Still Dice Rolling: 2004 BMW M3

Over the past year, the E46 M3 market has really started to take off. Back in 2015 it was unusual to break $25,000, but over the past year several have broken double that amount and one bonkers bidding war ended up at $90,000. Have all ships been lifted? That’s hard to say, but certainly more are coming to market in very good to excellent condition and fetching big dollars. As always, collectors are looking for something a bit unusual and BMW Individual-toned cars are hot items. Prior auctions have also shown that big bids won’t be reserved only for pristine original examples, as the top auction draw was a modified car.

So today we’re back with an obviously modified car in an unusual color for the chassis – Dakar Yellow. It’s got the “right” transmission and the subframe has been reinforced too, and the asking price doesn’t seem all that outrageous. So what’s the rub?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 BMW M3 on eBay

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1994 BMW M3

Update 10/18/19: This Euro-spec M3 sold for $26,900!

For some time, there was a giant gulf in between European-spec cars and U.S. spec cars. Granted, part of that divide still exists today if the large assortment of cars that do not make it to these shores, but at least enthusiasts can rejoice that at last – for the most part – performance versions that are available in Germany are very close to the same that we receive here. One of the last notable cars to exhibit the large divide was the E36 M3; while Europeans enjoyed over 280 horsepower from the individual throttle body S50B30 in 1992, the later released U.S. spec M3 carried an entirely different motor with some 40 horsepower less. Though the S50B30US is certainly a great motor by itself, the knowledge that the “better” version existed across the pond somehow took a bit of legitimacy away from it. Also differentiating the European versions were better floating rotor brakes, better glass headlights, better lower and stiffer suspension, and some neat interior options. Later Euro E36s got even more power and the optional SMG 1 transmission or a 6-speed manual – none of which came here.

But if you fall into “the U.S. version of the E36 M3 is garbage” camp, you don’t have to scream at the internet for ‘forum cred’ anymore as early versions of the Euro cars are now fully legal for import – and they’re surprisingly affordable:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW M3 on eBay

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Feature Listing: 2005 BMW M3 Competition Package

Update 11/8/19: This neat ZCP M3 sold for $20,800.

Among potential future classics, few shine quite as bright as the E46 M3. As a car that’s (currently) affordable and still fairly new, the E46 M3 offers performance levels few sports cars reach. It’s also one of the last BMWs mere mortals can work on, the last offering of the S54 motor before the M division switched to twin-turbocharged inline-6s and V8s. To some, the E46 was a mass-produced marketing tool; but to me, the E46 M3 corrected many of the perceived faults of the E36 M3. Of course, the motor was a large part, but outside the M3 was now really set off by flares, quad exhausts, bulges, gaping intakes and vents that really made it look as special as it was. Denied the CSL, for U.S. customers the most special of the breed were the late run ZCP “Competition Package” cars like today’s Interlagos Blue example.

The ZCP Competition Package added quite a few special details to an already special car for the end of the run. Cross-drilled front brakes were enlarged and lighter thanks to a two-piece design and hid behind spun-cast BBS RC wheels. Those wheels measured 19″ x 8″ in front and 9.5″ out back and not only managed to look more menacing, but were lighter than the Style 67 18″ standard wheels despite being larger. Turning those wheels was a quicker steering rack spun by an Alcantara wheel and containing a special “M” track-mode with revised software for the stability control. The ZCP package also had the aforementioned Interlagos Blue Metallic (A30) as its signature color and specific code ZCP milled aluminum effect interior trim. Reportedly, Interlagos could not even be ordered through BMW Individual – if you liked the color, you had to get the Competition Package. While the same S54B32 as standard production lay under the hood, the 333 horsepower screamer wasn’t exactly a bad thing. 2,410 ZCPs were sold in the U.S., with 843 of them being Interlagos – making for not only a great driver, but an instant collector:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2005 BMW M3 Competition Package on eBay

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2017 BMW M3 30 Jahre Edition

Having not really checked in on E30 M3 pricing lately, I decided to take a gander this week. The situation has not improved. Pristine examples are still asking north of $80,000. If you want one on a budget that’s no reserve, there’s a rusty example with little documentation and 200,000 miles with a wrecked interior for…$20,000 so far. That’s pretty insane for a car that needs a full mechanical and cosmetic restoration, because that money gets you into a pristine E36 or E46 and you’re knocking on the door of the E92s, too.

So I’m taking a different path today. Let’s say you want a collector-grade car but don’t want something old. Well, as I’ve mentioned previously there are a lot of special edition M3s out there. One that quietly slipped through in 2017 was the 30 Jahre Edition of the M3 Sedan. Built on a Competition Package base, the 30 Jahre added Macao Blue Metallic over full Merino leather in Black/Fjord Blue from BMW Individual. The exterior trim was treated to BMW’s high gloss Shadowline treatment and there were plenty of special badges to go around both inside and out. For the 150 out of 500 produced sent to the U.S. market, these cars came equipped with the Driver Assistance Plus Package and LED lights. With the boost turned up on the S55 and hooked to the dual clutch, the 444 horsepower was good for 3.8 second sprints to 60. Check that box for the DCT, and you were $86,150 lighter in the wallet – about the same ask as that E30 I posted earlier. So what does one of these limited models set you back today?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2017 BMW M3 30 Jahre Edition on eBay

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Feature Listing: 2012 BMW M3 Competition Package

Update 5/7/19: This beautiful low-option E92 is on to a new owner!

While there’s no doubt that the E9x M3 was instantly recognizable as the replacement for the outgoing E46 model, there was an inconvenient truth that had snuck into the lineup: weight. Part of what had made the E30 such a curb-hopping maniac was that lack of heft even with all the accoutrements. By the time the E92 launched, the M3 had put on nearly 800 lbs of weight.

To motivate it the extra mass, BMW did effectively what it had done with the S14; it took its top-tier motor in the S85 V10 and removed two cylinders. The result was the S65 V8, and 414 horsepower was on tap for your right foot’s pleasure. That was a monumental leap from the E46; when the E46 launched with 93 horsepower more than the prior generation, I thought there was no way BMW could do it again. But they did, tacking on 81 horsepower to the prior generation’s total without forced induction. BMW topped the E46’s specific output per liter, too, besting 103 in the E9x – in a package which was 40 lbs lighter despite two more cylinders. Impressive, indeed.

Granted, if you were plunking down $60,000-odd worth of your hard earned credit, you’d want amenities like power seats, a nice radio, air conditioning – the normals that made it a better road car to live with day-to-day. But if you were clever in the boxes you ticked, you could still get the essence of what made the M3 the greatest car in its segment without a lot of frills. First would be the Competition Package, which gave you more variability on the suspension and more sideways action from the dynamic stability control. You got bigger wheels and stickier, wider tires to make use of that harder suspension.

Tick the 7-speed M-DCT dual-clutch transmission, and that track-readiness was taken to the next level. Then, you’d want to stop right about there. Of course, few people selected such a targeted, bare-bones performance oriented M3 out of the gate, which makes finding one today difficult:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2012 BMW M3 Competition Package on M3 Post

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1999 BMW M3 Convertible with 3,800 Miles

It’s interesting to consider how enthusiasts today view the E36 M3. Generally speaking, you’re 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 wasn’t as potent, as pure, as Motorsporty as the original curb-hopping, box-flared legend.

Arguably, they’re both right. It’s 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 today’s cars. Inflation corrected, the M3 would be around $62,000 – pretty much spot on the entry price for today’s 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 doesn’t mean all E36s are affordable:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 BMW M3 Convertible on eBay

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Superb Swap: 2001 BMW 325xi Touring S54 6-speed

If I’m honest, neither the outrageous Passat W8 nor the overpriced A4 Avant from Sunday really thrilled in the same way as the 2.7T-swapped B6 Ultrasport build did. Granted, you could just about buy both the Audi and the Passat for the same price as that build, but if you’re going to take on a complicated older fast wagon, there must be some sort of reward for all the risk, right?

Well, not to be outdone, here’s a stellar BMW option. The standard 325xi Touring, while available with a 5-speed manual, isn’t nearly as exotic sounding or performing as the duo from the other day. The M54 2.5 liter inline-6 was about 100 horsepower down on the Passat W8 and they weighed pretty close to the same. BMW also chose to not equip any of the xi models with the M-Sport suspension, either. While the 3-series was substantially cheaper than either the A4 2.0T S-Line Titanium package or the Passat W8 4Motion, out of the box it also didn’t feel as special.

Of course, if you rip it apart and rebuild it with a S54 borrowed from a M3 and a 6-speed from a X3, the story changes a bit…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 BMW 325xi Touring S54 6-speed Swap on Denver Craigslist

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2012 BMW M3 CRT Sedan

Continuing on the theme of lightweight, Europe-only specials of a fan-favorite chassis, here’s one I’m willing to bet a fair amount of you aren’t aware of. BMW launched several special variants of the E9x chassis, and we saw some of them – the Lime Rock Park Edition being the most notable – but in total BMW produced a hard-to-fathom 28 special variations of the E9x Ms. As a result, you’re forgiven if you didn’t remember all of them!

CRT stands for “Carbon Racing Technology”, but perhaps ironically it was BMW’s carbon-intensive road cars that led to the model. Spare cuttings from the carbon passenger cells of the i3 and i8 models were recycled and molded into body pieces for this special M3 sedan, while motivation came from the M3 GTS’s upgraded S65B44 V8. Stroked to 4.4 liters and with a lightweight titanium exhaust, the enlarged V8 was rated at over 440 horsepower (20+ over a standard S65B40), while torque was up 30 to 325 lb.ft at a lower 3,750 rpms. BMW produced a total of 68 cars, of which 67 were sold to the public, all in identical Frozen Silver Metallic with Sahkir Orange accented interiors:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2012 BMW M3 CRT Sedan at Speedart Motorsports

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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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Green Hell: 2008 BMW M3

We’re on a bit of a modified car kick, so I wanted to continue with a superlative BMW. In this case, it’s not a classically modified example, but rather a very recent one. For a long time, modifying cars was relatively easy – they came from the factory usually in a pretty tame form with a lot of potential – from aerodynamic tweaks to suspension overhauls and, of course, more power. But when you consider the E9X BMW M3, you have to really wonder if an aftermarket company could improve upon the design. After all, with the S65 4.0 V8 that revs to 8,400 RPMs and generates nearly 420 horsepower in completely stock form, how much better could you really make it?

That hasn’t stopped companies from trying, and relative unknown IND took on the task of making a Nürburgring-inspired E92 M3 the ultimate dual purpose street/track weapon. Did they succeed, and how have the mods held up?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 BMW M3 on eBay

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