1995 BMW M3 Lightweight

E36 M3s are garbage

You know you’ve seen the internet comments, probably more than once. Odds are, people saying that don’t own or haven’t owned a M3 at all, and more than likely even if they do, they haven’t owned an E36. But there was some weight behind the claim that in some regards the US-market E36 M3 was the least M3ish of all of the generations, and generally speaking they’ve remained the cheapest. That is, all except for one.

The Lightweight was a 1995 homologation special model with aluminum doors, a sport suspension, a shorter rear axle ratio, and an adjustable aerodynamic package. Deleted was the air conditioning, sunroof, and radio as well as some sound deadening, and rumor has it that the S50s were hand-picked for each of the 126 produced. These have been steadily climbing in price, and last year I was pretty shocked to see the asking price of one I looked at crack $100,000. But I don’t think anyone was ready for the results of the ex-Paul Walker group of five in January. If you weren’t paying attention, two hit $220,000, then $242,000, then $258,000. But the gem was the super low-mileage example that hammered for an absolutely astonishing $358,000 after premium. Mouth firmly agape yet?

So it’s no surprise that some of the lesser examples have come out of the woodwork, and this might be the lesser of the lesser. It’s a tired, slightly rusty, blown motor example – but it’s all there, and ready to be restored. What’s the ask?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW M3 Lightweight on eBay

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1998 BMW M3 Sedan

So the E30 M3 is probably out of your league, and clean examples of the E46 generation are getting more expensive by the day. The solution is still the E36. The Internet will make arguments all day long about how this car isn’t as special as the ones that came before and after, but the reality is that it’s still a M3. And you could make a compelling argument that it did (and still does) a better job of bringing sports car performance to a practical package that’s affordable to almost everyone. The S52 3.2 liter inline-6 doesn’t sound as great on paper as the race-derived S14, but it had two more peak horsepower than that strung out four. More telling was torque; 236 lb.ft at 3,800 rpms versus the Sport Evolution’s 177 lb.ft at 4,700 rpms. Yes, it was heavier; the curb weight of the M3 Sedan you see here was about 3,200 lbs. But the additional power made up for it, and the results should be no surprise. 0-60 was dealt with over 1/2 a second quicker than the Sport, a gap that was maintained right through the quarter mile.

And practicality? It’s no contest, really. Not only is the E36 safer, but the E36 added 4-doors to the recipe. Not to mention the costs to keep one running – check out the price of a S14 rebuild today, for example. Owning a legend often doesn’t come cheap, and in this case you the current bid on this 48,000 mile 1998 M3 is cheaper than what a proper rebuild of the race motor will cost you.

Then there’s the driving experience. Downgraded ///motor be damned, these cars are absolutely stellar to drive. I’ve driven each of the first three generations of M3 on track in anger, and the second doesn’t give up much to the bookends. It’s not as toss-able as the original nor as powerful as the third, but overall it’s right there. The steering is near telepathic, the shifting precise, the power band broad. It’s a deceptively good car and deserves far better than the treatment it’s currently getting, which is to mostly be ignored in the marketplace:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW M3 Sedan on eBay

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1998 BMW 318ti

I must admit I had a soft spot for the E36/5 when it first came to our market. To me, it combined some luxury looks with practical performance. And when I say performance, honestly there wasn’t much available. The M44 engine that was fit to the 318ti was a decent performer, but it had only 138 horsepower, and at the price point you were much better off getting a GTi VR6, which oddly was more luxury oriented than most of the 318tis and offered more performance. However, the base of the 318ti was a good idea; a smart looking, light and nimble hatchback with a manual transmission and rear drive. This one has some strong positives going for it, but just one thing is missing…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW 318ti on eBay

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1994 Alpina B3 3.0

When BMW upped its game in the E36 chassis with the introduction of the M3, specialty tuner Alpina answered with the B3 3.0 and later 3.2 in step with BMW. The successor of the slightly less powerful B6 model, the B3 kept many of the same improvements to the E36 chassis unique stabilizers, springs and shocks, and larger brakes. Inside the B3 received the normal Alpina-style shift knob, steering wheel and seats, and in their typical style Alpina provided unique front and rear spoilers along with their own badging. Of course, the package was rounded out by some of the best looking wheels ever fit to a BMW. While the B3 was down on power to the European M3 3.2, it wasnt really much slower again in typical Alpina fashion, the car was tuned to make the most of the power that was available rather than just provide a shockingly high output number. A reported 1,000 of these ultra-exclusive B3s were produced, with about 2/3rds of those being the earlier 3.0 model, and in four different configurations – Coupe, Cabriolet, Touring and Sedan. This is one of the 741 3.0s made of which 339 were sedans, and it poses the interesting question – would you rather have this or the European-spec M3 I just looked at?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 Alpina B3 3.0 on eBay

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1994 Mercedes-Benz E36 AMG Cabriolet

Update 5/7/19: This E36 AMG Cabriolet sold for approximately $36,000.

RM Sotheby’s is going all-in on their Youngtimers Collection auction on April 11th in Essen, Germany which features 85 cars from the ’80s, 90s and 2000s that will make your heart bleed. As much as I’d like to go through all of those cars, because believe me, there are some gems, I’d thought I would pick one or two to take a closer look at. Today’s car is a very rare 1994 Mercedes-Benz E36 AMG Cabriolet. This car was originally delivered to Luxembourg of all places and is reportedly only one of 68 W124 E36 AMG Cabriolets ever built. It is painted in one of my favorite colors, Malachite Green Metallic, and has everything you could want from a 90s AMG car. How much is this predicted to hammer for? Quite a lot. I guess I’m not the only one drooling over this car.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 Mercedes-Benz E36 AMG Cabriolet at RM Sotheby’s

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1999 BMW M3 Convertible with 3,800 Miles

Its interesting to consider how enthusiasts today view the E36 M3. Generally speaking, youre either a completely devoted fan who insists that the E36 is not only the best M3, but perhaps the best BMW ever made. Why stop there? Why not go straight for best car in the history of the world, ever? On the other side of the coin, detractors love to point out that the second M3 was softened up for the U.S. market, that it wasnt as potent, as pure, as Motorsporty as the original curb-hopping, box-flared legend.

Arguably, theyre both right. Its certainly true that BMW made the decision to tone down the M3 for North American consumption. That was a really good thing for two reasons: one, that we got it at all, and two, that it remained affordable. Consider, for a moment, that the E30 M3 had grown quite expensive to sport all of that motorsport heritage. By 1991, the base price of the M3 was $35,900. Of course, it was competing against even more expensive cars like the Porsche 944S2, which was a further $10,000 more dear. While we can talk about driving spirit all day long, if we look at the fact sheets what you got was a bit soggy in comparison to todays cars. Inflation corrected, the M3 would be around $62,000 pretty much spot on the entry price for todays M3. The new car has more than double the horsepower of the original and enough tech to launch all of the Apollo program missions.

So what was really exciting when the new M3 was launched in late 1994 was that price point; $36,000. That was some $14,000 less expensive than the European model, and yet performance was within a few clicks thanks to a revised version of the 325i M50 engine. In fact, many including notoriously BMW-savvy Car and Driver suggested that the U.S. spec M3 was a better choice than the more exotic Euro model for our roads.

Today, the E36 M3 remains for many the smart choice within the lineup. Long overlooked as the obvious choice, prices have remained low relative to its predecessor and even its replacement. Modern comparisons often skip the E36 entirely. But that doesnt mean all E36s are affordable:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 BMW M3 Convertible on eBay

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1997 BMW M3

Update 1/17/19: Blast from the past! After nearly four years, this Hamann-modified Technoviolet E36 M3 (originally Arctic Silver Metallic) is back on the market. It is listed as having only 400 more miles than in 2015, and the price is up from $20,000 to $24,595 today.

Out of the box, the BMW E36 M3 offered almost everything a serious motorist could want. A lusty inline-6, slick manual gearbox and beefed up body cladding to differentiate itself from the lesser models on which it was based. But there’s always customers out there who want just a bit more or prefer to tinker with their ride a bit to stand out from the crowd. This 1997 BMW M3 comes to us from our friends at Sun Valley Auto Club and is equipped with a Hamann body kit and Hamann PG3 wheels, along with Sparco seats and H&R springs. Added in to the mix is a hue of purple that will certainly grab your attention.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW M3 on eBay

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1994 BMW 316i Baur TC4

Karosserie Baur in Stuttgart had a unique history of working directly with manufacturers to produce some pretty special cars. Most notably linked to the Baur name was a string of interesting but also-ran BMW 3-series convertibles. However, three of the most prized 80s German collector cars in the market today were also linked to the firm; first the BMW M1 after Lamborghini’s meltdown, and then Audi’s shortened Sport Quattro rolled through the special production line. Baur also constructed the special bodies of the Porsche 959.

However, Baur is linked most closely with offering drop-top BMWs to a market devoid of such options. First was the E10 chassis, with Baur chopping the top off of everything from 1602s to 2002s. Baur then moved on to the E21 chassis, offering the ‘Top Cabriolet’ TC1. The E30 also recieved the Baur treatment , but by that point BMW had released its own convertible model and the draw of the more expensive TC models waned, leading to a steadily disappearing market share. Perhaps the most unique was their last BMW creation. Based upon the E36 chassis, Baur released what it called the ‘Landaulet TC4’. It was effectively a 4-door E36 Targa (Porsche’s use of the Targa name was proprietary which prevented Baur from using it) and just over 300 were produced, making it one of the most rare E36 chassis configurations to see:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW 316i Baur TC4 on eBay

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Motorsports Monday: BMW Legends Collection

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?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: The Collection of BMW Legends at Enthusiast Auto Group

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A BMW for every budget: M Roadster Roundup

The E36/7 M Roadster remains an interesting microcosm of not only BMW, but more specifically BMW M, products. Similar to the SLK and Boxster, the Roadster offers you a unique experience and expression of your favorite brand. But because “true enthusiasts” don’t value you them as much, these models often come to market below the value of similar models. While the E36 M3 Coupe is enjoying an uptick in value and the E36/8 M Coupe has been more highly prized, it’s possible to get a lower mileage and great condition Roadster for less money still though the experience is quite similar.

Today I’ve stitched together three interesting examples – one for every budget. From a very inexpensive example through an unusual low-mileage collector, which one grabs your eye?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 BMW M Roadster on eBay

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