When the W126 S-class first appeared in the USÂ in the early 80s, the most powerfulÂ gasoline model available,Â theÂ 380SEL, proved a bit of a disappointment. The 3.8 liter V8 engineÂ produced a relatively paltry 155 hp, prompting wealthy American buyers to go to the trouble of importing the more powerful 500SEL from Europe. These cars, initially unavailable in the US, were powered by a 5.0 liter V8 whichÂ produced a much more respectable 240 hp. In fact,Â the gray market demand for the 500SEL turned out to be soÂ strong that ultimately Mercedes-Benz of North America relented, and began officially bringing them to the US from 1984-85Â (in 1986Â they were phased out in favor of the 560SEL). Still, EuroÂ 500s remained an attractive proposition: making roughly about the same power as the US 560s, they had slimmer bumpers and more attractive glass headlights.Â That may explain why thisÂ ’86 Euro-spec model was imported to the US in 1987, by a high-level German banker no less.
Nate has been on a run of covering some great classic Alpina models, and it’s very easy to see the appeal of the brand. Their tried and true recipe of taking the motor out of a higher-end model and swapping it into the smaller chassis might have seemed a simple task, but the execution of Alpina was always top notch and the results were undeniable. Coupled with upgraded wheels and suspension and full of lovely details, they always managed to feel like a premium product and today that appreciation is shown in high asking prices. In the same vein as the legendary Alpinas, many enthusiasts have tried to take the motor out of M models and fit them to lesser 3-series and 5-series models with varying success. But if done right, the result can be a very tidy looking and appealing package on a more friendly budget:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW 318ti S52 on eBay
Many people love the E36 “M3/4/5,” the 5-speed manual, 4-door sedan sleeper. It was the first M-car I fell in love with (and drove… funny how that works). This M3/2/5A is the opposite, the only less desirable version being the convertible. An automatic sedan is unfortunate but perhaps defensible as a family car. This coupe, looking hot in Hellrot and on the perfect Style 22s, deserves to be the Ultimate Driving Machine. Without the lovely 5-speed manual to play the S50 as you please, it’s just not. Dang pretty though.
Click for details: 1995 BMW M3 on eBay
In my recent posts Teens Well Spent, I’ve tried to compared some good value M3s to the high-dollar, low mile example we looked at a while back. That particular example was Dakar Yellow with only 26,000 miles, but an asking price to match each one of those miles. It wasn’t stock, and I was a bit dour in my evaluation of what you were getting for your money. Again, I’ve rounded up three coupes as an alternative to that example; two 1995s and one ’96, two with lower miles and one budget coupe. They’re flying the colors of the German flag appropriately, so you also have your choice of shade that you’d like. Which is the winner for your M budget?
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW M3 on eBay
Race cars are a fickle friend; countless smiles on the track come from often well counted currency leaving the pocket of the driver off-track, as the sometimes referenced 10:1 ratio of time spent preparing for the track versus time on track ultimately results in huge bills. So, what costs separate a $5,000 M3 from a $25,000 M3 – certainly, with that huge chunk of change it would seem certain that one could build a reliable racer rather than forking over what would seem to be an unbelievable amount to purchase a non-street worthy, home-brewed racer, right?