When it comes to “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” BMW has spoiled us with enthusiast cars produced over the past several decades. From humble sedans to mid-engine supercars, BMW has just about done it all, but two things that vintage BMWs consistently deliver are an engaging driving experience and clever German engineering.
Overall interest in vintage German cars has really soared over the last few years. While the BMW market hasn’t performed as dramatically as Porsche’s, there has been plenty of positive movement. As always, each car is different. Some BMWs make for a good buy, some are almost fully priced and poised to sell, and there are also some for which it would be prudent to tread water for now.
When the 3.5-liter M88 straight-six engine from the wedge-shaped M1 found its way into the Paul Bracq-designed E24 6 Series, the original M6 was born. It cost nearly $60K when new (adjusting for inflation, that’s between $120,000–$148,000, depending on the model year), and it won wide praise for its elegant styling and lavish interior. On top of that it had strong straight-line performance and lovely balance in the corners. The first-generation M6 has gained a lot of appreciation in the collector car market recently. Still, it’s late to the party compared with the more driver-focused E30 M3, which has for several years now been worth significantly more than the M6 despite the latter’s elevated position in the model range and higher price when both cars were new. Five years ago, the M6 was worth about five percent more than an E30 M3 on average, but today it’s worth about 40 percent less. That makes the faster and more luxurious M6 seem like something of a bargain. Values continue to grow and are up 17 percent on average over the past year, so now may be the best time to get into one of these “shark-nose” M cars.
Speaking of the E30 M3, it’s no secret that prices for these cars have gone pretty wild. Hagerty Price Guide values are up a whopping 269 percent on average over the past five years. Only a handful of the nearly 1300 vehicle generations in the price guide saw that kind of growth. That rate of increase isn’t exactly sustainable, and over the past year Hagerty Price Guide values for E30 M3s are up five percent on average. That’s still a sizable jump, but clearly the rate of growth is slowing down. Buyer interest measured by insurance quote activity is also down 20 percent over the last year, and the number of M3s being purchased by Hagerty clients is down 17 percent over the same time period. Prices are still very strong and don’t necessarily show signs of dropping, but they appear to be approaching their ceiling.
The venerable Neue Klasse 2002 helped BMW establish its reputation in this country and grow into the automotive giant it is today, so its significance is huge. But its basic underpinnings and high production numbers mean 2002s are fairly cheap. In recent years, prices grew for the much rarer and more expensive 2002 Turbo models, but normal production models have started to now pick up steam as well. Stronger and stronger sale prices have resulted in a 23-percent average growth in Hagerty Price Guide values, making the 2002 the hottest BMW in terms of value growth. Buyer interest, meanwhile, has only seen a modest increase over the past 12 months, so it may be worth waiting to see what happens to prices in 2018 before making a move.