Generation game: Two of the best BMW M3s are up for grabs

BMW M3 CCA

Two of the very best generations of the BMW M3 will be competing for bidder’s bucks at the upcoming Classic Car Auctions May 2019 sale.

First, there’s an original E30 BMW M3. This is BMW’s iconic homologation wonder that kicked off our infatuation with the performance saloon.

Second, the E46 that perfected the formula in the early 2000s. It is considered the generation that’s the sweet spot in terms of power, weight and driving fun.

1990 BMW E30 M3

BMW E30 M3 engine

The original M3 was conceived as a homologation special for the Group A touring car. With its high-revving four-cylinder engine, fettled suspension and notchy manual transmission, it’s the genesis moment for the sporty saloon with presence, status and performance.

This M3 is a high-mile left-hand drive example. It’s got 120,000 miles but has service history and maintenance work to match. Its three owners, including the original who ordered it from Germany, have looked after it as much as they’ve used it. That makes this E30 a rare thing – one that isn’t a garage queen, that you can enjoy driving with a clear conscience.

Another benefit of high miles is that it’s probably a bit more within reach than a lower-use car. £34,000-£38,000 sounds like steep money, but in original M3 world, that’s not bad. Get yourself a great driver’s M3 come the sale on May 25.

2003 BMW E46 M3

BMW M3 CCA

The M3 of the early 2000s refined the inline-six formula that began with the second-generation car in the 1990s. It’s a melting pot of the finest components – one of the sweetest singing six-pots ever manufactured, great looks, a sorted chassis and just a touch of luxury. The M3 completed its transformation into a status symbol with the E46, without sacrificing any of the quintessentially sweet M3 proportions and dynamics.

This E46 is perhaps the opposite of the E30 above, in that it’s a low-miles one-owner museum piece. Finished in the controversial Phoenix Yellow hue, it could be a period catalogue come to life. Original books, service stamps come with this manual example, for between £24,000 and £28,000. That may seem tall but this generation of BMW M3s is on its way up, as numbers diminish and many of those that remain grow ever more tired.

Other highlight young timers at the Classic Car Auctions May sale include a well-kept and reasonably used example the legendary Lotus Carlton, and perhaps the most unloved 911 Turbo – a 996 Cabriolet with the tiptronic gearbox.