Crapwagon Outtake: The Ultimate … Machine
Insert your own preferred derogatory descriptor in the title.
The E36 M3 – lauded as a wonderful driver’s car, yet derided as a watered-down car unworthy of the ///M badge. Built in reasonably high numbers, this M3 will never be as collectible as it’s predecessor, the Mighty E30, nor as beastly as the E46.
I think that’s ok.
While this generation of M (at least in North America) is indeed down on power compared to later models, there is still plenty of bargain performance to be had. Bargain, that is, for those who can handle most of the maintenance and repairs themselves – and also have backup transportation [s]should[/s] when the water pump decide to disintegrate.
This example on eBay carries the Luxury Package, which replaces the cheap leather door cards with slightly less cheap leather door cards. The seats look to be nicer, too, than the standard M3.With fewer than 50k on the odometer, this E36 M3 looks pampered and ready for another lifetime of cheap hoonage.
My roommate had an 1988 E30 M3 with only 18K miles on it when he bought it. I put a cam gear (advanced cam timing) in it for him. If your daily commute was carving through the canyons for 20 minutes, then yes, it was a great car. If you only used it on the weekends or for road racing or autocrossing, it was a great car. If you were just getting onto the interstate and blasting along at 70mph, it was horrible. Loud, engine almost at 4Krpm, harsh ride. NOT a trip car! And even with the low miles, it had the typical flaky German-car electronics (that were expensive to fix so one learned to live with intermittent dash lights for various faults that the car thought it had). My friend sold it many years back for about what he paid for it ($18K IIRC) with about 75K miles on it and still in near-mint condition. Too bad he didn't hold onto it a decade longer(nobody knew back in the mid-1990s then that these would appreciate like they have). To each his own, I guess.
I have the lightweight version of this car and it is a sweet ride. I look around for a replacement every year but including the charisma of the lightweight version, nothing else on the used market ever stacks up. I can take the spouse on a weekend away, then turn around and put track rubber on it and dial up the DA shocks and terrorize my local track. I can shuttle my three kids to their destinations in "the race car". It's under 3000 lbs, consumables are cheap, and it gets about 30 mpg in relaxed driving. The interiors fall apart and the cooling system is a 5 year maintenance item, but a new radiator is only $250. These are just great all around cars.
I had the 1995 version, which had a few differences: ODB I instead of ODB II, 235/40/17 tires on all four corners, and 3.0L engine. Other than the usual water pump dying at 75k miles the car was very reliable. I bought used at 50k miles and ran until 100k miles; gave to my sister who ran it 10 years to 210k+ miles. She traded it in and got $5k or $6k for it.
The wheels on that car are the beautiful, and highly desirable, Type 24 forged wheels. That and the low mileage make it a pretty attractive buy. On the other hand the luxury package gets you the less attractive front bumper cover and some cheesy fake wood inserts in the cabin. The E36 remains one of the few cars that, if taken care of, can run to very high miles, 250K and plenty more. Parts are moderately expensive, but the design's weak spots are by now well known and readily fixable.