Just prior to the launch of the E36 M3 for North America, Canada got a special run of European-specification M3s. However, they weren’t alone in terms of custom E36s available. 1994 also saw the United States get a pretty unique, and quite limited, E36 model.
It was the 1994 325is M-Design. Fans call it the M-Tech, and it was very similar to the Clubsport Coupe that was available in Europe.
While underneath this was basically a stock 325, it was still pretty special. It included nearly all the items that the M3 would have outside of the motor and brakes. You got the M-Tech body kit, mirrors, steering wheel and shift knob, along with the Anthracite M cloth (0506). Many (if not all) were painted Germany’s racing color – Alpine White. Additionally, the M-Design included a cool set of 17″ BBS 2-piece wheels. They were referred to as Style 29s, but were actually a multi-piece version of the forged BBS RG wheel. A limited run of only 150 (according to fans, BMW isn’t sure) were produced by BMW Individual with a $4,700 premium on the base price of the 325iS. What does that translate to today?
Another M-Design! I’ve featured a string of these ultra-limited ’94 325iS models built by BMW Individual recently. Today’s VIN ends in 478, produced 40 cars after the one I looked at last June. Visually equipped with most of what would become the M3 in ’95, the M-Design is an interesting footnote in United States E36 production.
Of course, “interesting”, “obscure” and “BMW 3-Series”, when combined in the right proportions, usually equate to dollar signs in seller’s eyes. Asks on these cars often rival or exceed M3 prices. Crazy, right? Who would pay more than they would for a M3 to have less than a M3? Well, some people do. Recently a ZHP E46 coupe traded for $26,000. Scoff all you want, but clearly there is a market for the limited edition 3-series. But since some trade for high numbers, many sellers equate their 3 as priceless. Not the case today, as we get a true market indicator of where a driver-quality 325iS M-Design is valued at:
While the name “Evolution” become synonymous with Mitsubishi’s WRX-fighting Lancer for the X-Box generation, the term had much greater meaning for racing fans in the 1980s and 1990s. That was the period where homologation really took off; in order to be eligible to race, the FIA stipulated a certain amount of vehicles generally matching the race version of a car would have to be produced. This resulted in some great race-inspired production cars, and in order to best each other on the race track manufacturers would be forced to modify those cars. In order to have the modifications legal to race, the maker would have to introduce those significant changes to the road-going model, too. Those changed models would be termed “Evolution” to differentiate their model changes. As a result, enthusiasts ended up with ‘Evo’ versions of the Ford RS200, the V8 quattro, the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 and, of course, the M3.
The M3 Evolution I was first introduced in 1987 with only a slightly revised motor. The Evolution II followed in 1988, and signaled the first real changes in the lineup. Major alterations to the aerodynamics, bodywork, chassis, and engine netted more power, more downforce and less weight for the FIA-regulated 500 units sold to market. Iconic even within the impressive normal M3 production, these fan-favorites generate feverish bids when they come to market.
But there is an even more desirable variant: The Sport Evolution. BMW Motorsport GmbH maxed out its E30 development in an all-out attempt to dominate the world’s racetracks. A new 2.5 liter S14 cranked out nearly 240 horsepower, while the same ‘add lightness’ recipe was prescribed; lightweight glass and body panels were met with adjustable front and rear spoilers. Signature 7.5″ wide BBS wheels were now darker Nogaro Silver and 10mm closer to the body thanks to lower suspension, while special Recaro seats kept you firmly planted inside from the g-force they were capable of generating. It was as if BMW took all of the best aspects of the E30 and distilled it down into an even more pure form. Produced only in Jet Black or Brilliant Red, 600 of these super M3s were rolled out to fans and remain arguably the most desirable model in the run:
As I’ve said before, I usually try to stay away from regurgitation of material. However, there were a few reasons to look at this European specification M3 one more time.
I’ve recently featured a string of Canadian Edition E36 M3s with some sticker shock for fans of the traditionally affordable chassis. The first was a Hellrot model in August with a $35,000 asking price. That car, to my knowledge, failed to trade hands because though it was actively bid upon, the reserve was never lifted in the mid 20K range. The next stunner was the Individual Giallo car in September, which broke predictions at the $65,000 mark. I looked at another Dakar model in November hoping to capitalize on those high asks, with a reported sticker price close to $30,000. It, too, failed to break the reserve.
The traditional, and very valid, argument to paying high prices for these cars is that they’re essentially just a stock Euro model with a number attached to them. Why not just import a much cheaper and more plentiful example of those then? To that point I had twice looked at a non-Canadian Edition but European specification ’94.
This Mugello Red model originally came to our site in October, 2014. With about 83,000 miles and in generally good condition, it was certainly a unique and appealing alternative to the normal M3. It popped back up in June of 2016 with a few more miles, poor photography and a little more wear. It was also boldly offered with no reserve, though the auction ended with an “error in the listing”; eBay seller speak for the bidding not heading in the direction they were hoping.
Well, here it is again. This time, it is listed by the same seller as the Giallo car. It’s been cleaned up and has some great photography. Only a few thousand miles have been added since we originally listed the car. However, small items like the broken headlight haven’t been rectified. No additional maintenance is disclosed. It’s also interesting to me that the seller doesn’t note this as a rare “slicktop” no sunroof car – appealing to some. The photography and polish will cost you, as the asking price is nearly $23,000 this time around. That’s about what the similar mileage, similar specification Hellrot car bid to. Is it worth that much of a premium?
The below post originally appeared on our site October 12, 2014: