Are you sick of reading articles praising the E30 M3 as the "last real BMW", "the last pure driving machine from an automotive golden age"? Do you cringe every time you look at those price trend graphs resembling Mount Everest because you regret not having bought that pristine E30 M3 for sale in your neck of the woods for a measly 16k just a few years ago and now the same car is on ebay for 40k? Do you shed a quiet tear every time someone mentions they own an E30 M3 and they start to blabber about its awesomeness and all you can do is drool over those box flares knowing that you missed the train and you'll never be able to afford one anymore?
(photo by Jovan Ventura)
Fear not, while the E30 M3 train has departed, a new star is on the rise: Although the BMW Z3/M Coupe has always been a perennial Jalop favorite, it's still a relative newcomer to the future classic/collectible party. Without further ado, here's a list (à la Tavarish) why the Clownshoe will be the next E30 M3 (just better) and why you should buy one right now.
(photo by Eric Devier)
It looks like a bullfrog with a damaged hip. —- Auto Motor Sport (1998)
No, the styling is not to everyone's taste, but then again the Z3/M Coupe had no intention of looking graceful and pleasing to the eyes of prejudiced old men who consider the Porsche 911 to be the epitome of sports car design. The Clownshoe was built for a purpose and it shows. The shooting brake silhouette, all hunkered down on the deep dish rear wheels wrapped in unproportionally wide and sticky rubber invokes the passive aggressive vibe of purpose built speed machines of yore. As one bimmerforums member proclaimed: "You know you've got something when the rear fenders stick out as much as the side mirrors"
(photo by Ben Sweet, taken at Dorkfest)
In this respect the Clownshoe is clearly ahead of the E30 M3 by coming in many different versions. Who said every Clownshoe has to be an ///M? Although enthusiasts always drool over the Motorsport version of the Clownshoe aka ///M Coupe its (in some cases) marginally less powerful little brother the Z3 Coupe is not to be overlooked. Unlike the E30 M3 and the plain Jane E30, the differences between ///M Coupes and non ///Ms are surprisingly small, in fact the similarities far outweigh the differences: All Clownshoes were equipped with torquey inline 6 engines, a limited slip diff and were available with a slick shifting manual, automatics are (thankfully) more of an oddity in the coupe world and only available on non ///M models.
(photo by BMW Gmbh)
The models of choice for enthusiasts on a budget are the Z3 Coupe 2.8 and 3.0 models producing 193 and 230 horses respectively. Both can be had in nice driver condition for less than $8000. The latter is only 10 horses down on the earlier 1999-2000 ///M Coupes (costing about 17k) making them the best value of the bunch. The real king of the hill though, is the final production run of 300+ horsepower S54 equipped Supershoes. Of course nice things don't come cheap and a nice one will set you back at least 26 grand and a pristine ultra, ultra low mileage one even sold for 50 grand, but it's all worth it when you hear that metallic rasp of the second best engine in the world revving to redline…
(photo by Adgild Hop)
The German nickname for the Z3/M Coupe is "Turnschuh", which translates into running shoe, quite appropriate considering that even the 2.8 liter version sprints to 60 miles an hour in just 6.1 seconds. Of course the speed freaks among you will be happy to hear that the S54 ///M Coupe blasts to sixty in just 4.3 seconds, that is with a factory handicap in the form of a 3.15 differential, which is still almost half a second quicker than a comparable e46 M3. A simple "fix" for that is to install a 3.46 diff like on our Coupe and you'll be leaving some serious metal in the dust. Driving an M Coupe is a very visceral experience: fighter planesque center console, chrome ringed gauges embedded in red leather, rumbly exhaust and a seating position right on top of the rear axle invoke a bygone era.
(photo by Alex McCulloch)
In typical BMW fashion the handling isn't lacking either, although it is notoriously tail happy considering the entire rear suspension is a beefed up version of the E30 M3 rear end. In fact handling is the only reason the Coupe even exists: For those of you who don't know the tale yet, one glorious Bavarian morning, a crazy (and I mean that in the best possible way) BMW engineer named Burkhard Göschel decided that the normal Z3 needed a roof to stiffen up the chassis and give it world class handling. He pitched his idea to the board of directors half of whom upon hearing this nonsensical proposal threw their fists in the air and yelled a resolute "Nein!" while the other half broke out in laughter after being shown some sketches of the proposed idea. The project was given the green light after the all members of the latter group finally recovered from their laughter.
Great Danes, beer, watermelons …..'Nuff said:
(photo by me, subwoofer optional)
(video by Charles Moseley, our Coupes previous owner :D)
(photo by me)
This is where the parallels to the E30 M3 start to emerge. In total there were only 2071 Z3 Coupes and 2858 M Coupes produced. If we're optimistic only one third of those fell victim to overambitious track day enthusiasts, spoiled 16 year olds and other untimely demises. According to highly reputable sources there were about 5000 E30 M3s brought to our shores making the Clownshoe a rarer beast. Of course of those 4929 clownshoes only 678 were S54 powered M Coupes, making them real unicorns among today's mass produced cars. Calculating with our two thirds survival rate an estimated population of only 452 S54 ///M Coupes remains in the wild. This has resulted in a steady price rise over the last few years. Although prices haven't shot through the roof yet like those of the E30 M3, it is just a matter of time until they do exactly that.
(photo by Jalopnik user Willconltd)
Yes the Coupe Cartel is a real thing. No, it is not a criminal organization. The original goal of the Cartel was to buy up all the Coupes and then never sell one for less than 60 grand. Fortunately for you that hasn't really worked out yet, but plenty of wonderful and useful stuff has spawned from the Coupe Cartel such as the most complete Coupe hunting, research and market analysis website for both Z3 Coupes and M Coupes. Also there's a ton of cool Clownshoe merchandise and info here.
Disclaimer: Joining the Coupe Cartel may result in instant popularity and an Aura of Awesomeness ™.
(cover photo by news4cars.com)