The E30 M3 set the benchmark. But what other cars will follow?
The E30 BMW M3 has been somewhat of a phenomenon. For those who are not familiar, the E30 M3 was the first ever M3. It came with a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine with 195 hp. Although this number seems small today, it was more than enough back then. All told around 18,000 examples were built, but not all of these are still around. Many people modified the E30 M3 over the years, thus reducing the amount of "bone stock" models left standing. No one predicted that these cars would be valuable, and now prices are skyrocketing.
The M1 was the car that launched the M brand as we know it, and the M5 came soon after. Both the M1 and the original E28 M5 have risen in value. The original M5 and M3 can be worth over $100,000 in good enough condition with low miles, and M1s are starting to sell for $1 million. So the question is, which M cars will be next? We have written about the rarefied BMW Z4 M Coupe and how we think that it will become a future classic. Only 1,815 were built for North America, making them quite difficult to find. They also came as a manual only, which is pretty unique. All BMW M cars are designed to be special, but not all of them will become collectible. Here are the ones that we think will become future collectibles.
After the E28 M5 and E30 M3 become too expensive for "normal people," the next generations of M3 and M5 will be targeted. This means the E36 M3 and E34 M5 will start to rise in value. This trend can already be seen with the more common M3. Low mileage examples are starting to hit the $30,000 to $40,000 range, which is unprecedented. E34 M5s are very difficult to find. Low-mileage examples can cost as much as $60,000, but you can find a decent one for less than $20,000 with enough digging. As the years go on, the oldest BMW M cars will start to become harder to find. The E39 M5 and E46 M3 are already rising in value, at least those in good condition. It seems that this is where the trend has stopped for the moment.
At the moment, beat-up examples of the E39 M5 and E46 M3 (as well as convertibles and SMGs) are not worth as much as low-mileage, pristine examples. The values can be so drastically different that a high-mileage beater can be less than $10,000 and a flawless model can be over $60,000. At this point in time, nice examples of both cars can still be found for less than $20,000, but this is becoming less common. The next generation models, the E60 M5 and E90-93 M3, are suffering the same depreciation that originally hit their predecessors. These cars are too new to be collectible and too expensive to drive around without warranties. Therefore, the prices are starting to suffer. You can scoop up an SMG M5 for less than $20,000.
The E60 M5 may be the most infamous M car to own out of warranty. With a bespoke V10 engine and less than stellar SMG transmission (fitted to most models), the E60 M5 can be a money pit. Therefore, no one will want to pay to keep them on the road. While these cars may not be worth anything as collectibles yet, let us paint you a picture. If no one is willing to pay to maintain the complex V10 M5, then they will start to die off. Like the S14 in the E30, the S85 in the M5 will start to be more desirable. Especially if you can find one with the rare manual transmission. The E60 M5 will eventually be worth a lot of money. We aren't saying that this will happen any time soon, but trust us, these things always happen to the car that everyone least expects.
In summation, let us tell you what to shop for if you want to find a future collectible M car. Look for color and interior combinations that weren't built in high numbers. Laguna Seca Blue and Phoenix Yellow are good examples. A manual transmission is a good indicator that the car will become a classic because new M cars are starting to ditch them. Technology is a tricky thing. Every likes to have the latest and greatest, but progress soon shows how dated some technology like the SMG was. Try to avoid models with a lot of technology in them as they probably won't age well. Coupes will always be more valuable to serious enthusiasts than convertibles and Z3 and Z4 M coupes are both great choices. The odder the M car, the cooler!