If You Can’t Join ’Em, Shop The BMW CCA Classifieds

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I missed it. Oktoberfest was practically in my backyard, and I missed it. Oh, the shame!

At least it was for the right reasons: The family went on a multi-week trip to Europe to see my great aunt in Berlin, then to meet the English relatives who were gathering for a wedding outside of Faro (plus soak up the Portuguese sun), and finally there was another wedding the weekend of our return. We had to plan the trip well in advance, and the entire endeavor just happened to coincide with Oktoberfest in Pittsburgh. Sigh.

However, my not joining a bunch of BMW-loving enthusiasts did prevent me from having to explain why my precious 3 Series continues to degrade, trapped in the garage.

Yes, the Great Basement Project of 2018 is still in progress, which means that the giant dumpster blockade is still imprisoning my Bimmer. But multiple weeks without access to fun cars takes its toll; I need something to keep me sane. Thank goodness for Roundel—I can still get my car fix, even when traveling abroad!

If only I had avoided the classifieds….

Every time I go an extended period without actually driving my car, my eyes start to wander. I can’t help it! And why, oh, why were there so many articles about Bring-A-Trailer?! I have used large reserves of willpower to stay clear of that website, but when you’re automobile deprived and your’e not even in the same country as your beloved car, you start thinking about other options….

No! I will stick to the Roundel classifieds! Of course, if I am already looking, I might as well have some fun. So, here are my picks for BMWs available during mid-July on the BMW CCA website at a variety of price points.

$5,000 and under: This is the buy-wisely-and-you-won’t-lose-much-money zone. Or, for some of us, it’s the buy-not-so-wisely-and-dump-a-bunch-of-money-saving-a-car-already-on-life-support bracket. And after diving into those Roundel classifieds, there are not many options at the bottom end of the price range.

One car did catch my eye though: a 1998 Z3 with the 1.9-liter inline four. I have fond memories of tuning my heel-and-toe skills in a 1995 318ti Club Sport, and I suspect that the little Z3 would offer up tons of training opportunities, as well as a large helping of good ol’ roadster entertainment.

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You don’t need much more BMW than this to have a great time.

The only other listing under five grand that piqued my interest was a set of wheels mounted with Michelin Pilot Sport Max Performance tires from an M235i. Instead of a new ride, I could by my car some new shoes!

Up to $10,000: There’s not a whole lot of meat on the bone before we breach five figures, although a pair of older 3 Series do add some flavor to the mix. Keeping with the open-top theme, there is a 1999 E36 M3 convertible with fewer than 80,000 miles. Saskatchewan is a bit of haul, though!

I do like that two of the lower-cost options in the classifieds are true summer cars (at least in Cleveland) that offer something quite different from the typical daily driver. Not that I’m ignoring the E46 330i ZHP; this car hits the sweet spot for factory-modified, tasteful upgrades over the base model. With a few extra ponies, modified suspension, and a visual package that is just right, the ZHP option was the original inspiration for modifying my 328i. This has more recently morphed into the M Sport package on newer models, but it’s still rare to strike that perfect blend of subtlety and specialness.

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Several subtle changes can add up to a perfect profile.

Around $25,000: Ah, the bread-and-butter price for convincing your Significant Other that you are making a smart financial decision by buy something used rather than “wasting all of that money on initial depreciation with a new car!” And, wow, there are plenty of options!

The roadsters are always tempting, and there is a fine example of a 2001 Z3 with the S54 engine in Estoril Blue, perhaps my favorite M Roadster color. It even has shorter gearing and Dinan exhaust. I have a funny feeling that examples like this one won’t be so affordable ten years from now.

Do I want something with an even higher-revving engine? Oddly, the E90 M3 is a sleeper by current M3 standards—well, until you floor it and shift up with the engine screaming at 8,300 rpm. The Roundel classified section has what may be one of the best examples, period, with meticulous maintenance and all the goodies. If only it had a manual transmission! (Scratch that, because I would be way too tempted if that were the case. I have already spent an unhealthy amount of time looking at the pictures.)

I think that I have a type, because I am also enamored with a 2013 135is in Vermillion Red. What a color! And I just keep coming back to these factory-upgraded models, especially when they get one of the last twin-turbo N54 engines. Did I mention the color?

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This color should be available on every BMW.

The one BMW that I would actively search for at this price point is a stripped-down, manual 228i. After test-driving one when they first came out, I made a mental bookmark, just to ensure that I never forget that entry-level BMWs can sometimes be the best of the breed.

Around $50,000: Now we’ve entered that place where most potential purchases must be rationalized by buying something “special” that is a “great deal.” Of course it’s a deal, because the car cost a lot of money initially, and only a minor portion of the buying public can actually afford these things. If only my wife and I hadn’t just bought a basement, I could pick up a Dinan M4. Or an M3, you know, to keep things practical. I like the concept around restrained options selections and lots of power, and the 2015 M3 in the not-so-practical Sakhir Orange and around 550 horsepower.

How about style? The 6 Series Gran Coupé really is a head-turner, and at less than half the original list price, it’s looking really good. And with a heap of options packages, this example would make for an amazing cross-country tourer. (Who I am kidding? My wife would steal the keys within the first fifteen minutes.)

She wouldn’t take the keys to the Mauritius Blue 8 Series, though, even if it looks equally as good as the newer Gran Coupé. I know this because she doesn’t drive manual cars. My mother does, though, and I am certain that she would finagle the keys, and then I wouldn’t see the 850i again.

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Yes, it still looks good, even after two-and-a-half decades.

How high can we go? If I’m just looking, then I might as well see what’s in the pull-a-Satch-and-cash-out-the-retirement-fund range. Oh, look, there’s an original-owner Z8! 30,000 miles is just about right for keeping the mechanicals moving on a regular basis without piling on the miles, and I am sure that someone will happily cash in their 401(k) and drive into the sunset.

How much is too much for an E30 M3? $189,000 seems like a lot, even if the paint looks pristine and the interior brand-new. The engine bay appears untouched, and it’s only seen 17,000 miles. Wait, it’s stock, completely unmodified? I still can’t see myself paying that sum, but this is a beautiful E30 M3—and may end up being the best around.

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E30 M3 interiors don’t come much cleaner than this.

And then there is the 850CSi, BMW M’s mid-90s masterpiece that harbors the S70 engine. The car advertised on the BMW CCA Classifieds website already sold on, ahem, Bring A Trailer for just under $100,000. It’s still worth checking out the listing, as the pictures are a pure pleasure to view.

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The mighty S70 engine is nestled in an E31 chassis.

I’d like to award an honorable mention to the i8, even if I couldn’t find any examples on the CCA classifieds site. You can pick up a fairly low-mileage example for thousands less than the 850CSi above. It’s no V12 continent-cruiser, but it does mark an intriguing crossroads for BMW, when the future of technology, design, and performance all came together to make a future classic. Very tempting.

Even given all of the enticing options, I don’t anticipate acquiring a new ride between now and next year’s Oktoberfest. But I will be preparing my trusty steed for a trip to Spartanburg in 2019 for the big Oktoberfest Five-Oh celebration. Just please, Oktoberfest, don’t conflict with any weddings!

What’s that? My good friend from Denmark just got engaged? Congratulations! But hey—have you considered luxurious South Carolina for a destination wedding?—Chris Doersen

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