The conundrum of the Z3 is for me wrapped up in the model’s signature appearance in Goldeneye. There was lots of promotion for the new model; after all, the change from Bond’s signature Aston Martin must have been for a car worthy of such a distinction. Granted, Audi beat BMW to the punch when James sported twin Type 44s in The Living Daylights but the fanfare surrounding the leap to BMW was unprecedented. And, as it turned out, largely unwarranted. Despite the hefty amount of advertising and anticipation of the debut, the 1.9 liter light blue convertible barely appeared in the movie at all – in fact, only long enough for James to toss the keys to someone else. This seems to largely sum up how enthusiasts feel about the successor to the Z1; cute, but a little too soft and not very BMW. Of course, as the model progressed it became more in keeping with the brand – especially true of when outfit by the M division. The resulting M Roadster and especially Coupe versions of the Z3 have become hot commodities in the marketplace, but if you’re willing to forgo the Roadstars, quad exhaust and especially the “S” motors in the front, you can still get a nice inline-six tied to a manual in a roadster.
We’ve covered just about every generation of 3-series wagon here, barring new ones. The E30 is most popular to import these days, and the E46 introduced the US market to the idea that BMW made smaller, fun wagons too; but in between, the rest of the world got to enjoy the neat looks of the E36 Touring.
So here we are; it’s 2020, and that means cars that were produced up through November 1995 are a lot easier to procure and import. And that’s exactly what someone did with this Calypso Red Metallic 320i Touring, produced for the UK market in April 1995. Now that it’s here, is it the one to get?
By 1995, the BMW 325i had long established itself as the benchmark by which all other sedans were judged. Though it had only appeared in the United States for the 1992 model year, Europeans had access to the E36 as early as 1990. That meant they by 1995, the model was in need of a refresh and BMW was happy to oblige. But as the U.S. market was occupied by the M3 launch, the new non-M range-topper’s appearance would have to wait until 1996.
When the 328i did arrive, it was very much a case of ‘meet the new boss’; while not a fresh design, the light updates were met with more power to continue the 3-series’ reign at the top of the sales charts. The revised M52B28 was installed, and though it was more evolution than revolution, it was pretty good at spinning the needle thanks to 15% more torque than the M50 (207 v. 181). That meant real-world power and acceleration were at your hands, and matched with a manual gearbox the new 328i’s 0-60 time dropped into the low 7-second range. The changes carried over to the popular convertible range, which offered considerably more 4-seat sport than either the Audi Cabriolet or the E320 Convertible. At over $41,000 out the door, perhaps it should have, but then that price guaranteed that the drop-top 3-series would be prized by those lucky enough to order them.
Today, finding an E36 for sale isn’t very hard. But with the newest nearly 20 years old, finding a good one can be. These days, fewer and fewer appear like this very low mileage, well equipped 328iC:
Here’s an interesting one that has had me scratching my head quite a bit. What originally caught my eye was the bright Estoril Blue Metallic sitting on some refinished E46 Style 67 wheels. It was worth a second eyeball, which resulted in me noticing it was a 4-door. CLICK – I’m interested in seeing more. Once in the posting, the title became even more interesting – Racing Dynamics RD Sport? Lesser known than Alpina or Hartge, but still producers of some pretty trick products. 3.6 liter motor? 6-speed? TELL ME MORE!!!
A couple of weeks ago I wrote up a 1995 530i. I noted that despite classically handsome styling and a spot-on chassis, the E34 5-series has remained curiously under appreciated, with the exception perhaps of the M5 variant. At the time, I admitted that the particular example I posted (an automatic with the relatively underpowered 3.0 V8) wasn’t exactly the best of the range. This 525i probably offers a better all round package than the 530i, and is more likely to be attractive to those looking for a cheap but dynamic daily driver. While it’s not in quite the same condition as that other car, this one arguably has a better engine and comes in a better color, with a more competitive asking price. It also features that all important third pedal.
I have a bit of an interesting comparison today, and I think in many ways it’s harder than it would first appear to be. If you said to most enthusiasts “Would you rather have a manual or automatic?”, the collective ire of autophiles towards self-controlled cars is akin to suggestion a revision to the 2nd Amendment at a NRA rally. And outwardly, today’s two E39 5-series wagons seem quite similar. But they represent two different directions for BMW and I think it will be interesting to see which foot enthusiasts land on. So, what would it be, then – a 5-speed 528i Sport Touring or a 5-speed (automatic) 540i M-Sport Touring?
Recently my wife and I have been discussing getting a new wagon down the road, and while for some time it seemed like Audi would be the natural choice, the dearth of recent Audi wagons has had us looking other places. BMW? Sure, the new 328 Sport Wagons in either turbocharged inline-4 or diesel configuration are nice, but have you checked out the prices? Staring at $42,000 for the cheapest, it’s not hard to brush up against $60,000 – for a 3-series. It certainly makes options like the awesomely better looking new Volvo V60 look much more appealing. But I’ve also looked backwards a bit, to see if there’s something older that could suit the needs. I’m putting together a wagon roundup of some options I’ve come across for later this week, but this particular example was too good to pass up. From the great looking E39 chassis, this 528i Touring also features the Sport Package and a manual transmission. Granted, this isn’t the speed freak’s weapon of choice, but a clean example of a very nice classic design:
Just the other day a friend of mine was complaining about the lack of “pure” sport coupes available on the used market for a reasonable price. They aren’t interested at all in roofless options which does eliminate fan favorites like a Mazda Miata, Honda S2000, or Porsche Boxster. I then asked, “well what about a BMW Z3?” and my perfectly reasonable question was met with a chuckle. I don’t know what it is about the Z3 that so many people so dislike but when thinking of driver focused sport coupes, it’s always the first thing that comes to mind. M Coupes are more powerful and aggressive looking, but they’re also highly sought after, therefore the reasonable price part of the equation goes right out the window. I love the odd styling and the wonderfully simple interior. Driver position is amazing in these cars and they’re surprisingly functional as well thanks to the hatch. The Z3 roadster might be what comes to mind when the name is mentioned, but it is the coupe that is the real star.
Okay, so maybe the Renault 5 isn’t your thing. I get it, it’s not mine either. I like the ideal and audacity of the Turbo models with their mid-engined lunacy, but pricing on good examples is pretty outrageous and if the videos of them driving are to be believed, they’re not the best hatch dynamically. No, I’ve pretty much always been a Golf fan, having owned a few of them now. But I must admit I had a soft spot when the E35/5 hatch popped up for sale. To me, it combined some luxury looks with practical performance. And when I say performance, honestly there wasn’t much available. The M44 engine that was fit to the 318ti was a decent performer, but it had only 138 horsepower, and at the price point you were much better off getting a GTi VR6, which oddly was more luxury oriented than most of the 318tis and offered more performance. However, the base of the 318ti was a good idea; a smart looking, light and nimble hatchback with a manual transmission and rear drive. And, of course, being an E36 platform, it was ripe for engine transplants. Today’s example is one of the more rare M-Sport equipped models, but this one has yanked the M44 in favor of an odd choice – the M52B25:
We’ve had all manners of E30 M3 on this site. Low-mile museum pieces, high-mile (relative) bargains, restomod beasts like Evan’s post this week, and crazy tuner cars for those who like a little rice with their schnitzel. As I consider myself a true believer in the cult of BMW, I think S14 belongs in the E30, along with a factory color and some nice OEM+ wheels. That said, today’s M3 breaks most purist rules in a unique and kind of awesome way, leaving me both uncomfortable and excited like flirting with a bad girl at church.
The seller’s list of sins:
1988 BMW e30 m3
Has a M52 Motor e36 M3 cams Excellent Compression
GT35R ball bearing turbo
V-band External 3″ downpipe 42lb injectors
Super sequential blow-off valve HKS
OBX Wastegate Kit 44mm w/ V-band External WG
Treehouse Wiring Harness ADapter
With 5 speed transmission
UUC Stage2 lightweight flywheel with less then 10,000k since install
RACING DYNAMICS Thick Sway Bars front and Rear
LSD Rear- 2.93
D2 RACING RS Coilovers: 36 levels of adjustable damping plus Height
Stainless Steel brake lines
RACING DYNAMICS Steering wheel
SPARCO Sport Seats
Alpine CD Player
car had a Reconstructed title now has a clear title
Sure, there are some flags: previously-reconstructed title, no shortage of miles, and the turbo may well have been installed by the dude in the picture. But I still think this M3 is kind of awesome. The flat black and the hood louvers might suck on their own, but together they’re kind of Mad Max badass. The list of mods is actually fairly complete; this wasn’t some “slap a turbo on a bigger engine” job, but a thorough attempt to make a seriously fast E30. The overall weirdness factor makes the BMW 39 wheels look awesome and less out of place than they usually do on E30s. With bidding at just $4k with 5 days to go, this is not going to be a $20k M3, and that alone is remarkable.
It’s no preservable piece of history, but with a reconstructed title, it was never going to be. In the church of BMW, this is the crazy girl making obscene gestures from the corner. A relatively affordable, crazy fast, odd-but-hot E30 M3 that can be hooned with little remorse; sounds enjoyable to me.