Crazy though it may sound, this E36 – priced at $24,000 – may actually be a reasonable deal. Wind the clock back a few years, and that statement was inconceivable; E36s were relegated to the bargain basement of BMW M pricing. That’s not the case anymore, though, as pricing has been trending sharply upwards – recently a few non-Lightweight examples have crested $60,000 sales after fees. Hard to believe? Well, perhaps more a sign of the trends, but finding a neat and clean E36 is certainly no longer as easy as it once was, and early examples are – amazingly – able to be registered as antiques in more than a few states.
So here we are, with a very shouty Dakar Yellow ’94. And if you know E36 M3s, you know that a pre-’95 model year automatically means one important thing – European specification. Well, at least it should mean that. Let’s take a look:
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 to create the S14 from the M88; 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. The original purchaser went fairly light on options; it’s got cloth seats, no sunroof, no navigation…in fact, really pretty few options were ticked. But one significant one was; of the 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, and this is one of 43 that were finished in Dakar Yellow.
For some time, there was a giant gulf in between European-spec cars and U.S. spec cars. Granted, part of that divide still exists today if the large assortment of cars that do not make it to these shores, but at least enthusiasts can rejoice that at last – for the most part – performance versions that are available in Germany are very close to the same that we receive here. One of the last notable cars to exhibit the large divide was the E36 M3; while Europeans enjoyed over 280 horsepower from the individual throttle body S50B30 in 1992, the later released U.S. spec M3 carried an entirely different motor with some 40 horsepower less. Though the S50B30US is certainly a great motor by itself, the knowledge that the “better” version existed across the pond somehow took a bit of legitimacy away from it for a lot of fans of the marque. Also differentiating the European versions were better floating rotor brakes, better glass headlights, better lower and stiffer suspension; you get the point. We could bang on all day about how the US-spec model was pretty much as quick as the Euro cars, is a lot cheaper to run, and is…well, you know, already here. But when a Euro car pops up for sale, I still take time to take notice, and it’s hard not to notice this Dakar Yellow ’93: