Sincere motorsport enthusiasts know the utmost satisfaction of the E36 M3 sports car, and even continue to appreciate the car today. I remember scrolling Autotrader and I came across an ad for a 1995 BMW E36 M3 in Avus blue posted by the original owner. He started the description with “It maneuvers like a F-16 jet fighter and does zero to sixty in godspeed seconds, with the exception of g force, that is”. I told myself, I have to see this 1995 BMW M3 in person and even meet the owner of this car. I took a drive out to Lancaster, CA.
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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. The important functionality of the car was in great working order, however the body had seen better days. This is expected of a car with six figure miles and some old age. Eventually, we worked out great deal that left both of us walking away happy. Given a whole stack of records of maintenance work done 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 “Motorsport” car, a car that could cut corners, yet give the driver a sense of satisfaction. More smiles per gallon, than miles per gallon considering gas is close to four dollars here in California. Some of you might be thinking, well, why don’t I just go get a new M car. Why would I want an M car? The answer is character.
Factually speaking, 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 it does have character? Every other car at Bimmerfest this year was a relatively new M3/M4. Typical and well, boring. Yes, this maybe subjective for many, but I am sure some of you would drool if you saw a mint Estoril Blue M3 like the day it left the factory, oppose to a brand new M3 sedan where chances are your neighbor even has the same car.
Some might come far out to say that the E36 M3 was just a 3 series with a “M” badge in the back. But then again, there is people who could not differentiate a Picasso art piece and of a tipsy man’s painting at their local “Paint Nite”.
Yes, the “Euro” E36 M3 never made its way to America. However, 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.
Thanks to the great USA restrictions, 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.
On the contrary, this timeless car did exceptionally well in the market. It was the car for the lawyers, doctor, and Adult film executives. There was a time when BMW M car carried a prestige, a status, and a sense of fulfillment. Nowadays, the M cars don’t carry much weight, because it has been easier to get your hands on them, and they get cranked out like pop tarts coming out the toaster.
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” on an E36 M3 in the used car market. I see some selling it for a few grand and others in upwards of twenty thousand. There is a lot of car flippers in the market, and it is not enthusiast dominated as it once used to be.
The Lightweight E36 M3(LTW), which were the late Paul Walker’s favorite owned sports cars for for close to $100,000. I have seen dealerships such as Enthusiast Auto Group sell some for well over six figures and still continue to do so because there is a market of enthusiasts willing to pay for that 90’s BMW heritage.
Some of you reading might have been or are trying to get into the E36 M3 market. I remember many years ago, I did not know much about the car, and the neglect of maintenance that may come along by owners. The market is rigid with some $3,000 beaters, or $15,000 “cherry” condition.
Of course, there is some asking price all the way up to $25,000 and up for a garage queen. All tires better be matching at this point because I have seen people asking hefty bucks, only to find out they have cheap mismatching tires. That indicator alone will tell me a lot about the owner. Of course, in addition to the maintenance records and overall well-being of the car.
My philosophy about BMW’s is, “Don’t Mickey Mouse the car than ask for a ridiculous price”. I understand some people have champagne taste, when their budget only limits them to beer. These people shouldn’t be contributing to the decline of E36 M3’s to real enthusiasts.
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?
With 5 years of production, there are notable changes between the 95, and the 96-99 models, and for some car savvy guys it may be the difference between night and day, while others may not even notice. They still think it is just a 323is with a tri color badge. Regardless of some cosmetic and Functionality changes, when owning the E36 M3 you get the inline-six engine, rear wheel drive, superior handling, and I hope it is a 5 speed manual. Automatic? Why?
If you ever decide to purchase an E36 M3, make sure it is from an enthusiast or a very reputable dealership. I can’t stress that enough, you will do your bank account a favor, not your mechanic. Maintenance/service records are a bonus, as they are the paper trail of what has been done on the car. Do yourself a favor and stay away from the typical Craigslist “car flippers”, and low rated “sketchy” dealerships that are scattered all around the San Fernando Valley.
Always do an inspection. Honesty is not always among people nowadays. People will say just about anything to make a sale, but an inspection is the mediation between the buyer and seller. Drive your M3 home with some peace of mind, and your wife won’t upset when she finds out you can’t remodel the kitchen because you need a new engine.