OhhShift New Reader
Feb. 6, 2011 2:45 p.m.

Considering E36 or E46 BMW for general DD duty and occasional track day use. Just something to get out on track and have some fun with 5 or 6 times a year, something inexpensive enough to not break the bank if it should break or meet an untimely demise. A car that I could tinker with and add the occasional performance upgrade. Was pretty much set on E36 M3, but I see some pretty good prices on Non-M models of the E36 and E46 vintage.

Any particular models suited for my desired use more than others?

Any particular models or years to avoid?

Should I just stop messing around and pick up an M3 already?

mad_machine SuperDork
Feb. 6, 2011 2:53 p.m.

aside from the fact we never got the touring... the E36 comes in every flavour from 4 cylinder 4 door, through hatch back, coupe, roadster (z3), and almighty M3.

what flavour are you looking for?

the 318ti, (the E36 Hatchback) is the lightest of the E36 platform.. and is by no means the slowest with it's 4 cylinder drivetrain.

OhhShift New Reader
Feb. 6, 2011 2:57 p.m.

I am very open as far as coupe vs sedan, hatchback, etc. Only requirement would be manual trans. Leaning toward lighter, more tossable models as a preference.

ansonivan HalfDork
Feb. 6, 2011 3:25 p.m.

Go test drive a few cars and decide what you like.

If you have limited expectations I think a 96-99 328i would be cheapest to purchase and operate. If you're going to do all the upgrades anyway it makes sense to start out with an E36 M3.

Whatever you decide on, buy the best car all at once, it will be cheaper than buying something with a bunch of problems and trying to sort it out.

A pre-purchase inspection by a bmw specific shop will help you buy the best car and avoid lemons.

mad_machine SuperDork
Feb. 6, 2011 3:46 p.m.

I do agree.. BMW made thousands of all the models. The rarest being the Z3M coupe the 318ti..and even they are easy enough to find.

Get the best, then plan on spending some money on the maintance to make sure it is top notch.. and enjoy

bludroptop SuperDork
Feb. 6, 2011 5:56 p.m.

e36 - unless there is some compelling reason to insist on non-M (such as SCCA Solo classing), the M3 has more motor, better brakes and subframe reinforcements - well worth the slight premium. A non-sunroof car would be a bonus for your intended purpose.

The newest e36 cars are almost teenagers and didn't have the best interiors to begin with. For that reason alone, e46 cars will be more pleasant daily drivers, but a LSD will be a pricey upgrade for a non-M car.

wcelliot HalfDork
Feb. 6, 2011 6:19 p.m.

I'd take a non-M E46 over a non-M E36.... but the 3.2 E36M3 is cheap enough that it would seem to have a clear advantage over either. Mine was likely the best street car/daily driver I've ever owned.

mad_machine SuperDork
Feb. 6, 2011 6:29 p.m.

thing to remember... suspension wise.. the E36 and E46 almost identical. The E46 has a nicer interior and better engines.. but is heavier

dj06482
dj06482 Reader
Feb. 7, 2011 8:48 a.m.

As an E36 328is owner (5 spd, Sport Pkg.) I'd go for the E36 M3 if you're even thinking about any track work. By the time you upgrade the 328is for track duty, you're already more expensive than the M3. Plus, the M3 has better suspension, brakes, motor, and chassis reinforcements out of the box.

nderwater HalfDork
Feb. 7, 2011 9:51 a.m.

Agreed. While a normal E36 would be very inexpensive and an E46 would be newer and have a nicer interior, the M3 is the one to get if your intention is to autocross or track it with any regularity. I thought my M3 was a steal at $7K, but I've seen nicer E36 M3's in the $5K range lately - that's a lot of car for the money.

speedblind Reader
Feb. 7, 2011 10:56 a.m.

I like the E46 330s with the ZHP package - available in a sedan, nice interior, 6-speed, etc. Lots of fun.

That said, you can get 90% there with a regular 330i. E46s are larger and more comfortable/refined than the E36. Both good cars, but for a DD/road trip type car, I'd probably sacrifice some of the raw nature of the 36 and get the more modern car.

njansenv HalfDork
Feb. 7, 2011 11:13 a.m.

It's fair to note that "raw" is certainly relative in this case, as even the E36 is very pleasant on a day to day basis/touring-highway car. I never felt that the E36 M3 was anything less than quite refined while I owned it, and the 328i E36 feels similiar

The E36's are infinitely easier to find with a LSD, FWIW, and are lighter and somewhat less complicated from an electrics standpoint. We just bought a creampuff E46 that is fantastic as a family DD but definitely less sharp than the '98 M3 sedan it's ultimately replacing. With M3's as affordable as they are (esp in the US), that's the direction I'd go...but a 328i gets you pretty close for somewhat less money. In either case, you'll likely need to source fresh bushings and dampers. The M3 will have the LSD stock as well as bigger brakes and the bigger engine.

Do you want a 2dr or 4dr? Touring? (E46 only) The E46's have been dropping in price...I think I'm seeing them in the low teens if you look hard enough.

nderwater HalfDork
Feb. 7, 2011 2:09 p.m.

"The E46's have been dropping in price...I think I'm seeing them in the low teens if you look hard enough."

I take it you mean E46 M3's - early E46 323i's can be had from about $5,000 around here.

Apex779
Apex779 New Reader
Feb. 7, 2011 2:50 p.m.

I have owned an e36, 2 e30s , e34 and now e46.

If this is going to be a DD then the e46 is a much MUCH nicer car to spend time in. The e46 interior is a huge improvement over the e36. If you were asking about a track car I would suggest the e36 hands down. There are some really nice sport package 330i's out there for well under 10k. Thats what I did! Just watch out for subframe damage, and the 5th gear lean. AND I'm now seeing nice mid production 325i's around here for 6k!

93EXCivic SuperDork
Feb. 7, 2011 2:53 p.m.

I kinda like 318. I have heard it called a big Miata and I think that is pretty accurate.

mad_machine SuperDork
Feb. 7, 2011 5:42 p.m.

which 318? It came in several guises.. 2 door, 4 door, hatchback, and roadster (1.9 z3)

njansenv HalfDork
Feb. 7, 2011 6:06 p.m.
nderwater wrote: "The E46's have been dropping in price...I think I'm seeing them in the low teens if you look hard enough." I take it you mean E46 M3's - early E46 323i's can be had from about $5,000 around here.

Yes, yes I did.

nderwater HalfDork
Feb. 7, 2011 8:01 p.m.

An out-of-work acquaintance of mine recently had her E46 M3 reposessed - she only owed $8K on it and had just replaced the clutch. I couldn't believe it - I would have bought it from her her if only I'd known in time.

dculberson Reader
Feb. 8, 2011 10:33 a.m.
nderwater wrote: An out-of-work acquaintance of mine recently had her E46 M3 reposessed - she only owed $8K on it and had just replaced the clutch. I couldn't believe it - I would have bought it from her her if only I'd known in time.

GAHHH!!!

93EXCivic SuperDork
Feb. 8, 2011 10:38 a.m.
mad_machine wrote: which 318? It came in several guises.. 2 door, 4 door, hatchback, and roadster (1.9 z3)

Both hatch and 4 door.

scardeal HalfDork
Feb. 8, 2011 1:32 p.m.

I'd say mine... PM me if you're interested. 1996 e36 328i sedan

mad_machine SuperDork
Feb. 8, 2011 6:14 p.m.

honestly, if you were going to track a 318.. I would go for the hatch. Yes, the rear suspension can bite (so can the Z3s as it is the same) but once you get it buttoned down on stiff springs and shocks/struts and or coilovers.. that is not so much an issue.

It is also the lightest e36 cominging at around 2700 pounds stock that can probably be dropped to below 2400 with little issue

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