Not for U(K)

Not for U(K)

BMW has an enviously strong following in the UK, one that originated when the Bavarian manufacturer gave saloon buyers an admittedly pricier but vastly superior engineered alternative to the often poorly conceived domestic market dross that was once standard street furniture here thirty years ago. First the E30 3 Series was embraced by discerning private buyers before its follow-up, the E36 of 1990, introduced the revolutionary notion that a company car could be an object of desire. In turn the UK has been good to BMW and is one of the company's strongest global markets – though that's not to say it hasn't let us down on just a few occasions by denying us the opportunity to buy the following trio of rarefied modern classic gems that were made available elsewhere…

E30 320is

Punitive taxation on engines above 2.0 litres put the original 2.3 litre E30 M3 beyond the reaches of certain southern European enthusiasts and so, for Italy and Portugal alone, BMW developed the rather special LHD drive-only 320is by way of recompense. Sneaking in just under that tax limit the 1990cc engine is a smaller version of the M3's S14 four-cylinder unit, while the close-ratio dogleg Getrag gearbox is the same as the one fitted to the Motorsport car. Available in both two and four-door formats (the former outnumbering the latter by over two to one), aside from the tailgate badge there's no external hint of the 320is' lofty lineage to separate it from its more modest E30 siblings – though lifting the bonnet will reveal an engine that looks identical to the M3's, right down to the 'BMW M Power' script emblazoned across the cam cover…

Z3 Coupe

No, not that cult modern classic the M Coupe, but the less steroidal non-M incarnation that was never offered on these shores. Available with six cylinder petrol engines only, the 2.8 and latterly 3.0 litre Z3 Coupes were still potent enough by modern standards (0-60 mph in 6.6 and 5.8 seconds respectively) whilst appealing to those whose budgets and lifestyles didn't extend as far as running the full-fat M version. One of the star performing "modern classics", a high-mileage M Coupe will start at £20,000 in today's market, while cherished later examples sporting the more highly prized S54 engine are £50,000. What a shame then that RHD examples of the more modest Z3 Coupe aren’t available as a left-field, sub-£10,000 used buy. 

 

E60 M5 manual

The 2005 to 2010 M5 is a modern legend of a car thanks to its naturally aspirated 5.0 litre V10 power plant – an engine that immediately secured its place as one of the all-time greats. Less universally praised is the means by which its power was channelled; debate on the merits – or otherwise – of the sequential manual gearbox (SMG III) are for another column, though let's just say opinions remain divided… Happily BMW also offered a manual transmission – but only if you were a customer is the United States. The decision to withhold from the rest of the world the option of experiencing that V10's biblical bombast via the original time-honoured method of changing gear was cruel indeed. Remember seeing that person pounding their fists on the floor of your local BMW dealership around a decade ago? Now you know why…

 

Caesar Barton

 

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