Buying Guide BMW M3 E36

Buying Guide BMW M3 E36

Buying Guide. The BMW E36 M3 might never be lusted after like the E30 but it’s a great drive and offers good value, too. BMW’s misunderstood M Car is still a brilliant everyday classic – buy now before it’s too late! It might never gain the cult status of the E30 but the E36 M3 is still a wonderful machine to drive and with prices on the up now’s the time to buy Words: Bob Harper and Andy Everett. Photography: 4 Star Classics and BMW.

 

 


As much as one might try to write something about the E36 generation of M3 without mentioning its illustrious forefather it’s more or less impossible – the spectre of the E30 hangs there like a ghostly elephant in the room. As great as the E30 was it’s replacement was never going to be the same – one was essentially a track car, the E36 a road car – and while the initial reaction to the larger and heavier E36 M3 might have been a little lukewarm we think most agree it was treated overly harshly when it was new. Had BMW never made the E30 M3 we’re pretty sure the E36 would have been looked upon very favourably indeed.

It was a discreet performer – it didn’t need a shouty bodykit – it let its vital stats do the talking and when it was born it really was a very, very quick car. And is still pretty handy today. And if you fancy one now is the time to buy. Actually, three or four years ago was the perfect time to buy when they were at rock bottom, but with the E30 now commanding over £20k for a basket case that figure will bag you one of the very best E36s and half that amount will see you in a very usable example. And with prices on the up you should be able to buy an E36 M3, use it as a weekend car, and then sell it on in a few years time without losing any money on it. And it’ll be a hell of a lot of fun to drive too. Take your time finding one, and try to find one that’s as standard as possible as the classic world doesn’t look too favourably at modified examples. Check over thoroughly and then enjoy what is still one of the greatest M engines to sit behind.

First revealed to the world at the Paris Motor Show in 1992, the E36 M3 was quite far removed visually from the E30 M3 in terms of how it looked alongside its non-M counterparts. The E30, with its pumped-up arches, chunky rear spoiler and more aggressive bodystyling definitely looked the part and made it clear that it was no run-of-the-mill E30. The E36 M3 however, looked positively invisible by comparison, something that it would come under fire for from both press and public. The car sported a more aggressive front bumper with a large valence and body coloured mesh, sculpted sideskirts, a new rear bumper with diffuser and the now rather overfamiliar aerodynamic mirrors. The final touch was the addition of wider rubbing strips incorporating the M logo. At the time of its launch, with the E30 M3 still fresh in people’s minds, the E36 may have looked tame, but from a modern perspective it looks a lot better than numerous articles from the time would have you believe. The M alterations are minor, but they’re just enough to make the M3 look special, although it doesn’t take much to make a regular E36 look almost identical thanks to the wealth of body kits available.

 The interior was also reworked, adding an M instrument cluster, complete with red needles, M logo and oil temperature gauge in place of the normal car’s economy meter. M3 inscribed kick plates, black headlining and an M logo’d gear knob were also fitted along with Check Control. As far as steering wheels go, there were a number of different designs. Some very early examples were fitted with the non-airbag M Tech II wheel but most came fitted with either a non-M three-spoke airbag wheel or the rather large and unattractive four-spoke version, like our M3. Post-1993 cars were fitted with a redesigned M wheel, with a thicker rim, raised thumb grips along with a different horn pad and M stitching. The interior was finished off with M Design sports seats in the Coupé, complete with integrated head rests and shoulder supports, trimmed in either M cloth with Amaretta suede bolsters or optional Nappa leather with M tri-colour stripes.

At its launch in 1992, the M3 was only available as a Coupé with the S50 3.0-litre engine and a ZF five-speed manual gearbox transmitting the power to the road via a 25 per cent locking LSD. The S50 B30 straight-six is based loosely on the 24-valve M50 but underwent a number of changes, including increased bore, stroke and compression, individual throttle bodies, heavy-duty valve springs, single Vanos, a dualmass flywheel and freer flowing intake and exhaust systems. The result was 286bhp and 236lb ft of torque, which made for rapid performance. As with the engine, the E36 M3’s suspension is based on the regular car’s but with a number of modifications. The ride height was 31mm lower, the track was increased front and rear, firmer shocks and springs were fitted as were reinforced spring mounting plates along with thicker anti-roll bars and revised geometry. The M3 also had a special M-tuned steering rack with a variable ratio and vented brake discs all round.

In 1994 the Coupé was joined by the Convertible and then the Saloon which arrived within a month of each other. Under the skin, the new additions were identical to the Coupé, but visually they differed slightly both inside and out. The Convertible looks almost identical on the outside bar the lack of a black plastic lower lip extension on the front airdam. The major difference between the Coupé and Convertible as far as the interior goes are the seats – where the Coupé gets the M Design sports seats, the soft-top gets regular sport seats finished in Nappa leather.

The Saloon was aimed at the more conservative buyer and this is reflected in the more restrained exterior. The front airdam contains three bodycoloured slats rather than the body-coloured mesh of the Coupé and Convertible, and like the latter it’s missing the black plastic lip. Also, the side skirts are less dramatically styled than those of the other two. As with the Convertible, the interior features regular sport seats but more luxurious trim, with Burl Walnut wood trim on the centre console, gear knob, handbrake lever and door pulls along with chrome interior door handles.

There were five special versions of the 3.0 E36 M3 produced in total – the GT, GT Individual (also called the GT 2), Lightweight, GTR and M3-R. The GT was produced in LHD form for the European market in order to homologate engine and bodywork enhancements for the competition M3s in the FIA GT Series and the American IMSA GT Series.   350 cars were made in 1995 and they featured numerous revisions. The engine had a 264º cam, a BMW Motorsport dual pickup oil pan, duocentric oil pumps and upgraded Vanos software which meant 295bhp and 258lb ft of torque. There was a shorter final drive, stiffer springs and shocks, a strut brace and adjustable front and rear GT spoilers. All the cars were finished in British Racing green with Mexico green Nappa leather trim and anthracite Amaretta bolsters. Clear front indicators, aluminium doors, BMW Motorsport International emblems along with forged M double-spoke alloys finished the exterior while a three-spoke airbag steering wheel and carbon fibre trim rounded off the interior changes.

The M3 GT Individual was basically a less hardcore RHD version of the GT, so while it lacked the engine upgrades it came with all the other additional equipment, with graphite Birds Eye Maple wood trim in place of carbon fibre, a sunroof and chrome interior door handles; only 50 were produced.

The M3 Lightweight – sometimes called the CSL – was a special version of the US-spec M3. Due to emissions regulations, the US M3 was somewhat anaemic compared to the car the rest of the world received, with only 240bhp, though shorter gearing ensured it was still brisk. The Lightweight was designed specifically for track driving and a comprehensive weight loss programme saw the car coming in at 102kg lighter than standard M3. The Lightweight featured most of the same modifications as the GT, bar the performance upgrades, and added a top speed delimiter, reduced sound insulation, a standard M3 spoiler, chequered flag decals, Hurricane cloth sports seats and no radio, aircon, tool kit, console valet and carbon-look dash and centre console trim. Customers could also opt for a GT rear spoiler, lower chassis X-brace, upper strut brace, the M oil pan dual pickup oil pump, height adjustable suspension, cross-drilled brakes and adjustable camber plates. 120 M3 Lightweight versions were built in total by BMW Individual, all of them finished in Alpine white.

The M3-R was built for the Australian market when BMW Australia decided to race the M3 in the GT-Production class and needed to build at least ten cars for homologation purposes. In the end 15 cars were built, all painted in Alpine white with a cloth and suede interior and a whole host of modifications. The engine was modified by BMW M and Schnitzer Motorsport with different camshafts, revised intake and exhaust ports, a lightened flywheel and dual pickup oil pump which resulted in 324bhp and 258lb ft. The car was also fitted with an 850Ci driveshaft, an AP Racing clutch, Group N suspension, AP Racing brakes, adjustable front and rear GT spoilers, M cross spoke alloys, no fog lights, air-con, radio, central locking or check control and a nonfunctional rear seat.

Finally we come to the M3 GTR, the road-going version of the car built for the ADAC German GT Cup Touring Car series, only two of which were made. This was essentially a race car for the road, with a stripped-out interior, lightweight panels, flared arches, adjustable spoilers, a full roll-cage and 300bhp.

In 1995 the M3 3.2 was revealed, which went on sale in ’1996. The 3.2 was christened the Evolution in the UK, as BMW GB wanted to distinguish it from its predecessor. Underneath the familiar bonnet sat the new S50 B32 3.2-litre straight six, an evolution of the 3.0-litre engine which had undergone a thorough reworking. Bore had been increased, stroke lengthened and capacity enlarged while the compression ratio was raised. BMW/Siemens MSS50 engine management was fitted along with double Vanos, lightweight pistons, an improved dualmass flywheel, graphite-coated con-rods, larger inlet valves, a more efficient intake and exhaust system and a second oil pump. The result was 321bhp and 258lb ft of torque, making this the first road-going BMW to break the 100bhp/litre barrier.

The Evo was fitted with a Getrag six-speed manual as standard with a shorter final drive ratio as featured on the 3.0 GT and an LSD. The suspension on the 3.2 was also reworked, with revised suspension geometry with increased front castor, firmer springs and shocks, stronger wheel hubs, a front anti-roll bar which was linked to the struts for less weight and a quicker steering ratio was also employed. The brake discs remained the same size as on the 3.0 but the Evo was fitted with floating front brakes. On the outside, the 3.2 featured a black mesh insert in the front airdam, along with aluminium doors on the Coupé and Convertible, clear indicators and a third rear brake light. As before, the rear spoiler was an optional extra and when specified came with the brake light mounted within the spoiler itself.

On the inside, the Coupé received restyled M cloth upholstery, a gear knob with an M logo instead of the tri-colour stripe, leather door inserts when leather seats were specced and the M3 Evo also received the various improvements that were brought in for most E36 models in 1995 such as auto climate control and a one-touch sunroof. In 1997, the first SMG gearbox was available as an option, which used the same ratios as the manual, albeit without a clutch pedal or conventional gearlever.

There were two special versions of the M3 Evo produced, the UK-only Special Edition and the Australian Anniversary Edition. The run of 50 Special Edition cars was produced in late 1998 to celebrate the end of M3 production. All the cars were painted Imola red and were fitted with a front splitter, GT rear spoiler and forged M double-spoke alloys. The interior was treated to a two-tone Imola red leather retrim with suede side bolsters, along with an M steering wheel with red stitching which was also used on the handbrake lever. Special Editions were also fi tted with side airbags, electric sunroof, seats and rear windows and a Harman/Kardon stereo.

The Anniversary Edition was produced in 1999 to celebrate 25 years of BMW M GmbH and was available as either a Coupé or Convertible, with 50 of the former and 70 of the latter produced. Externally, they were identical to the regular car but had much higher spec as standard. M doublespoke alloys, remote central locking, auto climate, a 10- speaker stereo, OBC and cruise were among the additional equipment. The only options were SMG, the Harman/Kardon stereo, electric seats and a removable hardtop for the Convertible. The Coupé could only be had in one of five exterior colours including Dakar yellow II and Cosmos black while Convertibles were available in seven different colours including Estoril blue and Techno violet – there were four leather colours available with two different wood trim finishes.

Neither the 3.0 or the 3.2 M3s were that well specced – the brochure lists all the interior and exterior M appointments, headrests, OBC, fogs and digital clock but items like auto air-con, remote central locking, cruise, heated seats, headlight washers, leather (standard on the 3.0 Convertible and Saloon) and PDC were all optional extras. In 1992, the 3.0 gained M tri-colour stitching for the steering wheel, in 1993 a four-spoke M wheel was fitted along with a passenger side airbag and a new leather trim colour while 1994 saw four new replacement exterior colours brought in, two new interior leather colours and revised temperature controls. The 3.2 M3 received a restyled grille and side repeaters in 1996 along with a new colour available only for the Saloon, 1997 saw the addition of side airbags and an illuminated shift knob while in 1998 one new and two replacement exterior colours were added, a new leather colour was brought in and an in-dash CD player was made available. Options for the 3.2 were similar to those of the 3.0 and included motorised rear quarter lights, wood trim and of course the SMG gearbox.

By the end of the ‘90s the E36 had been discontinued to make way for the Noughties icon that was the E46 M3. You could argue that the E46 was the better car, but there’s something rather beguiling about the E36’s understated looks that we think will ensure it becomes a classic. The E46 saw a return to blistered arches and the adoption of the now de rigueur quad exhausts but if you prefer a slightly more discreet machine that’s virtually as capable as the E46 then have a good look at the E36 – it’s a cracking machine.


Engine

The M3 in the US used a variation of the M50 iron block 2.5 and as such are relatively unstressed and hard to break – 3.0 cars use the 325i inlet manifold and 3.2s use the 328i manifold for extra toque – whilst you won’t see one in the UK, these engines were very worthy as they combine excellent torque characteristics with good power (240hp is not to be sniffed at), making a car that feels like a 328i with knobs on.

However, the ‘proper’ M3 uses the Motorsport engine, 3.0 or 3.2, iron block 24 valve with throttle bodies and either 286hp (3.0-litre, single Vanos) or 321hp for the double Vanos 3.2 Evolution.

Whilst they share some design elements with the M50, nothing interchanges and these were a very high quality engine that was virtually hand built and rewards careful use and maintenance with the potential for high mileage – with care, these will do 200,000 miles. However, too many fell into the wrong hands – the sort of owners who raise the rev limit with a remap and bounce off it regularly. The rev limiter is there to prevent over revving due to a missed gear change and whilst you may not think raising the limit from 7500 to 8000 will do much harm, it certainly will – what these rev happy heroes don’t realise is that bearing loads increase as a square of the RPM – at 4000rpm, the bearing loads are four times what they are at 2000rpm. At 8000rpm… you work it out, but that extra 500rpm is what finally puts a con rod through the side of the block.

Much is said about ‘Evos not doing 321hp’. Well, yes they do but they need to be absolutely right. Compressions, perfect valve clearances, throttle bodies set right, Vanos operation, spark plugs and high octane fuel – it doesn’t take a lot to wipe 20hp from an Evo and most owners might never notice. Regular 6000-mile oil changes with proper fully synthetic oil are important as is regular servicing to ensure everything is as it should be.

The double Vanos set up on the Evo was never that great and many are rattly and growly – expect a certain amount of noise when cold but when they’re in a state, you will need to get it rebuilt at a cost of around £500 and a brand new one is nearly £2500. You can buy bits such as the filters and cover bolts and these days – a knackered Vanos isn’t the disaster it used to be. The 3.0 single Vanos unit is more reliable, but it’s also older but both units use the same duplex timing chain as the E30 M3 and E34 M5 and the chances of that breaking are remote at any mileage. Oil leaks are rare on these, so inspect the underside for any Exxon Valdez style oil slicks.

A lot of the regular repair parts for the M3 are still pretty expensive from BMW – for example a new radiator is £400, a water pump about the same (£322 plus VAT) and rear exhaust box the best part of £650.


TECHNICAL DATA FILE BMW E36 M3 Coupé
VERSION: 3.0-litre 3.2-litre evolution
ENGINE: S50B30 straight-six, DOHC, 24-valve S50B32 straight-six, DOHC, 24-valve
CAPACITY: 2990cc 3201cc
MAX POWER: 286hp @ 7000rpm 321hp @ 7400rpm
MAX TORQUE: 236lb ft @ 3600rpm 258lb ft @ 3250rpm
0-62MPH: 5.8 seconds 5.5 seconds
TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited) 155mph (limited)
ECONOMY: 30.0mpg 32.4mpg
PRICE: £32,450 (1993) £36,550 (1996)

Transmission

Almost all M3s are manual, with the rare option of the first generation SMG semi-automatic ‘box. 3.0 cars use the super tough ZF 310/320 five-speed units that are shared with the E34 525i as well as later cars such as the 328i, E39 528i and so on – it’s a common enough unit that wears well and rarely requires replacement.

The Evo used a six-speed gearbox based on the E39 540i and 3.8 M5 unit – the Getrag 420G. This is a big heavy unit with a special casing to allow it to bolt to the back of the six-cylinder block and by and large it’s an okay gearbox. The gearshift is heavier than the five-speed but the ratios are ideal. However, worn syncros on hard driven cars are common and it’s not easy to find anyone to rebuild a troubled unit – we would suggest GearChange in Somerset (01278 555670) as it has rebuilt a few and seems to be able to source rare parts.

The SMG was the Evo only and the box is based on the 420G six-speed. However, it has a computer driven pump on the side of the gearbox to actuate the clutch and gear change and it’s not unfair to say that really, it wasn’t that great and nowhere near as good as either the E46 M3 or later systems. It was quite troublesome too so unless you really must have SMG we would stick to the known reliability of the manuals. Actual SMG faults include the pump itself as well as the control unit. A conversion to manual is possible and it involves either another gearbox from a manual or a fairly involved modification to the existing unit that means adding detents, springs and so on. Clutch and synchro wear will make the SMG’s job harder and examples that still function 100 percent are rare.

The clutch itself isn’t too bad a job to replace on the ramp and a Sachs clutch kit is £350 from a known supplier whilst the 3.0-litre clutch (LuK) is actually more expensive at £399. BMW prices are considerably more for the same thing.

Propshafts don’t give much trouble but expect to find a tired front rubber Guibo donut and centre bearing, neither of which are too pricey but we would buy a genuine front coupling as there are too many dodgy aftermarket ones out there. The differentials are all limited-slip of course. The 3.0 used a Type 188 medium case unit similar to the 325i of the time, but the 3.2 Evo used a Type 210 big boy that required a different rear axle carrier and driveshafts. Neither pose any problem and were engineered for serious abuse – as long as the oil is changed on time with the correct oil (Castrol SAF XJ) they just go on forever.


Steering and suspension

The E36 M3 suspension looks like regular E36 stuff , but it’s all different. The rear axle of the Evolution cars is a bigger, heavier set up with next to no common parts and on all M3s, the front anti-roll bar set up is different. On early E36 cars (316i to 325i) until 1992, the front anti-roll bar operated via a long link to the side of the front strut body before being changed to the short link operating on the lower wishbones. The M3 however retained the long link set up, meaning your choices for aftermarket dampers is limited. New Boge struts are available from BMW but they’re not cheap – you’re looking at just under £500 a pair for fronts. Wishbones and top mounts as well as the steering rack are also unique with the 3.0 having off set wishbone bushes and the Evo having eccentric top strut mounts. E36 power racks last a long time (most will still be on the original) but the E46 ‘purple tag’ rack is now very cheap at £60 and is an ideal replacement.

Like most E36s, the M3 might be ripe for some new bits – rear trailing arm outer bushes, rear hub upper swivels and so on, but the boot floor cracks that afflict the E46 M3 are very rare.


Body

These are now old cars and rust gets to them all eventually. The E36 was less rust prone than the E30 thanks to the smooth underside, but 18 to 23 British winters will mean that few, if any M3s have escaped the tin worm. Front wings can rot underneath the plastic sill covers and rust can form in the joint between the wing and the front nosecone. Good rust free genuine wings are now rare and the new ones from the dealers are good but can require some fettling for a perfect fit. Rear arches rust, mainly due to owners not keeping them free of mud but also because of stone chips on the inner flange, allowing rust to get a grip and spread. Very often they can be ground back to good metal but these days, welding in a new rear arch is the only permanent cure. Sills rot at the back and many cars can be really ripe here as well as around the four circular jacking pads – if these are missing, it’s too easy for moisture to get in and cause havoc.

Upon removing the side sill covers many E36s are very rusty and a good welder will be charging £500 plus a side to repair any rot. Loose underseal is now a real problem – you need to be brutal with a screwdriver and actively looking for anything loose or bubbling before peeling off bad stuff and treating rust hidden below. Boots and doors almost never rot, but bonnets can, both along the front edge and also along the side edges where the sealer has lifted. Also check for rust in the panel between the boot lid and rear bumper, the front nosecone, around the windscreen and the front anti roll bar mounts. It’s well worth removing the front arch liners and cleaning/Waxoyling the arch lips as well as the area at the base of the wing and sill – there’s always a ton of wet mud in there.

M3 bumpers were once very nickable but that’s abated now. Good used bumpers are getting scarce but the Chinese copies are pretty good. Saloon and Coupé/Convertible bumpers are the same but all other panels differ. Be aware that the E36 was face-lifted in September 1996 with fatter grille kidneys and slimmer side repeaters.

Virtually all Convertibles will have a fully automatic power roof. These are generally reliable but they’re old now and many will need attention. The frame and motor are okay but if the rear window is cloudy or damaged, it’s a £300 plus job to remove the hood cover and stitch a new one in – no, you can’t ‘just zip a new one in’. Very often a new hood is more cost effective, especially if it needs other repairs. Good used motors and control units are cheap enough.

E36 window regulators were never the most robust things on earth but they are simple enough to replace and worn ones can be adjusted so that the window fits squarely in the door – Saloons are worse for some reason. Used regulators are hard to find now and avoid new pattern parts as they’re invariably rubbish – BMW sell new genuine regulators for such a reasonable price (£115) that it’s not worth messing about. Coupé/Convertible regulators can be difficult to remove until you work out that the window retaining bolts are accessed through holes in the door revealed when the side moulding strip is removed.


Wheels, tyres and brakes

M3s all came on 17-inch wheels of various types – M Contours on Saloons and ‘Sunflowers’ on Coupés plus M Double spokes on Convertibles and some Coupés – they should be embossed with either ‘BMW Motorsport’ or nothing at all – those embossed with just ‘Motorsport’ are copies. Rears are wider than the fronts on many cars including the Evo 3.2 and these days, 17-inch tyres are fairly inexpensive – Toyo Proxes CF2s are £100 a pair for 225/45x17 and you can add £50 for a pair of Continental Sport Contact 5s – there is no excuse for budget rubber at these prices. However, 245/50s are pricey at £300 a pair and many cars are fitted with the 235/40s as fitted to M3 Saloons – £250 pair for the Continentals and £100 less for Kumhos.

Brakes were unique to the M3 and slightly different from 3.0 to 3.2 Evolution. 3.0-litre cars had iron fist calipers with 315 x 28 mm vented front discs and 312 x 20 mm vented rears, and neither the discs or callipers are shared with anything else. They’re predictably quite expensive – a new calliper is £300 (or £147 for a Pagid reconditioned unit) and discs are no longer available from BMW. The Evolution had similar style callipers with new discs that were ‘floating’ – the discs were joined to the disc hub with steel pins, allowing the discs to expand and contract with heat. These cost £420 new from BMW and whilst you can buy solid one piece replacements from Pagid for around £160 a pair, we’d stick with the proper ones if you use the car to the full. 3.0 discs are, as we said, NLA but BMW supply the floating Evo discs as a direct replacement.

The M3 uses ABS of course, and this is a reliable system – just the odd sensor and if you’re unlucky, the ABS control unit. However, sensors are £25 each for Ate and a good used ABS unit not expensive secondhand – forget buying it new!


Interior

The interior is pretty much stock E36 with the same pros and cons. Saloons and Convertibles had Sport seats whilst Coupés were fitted with the winged ‘Vader’ front seats with a choice of either full leather, half leather or the imitation Suede ‘Alcantara’ that seems to have made a comeback.

Don’t worry too much about worn leather bolsters because a decent trimmer can replace a worn bolster for under £100. Air con was common enough to be virtually standard (it was an option) but you’ll find early 3.0 cars without it, and pre-1995 cars have the strange control panel with rotary controls as opposed to the later digital set up. Digital control panels can fail, but good used ones are still common and you’ll find one for 20-30 quid plus they’re a few minutes work to fit.

Instrument clusters very rarely fail but good used ones aren’t hard to find and they’re not coded so they plug straight in. Good steering wheels without worn leather rims are getting harder to find, but these days there are quite a few places that will retrim a worn one for around £125.

Door trims often require removal, the reinforcing inner sections refitting with Araldite (little else works) and the plastic popper clips replacing. Lastly, spinning steering locks is still a relatively common fault but BMW still sell a new lock barrel if you want to keep one key, or you can buy a good used complete steering lock for around £60 although they’re hard work to fit.


Electrics

The E36 was probably the last BMW built without CanBus electrics so everything is simple and reliable. Not much goes wrong and we’ve already mentioned most of it – hood motors, electric sunroof motors, instruments – it was all built to last 20 years or more and they certainly do that because it’s all proper stuff when ‘Made In Germany’ meant just that. Because the M3 was based on the standard car of which millions were built, used spares are absolutely everywhere still. The basic M3 had no more equipment than a 316i but many were specced with electric seats, electric rear blind, opening rear quarter windows – all of which make the car more desirable now. Make sure everything works, especially the air con as fixes can be expensive.


Servicing costs

The M3 is a car that needs diligent maintenance now – proactive and looking for problems before they become a real drama. In this respect, a specialist is probably a better bet than a main dealer whose mechanics are ‘on the clock’ and don’t have the luxury of being able to clean up a slightly rusty brake pipe. BMW don’t offer fixed price service prices for the E36 M3, but we’ve quoted those for an early E46 version to give you some idea.


Servicing costs
SERVICE BMW DEALER INDEPENDENT
OIL SERVICE £230 £144
INSPECTION 1 £685 £252
INSPECTION 11 £898 £395
BRAKE FLUID £90 £45
FRONT PADS £206 £155
REAR PADS £188 £139
COOLANT CHANGE £170 £52

Prices courtesy of BMW (UK) and a selection of three specialists – the car chosen is a 1995 M3 3.0. Thanks due to Parkside Autos (01909 506555) for their help.


Verdict

Values of the E36 M3 have been lifted by those of the E30 version, and the days of decent £5000 cars seem to have gone. Some might say that the E46 M3 Coupé is a better investment as these are going through the stage of being the kind of car with dubious mods and four non matching part worn tyres and values are currently languishing. But the E36 as a car is still in that phase as well with many being ruined – death by drifting – and numbers decreasing.

M3 Convertible values will probably stagnate, but Coupé values are already on the march with certain versions already verging on classic status – the Dakar yellow 3.0-litre versions for example. M3 Saloons were always a rare sight and many are tipping these to be the one to have as an investment. They probably won’t be worth absolute fortunes, but as a useable performance car that pays its own way, a good example of the E36 M3 is about as good as you can get.


Check over thoroughly and then enjoy what is still one of the greatest M engines to sit behind.

Take your time finding one, and try to find one that’s as standard as possible as the classic world doesn’t look too favourably at modified examples. 


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