The start of the ultimate BMW collection is available right now, so long as you have a few million lying around.
BMW has always emphasized its own heritage. From shared kidney grilles to product lines that trace their origins back half a century, the company has always defined itself by how it has built on its own legacy of performance luxury without losing contact with the things that got them there in the first place.
If you have four garage stalls and seven figures in liquid assets, four founding pillars of that history can be yours by the end of next week.
Our tour of history starts with what would be the crown jewel of this or most other BMW collections, a 1957 507 Series II. The gorgeous 507 is a rare icon, conceived to compete against roadster variants of the racing-bred Mercedes 300SL but actually less common than the legendary sports car. Just over 250 507s were produced, all designed to allow BMW to compete with the racing pedigree of close rival Mercedes by offering a more elegant and forgiving solution to the roadster market without sacrificing performance.
Unfortunately for BMW, it was not an immediate hit. The 507 is memorable to anyone that has ever seen one, but it was very expensive to produce and develop, far too expensive for the actual market it is supposed to be filling, and could not justify its existence as a money sink with the sort of race wins that Mercedes had produced with the 300SL before shuttering its racing programs after the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 507 would later influence future BMWs by providing the blueprint for the Z1, Z8, Z3, and Z4 roadsters decades later, but its immediate impact on the company was precisely the opposite; Because the 507 could not sustain itself, the company instead had to focus on the sort of performance sedans it could produce in larger numbers and sell to the average consumer.
This particular 507 is a Series II, one of just fifteen to be delivered in a black finish from the factory. It features a few refreshed pieces, including a factory replacement engine dated to 1959, and a few replacement components, including new emblems, but it still reflects the look and performance of the original cars as delivered.
Currently bid up to $1,155,000, this 507 is by far the most expensive and least common car in our hypothetical collection. It is also the turning point. Its failure as a product is the reason BMW’s performance history takes a sharp turn in another direction.
The failure of the 507 forced BMW to think more practically, resulting in the versatile New Class midsized sedan that defined the company’s mid-1960s. Success of the New Class gave way to two successors, each of which boasted a notable performance variant and a celebrated racing history.
The larger coupe was known as the E9, and its famous racing variant was the 3.0 CSL. The most radical racing variant of the 3.0 CSL, run in Group 5, was known as the “Batmobile” for its then-outrageous combination of a massive wing, an even larger front diffuser, and fender flares widening the car to an unbelievable new extreme. Less extreme examples competed in touring car classes around the world, re-establishing BMW’s racing heritage for a new generation.
This 3.0 CS is not the more extreme CSL homologation special, but it does boast an aftermarket diffuser inspired by those cars. Far from the originality of the previous 507, the car also features a few other aftermarket components, like an Alpina steering wheel, designed to make the car more practical day-to-day.
The history of BMW’s larger coupes is mixed, since the company changed the specific goal for these cars every single time they refreshed them, but the E9 can be seen as the origin point of the modern 8-Series, tracing its way back through three generations of 6-series, the original 8-Series, and multiple stretches of BMW not producing a two-door car larger than the 3-Series.
The other successor to the New Class, known as the 02 series, went in the opposite direction. While the E9 emphasized style and versatility, the considerably smaller 02 line emphasized lightness and driver experience. Its most famous form, the 2002, gave rise to two performance models, the Turbo and the tii.
This is an example of a 2002tii, the less powerful of the two. The car is lightly modified, most notably featuring a five-speed transmission from a mid-80s 3-Series mated to the original, numbers-matching engine. The original transmission and original wheels are both included in the sale.
The 2002 gave rise to BMW’s line of compact performance sedans and coupes, leading most notably to the current M3 and M4 lines.
While the 507 may be the ultimate collectible BMW, the E30 M3 is quickly becoming a close second.
The E30 M3 is unrecognizable from the 2002, but it retains the same basic features: A small, light chassis based on a compact sedan, a responsive inline four that provides no more power than the car needs, and, most crucially, an uncompromising performance goal that ties directly to the car’s racing ambitions.
The M3 was initially designed to homologate DTM and touring car racing variants of the E30 coupe, but its success as a road car convinced BMW to produce more than necessary. The result is a relatively generous production of over 15,000 units, making the E30 far rarer than the M3s that followed, but far more common than the average homologation special. The car was beloved at the time for its actual ability as a driver’s car, but it has become a modern classic in no small part because this is the origin point of the M3 (and, now, M4) line that has become the consistent performance flagship of the company in the three decades since this car’s debut.
This particular E30 M3 comes in white with a red interior, a striking combination for a car that already screams “Made excellently by engineers who just wanted to move on to making the race car.” The 75,000 miles on the odometer are high enough that no owner should feel guilty about driving it further.
While this is by no means a comprehensive collection of BMWs, these are the four cars that define the company. Other options, like the M1 supercar that launched the company’s M performance subdivision and the V-12 E31 8-Series that 0nce served as the company’s ultimate flagship model before their many ambitious features made them finnicky cars best collected by those willing to put in the time to get them running, represent important moments in the history of the company, but these are the four performance cars that brought BMW to where it is today. The 507 represents the company’s greatest ambitions, the E9 represents what the company could do when it wanted to combine luxury and performance, the 2002 represents what the same team could do when asked to produce a car more focused on driver enjoyment than anything else, and the E30 M3 represents the point where those three goals finally came together in a cohesive product line that catered to all of these things.
This is the ultimate single manufacturer starting pack, a rolling museum available to anyone with the vision to bring all four together. If you have the interest, the storage space, and the approximately $1.3 million dollars necessary to make the bids, this is the place to start.
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