At this year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, BMW had a special presence, introducing the latest versions of the 8 Series and M8 Competition in continued celebration of the BMW M brand’s 50th anniversary. In addition to the 8 Series display, which featured the original E31 M8 prototype beside an M8 Competition Gran Coupé, BMW M also organized a gathering of 50 cars celebrating different eras of the brand, including an M1, V12 LMR, and iX M60.
Beyond being one the world’s premier concours events, Amelia Island also hosts some of the most important collector car auctions during the same week. Although BMW CCA sponsor Hagerty noted that large increases in value seem to have taken pause, a number of BMWs set new records in terms of hammer prices.
Is it mere hype, or are people finally waking up to the fact that cars like the E36 M3 have offered a world-class driving experience the entire time? What’s really driving the market and what’s ahead remain anyone’s guess, but here is a selection of BMWs that just sold for more than they’ve ever been worth.
1995 BMW M3
Has the time finally come for the E36 M3? The second-generation M3, specifically the American version, has a great origin story. They’re exceptionally fun to pilot and offer one of the most connected driving experiences of any BMW. Unfortunately, they’re also more than 10% plastic in terms of weight, and the interior, despite being one of the first to be designed using the power of a computer, was never built to last. With all of that in mind, the E36 M3 has, for a long time, been the cheapest and most accessible among the lineage. That simple truth translates to many of them having been being driven into the ground, wrecked, or modified beyond recognition, and these days, there are only so many good ones left.
With a hammer price of $72,800, the 1995 M3 coupe that sold in an auction overseen by Gooding & Company at Amelia Island this year is the most expensive U.S.-spec example sold at auction since 2014, and likely in the model’s history. It’s actually the second-most expensive non-LTW E36 M3 ever sold, with the other being a righthand-drive example with a real M engine originally delivered to Australia. The sale price of the 1995 M3 in question places it between Hagerty’s level one and two condition valuations, which are $82,800 and $52,800 respectively as of this article being written—later model U.S.-spec coupes with the S52 engine are worth a bit more, and Euro-spec coupes are worth 25% more according to Hagerty. This M3’s sale price of $72,800 is also significantly higher than the average of $22,000 according to data from Classic.com. Of the 71,241 E36 M3s produced by BMW, this example is one of 794 1995 model year examples with a five-speed manual transmission finished in Dakar Yellow. That’s not particularly rare, but its exceptional condition and low odometer reading of just under 41,000 miles certainly are.
2001 BMW M3
The E46 M3 is felt to be the pinnacle of the M3 lineage by many, thanks to near perfect dimensions, a design that’s been proven timeless, and the ultimate naturally-aspirated BMW inline six engine under the domed hood, the S54. Even with all of that being true, the E46 M3 still depreciated to very affordable levels up until the last few years. These days, clean examples are selling for more than ever, and of the five-year production run, six-speed manual coupes with low mileage are clearly the most desirable. Items and characteristics like a later model year, the competition package, a sunroof delete, or a cloth interior can add value, but it’s the hardtop six-speeds that sell for the most.
This 2001 BMW M3 finished in Laguna Seca Blue over a grey interior has less than 16,000 miles and hammered for $106,400 when it was sold by Gooding at this year’s Amelia Island auction. The third-generation M3 has been appreciating rapidly in recent years, but the six-figure threshold is new territory for the model. This M3’s hammer price of $106,400 means that it’s the most expensive example sold at auction with data going back eight years. That data excludes the E46 M3 CSL, which sells for more—but not much more. The sale price of this M3 is also significantly higher than Hagerty’s condition one valuation of $63,800 for a 2001 M3 coupe, and it’s also much higher than the insurer’s valuation of $88,600 for a concours condition 2006 M3 with the competition package. Having been produced in 2001, this M3 was made before the competition package was offered, and valuations increase as model years progress for the model, but it’s still a new record.
2013 BMW M3 Lime Rock Park Edition
BMW made 200 units of the M3 Lime Rock Park Edition exclusively for the 2013 model year. They’re all finished in Fire Orange, and the carbon-fiber splitters on the front end were installed at the factory. Other highlights include a carbon-fiber rear spoiler, a ride height 10mm lower than stock, a steering rack with a faster ratio, a model-specific version of DTC, and an exhaust system made of space-age Inconel. Each unit also has an interior plaque denoting the car as one of 200, but without a specific production sequence number.
This 2013 M3 Lime Rock Park Edition sold with a hammer price of $112,000 at the Gooding Amelia Island Auction. The 2013 model year was the final year for the fourth-generation M3, which wasn’t all that long ago in the grand scheme of things. When accounting for inflation, $112,000 is well above the original MSRP of $70,995, which equates to approximately $86,000 today. The same is true for what the previous M3s mentioned in this article sold for, but this M3’s price is perhaps even more exceptional when considering the only example from its generation to sell for more was an M3 GTS over in the U.K., while an M3 CRT bid to $116,000 last summer failed to meet reserve. That means this M3 is the most expensive of its generation sold here in the U.S., regardless of specification, color, or edition—and to think, Hagerty doesn’t even have the E92 M3 in its price guide yet!
1958 BMW 503 Series II Cabriolet
This final BMW on this list is completely different from the last three, but nonetheless noteworthy, as it represents a separate part of the broader enthusiast and collector car market. Designed by Count Albrecht von Goertz, the same man responsible for the look of the 507, the 503 uses a version of the same 3.2-liter all-aluminum overhead-valve V8, and was produced for a three-year span from March of 1956 until March of 1959. A total of 413 units resulted, the majority of which were 2+2 coupes. Only 139 were cabriolets like this 1958 model year Series II example.
This 1958 503 Series II cabriolet sold with a hammer price of $340,500 at the Amelia Island Auction overseen by Gooding, making it the second-most expensive example to sell at auction. Only one other example of the 503 cabriolet sold for more, a 1957 model year car that went for a breathtaking $583,000 back in 2017. This car’s hammer price of $340,000 is below that of Hagerty’s condition one and condition two values of $517,000 and $380,000 respectively, but it’s the most one has sold for in a long time, with the next closest examples having been auctioned in 2014. Cars like the 503 aren’t riding the same wave as the previous M3s that are selling for more than ever, but this example demonstrates that the market is active on both sides of the spectrum.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG, Gooding & Company.]