Collectors are always seeking to be the first to find a hidden gem, and the BMW community is no exception. After seeing stratospheric rises in value in cars like E30 M3, many enthusiasts are wondering what the next “hit” is – what BMW will be the “must-have” collector car in years, or even decades, to come. And while I’m not sure we have all of the answers, here’s a quick list of cars I’ll be watching in the next few years.

Anything Analog

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It’s not exactly a bold claim to say the manual transmission is not long for the BMW world, and the more analog the car is the better it will hold value in the hearts and minds of collectors. Cars like the E9X M3 and the E82 1M will be great buys, and even better if they were optioned without iDrive. Screens age poorly – just look at anything “digital” from the 80s and 90s. Despite the later DCTs being highly engaging, they’re no substitution for rowing your own gears.

And despite BMW’s best efforts to recreate the steering feel from the hydraulic steering days – it won’t ever be the same. The weight and communication is part of what made BMW’s reputation, and just a minute or two behind the wheel tells you everything you need to know. So, for a BMW to really be considered analog – in my opinion – hydraulic steering is a requirement.  This means the S55-powered M cars are excluded, though the M2 may appreciate due to its size and similar dimensions to vintage BMWs.

And this doesn’t just go for M cars – if you need proof, try and find a well-kept, lower-mileage E30. While not appreciating as sensationally as its M3 counterpart, they’ve still become downright expensive. The best bets will be the special editions – read on – but super clean, low-mile examples of base cars with big engines (i.e., E92 335i, E46 330i) will always have their place.

Special Editions

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Low-volume and unique performance-oriented BMWs will also hold value predictably well. Specifically, I’m thinking about cars like the 135is, 335is, and ZHP Package equipped cars. The 335is will be especially cherished, sporting either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, two things now gone the way of the dodo. Factor in the low-volume production, hydraulic steering, classic BMW proportions, and the enthusiast favorite N54 engine, and you’ve got the recipe for a sure-fire classic.

The ZHP Package is most associated with the E46 generation cars, but the F30 got one too. It made similar improvements over the run of the mill M Sport Package cars and were produced in an even lower volume than the E46 did. But it was a lot more uncommon – only 100 units came to the US, 75 with manual and 25 with the automatic. Both transmissions will hold value well, but the manuals for sure be a little bit safer bet. Both the E46 and F30 ZHP cars are solid in terms of holding value, though the E46 will likely remain more desirable – even despite the increased availability.

This applies to cars like the CS-variant M cars and M4 GTS as well, I think. While the M2 and M5 CS have immediately “market adjusted” themselves to the moon, I think the M3 and M4 CS will trend similarly as they start to age. Like a true manual, the dual-clutch transmission isn’t long for this world and has already vanished from BMW’s performance offerings. It too will likely become an object of fascination in its own right to some collectors. The novelty of a defunct performance option coupled with low production volumes in an M car means the CS and GTS cars will steadily rise in value.

The i8

The i8 isn’t exactly worth a ton of money right now, but in a few years, it might prove to be a bit of an investment. Naysayers might cite its middling performance and underwhelming efficiency or electric range, but the car’s incredible looks and novel drivetrain will allow it to age into investment instead of obscurity.

Plus, the car pretty much established the current roadmap of BMW’s production line, sealing its importance in BMW history. To clarify; only low mile, stock examples will be holding value or appreciating – as this will become a mandatory inclusion to the well-heeled collector.

Everything Else and Parting Thoughts

A well-kept example of a first-gen X5 M seems like it could be an investment, but they haven’t really returned any big numbers on any of the usual auction sites. I don’t know if this is because it’s too early in their collectability cycle or if there’s just no interest. X6 M’s have a similar story. Both of these are compelling due to relatively low production and the presence of an M badge on the back, two things that normally guarantee collectability.

Early manual SUVs could be good value proposition, but they’re kind of a novelty. Big money is far away, but you could probably buy and drive for a good while – and have a blast while doing it!

I want to include the X1 xDrive35i on this list, as it could be the closest thing to the X1 M that we’re gonna get. But ultimately, I don’t think it’s special enough to appreciate significantly.

But – that’s just our take. What do you think the next big money BMW might be?