Limiting yourself to just a fi nal eight of BMWís greatest small coupes is tough. Of course there are some cars that are dead certs; the test would have fallen on its face without an E30 M3 or a CSL but after that, the choices become that little bit more subjective. Those that were considered and then cut included the E36 M3, that most accessible of M-cars, and the 1M Coupe, on account of the fact that the latest M2 appears to have it covered. The 2002 Turbo was considered but then deemed a little bit too specialist.
Likewise, as much as I campaigned for the inclusion of an M1, editor Guido wasnít buying my justifi cation that it was technically shorter than an E46 3 Series and therefore merited inclusion. It was ruled big.
We reckon weíve assembled an incredible mix of the cars you could actually buy and enjoy driving though, spanning 32 years, a price range of between $40,000 and $250,000 and evenly divided between four- and six-cylinder normallyaspirated engines. We open with the chrome bumper 2002 and 323i JPS special edition, then bring a trifecta of E30 M3s, a couple of bitey Z cars and round it out with the magnifi cent M3 CSL. Weíre not going to wait another centruy until we do this again, though. After all, 2016 marks 100 years since BMWís formation, its fi rst car appearing in 1928, and the fi rst in-house design arriving in 1932. It also marks 30 years since the launch of the iconic E30 M3. In the meantime, join us in this celebration of some of Bavariaís greatest ever driverís cars.
ďIF YOU said youíd driven the worldís top 10 cars, then weíd ask if they included the BMW 2002Ö and if you said no, then weíd have to suggest that your list was incomplete.Ē So said Wheels magazine in the intro to the May 1971 test of BMWís pert three-box, labelling it Ďthe finest point-to-point sedan available on this earth.Ē With two doors, itís be dubbed a coupe today, hence why it more than earns its spot amongst the blue and white badged hero cars here today.
Now before we go any further, it wonít have escaped your attention that this 2002 is a little different to the way it would have rolled out of the Munich factory. Itís had some engine work and has been dressed in period Alpina threads but otherwise it still offers the same classic feel. You sit upright in a big glass bubble, with filament-thin pillars, wholly unlike the low cocooned feel of a modern 4 Series.
Although the wind-up windows, carburettors and 13-inch wheels (our oneís modernised to 15Ē alloys) might seem a bit homely, back in 1966 the 2002ís shoehorning job of a 2.0-litre engine with overhead camshaft and alloy cylinder head along with disc brakes were next-gen stuff in a market dominated by leaf springs and pushrod tech.
The fuel-injected tii and the 1973 2002 turbo helped the baby BMW more than punch
THIS SERIOUSLY feels like the Seventies and itís a properly fun little car. This particular oneís got twin sidedraft Webers one it, so it drives much like the 2002 tii with the Kugelfischer injection.
This oneís got Webers instead of injection so itís got more power than standard, but itís really good fun and quite old fashioned. The unassisted steering has a box rather than a rack, so the steering is a little bit vague in comparison with the E30 M3s weíve got assembled today, but itís still fun. The brakes are fine, for this track because thereís not a lot of high-speed stuff required, but it feels like a really nice useable Seventies car.
You could use it as an everyday driver easily but theyíre getting more expensive for a good Ďun. I quite like late Sixties, early Seventies stuff, before cars got a bit more fat and flabby.
This car really started BMW on the sports saloon path.
above its weight. Believe it or not, the base of the engine was much the same as not only the E30 M3 but also the ones that made 1500hp in Formula 1.
The tii is the 2002 that most look out for, produced for the 1972-74 model years. Instead of a Solex carburettor, it got Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection, which increased horsepower from 100hp to a hale 125hp. BMW also specified beefier front MacPherson struts with chunkier spindles as well as bigger brake calipers and discs. The exhaust manifold was a special high-flow cast-iron unit that was unique to this model, as was the leather-trimmed sport steering wheel. The four-speed Borg-Warner gearbox is pretty tough but, the second-gear synchro can wear, causing a crunching noise when upshifting from first to second gear. A five-speed close-ratio gearbox was also offered, but theyíre pretty hard to track down.
Rust is the big problem with 2002s. The rear shock towers, the floor pan below the pedal box, the front guards and the outer rear wheel well lips are all prone to metal moth. Lay one up for any extended period of time and the brakes will also seize. The fuel tank was a weak spot. Itís got a few seams and is located in the boot, so fumes tend to seep into the cabin. This problem is easily cured by getting the tank sealed and rerouting the expansion tankís vent tube directly outside. Aussie 2002s got better pedals, the right-hand drive conversion bring lever-type rather than floor-hinged items.
The 2002 left an instant impression. Wheels dubbed it ďthe safest, best balanced high performance car in its price range in Australia.Ē
As you can see from the cars assembled here, it set one hell of a precedent.
THE 2002 is a funny one. I have a friend and business partner in Indonesia who is also a car enthusiast.
He came over one year and looked at some cars and he didnít realise the quality of cars we had here in Australia.
This was two or three years ago and he was surprised at the number of quality collectable cars we had here. We went online and looked at a whole bunch of different cars, Merc SLs, BMW M3s, we looked at everything and then this 2002 catches his eyes. A lot of it was down to the way it was advertised, with a full history file, really good photos, tags, everything. On the way to have dinner he said we should give the guy a call to go have a look at it.
The guy was either an engineer or an architect and heíd spent a lot of money on the car and the way it was presented won him over. He shook the guyís hand there and then.
Itís had quite a bit of work done on it.
Itís apparently got an M3 bottom end, the headís been redone, the entire interiorís been redone like an Alpina, and the whole carís had a bare metal respray.
Itís got a lot of period Alpina gear on it and although what the guy was asking was, for the time, pretty steep, my buddy was just won over. Not a single cent taken off, he just shook the guyís hand and said, ďI want itĒ.
NUMBERS BUILT 31,250 (3678 RHD) BODY Two-door coupe ENGINE 2.0-litre overhead cam, indirectly fuel injected four-cylinder POWER & TORQUE 130hp (97kW) @ 5800 rpm / 178Nm @ 4500 rpm PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h 8.5s 0-400m 16.5s
TRANSMISSION 4-speed Borg Warner manual SUSPENSION McPherson struts, lower wishbones, coil springs and dampers, anti-roll bar (f), semi-trailing arms, coil springs/ dampers, anti-roll bar(r) BRAKES 256mm discs (f); drums (r) TYRES 165/80 HR13 (f); 165/80 HR13 (r) PRICE RANGE $45,000 - $65,000
Amid all of the M cars assembled here, the 323i at first seems a little outgunned, but itís worth putting this model into perspective. Itís more pivotal than any of the others in establishing BMWís reputation for fast, small coupes. Without the success of the 323i, none of the others would have happened, because back in 1977 when the 323i was introduced, this was the point of the spear, the feistiest and most focused coupe in BMWís range.
The JPS version was a BMW Australia only edition, introduced in 1980 to give E21 3 Series sales a shot in the arm ahead of what was then the worst-kept secret in the industry, the forthcoming arrival of the E30 generation car.
The marketing proposition for the JPS wasnít exactly novel, offering around $10,000 worth of extras at only $2,000 to the punter, but with only 70 cars delivered, demand was strong.
Due to the arcane nature of BMWís ordering system, the paper trail for the JPS goes cold very quickly, leaving quite a bit of speculation as to which cars are real and which are replicas. BMW rejected Munichís standard option packs and came up with the 323i
HONESTLY, other than a V12 I think a straight six is the best-sounding engine. I love this engine sound. Itís well balanced and it has a nice scream to it that builds at around 5,000rpm. The chassis is a bit wayward.
You can feel the camber change in the rear a lot more markedly than you can in the 2002, I guess because itís a fair bit heavier. These had a reputation for being a bit lairy at the limit and it doesnít have a limited slip diff in it so it spins an inside wheel.
In this company it feels more of a cruiser than a sports sedan. During this period, Ron Meachem was the MD of BMW Australia, Frank Gardner ran the race team, Jim Richards was the lead driver and they were sponsored by JPS, and these cars were part of that marketing push.
At the time, BMW used their local motorsport pretty well for their local marketing. This oneís more a car that looks fast rather than is fast, but Iím sure itís a beaut car out on the open road.
Motorsport Special Edition, with a (then optional) 5 speed overdrive gearbox, Motorsport suspension (shorter stiffer springs plus Bilstein gas shock absorbers), BBS 13Ē wheels, a sports steering wheel, Recaro sports front seats with anthracite trim on all seats, M-Technic spoilers front and rear (rear a delete option) and a limited-slip diff.
When the sponsorship of the BMW Super Sedan and Touring Car race team, run by Frank Gardner, was switched to low-tar coffin nails, BMW released this JPS Special Edition. Effectively, this model was the Motorsport Special Edition given a new lease of life, with black paintwork, actually bronze tinted windows and a wooden gear knob. On arrival in Australia the JPS cars went to Gardnerís workshop where the gold stripes, JPS C-Pillar badges, JPS wheel centre caps, JPS steering wheel boss and JPS dash plaque were all added. The BBS wheels had the centre gold anodised or, as an option, replaced with 15Ē gold centre Simmons BBS lookalike wheels. The engine could be stroked to 2.7-litre although the cost was prohibitive and very few were ever thus converted.
BMW Australia specified air conditioning in most, if not all, of these Special Editions and some had factory fit tilt and slide sunroof. So how can you tell if you have a real JPS? The service book should carry the 323i JPS model designation by the selling dealer plus the build number as recorded on the dash plaque. Some sharp dealers, keen to satisfy demand for a car but unable to receive any more stock allocation, built JPS copies, with just the paint finish, gold wheels and badging, so look for the full quota of JPS options to be on the safe side.
The reputation for lairy handling? Wheelsí test of the 323i pointed to ďa strange diagonal yawlĒ and reckoned ďthe BMW requires plenty of concentration from the driver to maintain a straight line.Ē The better tied-down suspension of the JPS addresses some of the body control issues and gave a glimpse what was to come with the E30. Itís a class act and one that deserves a tip of the hat for building the 3 Seriesí reputation. With a total of more than 8 million 3 Series cars shifted, representing over 30 percent of BMWís global sales, thatís one hell of a legacy.
MY BROTHER got me into BMWs. His first car was a BMW, an Isetta bubble car which did not really impress me!
But he bought a brand new 2002 in 1972 in Inka orange, and that impressed me a lot. Iíd just started mechanical engineering at uni and the engineering of that car really appealed. Plus it was quick, comfortable, reliable, economical and looked the part.
I vowed I would have a BMW and 6 years later I went to order an E21 320i. The salesman told me about the upcoming 6 cylinder 323i, so I ordered that instead.
Mine was in the first retail consignment to England and arrived on the same day as the dealerís demo car. It cost just over twice my annual gross salary, I loved that car and only the impending arrival of our second child and the move to Australia convinced me to sell it. Once in Australia we decided to have a house worth more than our cars anfd bought two 318is in a row.
When I took early retirement I decided to get another E21 323i for old timeís sake. I bought a 1981 Motorsport Edition in moderate condition and resisted the urge to restore it. When one of the guys in the BMW Club decided to sell this JPS Edition, which was not only gorgeous but did not need any restoration, I tried very hard to resist buying it butÖ. As well as the JPS I have a 2005 E46 M3 and my daily drive is a 2008 E90 320d.
NUMBERS BUILT 70 (Australian market) BODY Two-door coupe ENGINE 2.3-litre Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injected DOHC inline six-cylinder POWER & TORQUE 141hp (105kW) @ 6000 rpm / 190Nm @ 4500 rpm PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h 9.5s 0-400m 16.4s
TRANSMISSION 5-speed manual SUSPENSION McPherson strut, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f), independent semi-trailing arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r) BRAKES 255mm discs (f); 258mm discs (r), single piston calipers TYRES 185/70 R13 (f); 195/70 R13 (r) PRICE RANGE $20,000 - $35,000
Homologation birthed the E30 M3. In order to gain its certification to enter Group A touring car racing in Europe, BMW needed to build 5,000 M3s per year. Fully half as much again as the range-topping production 3 Series model, the M3 has gained a reputation as a thinlydisguised racer for the road, but thatís just part of the myth. In many markets, BMW dealers knew that the car couldnít be a stripped-out, feral racer and some were very well appointed.
For example, a US M3 got the range-topping 13 button computer, air conditioning, leather sport seats, limited slip diff, central locking, electric windows and sunroof, premium stereo, map light mirrors, active check control, an M steering wheel, M tech suspension with gas shocks. Canadian cars got heated seats. Euro-spec cars were , however, a bit more Spartan.
Weíve assembled quite an array of E30s today. They start with the white 1998 E30, a 2.3-litre US-spec car, stepping up to the grey 1988 Evo II and topping out with the black 2.5-litre 1990 Evo III, also referred to as the Sport Evo. All share the same base engine architecture, a four-cylinder 16v S14 lump which uses a twin duplex chain to drive the overhead cams. The engineering upgrades that made this such a durable race engine arenít hard to find. Everything was
BELIEVE IT or not, but this is the first time Iíve ever got behind the wheel of a BMW E30 M3. Itís a really sweet little car. With 192hp, itís not fast, not by the latest standards, but really agile. Nice steering, you can feel itís light, it doesnít have a lot of weight transfer and itís actually a really sweet little car. Itíll be an interesting exercise to see how it developed through the later cars.
Because itís originally a US market M3, itís got an overdrive gearbox in it rather than the dog leg box and the leather seats in this car were a bit unexpected too.
If I had to describe it in one word it would be Ďsweetí. It does everything really nicely and itís easy to drive.
You can understand why the E30 had such a successful motorsport career because the car is just so driver-friendly.
Everything is very predictable. It signals what itís doing at the limit very clearly and the controls weights are so well judged that it feels instinctive to gather everything back neatly if you do push a bit harder.
gym-toned, including the 25 percent limited slip diff, the bonded clutch facing, bigger brake calipers and beefier wheel bearings, bigger engine mounts, and thicker anti-roll bars, the front one pivoted outside the gas shock leg to reduce roll. The guards were flared to cater for the biggest wheels allowable in Grp A (the road car never actually needed such grandiose flares) and the front and rear screens were bonded for better aerodynamics and improved chassis rigidity. The plastic bootlid was raised 40mm and blended into the rear screen to halve lift at speed. BMW rejected a balancer shaft with the result that there is noticeable noise and vibration above 4,000rpm.
Other changes? In 1988, Euro-spec E30 M3s were available with Electronic Damper Control by Boge. This offered three shock stiffness settings, Komfort (K), Normal (N) and Sport (S) in order of increasing firmness, adjusted via a dial on the centre console. The lovely steeringís quicker than a stock E30, the overall ratio of 19.6:1 a nadge sharper than the normal E30 ratio of 20.5:1. As motoring scribe LJK Setright said, ďJudge a car by its steering.Ē
There were actually seven E30 M3 special editions of the E30 M3. As well as the
THIS HAS 20 more horses than the original E30 M3 but it still feels just as sweet. It feels more like the Evo III though. The differences are fairly minor between them. This one has the Getrag dog-leg box with the 1:1 top gear so it has better ratios than the American market cars.
By todayís standards itís not fast, but it was made for motorsport, and you can feel the benefits of the aerodynamics, both in this and the Evo III which has the wind-out flap on the back of the wing. It was all in the name of homologation and all the manufacturers involved had to do it Ė itís a proper Motorsport car. This one has beaut steering, this one has hard tyres Ė good tread but quite old, so itís really easy to slide around. Most E30 3 Seriesí that we had had a steering ratio that was too slow. When people converted them to right-hand drive, many put a 325i steering rack in which buggers it. The intimacy you develop with the steering, you lose when you slow the steering ratio down. The factory M3 has really quick steering which is good!
IíVE OWNED it about four years now. I had a standard E30 318i coupe with the full M-Technic II bodykit on it and to be honest I thought it was an M3 when I went to buy it!The M3 was my dream car ever since. I had pictures next to my bed. I even used to drive my E30 leaning over to the left because I knew they only ever built the M3 in left-hand drive!
This one popped up in the window of Gran Turismo Autos in Spencer Street, Melbourne and I was driving a truck past at the time and just pulled a massive u-turn just so I could jump out and look at it. I drooled over it for about a month and every night Iíd go home and ask my wife how could I have this car, but she looked at the numbers and said, ďNo. Thereís no way we can afford it.Ē
Thatís until one day, I just said ďI need this car.Ē She reckoned that if I could get myself a company car and we could sell the other car and only pay two registrations we could do it. The next day I went in to my boss and said I donít want a pay rise, I want a company car.
He said no problem and that very night I went to the dealership and put a deposit on it straight away. When I went to put the deposit on, there was a couple with an E30 325i looking at the car but I managed to seal the deal just in time.
Iíve only changed the exhaust since Iíve had it. The one that was on it was choking the car a bit so I changed it. The 2.3-litre engine is completely standard.
IíVE HAD the Evo II since 2011. Iíd been looking for one for a very long time. I started to look for one ten years prior to buying this one.
I started looking at plain M3s and realised that the more you look at plain M3s or American-spec M3s, it became a good choice to look at the limited edition series, something that the factory had done a lot more development work to.
So I started tossing up between the plain Evo, the Evo II and the Evo III. The Evo III was already silly money back then and so I was looking at Evo IIs and found one in the UK and one in Germany, but this car came up in Canada. All about the same money and mileage, but I liked the way the Canadian example was presented, and the history folder was massive. Great photos too. It was obvious the car had been really well looked after.
This car was actually a German delivery and went from Germany, to UK, to US and then Canada and then I had it imported here. Itís bone stock apart from the door handles and stereo which Iíve changed. Iíve always had an E30 from the time I first had my licence back in the late Eighties, so Iíve always wanted one of these. In the intervening years, Iíve had a lot of different cars but Iíd always been looking out for one of these and was overjoyed when I finally got it. I reckon there are less than a dozen Evo IIs in the country. When I imported this car I knew of four others.
Evolution I, Evolution II and Evolution III homologation cars there were also the Tour de Corse, Europa Meister 88, Johnny Cecotto and Roberto Ravaglia cosmetic upgrade cars. Then thereís the E30 M3 Convertible, which is a chapter probably best forgotten.
The lovely E30 M3 Evolution III seen here stepped up the pace with BMW increasing the bore from 84 to 95mm along with a long-stroke crank to raise capacity to 2,467cc. The valves are bigger, a fiercer cam fitted and cooling oil jets firing at the underside of the pistons. Power stepped up to 238hp at 7,000 rpm, though peak torque decreased slightly from the Evolution II to 240Nm at 4,750 rpm. Sitting 10mm lower than a normal M3, the Evo III was only offered only in Jet Black or Brilliant Red.
Luxuries like electric windows, sunroof, on-board computer and air conditioning were all deleted in order to keep weight down, though they could be ordered in as options.
The E30 M3 was a brilliant combination of smart marketing and engineering run riot. It could have been terrible. It was sublime.
THIS ONEíS got a bit of a fuel starvation issue that you can feel over about 5,000rpm Ė it starts to break down. It feels like the big brother to the original E30 M3.
You can feel it in the torque response. Itís still got lovely steering.
Iíd love to have a low mileage car like this.
It feels like a new car.
Maybe because itís such a low mileage example it could need all the plugs and filters done. This is a 2.5-litre and itís got 43 more horsepower than the first version. When I drove for Dick Johnson in the Sierras, we raced against these a lot. I raced against Ravaglia, Cecotto, Pirro and all the rest of the works BMW drivers of the time. They were mostly in these.
The Evo III was the car that Tony Longhurst had in the last year of Group A which would have been 1992. Longhurst and Allan Jones had the 2.5 Evo IIIs which were very good cars.
I had a couple of coming togethers with Longhurst back in the day and it was a bit tense there for a while!
THE EVO III was purchased at a time when Evos were skyrocketing. At first glance, I thought that the car had gone beyond my budget, but upon closer inspection I could see that it offered good value. It had a history file that was just spectacular. It was in storage and there are storage bills three inches thick. Everything from servicing bills, to storage invoices.
It was very low mileage, about 30,000 kilometres, and literally everything on it was bone standard right down to the stereo.
We were both in the market, but my business partner saw this car, and bought it sight unseen. He paid a record price for one of these at the time, which I believe was just under $200k. That was back in early 2011. Itís appreciated since then. Now one of these will be bordering on $300,000. If Iím totally honest, I think itís overpriced, but there are people out there who are more than willing to shell out to buy these things. Between the models, between the special series, there were 600 of those. BMW put a lot of effort into developing the final E30, so itís clearly the most sought after. When we brought it in there were four Evo IIIs in Australia and since then we reckon another two have arrived.
NUMBERS BUILT 600 BODY Two-door coupe ENGINE 2.5-litre inline DOHC four-cylinder POWER & TORQUE 238bhp (177kW) @ 7000 rpm / 240Nm @ 4750 rpm PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h 6.1s 0-400m 14.8s
TRANSMISSION 5-speed Getrag manual SUSPENSION McPherson strut, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f), independent semi-trailing arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r) BRAKES ventilated 280mm discs (f); solid 282mm discs (r), ABS TYRES 225/45 ZR16 (f); 225/45 ZR16 (r) PRICE RANGE $175,000 - $250,000
After-hours projects donít get much better than BMWís Z3 M Coupe. You can thank Burkhard Goschel for that one. Leading up a group of five engineers on an after-hours project, his brief was to fix the chassis flex of the Z3 roadster. Off came the wings and a shooting brake-style coupe body was grafted on. Itís tempting to imagine that they neglected to adequately ventilate the studio and lost all power of reason due to the aerosol effects of the sculpting foam, but thatís not the case. The design they came up with was shocking, challenging and quite unlike anything BMW had ever produced. Yet the M Coupe redressed a lot of the failings of the roadster. Although mechanically identical, the fixed roof served to stiffen the chassis ensuring the semi-trailing arm suspension wasnít overburdened. Introduced in September 1998, the hard top car found immediate favour with buyers, outselling the identically-priced M Roadster by nearly three to one.
Developed in Garching but built in Spartanburg, North Carolina, the M Coupe was built with three engine options. The US specification car got the short straw, with a 240hp 3152cc S52 six. In Europe, the M Coupe was offered with the more exotic S50 3201cc Motorsport lump good for 321hp. This engine featured double VANOS
FIRST OFF, I actually like the look of it. When they came out nobody liked the look of them, they were a bit funnylooking.
Itís not really a coupe, itís almost more of a station wagon but the styling has grown on me and I really like the look of the Z3M. I think itís quirky and it drives a little like that as well. Itís got the old-style semitrailing arms in it like the E30. Apparently they did that because they couldnít package the later multi-link system in there and that makes it slightly lively! You can provoke oversteer in it on the throttle and those BMW six-cylinder 3.2-litre engines with the six individual throttle bodies are a beaut little engine. Iíd like one. I generally judge cars on whether Iíd like to own one or not and Iíd certainly like one of those.
(on both intake and exhaust strokes), higher compression ratio, individual throttle plates for each cylinder, lightweight pistons, a dual mass flywheel and so on. Itís leagues better and thatís the engine that powers the M Coupe we feature here. All the Aussie imports feature the S50 unit.
From June 2000, the M Coupe was offered in Europe with the 3254cc S54 engine. Marginally more powerful at 325hp it also got switchable Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). Whichever version you chose, it came with a ZF Type C five-speed manual gearbox with a limited slip differential with a maximum locking of 25 percent. The chassis? The team at Garching did a great job, M Coupe emerging with a static twist resistance 2.6 times that of the roadster.
At the time, it was the most torsionally rigid car BMW had ever built.
Yes, itís faster and more composed, but the appeal of the M Coupe is the fact that itís a left-field hooligan. Even owners refer to the M Coupe as the clown shoe and the annual US M Coupe gathering is called Dorkfest. Itís a hoot to drive hard, and the long-travel throttle can unhinge the back end at will. On poorlysurfaced roads it can be a bit unruly, but you donít buy this car for sybaritic smoothness. The only downer on the fun is M Coupeís range. The minuscule 51-litre tank means that spirited driving can deplete the tank in little over an hour. But what an hour that would be.
Last word should perhaps go to the father of the car, Burkhard Goschel. ďWhen I come out of my office at the end of the day, I always like to find an M Coupe. It is purely for driving. I can just shift gears and get away from Porsches, and I also like that the M Coupe needs the driver maybe a little bit more than other cars.Ē
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IíVE OWNED this car just on 15 months now. I bought it online but Iíd been spent a long time looking for the right car. I reckon I spent more than two years patiently looking for the right deal. I first saw them when I was working part time for BMW, first at school then at university. It came out in 1998 and I fell in love straight away.
I particularly loved its awkward shape, real big stance at the rear; a big arse end. I also like the fact that despite having that modern powerplant, certain aspects of it were very old-school.
It had no DSC, no traction control.
In property terms, nobody wants a restrictive covenant on a property. To me, those things restrict a car which is why I went for that shape in the end. Iíve had a 1 Series, an E92 3 Series coupe and Iíve currently got an F30 328i and an X70 X5 that my wife drives.
Itís a 35i because I like petrol, not diesel. Iím looking for another BMW at the moment. Iím on the lookout for either a late Eighties 635Csi or a 840Ci.
Iím not planning on selling the Z3 M Coupe anytime soon though. I get offers but I hashtag any photos of it online #neversell!
NUMBERS BUILT 6291 (821 RHD S50s) BODY Three-door coupe ENGINE 3.2-litre double VANOS inline six-cylinder POWER & TORQUE 321hp (239kW) @ 7400 rpm / 350Nm @ 3250 rpm PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h 5.4s 0-400m 13.5s
TRANSMISSION 5-speed ZF manual SUSPENSION McPherson strut, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f), independent semi-trailing arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r) BRAKES ventilated 315mm discs (f); 312mm discs (r), ABS TYRES 225/45 ZR17 (f); 245/40 ZR17 (r) PRICE RANGE $60,000 - $135,000
Everybody stopped talking. When John Bowe set out on track at Haunted Hills in the M3 CSL, it was time to just stand and listen. It was like an audible a data trace, hearing every minute adjustment of Boweís right foot through each corner, the buzzsaw shriek amplified by the CSLís fabulously expensive carbon fibre airbox.
At the end, Bowe emerged with the biggest smile of the day, just shaking his head and laughing to himself. ďThat is brilliant.Ē
The CSL was developed with a very specific target in mind. It had to get round the Nurburgring in eight minutes. To do this, head of body Hans-Bruno Starke and chassis development engineer Peter Schmidt had four key areas to work on; weight, aerodynamics, suspension and tyres. Power was a secondary concern, although changes to the cams, headers, intakes, exhaust, valves and engine management handily lifted peak power from 252 to 265kW.
Weight was the key criterion. This was the first M car to pioneer the carbon fibre roof, saving 7kg from the part of the car where it made the biggest difference. Around 50kg came out of the interior, with lightweight seats, centre console, glass and door panels.
A couple of kilos came off each wheel, with the aluminium lower control arms further reducing unsprung weight. The carbon fibre front bumper shell is a pure racing part,
THAT IS a really fun car. Out of all of them, itís the most fun. Itís got plenty of grunt, it makes the best noise too, with both exhaust and induction sound happening. Iím not a fan of the paddle shifters, never have been really, but as long as you breathe off the throttle as you change up, otherwise it clunks, but the downshifts are quite good. I still prefer an H-pattern manual but having said that, itís still a great fun car.
The sports seats are great, itís lively and you can break the tail away. Itís got a real wow-factor to drive. It really has been a riot.
I like all sorts of cars, Iím a BMW fan because my family were BMW dealers back in Tassie, but if I were going to buy one, I know the Evo IIIís the most valuable one here, Iíd choose the CSL. I like all the others.
Thereís none there that I wouldnít enjoy owning, but the CSL is so sharp on the throttle, and you can feel the weight loss compared to the normal E46 M3. Itís a great package.
helping to subtly shift weight distribution from the standard M3ís 52:48 front to rear a nadge back at 51:49.
On the subject of weight, can we clear something up about the CSLís boot? Based on an ancient Clarksonism, many believe that the boot floor of the CSL is made of cardboard and canít hold any weight. The underside of the boot is metal, the same as any M3 but it does have a cardboard boot liner. CSL-specific BMW part number 51477895990; removable honeycomb paper composite panel.
The plastic composite bootlid was developed more for aerodynamic benefit than weight saving, but a huge benefit came from the gumball semi-slick Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tyres. Later Cup+ tyres offered a little more wet weather versatility. The CSL rides 10mm lower than a stock E46 M3 and the suspension has been seriously gym-toned. Springs, dampers, anti-roll bars, bump stops, king pins; all were upspecced. A quicker steering rack and bigger front brake discs were also fitted.
Somewhat controversially for the time, the CSL foresaw a trend: no conventional manual gearbox for the flagship sports model. It took Porsche more than a decade to catch on to that particular trick. The SMG II boxís software seems a little quaint now, but itís still a riot to crack up through the ratios, affording you crucial brain space when at maximum attack.
History has proven BMWís decision right. If you like the look of the CSL but hanker after a manual gearbox, track down the less focused E46 M3 CS, the halfway house model with three pedals.
The E30 M3 might have the competition pedigree, but the M3 CSL carries a charisma all of its own, forged on the track, its reputation growing year on year. It chased an eight minute lap, not some EU-mandated emissions figure.
We may never see its like again, so best to cherish the CSL while we have the opportunity.
Bowe doesnít need asking twice.
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IíVE HAD a lot of M cars, I had an E39 M5, an E36 M3, and after those I was looking for something that was an extra bit special. A friend of mine had an E46 M3 CSL, a black one, and I drove it and I was smitten. After that, I just had to have one. I bought this one three years ago. Theyíre still pretty scarce in this country with only 27 locally delivered cars in Australia, and Iíve kept it as standard as I can. Iíve put in an aftermarket radio with Bluetooth but Iíve kept the old unit, so I can easily return the car to absolute standard spec. The CSL makes the best noise going, so you really donít need to modify the car. The only weak point are the brakes which, by todayís standards, arenít the best, I will say that.
The factory brakes are pretty average, only single pot calipers, but certainly fine for road use and Iím not tracking it, so Iíll probably keep Ďem.
The carís a 2003 and itís got 45,000km on the clock. I use it almost every day but I donít do many kilometres because I work from home, so theyíre enjoyable kays. Iíve also got a Ferrari 550 Maranello that Iíve had for two years. I bought that at just the right time and I interchange between the two cars. I call the CSL a dead manís car. Itíll only leave when I die!
NUMBERS BUILT 1383 (542 RHD) BODY Two-door coupe ENGINE 3.2-litre double VANOS inline six-cylinder POWER & TORQUE 360hp (265kW) @ 7900 rpm / 370Nm @ 4300 rpm PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h 4.8s 0-400m 13s TRANSMISSION 6-speed SMG II sequential SUSPENSION Modifi ed McPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f), multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r) BRAKES ventilated 345mm discs (f); 328mm discs (r), ABS TYRES 235/35 ZR19 (f); 265/30 ZR19 (r) PRICE RANGE $100,000 - $150,000
Filling the Z3 Mís clown shoes was always going to be a big task and it was one the Z4 initially struggled with.
Objectively, the Z4 was a massively superior proposition. It delivered the grunt and sophistication of the S54 six, the final evolution of the iron-blocked straight six that could trace its history right back to 1992. First seen at the 2006 Geneva Show, the Z4 M Coupeís styling was tidy, but toned down and, like many Chris Bangle-era BMWs, has actually stood the test of time very well.
Not everybody was a fan. Industrial designer and car enthusiast Marc Newson said the Z4 looked as if it had been styled with a machete.
With 252kW on tap when you wring the carís neck to 7900rpm, driving a Z4 M hard is a busy, immersive experience. Itís a handful on a lumpy road, but thatís part of the reason why owners love them. No thereís not the consistency of control weights youíd find in a Cayman, but to pick up the BMW and fling it by the scruff of the neck at a tortured section of blacktop is to emerge juiced and wired in a way the almost too perfect Porsche struggles to match.
The proposition is simple, a snarling atmo engine and a six-speed Getrag manual box Ė the SMG wouldnít fit Ė and the old-school hydraulic steering is manifestly superior to the regular Z4ís Gen 1 electric steer. The drive-by-wire throttle divides opinion,
I WAS really surprised by this car. Itís got quite a short wheelbase and wide track, so it was laways going to be lively but if anything it was It was way edgier than I expected it to be. Itís the next iteration of the Z3 M Coupe and itís got a bit more power thanks to that S54 engine. I wasnít prepared for it to sound even rawer than its predecessor and you can provoke slides in it a bit easier. Itís a really fun little jigger.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and itís one of those cars that really gets your heart rate going which I guess is exactly what a performance car should do. You can feel the diff load up nicely on the exit of corners and the stability control system is a bit more advanced than on early Beemers with a bunch of features like brake fade compensation and start-off assistant. So yes, very nice.
especially in Sport mode where itís fearsomely spiky but at least in the Z4 you get a stability control system if your ambition should outweigh your talent.
That throttle system can, somewhat strangely fall out of tune. Resetting it can improve throttle response and ití straightforward to do. Just CTRL-ALT-DEL: turn the ignition on and wait for 10 seconds, then turn it off for 10 seconds, then turn it on again for 10, and start the engine.
Reboot complete. There are other odd anomalies.
Whereas every other Z4 uses an E46-style front strut, the Z4M uses the older E36 style units. Why?
Because the inherent design is a good deal stiffer.
The ride quality is a little better than the Z3 Mís and gets better by ditching the run-flat tyres and switching to something like a Michelin Pilot Sport 2, but youíll need to pack a can of mobility foam in the event of a flat. As owner Gordon Yan pointed out, the Z4 feels like a model with one foot in the past and the other in t he realm of modern cars and thatís perhaps its appeal. It also ticks a lot of boxes for BMW collectors in that itís rare, itís the last of the line with the straight six, it looks great and its reputation grows with every passing year.
In this regard, the Z4 M Coupe might be the unlikely star of this group in terms of usability and collectability. For those looking to get onto the first rung of classic M coupes, the E36 M3 has long been the gateway, but the rarer Z4 offers an interesting alternative if youíre willing to spend a little more. The prices of many of the cars assembled here have already soared out of reach of most, but with Z4 M Coupes starting at a tickle over $40k, and representing a genuinely rapid, usable car, they look one heck of a tempting buy.
If I was spending my own money, this is where Iíd put it.
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IíVE HAD the Z4 M Coupe for one and a half years. Prior to that, it was owned by my uncle for four years. Originally he came from New Zealand and was looking for a car, so I figured Iíd give him a hand finding one. I found the car for him and when we went to look at it, I really wanted it, but it was his call so he ended up buying it. Iíd had the car in the back of my mind for a while and then around a year and a half ago he had to go overseas and wasnít going to come back, so I had the opportunity to buy it from him. He actually gave it to me for a good price!
I like the way the car drives. Era-wise, itís sort of between analogue and digital.
Itís not completely analogue where if you make a mistake itís going to kill you, but itís not completely digital where all the fun has gone out of the car. For me , on a personal level, itís just at the right spot; just how I like it. Iím pretty particular about the upkeep of the car and Iíve tried to keep it as stock as possible so if one part goes, I replace it with something factory or if thatís not available, something better than factory.
I also currently own an E93 BMW M3 V8 convertible. I do have a bit of a thing for open top sports cars and also have a Porsche 991 Targa 4. I reckon my uncle must miss the Z4 M but heís happy itís in good hands.
NUMBERS BUILT 4581 (1052 RHD) BODY Three-door coupe ENGINE 3.2-litre double VANOS inline six-cylinder POWER & TORQUE 338bhp (252kW) @ 7900 rpm / 365Nm @ 4900 rpm PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h 5.5s 0-400m 13.8s
TRANSMISSION 6-speed Getrag manual SUSPENSION McPherson struts, A-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f), multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r) BRAKES ventilated 345mm discs (f); 328mm discs (r), ABS TYRES 225/45 ZR18 (f); 255/40 ZR18 (r) PRICE RANGE $40,000 - $75,000