Monday, April 27, 2015

15k: Nicest One Around: 1997 BMW M3 E36

 I've often said that BMW's E36 generation M3 offers about the best bang for your buck in a performance sedan, and I'm going to say it again because I enjoy repetition as much as a woodpecker enjoys pecking wood.  It is also important to say this because someday the E36 M3 could go the way of the E30 M3 and soon offer one of the worst bang for your bucks.  If you are going to invest in an E36 M3, get the best one you can this one with less than 50k miles on the clock.  Find this 1997 BMW M3 E36 here on eBay currently bidding for $15,900 reserve-not-met with less than one day to go.

The E36 may have a fabulous chassis powered by a decent engine, but it is filled with a lackluster interior and maintenance is expensive.  Regardless, it is by and far the cheapest way to wear the coveted ///M badge.

The  '98 M3 is powered by the S50B32 inline-6 that displaces 3.2 liters and puts out 240 horsepower and 240 ft-lbs of torque.  You might be tempted to step into an E46 330 that puts out similar power, but you'll miss the limited slip out back and E36's fantastic steering feel.  Even the E92 335i is no match for the M3 once the road gets twisty.   

See another white M3 with a big wing that isn't ludicrously overpriced?


  1. I know this is sacrilegious but can you pick up a slush box sedan for less?

    1. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area the automatics are much more common. Which I find surprising.

      Prices are lower for them. Know of a few that have bought and converted to a 5 speed. Depends on how much you value your time. Looks like when done with the conversion prices are about the same.

      In Europe they got the cloth interior. I dislike leather seats very much and believe in the U.S. We only got leather.

  2. Yes, they are out there. I've seen them as cheap as $5K and as much as $8.5K. They don't seem to be popular with the M3 crowd but they are out there.

    1. Oddly, the M3 automatic worked quite well, they'd do part-throttle kickdowns and generally behave like a decent '69 GM Turbo 350 with a couple extra gears, at a time when BMW's other US-market automatics were calibrated to resist downshifts until you stomped the pedal through the floor and otherwise annoy the crap out of you.

      Nicer with a manual, true, but still not bad.

      Wonder what the conversion parts pricing looks like.

    2. There are a couple of detailed write ups with parts lists and step by step instructions on the e36 and M forums.

    3. Kinda like the step-by-step writeup on converting my S6 to a 6-speed. The car is sitting stuffed to the brim with parts waiting for me to get it in the garage and work on it.

      Let me see if my nephew wants to do the legwork on finding an automatic, then I'll convert it for him...

    4. Exactly. That's why after researching doing the conversion I figured be better getting one that came that way.

  3. So many cars, so little timeApril 27, 2015 at 12:08 PM

    Correction: The S50 was sold only with the first U.S. models, MY '95, with the S52 used '96-'99. Many purists scoff at the idea of the U.S.-spec E36 M3 being considered a true M-car, since it did not get the screamer Euro-spec motor with individual throttle bodies. I had a '97 4-door 5-speed -- M3/4/5 -- and loved it. Great performance and quite reliable for a 125K+ mile car. As with most modern BMWs, the cooling system can be a weak spot, but nothing that $350 in parts and a day (or a weekend working at my pace) can't fix.


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