Update 9/15/18: This M3 remains available at $8,500
An interesting counterpoint to yesterday’s no reserve M3 is, obviously, how much other generations of M3s cost. Like yesterday’s E30, today’s follow up needs little introduction as it’s been a fan favorite since day one. So how does this car compare to yesterday’s market hero?
Well, on paper the E36 is a better car. It’s quicker because it’s got more power. It’s cheaper to maintain. It’s no less adept in corners. And while it wasn’t quite the benchmark on international courses that the first generation was, the E36 was no slouch at the track either and is still a favorite weapon of amateurs and professionals alike.
This particular M3 stacks up pretty well against yesterday’s car. As with yesterday, it’s claimed to completely original though it’s clearly had some modifications. It’s also got about the same mileage at 126,500. And attract attention? Surely few will have difficulty spotting you in the stunning shade of Daytona Violet, here equipped with manual black leather Vaders. But the key yesterday was price, and here it is again:
The takeaway from my recent E36 M3 Double Take was that many sellers were looking for strong money, but if you looked you could still find some deals on the third generation 3-series M. Some searching yielded a 70,000 mile Boston Green ’97 M3/4/5 Sedan. Clean and a desirable model on its own, it still sold for only $10,800. With asks for normal E30 325iS generally higher than that, where does the follow-up model lay?
That model is this E36 325. 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 reality is that the 3-series didn’t appear on notoriously BMW-leaning Car and Driver 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 for $11,000, why would you buy a 325iS?
Because they’re a damn good car in their own right, and they’re also damn cheap – if you can find a clean one:
Update 1/25/2018 – the first of this duo has dropped in price from $19,997 to $17,997.
Recently I found myself looking through some old car literature I had amassed over the years. In particular, I was completely enamored with the brand-new E36 M3 when it launched on U.S. shores. I’m not sure why, but of all the E36 variants that were produced, that first-year M has always stuck out to me as the most desirable in the lineup. And now as these cars are on the verge of being considered “antique” and with the E30 market still silly (and the E46 market rising), these early Coupes seem like a great balance of driving, collector-potential and somewhat reasonable pricing.
I say ‘somewhat’ because sellers have steadily been raising the bar to the point where it almost feels like price fixing. When I looked for ’95s on eBay the other day, I started laughing – there were five listed, and their prices were all within $1,000 of each other – and none were cheap. So with that in mind today I’m looking at twin Alpine White ’95s. They’re almost identically equipped. They’re priced within $2 of each other. That’s not a misprint – only a small coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts divides the asks on these two. But there’s a huge difference in mileage; some 60,000 between these two. So clearly the one with lower mileage is automatically the better bet, right?
Not so fast…
Looking for a subtle performance sedan? Today’s not your day.
You probably haven’t heard of iDing Power, because odds are that if you’re reading this you don’t live in Japan. And even if you’re an afficiando of M3s, you’d probably dismiss this particular car as a M3 GTR replica for the street like I did. But this car is far more than that, and much more interesting.
The M3 GTR launched in 1994, and the United States did (technically) see it in the form of the Prototype Technology Group-run team in IMSA race series. The same year in Japan, iDing Power revealed the plans for their turned-up E36 M3. They had acquired an early production second generation model; production started for the E36 M3 in February, 1992 – and the particular example you see here was produced on February 3, 1993. iDing then added a plethora of unique touches, from upgraded suspension, wheels and brakes, special interior items, and some body modifications. By “some”, of course it’s hard to look past the W201 190E-Evo inspired rear wing and massive tacked-on flares. iDing also took the S50B30 European motor, rated at 286 horsepower stock, and modified it to a claimed 330 horsepower. iDing widebodies are pretty rare finds, but even among them this one is particularly special. With only 7,600 miles on the odometer, this example appears to be the original prototype and test car:
As they had with the first generation, with the E36 BMW continued the tradition of chopping the top off its curb-hopping M3 to alter the character of the model substantially. The resulting “BK” models are the least produced of the second generation. In European form, some 3,800 were produced with a bulk of them heading to England starting in 1996. The U.S. model began production as the model’s run came to a close; in March 1998, the first of what would become 6,269 U.S. spec 3.2 M3 Convertibles rolled off the production lines in Regensburg. That meant the M3 outlasted normal E36 production, as if you walked into a dealer you’d find the all-new E46 model being sold along side these topless M3s. As they came towards the end of production, most of these M3s came as well-equipped as the E36 was available, and options included forged M-Double Spoke wheels and a removable hardtop. Extra bracing went in to stiffen the chassis, which resulted in a 10% weight penalty and slower performance – but I’d wager that wasn’t on most buyer’s minds. Of the just over 6,000 models sold here, the majority – about 60% at 4,017 – were sold with the 5-speed automatic. So today’s example is already in the minority; a last year example, it’s also a 5-speed. But to push it just that little more over the top, it’s also in the rare shade of 386 Fern Green Metallic:
For the 1996 model year, BMW replaced the 325 with the lightly revised 328 model. Power was up with the new M52B28, good for 190 horsepower and 210 lb.ft of torque. Although the new motor represented only a 1 horsepower net gain, there was now 15% more torque and a broader, more usable power band with the M52. That change alone was enough to slash the best part of a second off the 0-60 time, which now came in 7.3 rather than 8 seconds. The motor was much more than just an increase in displacement; lighter internals, revised intake and exhaust and dual oxygen sensors meant it was more efficient and smoother, too. New wheels, body-color lower moldings and revised kidneys were met with, amazingly, a lower price point as the base price of the 328 coupe fell a little over $500 to approximately $33,000.
‘Meet the new Boss’ continued to be the theme for the 3-series then, which remained the benchmark by which all others were judged. Car and Driver pronounced the chassis as “the definitive sports sedan” and the 328 and M3 models continued their dominance of the magazine’s perennial 10 Best list. That this proclamation came from notorious Bavarian-leaning C&D is perhaps no surprise, but what may shock some is that the 3-series didn’t appear as a winner until the E36 chassis in 1992, while it would go on to place an astonishing and unmatched 22 times.
Yet despite their prowess, we tend to only focus on one model in the range – the M3. Perhaps that’s because of their prolific production, perhaps because of their relative affordability; likely we just take it for granted because the 3-series seems to be ageless in its competency. Certainly, it’s an injustice to the normal 325/328 models, in their own right an excellent choice for enthusiasts. So it was with a big grin that this lovely example of the Coupe came across our feed:
Last November, I took a look at what was to me a very eye-catching and interesting M Roadster. The E36/7 is still a fairly polarizing design, but as with many models there are signature colors which help to make it both stand out from the rest of the crowd and, in some ways, make it more desirable. For the M Roadster and Coupe, color-matched interior was available on Imola Red, Estoril Blue, and perhaps the most outlandish color – Evergreen Metallic. Finding one of the twin Evergreens can be difficult; only a claimed 176 of color 358 Evergreen Metallic with the Q6EV Evergreen/Black Nappa interior were produced for the U.S. market. I looked at one in November of last year:
Evergreen Forest: 1998 BMW M Roadster
While that example was quite clean and, as what was probably a former press vehicle, it had an interesting history, the asking price was close to top-dollar for a S52 equipped car. But today I have a comparative point; another ’98 Evergreen/Evergreen M Roadster. But under the hood lies something a bit more potent….
While you’re no doubt familiar with the great lament of the de-tuned E36 M3 and the inflated price of the very limited Lightweight model, Europe enjoyed a full spectrum of Motorsport performance. One of the potent additions to the lineup was that of the M3 GT. Intended to homologate racing bits and aerodynamic tweaks for the E36, 350 limited BF99 examples were produced in early 1995. The motor was turned up to 295 horsepower with hotter cams, special oil pumps and Motorsport oil pan and revised computer controls. They also had stiffened and lowered suspension, a strut brace and a 3.23 final drive. Outside new spoilers front and rear increased downforce, and like the Lightweight the GT wore the M forged double spoke staggered wheels. Harder to spot were the aluminum doors the car wore to help keep weight down. All were painted 312 British Racing Green and featured Mexico Green Nappa leather interior with Alcantara bolsters, special Motorsports badging and carbon fiber trim.
They’re a very special and rarely seen variant of the E36 M3, and increasingly in this collector market that means a higher asking price:
The first BMW to arrive in our family was an Arctic Silver E36. My dad bought the 318iS coupe from the British telecom giant he worked for, some time toward the end of the 90s. It was a manager’s company car and after three years serving on the fleet it was to be sold off. Ever since then, I’ve always enjoyed seeing arctic silver paint on this generation 3-series. Despite articles proclaiming that silver is the new beige, I think the color really suits the clean, crisp lines of the “dolphin” body shape. But the paintwork isn’t the only thing to admire about this particular car – an M3/4/5 (a four door, five speed M3). The sedan version of the E36 M3 is as fast and finely balanced as the coupe, but adds the practicality of two rear doors. A pocket rocket for those with a family to cart around, these cars are fun and practical, even if they are notably down on power in comparison with their Euro-spec counterparts.
As the E30 remains unreachable and E46 pricing quickly heads upwards, the E36 remains a slightly less-appreciated alternative that is affordable for most enthusiasts. While it’s still possible to find wrecks of the popular chassis for only a few thousand dollars, if you’re willing to spend a bit more you can still find reasonably priced and clean examples. Admittedly, the pool is drying up as speculating vultures start to circle what was once an oasis of cheap speed. But this early ’95 in a fetching (and rare) color combination is more than just a distant mirage: