The modern BMW collectibles you should buy now

Photography Courtesy BMW unless otherwise credited

Shopping for a future classic from BMW? Here are a few to consider:

BMW M3 Lightweight

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

Aluminum doors straight from the factory. Deleted sound deadening, stiffened suspension and an eliminated speed limiter. Plus a few more parts so trick that final installation was left to the owners–like a deeper oil pan, adjustable front splitter and that can’t-miss rear wing.

The car came in just one color: white. Air conditioning? Not offered.

Welcome to the M3 Lightweight, BMW’s factory-built, street-legal race car for the 1995 season. Erik Wensberg, at the time head of BMW’s American motorsports effort, set out to out-Porsche Porsche by offering a turnkey race car program for those headed into the professional ranks. 

And then add a small bit of reality: He asked for a hundred cars–total run came in at 126–but the bulk of them didn’t arrive until the end of the year. Many, he reports, sat unsold on dealer lots. (Apparently, not many consumers were interested in paying a $10,000 premium for a car without a/c.)

Those cars eventually did find homes. Many saw action on the club level. We know of one that served as a Bay Area commuter. 

Lately, though, interest has heated up. The late Paul Walker of the “Fast & Furious” movie franchise owned a few Lightweights, with one grabbing all the headlines in 2020 when Barrett-Jackson got $385,000 for it–and that was three long years ago.

Behind the Wheel

When you buy an E36-chassis M3, the first step is pretty much universal: lower the suspension. Is your posterior that finely tuned that you can feel the aluminum doors? But you’d like to find out, right?

BMW M3 Lime Rock Park Edition

Photography Credit: Courtesy Cars & Bids

What made this one so special? Pretty much the color: Fire Orange.

Oh, and just 200 examples were built, all for the 2013 model year. 

The Lime Rock Park Edition M3 started with an M3 with the Competition Package, so that meant the carbon roof and titanium exhaust. As with the rest of the M3 line, power came from the 4.0-liter V8 along with two options for the transmission: the six-speed manual or the seven-speed dual clutch. 

For a few years, these were seen as sleeper classics–basically, you had to know the color was that rare.

And then the market found out. Selling prices on Cars & Bids during the past year have more or less ranged between $50,000 and $125,000, although Gooding & Company got $263,200 for one at Monterey last summer.

Behind the Wheel

Does it drive any differently than a standard M3 of that vintage? No, not really. But we guarantee the color–and that little Lime Rock sticker in the rear window–will make you smile every time you approach it.

BMW M5

It has all the makings of a classic Q-ship: V8 engine, rear drive, manual box. It’s quiet, restrained and well optioned. Subdued colors were the norm. 

No shouting, no screaming. No big wings. 

Very little hinted at the car’s performance–just the wider alloys and reworked bumpers. 

But that little M5 badge on the rear came with the important bits–like nearly 400 horsepower and no provision for a two-pedal setup. If you wanted the performance, you had to commit. (But committing also got you comfortable, properly bolstered buckets and everything else the discriminating driver could want.)

Interest in the M5 has simmered through the years. For years, they kind of bumbled through the market as used but slightly unorthodox performance sedans. 

Then they started to get hot. Seemingly out of nowhere, Gooding & Company brought in $176,000 for one at Monterey in 2018–and this was before all the recent interest in rad-era cars.

Prices still seem to be trying to find their place, as this isn’t the rarest BMW special–nearly 10,000 were sent to North America during the 2000-’03 run. Hagerty says the best of the best is currently worth right at $100,000. Selling prices for good cars can be found in the $30,000s. At The Amelia this spring, though, Broad Arrow sold one for $117,600.  

One constant, though: Condition matters, as the mint, original, nearly new examples outpace the drivers.

Behind the Wheel

It does everything an M3 does–goes fast comfortably–but has ample room for two extra passengers plus all their stuff. If you’re looking for a modern, classic BMW that does it all, this might be your droid.

BMW Alpina B7

Looking for a BMW sedan that offers even more thrust, more luxury and more exclusivity? And do you want it today for pennies on the dollar? 

Type this into your next search: “Alpina B7,” specifically the not quite 1800 examples sent stateside between 2011 and 2015. 

The big news was the lump under the hood: a twin-turbo V8 making an effortless 500 horsepower along with 516 lb.-ft. of torque. The B7 could reach 60 in about 4.5 seconds and was governed to 175 mph. Those famed, multi-spoke wheels–in this case 21 inches in diameter–also came standard. 

All that performance had a price, of course, with MSRP running right around the $125,000 mark. Blame the car’s complexity or its lack of an M badge, but today we’re seeing ones selling around $30,000.

Behind the Wheel

Before today’s electric supercars, this was how you experienced that unwavering thrust: all the torque, all the boost.

BMW Z3 M coupe

The clown shoe.

Not a very flattering nickname, is it? Yet some three decades later, it sticks. 

This one’s origin story starts with the Z3, a new offering for 1996 that gave BMW an entry into the day’s quickly growing roadster market. Mazda kicked open the door with its Miata, and nearly everyone quickly followed: Porsche and Mercedes, Honda and Toyota, Pontiac and even Mercury. 

And then, for some reason, BMW added a coupe variant to the lineup for 1998. And it wasn’t really a coupe in the traditional sense. Picture a pumped-up little bread van-looking thing: long nose, nearly vertical backlight, fat rear fenders. It came in both M and non-M guises, with the first ones powered by the same 240-horsepower engine found in the E36-chassis M3. BMW sent nearly 2200 copies of the original setup our way during the two-year run.

Then BMW turned up the wick for 1999, slotting its newer, more-powerful S54 engine under the hood, raising the ante to 315 horsepower. This is the one today’s collectors seek: In addition to that extra power, just 678 copies were sold in North America. 

Hagerty reports that these later M coupes should top out around $75,000, but the market says you can add another $25K to that figure.

Behind the Wheel

Maybe you’re not exactly sitting on the rear axle, but it sure feels that way. Add in the higher-revving engine found in the later cars–you can take that inline-six to the 8000 rpm redline–and it’s almost like a four-wheeled sport bike.

BMW Z4 M coupe

BMW followed up its original Mcoupe with an updated take. This one was still powered by the brand’s famed S54 engine, but chiseled body lines replaced the retro curves of the original. If the first one had roots in the ’90s–or even earlier–this one was fresh for the new millennium. 

The profile was also a bit more mainstream. Think grown-up take on the two-door coupe and you’re in the ballpark.

Like the original, though, it was a bit of a rare bird. During its relatively short production run–spring of 2006 through the summer of 2008–BMW North America imported just 1815 cars. 

As with many of the cars profiled here, mileage significantly drives prices. Bring a Trailer got $66,500 for a 17,000-mile example, while cars with six figures on the odometer can be found selling below the $30,000 mark.

Behind the Wheel

The second installment of the M coupe trades the retro chrome interior touches found in the original for something more akin to the day’s M3: lots of piano black, lots of neutrals. Performance is still exhilarating, though, as the S54 remains one of the smoothest engines ever released.

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Comments
wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
6/19/23 10:00 a.m.

One error - the article says

During its relatively short production run–spring of 2006 through the summer of 2008–BMW North America imported just 1815 cars. 

In fact they imported zero as they were all made in South Carolina.....

bimmerbob
bimmerbob New Reader
10/20/23 7:21 p.m.

Well, I think you've overlooked a few BMW's. The iconic 2002 remains a relatively cheap entry into classic BMW's. It is a reliable, fun and unique car that will always be loved. The M5 Competition is a car that will never be cheap to own, but can be had now with low miles and is an absolute stunner for performance, and is a passenger car that will always be respected. Finally, the BMW I8 checks so many blocks it is hard to understand how it is overlooked. Fast, one of a kind, a design that is arguably the best looking BMW ever made. It also checks the block for economy, and last I checked it is very reliable. The fun factor is exceptional. Owners say they are swamped with car people that want to see such a phenomenal car wherever they go. Just sayin'...

ancientdan
ancientdan New Reader
10/20/23 11:38 p.m.

I have the following bunchabimmers, all oddballs in one way or another.  They may never be worth much, but they sure do bring great joy to an old man: 

1982 318i automatic , pristine in orginal sahara beige with brown comfort seat interior.  I have parts to change to a stick but am undecided.  Not as much fun as a stick, but still fun.

1987 635csi, breathed on by Korman Moter Werks to the tune of 51K. Altered subframes to accept WIDE BBS wheels.  Faster than my M6. Crazy to drive full out. Close to a race car, but no roll cage!

1988 M6. Civilized fast transportation.  I want to civilize it further by REMOVING the competition clutch and the short shifter.  I am 80 and don't have the strength for either. Same for the 87 above. 

1993 530iT V8 Wagon with a stick!  Hell of a grocery getter.  

1997 318Ti.  This is the bobtail. Stick. rare in the U.S. , enormous fun to drive.  That little 4 winds like mad and the stick is really slick, without a short shifter.  

2000 Z3 stick.  Red with black interior. Top rarely used. Joy!

2003 540i , unfortunately it is an automatic. Fortunately, it goes like hell!

2006 X3 bad weather car. Goes great in snow. 

Also found myself with a couple of Jags (90 XJS convertible with a rare stick and an 89 XJ6, both very low miles), and 3 MGs (47 MG Y Type 4 door sedan, 67 MGB-GT, 74 MG Midget).  Still have room on the place for my F-250 $-WD and Kubota tractors.  Ain't life grand when you are having fun!

ChrisTropea
ChrisTropea Associate Editor
10/30/23 11:24 a.m.

I have a friend with a Z3 M coupe and he has let me drive it a few times and it is a blast. Plus its a hatchback and who dosent like a hatchback? 

wspohn
wspohn UltraDork
10/30/23 11:44 a.m.
ChrisTropea said:

I have a friend with a Z3 M coupe and he has let me drive it a few times and it is a blast. Plus its a hatchback and who dosent like a hatchback? 

And the Z3 rear suspension give loosey-goosey handing compared to the Z4 - try one of those if you get the chance!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/30/23 1:18 p.m.

A friend had a supercharged first-gen M coupe.

He no longer has it. :) 

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