7 August 2013

A BMW M-Car From Every Decade: Five of our favorites

BMWs’ Motorsports Division (the creators of the legendary BMW “M” cars) marks 40 years of car production this year. Although it was actually formed in 1972, the 1973 3.0CSL “Batmobile” is generally regarded as the first real “M” car. Over the years, production has gone up and the “M” cars have become a little more accessible, but they remain special — think of them as the ultimate, ultimate driving machines. Nearly all of them have bright futures as collectible cars. Here are five of our favorites from each of the five decades:

1979 BMW M1: The first car to be branded an “M” car, the M1 was undeniably special. Developed with some assistance from Lamborghini (whose precarious financial condition led to far more of the M1 development being shouldered by BMW than originally intended), it’s the thinking person’s supercar. Understated and businesslike, as you might expect a BMW to be rather than a flashy fashion accessory, it remains BMW’s only mid-engine production car to date. Values have soared in the last five years.

1988 BMW M3 (E30): The first M3 was certainly the edgiest and the only M3 to feature four-cylinder power. Although based on the E30 three-series, there were numerous exterior changes and few of the body panels actually interchange between the two. It’s fair to call the M3 one of the seminal cars of the late 1980s.You should have bought one 10 years ago; prices for the few unmolested examples remaining are high and climbing ever higher.

1992 BMW M3 (E36): If there’s a bargain in the “M” car world now, it’s the E36 M3. Handsome in the extreme (although with far less to differentiate it from the normal E36 three-series than its predecessor), the E36 was the first M-car to come in multiple body-styles (coupe, sedan and convertible), and with an automatic transmission, it brought M-car ownership to a far wider audience. Our choice?  A coupe in the outlandish shade of Dakar Yellow.

2005 BMW M5 (E60): The M5 sometimes toiled in the shadow of its smaller sibling, the M3. The E60 M5 focused some much deserved attention on the bigger car. It was the first sedan to feature a V-10 engine (in this case, an exclusive-to-the-M5 5.0-liter unit that made exactly 100 hp per liter). Europeans got the insanely cool and quite rare station wagon version. Only out of production since 2010, the E60 is still looking for the bottom of its depreciation curve. Our sense is that it won’t be a long search for this very special sedan.

2014 BMW M6 Gran Coupe: This is BMW’s newest M-car and quite possibly the most spectacular to date with a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 that makes 560 hp. Bless BMW’s heart, it’s the only car in its class to offer a real three-pedal conventional manual transmission. I tried one last month at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and it’s simply stunning what this 4,400-lb. car can do on what is a very challenging circuit. There’s little doubt that we’ll be talking about the very special M6 Gran Coupe as a desirable collectible 20 years from now.

7 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Geoff philadelphia August 28, 2013 at 15:53
    You'd expect this sort of comment with such a list of course, but, sorry you didn't cite the iconic original M6. Known to BMW enthusiasts everywhere as the shark.
  • 2
    Paige Simms baltimore August 29, 2013 at 13:54
    Um, what about my 88 M5? The first M5 and having the engine that some experts say was the best BMW engine ever made
  • 3
    Ed Muth Ontario Canada October 27, 2013 at 06:51
    We have an 81 633 CSI and a 2003 M3 Cab. Both a wonderful cars. However the 633 is hard to find parts for and difficult to fix as the manuals and repair info is limited or was when I bought it. In our fleet of classics its the only one not running but is a charm when it is. Beautiful interior and 5 speed. The 2003 is a great car and the reason I bought it over the Corvette were ....well...many. Can haul the grand kids around, has a beautiful and inspiring interior. The wife hates the way the 6 speed shifts and much prefers the gate of a Miata as I do myself. The drive by wire sucks big time! oh and that engine light loves to beam...SERVICE (piece of tape) just keep the oil up and find a mechanic that has the tappet discs so you don't have t spring for the full set. Yes the BMW's will have you blogging! But driving...when we tour with the clubs this is the ultimate tourer. The M3 climate control is a charm. Drove it to Pebble Beach and have a parting shot in front of Clint's bar in Carmel. Dumped a fuel pump in Vasallia on the free way and were back in business in a day thanks to the local BMW highwaymen...ah the memories but this car is a keeper, probably keep it forever ..purchased at 25 cents on the dollar and easy to maintain if you blog.
  • 4
    jerry New York November 19, 2013 at 16:43
    Suprised the e39m5 didn't make the list. Especially over the e60.
  • 5
    Mike Traverse City March 29, 2014 at 18:04
    Hey peanut gallery.... Do you see the title of this article? A BMW M-Car From Every Decade...
  • 6
    Sandra Hugh Miami August 4, 2015 at 05:25
    Yes. my favorite also. I got BMW M3 in 2010. recently i have done with performance upgrade. that is working awesome http://is.gd/bapiS2
  • 7
    Morey Benton London, Ontario May 11, 2016 at 19:53
    In my opinion, the M- Roadster and Coupe are truly iconic. Aside from the fact that I just bought a 2000 M Roadster, others will tell you that these cars provide the most fun you can possibly have with your clothes on.

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