1997 BMW M3 Sedan

It’s nice to back away from some of the more exotically priced cars from time to time and look at a more reasonably priced enthusiast car like the E36 M3. For under $10,000, you can still find some pretty good examples of the breed and they offer a lot of bang for the proverbial buck with plenty of aftermarket support and an enthusiastic community full of model-specific hacks. Let’s take a look at another wildly colored example that caught my eye this week – one of the claimed 88 Byzanz Metallic Sedans imported:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW M3 Sedan on eBay

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1988 BMW 320i

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Here’s a great example of the late-80s, pre-recession business-sedan side of the E30. We spend so much time looking at rare examples, 325ix tourings, tuned 325is, that the populist-yuppy nature of the breed can be forgotten. This Euro-spec 320i commuter model – 4 doors, 4-speeds selected for you – helped you fly through the HOV lane listening to the Scorpions with brisk confidence and understated good looks. BMW nailed the E30 so hard that even the plastic steelie wheel covers end up looking like the E34 M5 turbines done smaller and better.

This recently-imported German example has less than 18k miles – 28,000 kilometers on the GDM odometer. It may not be the best athlete of the family, but this perfect 320i is the attractive accountant.

Click for details: 1988 BMW 320i on eBay

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1997 BMW M3 Sedan

One of my favorite new search criteria isn’t for a particular model, but I’ve taken to scanning the local Craigslist adds by the term “BMW manual”. It returns an interesting assortment of cars rather than a specific chassis; cars, SUVs, and motorcycles all fit the bill. And while truth told most of the cars that fit the criteria of a manual BMW are pretty tired and rusty E36, E46 and occasionally a 5 series or an outlying E30, once in a while something pretty nice stands out. An “El Corazon” in my Romancing the Stone search this week was this Boston Green M3/4/5:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW M3 Sedan on Boston Craigslist

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1997 BMW M3 Sedan

It was interesting to watch the bidding on the well documented, well presented and nicely modified E36 M3 convertible last weekend. Though theoretically exactly what enthusiasts would want, there was a general lack of bidding resulting in a $11,000 ceiling. Now, admittedly the M3 Convertible isn’t for everyone and you could make an argument that the absence of strong bidding had more to do with the configuration than the history. So, how about the hot E36 model – the “M3/4/5”? And to add some hotness to the already appealing recipe, how about in the rarely seen Byzanz Metallic?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW M3 Sedan on eBay

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2004 BMW 330i ZHP

It’s always a happy occasion when I come across a ZHP that has been well loved and remains unmolested. In fact I think these cars are more likely to have been left in their original state than an M3 simply because the folks that tended to opt for the ZHP were more “grown up”. All I mean by that is while the E36 3 series was in production there was no four door M3 option so if you were a family man who wanted a go fast BMW, this was your car.

The ZHP only got a 10hp increase over the regular 330i but reprogrammed engine management and a close ratio six speed manual made it feel quite zippy. It’s stiffer and slightly lower too but from what I’ve read the ride quality didn’t suffer and that’s a big plus. I’ve driven a couple of E46 M3s and while they’re fantastic for spirited driving, I don’t cruising around in them on city streets. In this era before adaptive suspension setups you had to decide whether you wanted a performance car that was tolerable in day to day life or a sporty car that was OK when you wanted to get after it a bit. The older I get the more I find myself thinking the latter is the right way to go and I think the 330i ZHP is a near perfect choice for the driver who might go to the track a few times a year but mostly enjoys a spirited canyon run.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 BMW 330i ZHP on Pelican Parts

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1998 Mercedes Benz C43 AMG

Ah the late 1990’s, what a great time to be alive. I was in middle school, enjoying things like playing Quake II and Goldeneye 007, perhaps the occasional R rated movie if the right person was taking tickets at the local two plex. The US economy was booming thanks to a rapidly expanding industry related to a little thing called “the world wide web” and there were a whole lot of folks out there with disposable income who had no idea how to spend it. Like any good automaker, the folks at Mercedes-Benz worried about these youngsters with more money than sense and set about finding a way to capitalize on their new found wealth. The result was a juiced up W202 C-Class, the first car to be completely assembled by AMG and the first to feature a Mercedes Benz V8. The C43 AMG would set the stage for the next generation of AMG vehicles and without this car who knows if we’d have ever gotten the glorious C63 AMG.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 Mercedes Benz C43 AMG on Cars.com

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2009 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG

Funny how the passage of time works when it comes to the automotive world. It seems like just yesterday that I looked at the C63 AMG as a completely unattainable car, the kind of ride that only Euro club bros with frosted tips and too much of dad’s money to spend would be be able to afford. However, thanks to our old friend depreciation, the smallest AMG worth owning is under the $30k mark, good news for those of us without a Scrooge McDuck vault of money to swim in.

$30k is the high mark for what I would consider a reasonable amount of money to spend on a car give or take a couple grand. These days you can get a whole lot of car in this price range, 1st gen Cayman S, E90/92 M3 and of course this lil hot rod from Stuttgart that houses a hand built motor. While I’ve long been a bigger fan of the M3 because of the availability of a 3rd pedal, a C63 AMG sedan always turns my head when one rolls by. Sadly they’re often piloted by people who should probably have the keys taken away, for their safety and the well being of the car. This example down in Texas has made it 86,199 miles, still looks quite fresh and I hope someone with a real appreciation and respect for the powertrain takes it home.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2009 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG on Cars.com

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2005 BMW 330i ZHP

For practical folks like myself (who also happen to be BMW fans) one of the biggest disappointments in recent memory is the lack of an E46 M3 sedan. I’ve always had a soft spot for the E46 3 Series in nearly all forms but aside from the legendary M3 coupe, it’s the sedan that I’m most drawn to and I’ve always lamented the fact there was no true M version.

However, never the ones to pass up an opportunity to squeeze some extra dough out of Yankee consumers, BMW offered us the “ZHP” package on the 330i from 2003 to 2006. For $3,900 you got a lowered ride height thanks to firmer springs and stiffer dampers. Special control arms, a unique light weight front underbody cross brace, staggered wheel/tire setup further contribute to the enhancement of the car’s handling prowess. Your money also gets you an slight bump in power, 235 hp up from 225 hp as well as a marginally higher redline of 6800 rpm up from 6500 rpm. A special final gear ratio and rear axle make the most of those gains and I’m willing to bet that these cars feel plenty quick but isn’t constantly reminding you that you’re unable to use every ounce of power in day to day driving situations. After all isn’t that what you want in a daily? That’s a question I’m asking myself more and more these days.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: BMW 330i ZHP on CarsDirect

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1993 Mercedes Benz 500E

For all my talk of fandom concerning older Mercedes models, there aren’t many that I would actually pony up the dough for. Sure I appreciate the W123 for the road warrior that it is and I’ve often day dreamed about enjoying a summer cruise in a Blue over White Leather W124 convertible but neither would satisfy my craving for speed and handling capability. My love of technical canyon roads and aggressive cornering is probably why I’ve always been more attracted to BMW than Mercedes and my fiscal responsibility is probably why I ended up in the middle with Audi. As much as I love brute power, I’ve grown fond of driving a slow car fast rather than a fast car slow up in the twisties. Bottom line is you can only do so many 80-140 mph pulls before the experience becomes boring or you get yourself locked up for reckless driving. But if ever there was a Mercedes that would pull me away from Quattro and Efficient Dynamics and manual transmissions, it would be the 500E.

To me, the rarity of this car is one of the most attractive things about it, only 1,528 were imported to the U.S. during its run. Equally as attractive is its ultimate Q-Ship status, as far as I’m concerned it is the finest example of a factory produced sleeper. Of course that makes sense given that the car was hand built by two of the world’s most respected automakers. Today it’s hard to fathom Mercedes collaborating with Porsche but back in the early 90’s it made a great deal of sense. Mercedes wanted a car to beat the M5 and V8 Quattro, Porsche wanted to show their engineered prowess could be applied to a four door sedan. Yes, I’m drastically over simplifying the whole project but there are those far more knowledgeable on the subject than I who’ve written about the car at great length. I am more than comfortable saying that this example appears to be an absolute peach.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Mercedes Benz 500E On eBay

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