6 BMWs bucking tradition at Legends of the Autobahn 2022
Free shows—the organized kind—aren’t common during Monterey Car Week, but anyone who’s a fan of German marques can attend Legends of the Autobahn at no cost. BMW Car Club of America, the original hosts of the event, have since been joined by the national clubs for Mercedes-Benz and Audi. BMW in particular has taken advantage of this gathering of its biggest fans, blessing it with the North American debuts of 328 Hommage concept (2011), the Zagato Z4 Roadster concept (2012), the M4 GTS concept (2014), and, in 2022, the first stateside appearance of the latest M4 CSL.
Though the judged classes hosted many fine vintages of numbers-matching BMWs, less-traditional builds sprinkled the Pacific Grove Golf Links this year. Here are 5 of our favorite non-traditional Bimmers.
E46 M3 wagon
Not until the current, G20-generation 3 Series has BMW offered a wagon version of the M3, which bears chassis code G81. (It will not be sold in the U.S., sadly.) One fan in Southern California decided to write an alternate history by converting this E46 into the longroof M3 the factory never made, via a rear-end donation from a 325xi. Peek inside and you’ll spot a gearshift lifted from an M5 … a manual, because why not have it all?
If you’re curious what the kids are doing to their Bimmers these days, this 2013 M3 sedan is a great example of the understated side of the spectrum. Under the hood, the S65 V-8 has gained a supercharger courtesy of ESS Turning and exhales via an aFe Power X-pipe and an M Performance exhaust—but you’d not know at a glance. Trim is low-profile and appropriately en vogue: black carbon fiber, offsetting a full-body satin-finish wrap. Wheels are a mild rather than wild flavor of BBS, hiding a set of Bilstein EDC coilovers. Perhaps not the build philosophy older generations would have applied, but a reflection of BMW M’s young and adventurous fanbase.
When Americans clamored for more power in BMW’s 85-hp 1600-2, the factory answered with with the 2002, powered by a single-carb 2.0-liter four making 100 hp. Little did they imagine that, years later, mod-crazy 2002 buyers would borrow a high-revving, DOHC four-cylinder from a Honda S2000. In spirit, however, this compact, potent swap matches the original BMW’s mission quite nicely.
1988 E30 M3
Not all builds center on the powertrain. Thus far, the modifications to this E30 M3 cater to the eye and the ear. Keen-eyed marque aficionados will spot highly desirable bits lifted from the Sport Evo model—the front bumper and rear spoiler—and other components from the race track: The low-profile mirrors and upturned exhaust tips are lifted from the DTM-spec E30. Inside, the centerpiece is a 400W McIntosh audio system: full cowl speakers, a CD-compatible head unit, and and a trunk-mounted amp.
2002 Targa “M2”
This targa-top 2002 is another exercise in rewritten history. Under the hood sits an inline-four that makes at least double the power of the 2002: the E30 M3’s DOHC S14. The first factory-built M2 wouldn’t appear until 2015 as a replacement for the 1 Series M. Both of those rear-drive, 21st century models tend to attract those put off by the growing complexity and size of BMW’s modern-day sedans … but the builder of this “M2” wanted to reach back even further. And then add some spice.
1996 Alpina wagon
BMW never shoehorned the 5 Series’ 90-degree V-8 into the E36-generation M3 of the 1990s—but erstwhile racing outfit and boutique automaker, Alpina, managed just that with the Euro-only B8 4.6. Since the low-volume BMW builder had assembly lines of its own in Buchloe, outside of Munich, (BMW only this year announced it would buy independent Alpina) it could implement some creative, expensive solutions: designing a new sump system to replace the 540i’s, complete with a new oil pump; installing a new exhaust system; even commissioning a new engine block displacing 4.6 rather than 4.0 liters. (Since the cylinders of the 5 Series’ V-8 were coated in Nikasil, a silicon carbide/nickel mixture, an overbore was out of the question.)
This longroof B8 4.6 is a fresh face stateside: Built in 1996, it was only eligible for import as of last spring. We couldn’t get enough of the geometric ’90s pinstriping and blue suede interior.