Though they’re the juggernaut of BMW performance today, the reality is that there were quite a few stumbling blocks and it took many years for BMW Motorsport GmbH to establish themselves as the benchmark for German performance. Though many consider the M1 the genesis of BMW M, in fact the brand was born nearly a decade earlier with the introduction of the 3.0 CSL. The high performance E9 was built together with BMW’s competition department, a relationship which ultimately resulted in the birth of BMW’s Motorsport division. A few years later, the new entity would give birth to an equally legendary creation, the 2002 Turbo. But when it came to the first car to carry the “M” badge, it was of course the legendary M1 with its motorsport derived M88/1 double overhead cam inline six screaming in the middle of the car. You’d think this recipe carried over to the sedan range, but that was not immediately the case. First, BMW produced the M535i in the E12 chassis. Though the E28 model of the same designation was mostly an appearance package, the E12 model was turned up over the rest of the range – but not with the M88; BMW instead relied on the M30 to power the M535i. Then, there was a year where nothing happened; the M1 was out of production, the E12 was replaced by the E28, and ostensibly BMW had no real performance models.
That was remedied at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show, where a juiced up version of the 635CSi was offered. It was labeled the M635CSi; but unlike the M535i, under the hood wasn’t the venerable M30 that powered the normal 635CSi. In its place, the Motorsport division decided to slot the M88, now with /3 designation; the result was 286 horsepower – a staggering figure at the time, considering that the contemporary Porsche 930 was considered fairly bonkers with a little over 300 horsepower and though it looked much larger, the early E24s only weighed about 200 lbs. more than the Porsche. Coupled with some aerodynamic tweaks, heavier duty suspension, brakes and larger wheels and tires, the result was the menacing presence worthy of the nickname “Shark”. For all intents and purposes, this was really the first “M” car for the masses. BMW brought its M lineup to the United States for 1987 with the renamed M6, and that model was lightly revised for ’88. Power was down to 256 with the catalyst-equipped S38, but ’88s picked up some visual appeal with revised headlights and slimmed corners, as well as body-color painted bumpers that make the ’88s and ’89s look a lot more polished than the ’87s.
We sometimes get accused of bias in our coverage towards one marque or one model on these pages. Fair enough, I’d fully admit that I’d rather look at another Audi Coupe GT than a BMW 325e. But in the interest of being introspective, I occasionally check up on our coverage to see if we’re doing a balanced job and I’d like to share the results with you. To date this year, we’ve written up 10 Audi related posts, 10 BMW related posts, 9 Volkswagen related posts, and 12 Porsche posts. If we’ve been out-of-balance, it’s been our coverage of Mercedes-Benz models, which account for 26 posts this year so far.
Since our inception, we’ve written 907 Audi posts, 1,963 BMW posts, 1,598 Mercedes-Benz posts, 2,322 Porsche posts and 982 dedicated to Volkswagens. We’re sometimes at the mercy of what’s available at any given time. All things considered, it’s not a bad balance overall.
But one thing did strike me as I put this information together – February has, so far, passed without a BMW gracing our coverage. That simply won’t do, and so I thought I’d check out this M6. The classic E24 lines coupled with the stellar S38 engine and BBS wheels have always been a favorite of mine. Now, this particular M6 is probably not the best one out there I’ll admit up front. But the combination of colors, stance, presentation and asking price all grabbed my attention and made it worth sitting up and taking a further look:
Let’s say you want to start a car collection, and for ease of argument’s sake, let’s say you’re really into BMWs. Which is the model you want? You could be a 507 enthusiast, love the classic 3.0 CSL or 2002, envy every E30 or lust over the modern muscle the company produces. But odds are if you’re reading these pages you, like me, gravitate towards BMW’s Motorsport models.
Within the Pantheon of classic models, there then comes the difficult decisions. How do you choose between the E30 M3 and the 1M, for example? Well, Enthusiast Auto Group has a suggestion. Why not have them both? Or, even better, why not assemble all of the greatest hits from BMW’s M division over the past 40 years and put them together into one curated, turn-key package?
If you aren’t in the know, this weekend was pretty special for BMW folks in Asheville, North Carolina – the site of ‘The Vintage’. My Instagram and Facebook feeds were flooded with images of all the best of Bavaria heading towards the quaint western North Carolina city. It got me thinking – what was the best way to make a splash at such an event?
Of course, showing up in a fresh Euro 1983 635CSi surely would do it, and it’d be the perfect car for the roughly 14 hour drive for me to get there, too. When I wrote that 635 up, the competition that I suggested should be considered wasn’t the U.S. spec 635, though, it was the M6. The big ‘bahn stormer had the chops to overcome the weight of the large 2-door Coupe with the 256 horsepower S38 under the hood. It also has enough luxury to make the half-day drive feel like a blink of an eye.
Some considered the Euro car to be a bit on the pricey side. But when I came across this equally restored U.S. spec M6, it was a good thing I was sitting down. Suggestion: move the coffee away from your electronic device!
The M635CSi somehow gets lost among the other greats of the period from BMW. Perhaps, for U.S. fans, it’s the nomenclature that’s confusing. After all, there was a M1, an M3, and a M5, but when it came to the M version of the E24, BMW stuck with the moniker M635CSi in all markets but the United States and Japan. Confounding that decision was the launch of the E28 M535i. Like the M635CSi, it had additional body pieces, special interior trim and wheels from M-Technic. But while the M535i had a fairly normal M30 under the hood, the E24 received the full-fat M88/3 that was shared with the M5. Like the European M5 production started in 1984, well before they were available to U.S. customers. But while the M5 only sold in very sparse numbers over its short production cycle (about 775 sold in Europe between 1984 and 1987), the M635i was a relative hit, with just over 3,900 selling overall – far more than made it the U.S. market. Additionally, the European models were a slightly more pure form of the design; smaller bumpers, less weight, and about 30 more horsepower on tap without catalyst.
These European spec models were offered with some color combinations and interiors that never came to the U.S. market. A great example of the combination of these factors is today’s 1986 right hand drive model in the striking “AkaziengrĂĽn” – Acacia Green Metallic:
We would be remiss if, during Shark Week, we failed to present an E24.
Well, here it is. And, frankly outside of the museum, I’m not sure that it gets better than this one.
First, it’s a late M6. They’re automatically better looking than the early M6s to me because of the color-matched bumper covers if nothing else. Second, this one is the perfect color combination of Royalblau Metallic (198) with Silver leather (201). Truth told, I’d prefer Lotus White Nappa (199), but I’m being quite picky. That’s because of the third item; with only 12,100 miles since new, this M6 is as close to showroom fresh as one can get it would seem. GREAT! I’ve found perfection! But, what price does that translate into.
Well, we have some comparable models to look at, amazingly. I featured a 36,000 mile 1987 reached $54,700 in bids this past April. The equally impressive 1988 Schwarz model with 32,000 miles asked $80,000. But this one? This one bats the asking price right out of the park at $135,000.
Neither the E24 M6 nor the E28 M5 need an introduction on these pages. Legendary even when new, they both captured the imagination of generations of German car enthusiasts and established the benchmarks for sedan and GT performance in period. Both went through a relatively long downturn in value, as well. And today, as each has moved firmly into classic status and the market ///Madness continues, each has increased in value considerably over where they stood a few years ago.
But with so many shared components, which is the one to get? While a lot of that boils down to personal preference, more so than ever it’s also dependent on your budget. We’ve seen asking prices for nice examples of each chassis hovering between $50,000 and $80,000 depending on mileage and condition, and with a hot market there’s no letup of good ones to choose from.
But what I have today is not the best examples of each. Both are higher mileage and neither is pristine. However, the real draw here in both cases is a no reserve auction format, giving us the opportunity to really see what’s what in the M market today.
While it’s easy to be a ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ and scoff at the prices for lightly used cars from the recent past, true time capsules like the Porsche Rob just wrote up are generally the domain of pure wonderment. How have owners been able to restrain themselves for decades without driving a car? This afternoon’s M6 is in a similar vein to the lineup we’ve been looking at; pristine, original condition, and low mileage. While the 36,800 accrued far outstrip those of the RS6, M3 and especially the 911 RSR, finding an all original M6 with below 40,000 miles in near perfect shape is certainly worth a look:
What is the price for perfection? That’s a difficult question to answer, but increasingly when it comes to 1980s cars, the level of preservation, originality and lower miles in low-production, desirable models has translated into quite an exacting price. Yet while lofty asking prices have become the norm on many of the hottest performance models from the 1980s, are their figures always justified?
For my first BMW post, I wanted to go with something a little more unique than a run-of-the-mill M3 or M5. I canâ€™t imagine that many people are aware that BMW offers their M6 Gran Coupe with an option for a manual transmission. This makes it one of very few high-end, performance oriented luxury sedans still available with a third pedal. There is no such option available on the Porsche Panamera or the Audi RS7, and certainly not on the Mercedes CLS63 AMG. So I decided to go with a very striking Sakhir Orange Metallic M6 Gran Coupe with a 6-speed manual transmission.
Searching through various BMW forums, I couldnâ€™t find anything on a manual M6 Gran Coupe. However, I did come across a thread on m5post where a consumer was recently contemplating whether to order their new M5 with a DCT or a manual (6MT), and asking for guidance on what to order. Surprisingly for a car enthusiast forum, the vast majority of votes went for DCT. Commenters said that the F10 M5 was not designed for a manual, and that the DCT was much better suited to the car. In the end, the original poster decided to go with the DCT. Bummer, but I guess that makes the manual that much rarer. Anyhow, given the unpopularity of the 6MT on the current M5, I can only imagine that itâ€™s even less common on the M6 Gran Coupe.