What You Learn In A Year Of Owning A Cheap 20-Year-Old BMW M3

(Photo Credit: CarThrottle/YouTube)

You’ve seen this blue BMW M3 on our site so much because its owner Alex from CarThrottle over in England has been pretty cool about sharing what it’s like to take care of a “cheap dream car.” Now that he’s had the thing for a year, here’s what he’s learned.

Most of the big bullet points apply to almost any car. He talks about how much he wishes he’d done a better job inspecting the car before buying it, and that fresh coilover shocks and good tires did a lot to transform the vehicle’s ride.


Regarding this E36 M3 specifically, I was a little surprised to hear him say it’s easy to work on, though there’s also a bit about requiring a willingness to abandon human relationships in order to have time to fix the thing every weekend.

This car has around 130,000 miles, 279 horsepower to the wheels and an Autobahn-confirmed top speed of 159 mph.

Even though we know it’s a little down on power from factory specs, Alex says his E36 feels fast and is a great long-range touring car. After about 12 months and 7,000 miles with it, he seems pretty stoked on the thing still. Even after spending about $3,300 in that time period keeping it alive.

I think the camera makes almost every car look cleaner, but this particular one has given me a new appreciation for the generally unloved E36 body style. This blue is such a subtly excellent color, and Alex’s wheels look damn near flawless from here.


A friend of a friend who’s friends with (the) Chris Harris told me the Top Gear host told him that an E46 was very much worth splurging for if you’re in the market for an older M3. But I still see the appeal of this squared-off earlier design.

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Andrew P. Collins

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL