Anyone who’s been into the BMW game long enough knows that E30s were once seen very differently not only byBMW enthusiasts, but also by automotive enthusiasts as a whole. They were cheap fun, a great car for the money.

The secret’s been out for a while. Thanks to equal parts attrition and market correction, prices gradually rose, until the E30 wasn’t such a good deal anymore—but people keep buying, and prices continue to rise.

I hope I’m not ruffling too many feathers when I say that, currently, the E30 is a bit overpriced, and—here goes—a bit overrated to boot. I’m not saying that the E30 is a bad car at all. In fact, it’s fantastic. I even sought one out initially before I found my E34 Touring. But it’s hardly what any sensible person would call legendary, and, currently, for the price of a clean E30 facelift coupe, you could very easily buy a very nice, low-mileage C4 Corvette, a car that, in every measurable metric of performance, will effortlessly obliterate said E30.

E30s were at their best when they were cheap, fun cars. Now, even among BMWs, there are far better cars for the money.

The E30’s successor, the E36, may lack the boxy, big-windowed, four-eyed 1980’s charm of its predecessor, but the newer car is better in almost every way from a driving standpoint.

Now that E30s are priced out of the budget of many first-time BMW owners and enthusiasts, the E36 is the perfect replacement. Inexpensive, fun to drive, and easy to repair and modify, they’re also capable of performance that will embarrass all but the most heavily-modified E30s (E30s that are usually modified with E36 engines, but I digress…).

This means, of course, that the cycle will repeat itself. As ’80s nostalgia gives way to ’90s nostalgia, and all of the cheap E36s are parted out or slid sideways into walls or wrapped around telephone poles, prices for good ones will gradually start to creep up.

It’s already starting, and most noticeably with the E36 M3. Years ago, $8,500 was good money for a clean, well cared-for coupe or sedan. Now, that money gets you a clapped-out project. How long will it be until E36s are overpriced and overrated? I hope there’s enough time to get the 318ti of my dreams—and I sure hope it’s fast enough to outrun the angry mob of pitchfork-and-torch-toting Bimmerphiles in my wake.—Cam VanDerHorst

[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]



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