Though not as familiar as Alpina, Hartge was another tuner who took BMWs to a higher level. Starting in the early 1970s, they similarly modified cars with higher output motors, special suspension and body kits, and even eventually their own wheel line. In 1985 Hartge was granted special production status in Germany, but their volume never approached that of their rivals. As a result, it’s a bit of a special treat anytime a fully modified Hartge turns up.
The E30 Hartge range was fairly similar to Alpina’s C and B range, with designations associated with their engine displacement. From the 170 horsepower H23 to the 210 horsepower H27, tuned versions of the M20 were employed – some with unique individual throttle bodies, bespoke exhaust manifolds and camshafts, and other trick items. But Hartge also stuck the M30 in the chassis, creating this car – the H28 – and an even more potent H35. The H28 was rated at 210 horsepower – a 70 horsepower upgrade from the stock 323i on which the car was based – and also was met with upgraded suspension, differential, wheels and tires, brakes and body kit. Like Alpina, you could buy many of these parts piecemeal from authorized sellers, making fully modified factory Hartges quite rare:
Update 11/17/19: This beautiful Euro-spec E28 528i that I wrote up over the summer is still for sale. The seller contacted us and let us know it is still available and you can email them directly by clicking HERE. He’s willing to entertain reasonable offers and answer any questions about the car and work performed. GLWS, Gary – we wish we had room in the garage to grab this one!
The E28 will undoubtedly go down in automotive history as one of the most-loved chassis from BMW. Like its even more versatile little brother the E30, the E28 was a huge step forward in performance, driving dynamics and build quality from the E12. Classic looks defined the brand, while multiple different engines allowed a variety of budgets to experience the Teutonic design. And, like the E30, the E28 introduced the world to the first full M branding, raising the bar and defining the luxury sports sedan full-stop.
Some 31 years on from the last E28s rolling out of showrooms, prime examples still are stealing the stage in the classic BMW market. Pristine M5s still lead the charge but even very clean custom E28s can bid to high numbers. Today we have just that – a very clean, Euro-spec ’84 528i with some period modifications in a color combination that really helps it stand out:
As ’80s-All-Things-M-Mania’ has continued, getting into a clean E28 M5 is increasingly difficult – and expensive. Decently clean original M5s now start around $30,000 and can head up from there, with really exceptional examples selling for $50,000 or more. Didn’t this used to be the “cheap” M? Those days have passed and don’t show signs of returning soon.
What’s an enthusiast to do? Well, you could build your own. It’s not cheap or easy, but hey – if you’re in it to win it, why not see if you can source all the parts yourself? Or (and this is a much better option…) you buy one that has already been converted to M-specs. To maximize your investment, look for one with a rare set of parts attached, and preferably in European guise. Luckily, today we don’t have to look too far:
We last got to look at a modified E30 through the disappointing realization that finally after years of trying to sell with different dealers, the car listed as an Alpina C2 2.5 was just a very convincing replica. But as noted, the car was clean and wore a lot of really expensive Alpina bits – so while the price tag of $22,800 seemed high for a replica, it was in some ways amazingly justified.
So what happens when the car in question is a real Alpina? We find out when we look at an actual Alpina C2. The asking price in that case was nearly double at $39,500. And when you factor in that the C2 is one of the less desirable E30 Alpinas out there, that’s drawn into sharper contrast.
So here we are again with another Alpina to consider, but it’s not alone. One of our readers spotted a Hartge H26 – an even more rare to see variant of modified 1980s E30. And to kick the rarity up a few notches, both are 4-doors instead of the usual 2-door sedans. So how do they compare in terms of pricing, and are these cars all that they seem?
So much attention has been levied upon the BMW M Coupe that it’s easy to forget there was a non-M version of the E36/8. Equipped with the grunty, 190 horsepower dual-VANOS 24 valve M52/TU in front, a manual gearbox in the middle, and a standard sport differential in the rear, the Z3 Coupe offered high fun factor that wasn’t really present at the original launch of the model. The M52/TU lightened the load as well, swapping the M50 iron block for an aluminum one also seen in the contemporary E46 model. That was coupled with the dynamic shape of the “Clownshoe”; polarizing in looks, but hardly forgettable no matter your opinion. These have become niche cars that buck the traditional SUV-laden commute, yet are reasonably affordable and eminently practical as a daily driver:
Here at GCFSB, we feature a lot of cars. Since I started writing for this site, I’ve composed some 1,773 articles, a fair amount of which cover more than one car. So it would be easy to forget that you’d already seen a car. That would especially be the case if a fair amount of time had passed since you last saw it and it was a relatively plain-jane looking model.
Enter this 1989 535i in Cirrus Blue Metallic. Outside of Hartge wheels, it’s pretty unassuming. That is, except for the “Dinan” badge on the left side of the trunk.
It’s that Dinan badge which unlocks a world of performance that otherwise is the domain of M models, and this sleeper package with low reported miles seems to be a pretty compelling alternative. Immediately, I recognized this car but knew it had been a bit since I last saw it. Since it was originally featured in March of 2014, very little has changed – the seller utilized the same photos and much of the same description from the original ad, disappointingly. He reports about 500 more miles in two and a half years, and unsurprisingly the price has dropped little. The auction is no reserve with an $11,250 starting bid – only about $750 less than the original ask. As the market on E34s really hasn’t improved greatly since then outside of some exceptional M5s, I’d wager this automatic 535i – even with the Dinan provenance – will have trouble this time around, too.
The below post originally appeared on our site March 11, 2014:
We’ve seen some great full-on Hartge automobiles here, and they’ve always struck me as an interesting (if not quite as desirable) alternative to Alpina. This 325is has no real Hartge provenance, but has had enough hard-to-find and period-correct pieces retrofitted to warrant mentioning. The factory original M-Tech II bodykit and cloth interior are nearly as desirable as the Hartge pieces, painting a picture of an owner who has spent a ton of time and effort sourcing parts to put together his perfect 325is. No doubt this is a gorgeous and carefully-composed love letter to the E30, but $21k is a lot of money for a 325is with 166k miles!
In my ongoing quest to get into a newer BMW, one car that keeps popping up is the 1 series E82 Coupe. The reason why is pretty simple; value. I love cars with the M badge, but it’s sometimes hard to justify the premium, and looking through the E46 market is a bit like one of those Sarah McLachlin-soundtracked mistreated animal commercials. Too many have suffered heavy modifications, mistreatment, and the number of salvage titles must exceed any other specific model – it’s simply amazing. In contrast, many of the 135is are just leaving their first owners as they begin to head into the used car market, meaning there are plenty of examples in good shape, with good owner history and with lower miles. Still, the E82 doesn’t really get me warm and fuzzy; I once described it as a E46 M3 that was in the middle of a 3-car pileup and then repaired by a high-school autobody shop as a project. It just doesn’t look quite right to my eyes, with the bending rocker accentuating the short wheelbase, while the “I’m somewhat surprised” look of the too-large and too-upright headlights begs for some internet meme action. However, once in a while one catches my eye and strikes me as a compelling alternative to a M3. With the twin-turbocharged N54 under the hood coupled to a manual transmission, you got the same feel as the E46 M. Couple that with some attractive visual changes from BMW specialist Hartge along with a bump in power, and suddenly you have a much neater package:
Two S85 V10 swapped 3 series in a week? Sure, we can do that! The crazy Hartge-modified H50 built on a base 325 is back and now for sale on eBay. The “Buy It Now” is the same $105,000 asking price as last winter, and with no new photos still this one is still a bit of a head scratcher in a few ways – especially since you can grab a S85 V10 M5 in the $20K range now. But it’s rare, it’s fast, and I’m sure there are still a host of people who’d like it – I’m just not sure at this price, though.
The below post originally appeared on our site December 14, 2014:
Hartge has never really enjoyed the popularity of Alpina, just as the E34 doesn’t enjoy the popularity of the bookends to its production run – the E28 and E39. There are a myriad of reasons for both occurrences, but the result is that for the discerning individual who would like a potential future classic on an affordable budget, the E34 is a great chassis to consider. Solid build quality, good looks and plenty of luxury combined for a genuinely lovely experience. Even in the small motored 525i, the E34 was an entertaining drive when coupled with a manual transmission – I spent many hours at the wheel of the 1995 example my family owned for several years, and while a few times I wished it was an M5, I never was really left disappointed. Move to the bigger brother 535i and you’ve got more go under your right foot – and if you introduce a host of Hartge bits coupled with a Japanese build from famed tuner Tommykaira, you’ve got one interesting and future collectable driver’s car: