The E23 has always been a design which to me has been quite polarizing. As with the E12 and E24, Paul Bracq was heavily involved in the final design and it shows – in many ways, the E23 looks like a cross between the two that was scaled up 10%. The results of that in my mind weren’t always good. Growing up, my father had both E24s and E28s, clean looking, well proportioned designs, and when I first saw an E23 I remember thinking it looked a bit ungainly. In U.S. specification, the bumpers were too big and the wheels were too small, resulting in a car which appeared heavy, sagging and sad. When he’s really upset, my son manages to invert his lip and stick it out, tears streaming down his cheeks. It’s a look which nearly mimics the U.S. spec front end of the E23 I now recognize. However, in European trim the E23 made more sense – it looked lighter, smaller and better proportioned. While not as stately as the W116, it certainly looked a fair bit sportier outside and more modern. Couple those European-market looks with the potent performance of the M106 and sprinkle in some sport seats and a 5-speed manual from an E28, and there’s a lot to like here – though today’s car is pretty firmly in “project” status:
Tag: Rare BMW
That the E30 M3 has been on a stratospheric price rise is old news. So are the stories of “I could have bought one for $400 20 years ago”. You know what? I could have bought a really nice piece of land near the coast in Rhode Island for 10% its current value 30 years ago, but I didn’t. Old, too, are the stories of what floor some ex-M3 owners got off at; for unlucky examples, it was $15,000 a decade ago, but smarter sellers have cashed in on E30 mania. How high it will go? At what point will people say “You know what? This is a 4-cylinder near-luxury economy car that I’m paying $100,000 plus for”? It would seem that every time someone raises the flag of THE END IS NEAR another shockingly priced example clears what appeared previously to be an insurmountable hurdle and Mr. Toad’s wild ride continues. While there’s been a slight cooling in the acceleration curve, it’s still pretty insane – with top-condition cars priced at and selling well over $100,000. But the market has realized that many of the examples coming to market weren’t condition 1, or frankly even condition 2. Lesser than top-tier example’s value has gone almost completely flat, and now it’s the really exceptional models that are rising to the top rather than the entire crop. Today’s car is priced towards the top and claimed to have been restored – let’s take a look:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 BMW M3 on eBay
With Goodwood celebrating 50 years of BMW’s M division, it seems fitting to check out one of the cars that has the closest ties to the division – but isn’t actually an M. I came of driving age during the reign of the E31, and I still remember magazines taunting that the M8 would soon be with us. Of course, it never came – at least, not until today. But we still did get an E31 breathed upon by the Motorsports division in the spectacular 850CSi. Like most Ms, the heart of the CSi was a special “S” motor. In this case, BMW Motorsport GmbH took the M70 and beefed it up seriously. Bored out to 5.6 liters and with compression bumped up and revised electronic programing, the resulting S70 took BMW’s V12 from 296 horsepower to 372 with 420 lb.ft of torque. But there were a host of other changes; offered only with a manual 6-speed gearbox, the CSi also got a quicker steering rack, Euro M5 brakes, shorter and stiffer springs, and M System II “Throwing Star” 17″ staggered wheels. A new body kit made the elegant E31 look much more menacing, too. Europeans even had the option of 18″ M Parallels and, amazingly, 4-wheel steering.
In 1994, this car cost almost $110,000. Today that’s nothing, as you can spec a special-order M3 up to that amount. But back then? That was nearly the price of three M3s. These super coupes have never really come down in price, as with the contemporary 928GTS, they have maintained an aura of unobtainium and sacredness to a generation of motoring enthusiasts. Just 225 made it to the U.S., and this one is extra-mean looking in all black:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW 850CSi on eBay
Following up on the E31, it seems smart to look at its predecessor. As iconic designs go, the E24 has to rank pretty high on most German car enthusiasts’ lists. The lines are pure and classic – a long hood line with a chiseled front end, delicate and subtle wheel arches, a sweeping greenhouse and a flowing trunk line. It just looks right – the front of the E9 that it succeeded was equally as classic, but I have always felt that the back of the 6-Series was prettier than the car it replaced. It took elements of some classic BMW designs that preceded it and incorporated them flawlessly with updates for a new time. By 1970s standards, it was a very clean design – consider what was coming out of Detroit during this time period, and you’ll understand why the 6 still looked reasonably fresh a decade on in the 1980s. But for my money, the prettiest of the 6s are the early Euro cars, unencumbered by the DOT bumpers. Early on, though, the 6s suffered from not much performance – the engine lineup was effectively carried over from the previous E9 platform. That was solved in 1978 with the launch of the 218 horsepower 635CSi; a 5-speed transmission, deeper airdam, and black rubber rear spoiler with model designation indicated the higher performance of this model. The 635 officially wouldn’t come to U.S. shores until much later in 1984 with the E28 updates in place, but for a time this was the highest-performance BMW coupe you could get. Finding early examples that are still in prime shape is quite tough these days, but there’s a lovely example on eBay today in Pennsylvania: