Richard Baxter on the E30 M3 Sport Evolution, E46 M3 CSL and E82 1M Coupe

During the 1920’s one could famously buy a Ford model T in any colour so long as it was black. Nothing looks so chic than a clean and polished car in black (without swirl marks) but there is the rub, it shows up any imperfection.

The trio of M cars presented this month; 1990 E30 M3 Sport Evolution owned by Pradip since new, 2003 E46 M3 CSL owned by his son, Rudi, and the 2011 E82 1M owned by Tim, are the most significant to leave the factory in the modern era and there are a number of reasons; each represent a near enough generation gap to the next, each were produced in limited numbers 600 (worldwide but believed only 51 official UK imports) /422/450 UK examples respectively, each being the most celebrated for dynamic excellence and each are proving to be very good investment’s.

There is an undeniable position in the market place for developed sports coupe’s, they appeal mostly to the 30/40 age bracket where the owners already have sufficient experience under their belts to enjoy the performance and income to afford the purchase along with the higher insurance, fuel, tyres and maintenance costs.

In terms of overall size and weight each clearly belong to their respective time period not only within their marque but amongst their contemporaries, this is noticeable in style, technology, materials, safety and design.

Take the evergreen cross spoke wheel design it exists in all three cars but each is more sophisticated than the previous, the same is emphasised in the detail of overtaking mirrors and front bumper/splitter arrangement. Whereas we accept the classic style of the E30 M3, the M3 CSL now looks quite plain and ordinary in direct comparison to the 1M’s complex curves, air slits and cooling inlets. 

One of the appealing design aspects is the ‘side on’ seat profiles, all curves on the E30 M3, skeletal on the M3CSL and unfortunately just plain forgotten on the 1M as Tim remarked “it needs a set of the BMW performance seats to set off the interior.”

We have the rough gruff (and on tick over - slightly rattily) four-cylinder engine that demands to be revved, in the E30 M3 with a period ‘crackle black’ cam cover and red spark plug leads. The M3 CSL is a carbon fibre show case with a six-cylinder engine and a sound track that was responsible for selling every one of the 422 RHD produced! The 1M has the scalpel sharp (fully optimized electronics) six-cylinder slightly bland engine note along with the expected crackle and pop over- run from the turbo driven 3.0-litre, completely in tune to the modern era with its fuel efficiency and emissions control. 

The dog left 1st gear on the E30 M3 feels special as the 2nd to 3rd and 4th to 5th gear are in a straight plane, the M3 CSL is from the period when the F1 style paddle change was the new fad and feels very dated by comparison to the dual clutch control methods used today, the 1M mercifully returns to the manual gearbox and makes it more of an involving car to drive.    

The ‘brilliant red’ and ‘jet black’ only colour options of the E30 M3 Sport Evo were difficult to sell across Europe even two years after production ended (heavily discounted to around £26k) approximately only 51 were sold new to the UK at a price close to £40k with extras. 

Pradip’s car is one of those with virtually all optional extras fitted plus a few of his own choosing from ALPINA, a one owner model with all paper work from day one is a rare thing and the condition is exemplary having been spared salty roads in the winter but has still has 77k miles to its credit which is a testament to his enduring enjoyment of the car – more on this later. 

The Silver Grey and Black Sapphire metallic only colour options of the M3 CSL were also difficult to sell, the UK allocation sat around for about 12 months until the price was discounted to around £45k-ish from the list £60k. However, apart from what was perceived a high cost (around £20k premium over the standard M3) there was also the weather/temperature sensitive Michelin Cup tyres to consider.

Valencia Orange, Alpine white and Black Sapphire metallic were the only colour options and no doubt due to the rave review from the popular Top Gear programme; plus the well judged price of around £40k, they would find no shortage of buyers for the 1M. Selling the entire UK production run was not an issue and two years later, the resale price is holding up well; and unless the forthcoming M2 is a far better car, one can assume the 1M will hold up well.      

E30 M3 Sport Evolution – What more can possibly be said about the almost mythical status of the E30 M3 Sport Evo? The race car developed handling, modest size and weight in a benign and talkative chassis will make a hero of anyone who explores the power band between 4 and 7250 rpm on a smooth and twisty section of road. 

Pradip posed the question “what would you choose to do with the last nine minutes of your life?” A final lap of the Nordschleife in the M3 Sport Evo would be his choice; and this despite him having owned cars far more exotic and powerful.  A few days after the photo shoot clearly Pradip had been musing over his experience and sent the following comments;

 “It is the most perfect car I have ever driven - perfect steering feel, perfect balance, incredible feedback.  When you drive it you know you are somewhere special.  When I sit inside, I feel like I'm completely at home.  It has over the top wheel arches and front and rear spoilers - it does not look like a road car - and yet also feels understated these days compared to most cars (power, torque are modest, 16 inch wheels)
The cabin is cosy – it's not a big car, it wraps itself around you.  It is a car where you feel you are in complete control and it flatters you as a driver. I've driven a lot of Munich's best cars - the M1, the E9 CSL etc. – and IMO this is the greatest car BMW has ever built, not bad for an old 3 series”

E46 M3 CSL – Rudi’s comments: “It is a living legend, a car I will always feel privileged to have owned”
“It is good looking without being over the top - all muscle, no fat, no odd angles.  I like the purity of the cockpit - simple, focused, functional. The gear box – a complaint for many – was never a major issue for me and I just saw it as a reflection of the age of the car (ok for the time but it feels agricultural ten years later). Yes it is does slur, but once you changed the setting to the faster end, the gear changes are bone shockingly brutal (great fun as a driver, perhaps not so much for the passenger - as my wife will testify!). Of course, the engine is the highlight. The noise (enhanced by the carbon air box) is utterly ridiculous, completely addictive and turns you into a hooligan, as you just want to keep hearing that howl again and again and again….invariably I just drive with the windows open” 

E82 1M – This is a fascinating car and the first of the new turbocharged brigade from Motorsport GMBH. With the development of the 1 Series the design has somehow wormed it way into the affections. So much so that the previous generation now looks old and dated.

Almost like a cartoon caricature on steroids or a short sleeve T shirted over- exercised, over-muscled body builder from the gym, one cannot avoid being visually arrested by the exaggeration.

After taking station both fore and aft of the 1M on the journey to the photo shoot the tension throughout the design is just thoroughly in tune, almost like melted chocolate poured over the skeleton. It is not difficult to understand why this car has captured the hearts of the enthusiast not only for its outrageous looks (especially in the ‘see me’ Valencia Orange) but because it represents fantastic performance value for money in a thoroughly sorted and totally exciting driver centric package.

As Tim comments “the acceleration in 2nd gear is just simply awesome” and the fact that BMW with little fan fare simply raided the parts bins and seemingly from nowhere dropped this firecracker into the party somehow adds to its allure, well done to BMW for being so adventurous I say! 

It would not surprise me at all that when the M2 arrives in 2015 it will be an improved and refined car because they always are – however, I’m not sure that it will ever be able to capture the excitement of the 1M as with many of life’s experiences it is almost impossible to forget the first time! 

E30 M3 Sport Evolution – starting with a car in need of restoration it is very unlikely to find one below £20k, but that has climbed to £120k for a zero miles car but then we are looking at cars for different kinds of owners, the enthusiast and the straight investor.

The top price will never in my opinion cease to climb; however, there is a noticeable temporary flat line in the market at present especially for the many cars in the 40k to 90k miles bracket that have come to market by the owners wanting to cash in on the price sprint that came to a halt around two years ago aided as it was by the euro/£ exchange which gave the European’s an opportunity to buy back the cars we had avidly purchased over the previous exchange rate beneficial years. 

Those anticipating a £60k to £80k price will I fear have a long wait, the enthusiast and probably more importantly the former owner wanting to rekindle that earlier experience is unlikely to fork out such funds for a car they will unlikely want to drive as hard as they once did especially with the cost being perceived as too high.

The winners in this situation are the owners who have hung onto their cars (having paid around £6k to £13k back in the day) and not afraid to go out and exercise them hard (which is when they come alive), those tempted only by the hype are unlikely to get under the skin of why these cars are so highly rated from just a cursory test drive!

However the cars in the £13k to £20k bracket do seem to keep turning over and is a reflection of how the market is realistically responding, the enthusiast as always demands value for money.

E46 M3 CSL – high mileage cars can be found in the early £20k’s, low mileage gems for around £50, the latter as purely investment opportunities. For anyone seriously looking there are sufficient numbers of cars around that one can invariably find one by asking within the active but perceived closed world of the owners.

Prices as always for the very best will continue to rise but due to the numbers in circulation I personally do not envisage a great step change.

1M – £30k to £40k appears to be the market rate and completely mileage/condition related. Many will be squirrelled away for the future but I do not see a gain in value there are relatively too many around and prices will soften but for the present owners they are not being stung by the normal drop in car values which is quite extraordinary. Neither are they likely to drop like a stone in the future.

For those who purchased their cars firstly as an enthusiast and thoroughly enjoy the ownership experience, they will not care too much about increasing or decreasing values for such a sea change is a product of the financial crises which started six years ago lest we forget. So enough of all this ‘values’ talk and enjoy the fine set of photos taken by Chris Teagles showing well the development of BMW styling over the past 23 years…

Author: Richard Baxter – M Power Chairman, BMW Car Club.
PhotographyChris Teagles

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