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Thread: Why no imports?

  1. #1
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    Why no imports?

    Hey guys,

    I'm looking at getting back into the E36 scene after many, many years on hiatus. I've been somewhat surprised that we don't see more imports now that we're past the 25-year limit on the earlier-year models. Is there not that much of an appetite for the euro-spec M3 here in the states?

    Thanks in advance,

    Josh

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by JHawlz9989 View Post
    Hey guys,

    I'm looking at getting back into the E36 scene after many, many years on hiatus. I've been somewhat surprised that we don't see more imports now that we're past the 25-year limit on the earlier-year models. Is there not that much of an appetite for the euro-spec M3 here in the states?

    Thanks in advance,

    Josh
    I think that the real answer is that finding ones in decent condition has gotten pretty hard. Also because the years that people really want still aren't eligible.
    2011 M3 Sedan
    2006 GMC Sierra 2500HD LBZ
    1999 323i GTS2
    1995 M3 - S50B32/S6S420G/3.91
    1990 325is
    1989 M3 - S54B32/GS6-37BZ

    Hers: 1996 Porsche 911 Turbo
    Hers: 1989 325iX


  3. #3
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    Even the folks here have a very hard time finding decent examples. Very few good ones that are actually for sale. And then most that are, are stupidly overprized.
    ‘98 BMW M3 3.2 SMG Cabrio • Alpinweiß III auf Schwarz • Deutschland-ausführung
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  4. #4
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    Thanks guys. Is there no interest in people actually doing their own imports? Presumably there's tons of these available overseas...?

  5. #5
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    I imported one from the motherland back in 2013.

    Then 90 miles later I crossed the border.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by JHawlz9989 View Post
    Thanks guys. Is there no interest in people actually doing their own imports? Presumably there's tons of these available overseas...?
    What we're trying to convey is that the supply of decent examples extant in Europe or elsewhere is *extremely* limited and expensive. Most of the supply went to Germany and the UK. Both are rusty. UK is RHD. Both have a relatively high bar for cars to stay on the road, so the fraction of cars that got scrapped is high.

    Try to even find one.

    And the '97-99 model years are not yet eligible, and I think that most folks prefer those.

    Finally, the incentive to do so is a lot lower today when S54 swaps are inexpensive and pretty easy. No, the S54 is not the same as an S50B32, but it's still pretty nice.
    2011 M3 Sedan
    2006 GMC Sierra 2500HD LBZ
    1999 323i GTS2
    1995 M3 - S50B32/S6S420G/3.91
    1990 325is
    1989 M3 - S54B32/GS6-37BZ

    Hers: 1996 Porsche 911 Turbo
    Hers: 1989 325iX


  7. #7
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    UK is more prone to rust because of their geographic situation.

    Germany really depends.
    ‘98 BMW M3 3.2 SMG Cabrio • Alpinweiß III auf Schwarz • Deutschland-ausführung
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by MParallel View Post
    UK is more prone to rust because of their geographic situation.

    Germany really depends.
    Agreed. But also, from what I've heard, Germany is a lot more hardcore about enforcing rust repair or scrappage. So it probably balances out in terms of supply.
    2011 M3 Sedan
    2006 GMC Sierra 2500HD LBZ
    1999 323i GTS2
    1995 M3 - S50B32/S6S420G/3.91
    1990 325is
    1989 M3 - S54B32/GS6-37BZ

    Hers: 1996 Porsche 911 Turbo
    Hers: 1989 325iX


  9. #9
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    Thanks for the help guys. I’ve started the process with the bank and a couple logistics companies to potentially bring one in, but wasn’t aware of the rust factor in Germany. Is there anything else in particular I should be on the lookout for other than general maintenance records, VANOS condition, shock towers, water pump, etc.?

    My preference would be to find a higher mileage specimen where I’m not super worried about maintaining the show-quality condition but that’s not ragged out. I have no issues with doing maintenance on vehicles (currently doing everything for my truck now that I’m out of warranty), so primary goal is to have a fun weekend car, not a garage queen (but no track abuse either). Do y’all think I’m on the right track here or should I look for a different strategy?

    Josh

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by JHawlz9989 View Post
    Thanks for the help guys. I’ve started the process with the bank and a couple logistics companies to potentially bring one in, but wasn’t aware of the rust factor in Germany. Is there anything else in particular I should be on the lookout for other than general maintenance records, VANOS condition, shock towers, water pump, etc.?

    My preference would be to find a higher mileage specimen where I’m not super worried about maintaining the show-quality condition but that’s not ragged out. I have no issues with doing maintenance on vehicles (currently doing everything for my truck now that I’m out of warranty), so primary goal is to have a fun weekend car, not a garage queen (but no track abuse either). Do y’all think I’m on the right track here or should I look for a different strategy?

    Josh
    The only thing that matters is rust, body damage, engine compression and crankshaft condition. Maintenance issues are all easily solved.

    That said, I don't really understand the point of importing a mediocre car. If you're going to do that, why not engine swap a US car?
    2011 M3 Sedan
    2006 GMC Sierra 2500HD LBZ
    1999 323i GTS2
    1995 M3 - S50B32/S6S420G/3.91
    1990 325is
    1989 M3 - S54B32/GS6-37BZ

    Hers: 1996 Porsche 911 Turbo
    Hers: 1989 325iX


  11. #11
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    Be aware that EU spec 3.2 can have the optional SMG(1) gearbox and quite some have it.
    Would be special having one in the States, but I’m sure you prefer manual. Specially low mileage ones will have SMG.
    Many have also been converted. Easy to spot. No problem, but if you want a factory manual because OCD, just be aware of this.

    I happened to land me an SMG equiped one, not something I was after, but this car was such low mileage (48,700mls) and basically was new inside out. Could not pass it up. SMG1 is fine when you understand it. Don’t be fooled by ancient horror stories. Back then even dealers had no clue how to work on them.
    ‘98 BMW M3 3.2 SMG Cabrio • Alpinweiß III auf Schwarz • Deutschland-ausführung
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by nick325xit 5spd View Post
    The only thing that matters is rust, body damage, engine compression and crankshaft condition. Maintenance issues are all easily solved.

    That said, I don't really understand the point of importing a mediocre car. If you're going to do that, why not engine swap a US car?
    That said, I don't really understand the point of importing a mediocre car. If you're going to do that, why not engine swap a US car?[/QUOTE]

    It was poorly phrased on my part. I was trying to convey wanting to find a car with good fundamentals, but not stressing on any deferred maintenance I’ll need to address. The assumption is I’ll end up spending the same over the long run as I would just buying a pristine car (unless you have any wisdom to share that would suggest otherwise).

    Quote Originally Posted by MParallel View Post
    Be aware that EU spec 3.2 can have the optional SMG(1) gearbox and quite some have it.
    Would be special having one in the States, but I’m sure you prefer manual. Specially low mileage ones will have SMG.
    Many have also been converted. Easy to spot. No problem, but if you want a factory manual because OCD, just be aware of this.

    I happened to land me an SMG equiped one, not something I was after, but this car was such low mileage (48,700mls) and basically was new inside out. Could not pass it up. SMG1 is fine when you understand it. Don’t be fooled by ancient horror stories. Back then even dealers had no clue how to work on them.
    Good to know. Thank you!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by nick325xit 5spd View Post

    That said, I don't really understand the point of importing a mediocre car. If you're going to do that, why not engine swap a US car?
    Agreed! Low mileage clean example would be the only way to justify it.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Look at the join dates of the old farts in this thread

  14. #14
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    Big money and effort is the reason. A great car is 25k euros and up, + importing + shipping + you can't put your own eyes on it + you have to wait for it.
    A great US spec car is 20k USD and up, you can inspect it, and be driving it tomorrow.

    - 98 m3, techno/anthrazit cloth, 124k and officially worthless - 89 m3, alpine/black 143k and officially old - 2000 323it, tiag/grey, 169k and officially boring

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by RocketJohn View Post

    Look at the join dates of the old farts in this thread
    :
    2011 M3 Sedan
    2006 GMC Sierra 2500HD LBZ
    1999 323i GTS2
    1995 M3 - S50B32/S6S420G/3.91
    1990 325is
    1989 M3 - S54B32/GS6-37BZ

    Hers: 1996 Porsche 911 Turbo
    Hers: 1989 325iX


  16. #16
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    Now is not a good time to import as shipping/container prices are through the roof. You can still find decent low mileage ones in Japan, but you really need eyes on the ground so that you end up with the car that is as described

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by marek View Post
    Now is not a good time to import as shipping/container prices are through the roof. You can still find decent low mileage ones in Japan, but you really need eyes on the ground so that you end up with the car that is as described
    RoRo freight was quoted at about $4,000, with import duties (2.5%), port fees, and other items not included. Container freight was about $10,000. 🤯

  18. #18
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    Many Japan cars have also found their way to EU carsellers as they have the same problem, finding decent E36 examples.
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  19. #19
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    More than 50% of ALL E36 M3's were made for North America, and ~40% of all ROW cars were RHD. Assuming half of what's left are even viable cars that haven't been crashed/parted, that means there are only about 10,000 'Euro' LHD E36 M3's out there. Subtract convertibles, SMG1, etc and you can get an idea of how few and far between imports will be. So probably not TOO far off E30 M3's in terms of rarity.

    Quote Originally Posted by notMpowered View Post
    Big money and effort is the reason. A great car is 25k euros and up, + importing + shipping + you can't put your own eyes on it + you have to wait for it.
    A great US spec car is 20k USD and up, you can inspect it, and be driving it tomorrow.
    This ^, in addition to the fact you can get a nice E46 M3 or E9x M3 here for the same money. And as Nick mentioned available S54 swaps are an underlying detriment to the process.

    There will always be the diehard E36 factor but that probably isn't enough to overcome the fact it's the 996 of the family.
    '99 Estoril Blue + Dove Grey ///M3 coupe
    Technique Tuning Stage 1 Turbo,TC Kline DA 300/400, E46 rack,
    Rallyroad Brembo BBK, heated dove Recaro SRD, ZF 6spd, ZKW Bixenon, Style 24's, thickened 3 spoke, BSW stereo, Innovate EBC

    '04 Jet Black + Cinnamon
    ///M3 coupe
    OEM CSL, BBS CH, Öhlins R&T, Brembo GT, Supersprint, Z4M seats, Avant4

    Gone but not forgotten:

    '99 M3 Estoril Blue/Dove Grey (bought new), '95 M3 Arctic Silver/Black (3.5 HFM setup), '97 318ti Arctic Silver/Red Millpoint (M-Tech Dinan), '02 325XiT Black/Black/5MT (wintermobile), '98.5
    "M3 RS" Cosmos Black/M-cloth (GrpN S50b32), '02 M3 Alpine White/Impulse/SMG (sunroof delete), '04 X5 4.8iS Estoril Blue/M-texture, '02 M3 Alpine White/Black/6MT (CSL wh0re), '97 M3 Techno Violet/Modena (Eurosport Twinscrew), '04 M3 Alpine White/Black/SMG (garage queen)




  20. #20
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    Source for these numbers? 40% RHD for ROW seems a but much for only a couple of RHD countries. And 50% of the entire production run for NA also doesn't makes sense.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by MParallel View Post
    Source for these numbers? 40% RHD for ROW seems a but much for only a couple of RHD countries. And 50% of the entire production run for NA also doesn't makes sense.
    NA buys a huge fraction of all generations of M3s. Remember that M3s are WAY cheaper to buy and own in the US than anywhere else, and the E36 M3 was discounted even more than usual vs. the RoW M3. You can look up the production breakdowns from various sources. Here's one example, there are plenty others out there: https://bimmertips.com/bmw-e36-production-data-numbers/

    And while there are few RHD countries, the UK is a major buyer. Outside of the US, most E36es were sold either in the UK or Germany. So yeah, you end up with a huge fraction of them RHD. I think it's a little less than 40%, but it's not far off.
    2011 M3 Sedan
    2006 GMC Sierra 2500HD LBZ
    1999 323i GTS2
    1995 M3 - S50B32/S6S420G/3.91
    1990 325is
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    Hers: 1996 Porsche 911 Turbo
    Hers: 1989 325iX


  22. #22
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    https://bmwmregistry.com/model_faq.php?id=15
    Same website but different page to find 3.0 production numbers

    - 98 m3, techno/anthrazit cloth, 124k and officially worthless - 89 m3, alpine/black 143k and officially old - 2000 323it, tiag/grey, 169k and officially boring

  23. #23
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    Yeah I am not saying it's not true, but seeing numbers helps.

    I just recalled I have a mini datebase with EU spec figures, so I can compare EU LHD vs RHD drive figures.
    ‘98 BMW M3 3.2 SMG Cabrio • Alpinweiß III auf Schwarz • Deutschland-ausführung
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  24. #24
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    The RHD vs LHD numbers comes as a big surprise to me, but the amount of NA cars compared to ROW certainly doesn’t. US is a huge country with huge buying power, and due to the more cost effective dumbed down US spec cars, they also came with even a huge increase in that buying power.

    - 98 m3, techno/anthrazit cloth, 124k and officially worthless - 89 m3, alpine/black 143k and officially old - 2000 323it, tiag/grey, 169k and officially boring

  25. #25
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    So I found an example in the US, 1994, 74k miles, cosmos with dove grey, manual. Suspension has been replaced due to age, upgraded swaybars, links, exhaust. I have a cold startup video and pictures of the undercarriage and everything sounds great. No knocking, confirmed no rust on strut mounts, no sunroof issues, no accidents, paint appears to be in great shape minus minor front road rash. Listed for $23k, trying to negotiate down to $22k shipped to Texas. Thoughts?

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