses in the chassis, like the subframe problems that can be a costly repair. The S54 is also a more expensive motor to repair than the S50/52 had been, and requires more maintenance (and, super costly oil).
But enough gripes, because while there isn’t a collector market for 2000s Audis, the E46 never really went through the dip in value that the E36 did. Prime examples have always demanded strong money and appear to be on the rise, with several notable auctions recently hammering for ever increasing numbers. Today’s example comes from the end of the line for the E46, and is about as desirable as they come to market. One of 2943 A08 Silvergray Metallic coupes imported, it has the desirable N51M Imola leather interior, the even more desirable 6-speed manual transmission and equally sought ZCP Competition package, and it’s only traveled a reported 11,600 miles since new.
I’ve been on a bit of a yellow kick as of late, but even I was surprised when I came upon this BMW 1M. To date, I had not seen a BMW Individual painted 1M Coupe and to spy one in Dakar Yellow seemed especially amazing. Even more amazing was the price; despite only 35,000 miles on the clock, this E87 seemed priced to move at only $50,000 – some $20,000 less than other examples on the market. It was clearly worth a bit of further investigation…
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 340 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:
Over the past few years, I’ve increasingly noticed mainstream dealers taking their wares to eBay. Usually we don’t cover these cars much – frankly, as a new car, basically you don’t need us to find it for you. Anyone can pop on to their marque of choice and dream away with the builds. But this particular M3 caught my attention because of two reasons; first, the screaming Fire Orange II paint from BMW Individual, and second – the price; at $110,000, nearly double the standard MSRP on a F80 M3. What’s going on?
Hardly out of production, journalists and enthusiasts alike are already calling the last of the naturally aspirated M3s a classic in the making. Some have even gone so far as to call the E9x M3 the best M product BMW has produced. Certainly it was a screamer, with butch good looks to back up the impressive power chops on tap from the S65 V8. As always, I’m drawn to the more unusual colors offered through BMW’s Individual program and today’s example is a pretty interesting one. Apparently, dissatisfied with the yellow-toned options from BMW’s own color catalogue, the buyer of this particular M3 asked BMW to head to the Black Forest and it came back with Speed Yellow from Zuffenhausen. A vibrant tone more piercing than Dakar but not as orange as Atacama, does this E92 light up your sky?