Motorsport enthusiasts just don’t realize how utmost satisfying the 90s BMW M3 sports car really were and still are many years later.
“It maneuvers like a F-16 jet fighter and does zero to sixty in godspeed seconds, with the exception of g force, that is”, that pretty much summed up what the original owner had described on his auto trader ad, and I told myself, I have to see this 1995 BMW M3 in person and so I did, all the way out in the “boonies” of Lancaster, CA. I had owned an E46 M3 prior, but never had I drove or been in an E36 M3.
The gentleman was an Air Force Test Pilot at Edwards Airbase, hence why his listing of the car was in comparison to a fighter jet. Top Gun is an American classic film loved by everyone, and even though he was no “Goose”, the fact that I get to meet an Air Force test pilot was awesome. Worked out great for the both of us, he generously dropped the price of the car and even went half to install a new catalyst converter at the reputable Vic’s Bimmer shop in Lancaster.
The 80s and 90s offered “Motorsport” cars, that could cut corners, and give the driver a sense of satisfaction while on its drive to its destination. More smiles per gallon, than miles per gallon. Indeed, the “M” cars of today offer more of an appetite for destruction than that of the last three decades. Now, the new M3/M4 can dispose over four hundred plus horsepower at your discretion, and run your tire tab at Costco out the roof, but do these new cars have character?
The E36 M3, was not just “another BMW”. Heck, some might come far out to say that it is just a 3 series with a “M” badge in the back. But then again, there are also people who could not differentiate a Picasso art piece, and that of a tipsy man’s painting at “Paint nite” in Newport Beach.
It is well documented that the “Euro” E36 M3 never made its way to America. To be quite frank, the E36 M3 was actually never meant for the U.S Market to begin with, but with the help of the BMW car club of America, the E36 chassis became Germany’s finest export, after the E30 M3, that is.
Yes, specifications limited the car to 240 horsepower for the drivers disposal, elimination of individual throttle bodies, and a five speed manual transmission, instead of the European six. Reason as to why this car almost never saw the night and day in America, well, executives thought this car just would not sell.
However this car did exceptionally well in the market. It was the car for the lawyers, doctor, and Adult film executives,. Back then, BMW M cars carried a prestige, a status, and a sense of fulfillment. Nowadays, the M cars don’t carry as much weight, because it has been easier to get your hands on BMW cars.
The E36 M3 was a bit shy of $50,000 USD when it first released in America. Flash forward to 2018, there really is no “concrete price” an E36 M3 in the used car market. Well, unless it is a LTW, also known as the, Lightweight E36 M3, in which Paul Walker owned several of them in his private warehouse in California, then we are talking well over $100,000. Dealerships like Enthusiast Auto Group have sold some for well over six figures.
Coming from a “Die Hard” BMW guy, damn well worth it. However, for the person who is just trying to break into the M world, one can look to shell out about $3,000 for a beater, about $10K, for a cherry M3, all the way up to $20K, for what many may call a garage queen. I had see seem online going for $35K plus. Just some advice, if you see an E36 M3, with mismatched tires, that tells you a lot about the owner. If he can’t afford four matching tires, what else has been Mickey Moused under the hood.
A set of Michelin Pilot Sport tires are a must if your driving habits consist of hugging the road.
Let’s put financial figures aside, the E36 M3 outdid the Ferrari, Porsche, Corvette, and the Acura NSX as far as handling goes. Handling is an important factor in a sports car, and it is relevant what happens when a car’s handling is poor. Seen the many Mustang crash videos on Youtube?
I myself have owned two of these iconic vehicles, a 1999 and a 1995 BMW M3. The 95 was in beautiful Avus Blue, however after 10 months of ownership was declared a total loss, after a 16-year-old girl who ditched class T-boned me, while I was headed to work one Friday evening. This lead me to purchase a 1999 BMW M3 in the stunning Hellrot red quite some time after.
Yes, there are notable changes between the 95, and the 96-99 models, and the car savvy guy may night not take notice. However, Petrol heads can spot the difference from just their peripheral vision. Well, I know I can. Regardless of the changes, these models were still simple. Inline six engine, rear wheel drive, manual transmission, and superior handling. What a 90s BMW should be. BMWs in the 80s and 90s were built to last, and were effortless to work on, if the proper tools were in sight.
If you ever decide to purchase an E30 or E36 M3, make sure it is from an enthusiast who respected their “timeless” work of art. I can’t stress that enough, you will do your bank account a favor. Maintenance/service records are a bonus, as their as a paper trail of what has been done.
Also, do yourself a favor and stay away from the typical Craigslist “car flipper”, and very small low rating “sketchy” dealerships that are scattered all around San Fernando Valley. To conclude, always do an inspection, even if the person you are about to purchase the vehicle from states that his or her M3 is better kept than most. People will say anything to make a sale, but an inspection is the mediation between the buyer and seller.