List: Top Ten Ultimate Collector BMWs

By Brandon Turkus

May 25, 2012


10) 1955 BMW Isetta: The diminutive Isetta bubble car was made by no fewer than three different manufacturers over its lifetime. BMW produced it in Germany from 1955 to 1962. Allow us to gloss over the Isetta’s unique looks for a moment, and instead focus on the powertrain. This was a rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive car, powered by a 298cc four-stroke engine. It is by far the slowest car on this list, but it’s also one of the coolest. Children of the 90s will also note, it was the vehicle of choice of one Steve Urkel. (photo credit: Hugo90)


9) 2001 BMW M Coupe: The world’s angriest clown shoe, the M Coupe is a sought-after vehicle in the enthusiast realm, thanks in large part to the stiffer chassis afforded by the shooting-brake layout and their relative rarity compared to other M products (of the 6318 produced, only 2870 were sold in North America, and only 690 were the more powerful S54). Power for all five model years came from a 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder. In 2001 and 2002, power was bumped from a mere 240 to 325, giving the M Coupe a serious performance boost. It remains a popular vehicle for autocrosses and track days. (photo credit: Zombieite)


8) 1936 BMW 328: One of the rarer cars on this list, only 464 328s were produced from 1936 to the outbreak of World War II. Power came from a 2.0-liter (actually 1971 cc) six-cylinder engine, with 79 horsepower and a top speed of 93 miles per hour. A four-speed manual gearbox sent power to the rear-wheels. During its time, it was a popular participant in the Mille Miglia, winning its class in 1938 and the overall even in 1940. (photo credit: Proper Pictures)


7) 1983 BMW M635CSi: The original M6, the M635CSi was part of the first-generation of 6-Series produced from 1976 to 1989 (although the M version didn’t arrive until 1983). Power for the M6 came from the same 3.5-liter six-cylinder found in the M1 supercar. In this iteration, it produced 282 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque. North American buyers had to suffer through a neutered version with only 260 horsepower. Over its lifetime, 1767 M635CSis came to the US. (photo credit: Draco2008)


6) 1992 BMW 850CSi: Although there was never an M8, there was an 850CSi, and boy was it an interesting one. A front-engined, rear-drive luxury coupe, the 8-Series CSi boasted a 5.6-liter twelve-cylinder engine that produced 375 horsepower. While that’s just cool, the fact that it could only be had with a six-speed manual gearbox made it that much better. Despite this not being an official M product, it pretty much got the M treatment, with revised suspension, steering, wheels, and aerodynamics. Of the roughly 31,000 8-Series produced, only 1510 were 850CSis, of which, only 225 were sold in North America. Production ended in 1996.


5) 1985 BMW M5: We like the later M5s just fine, but there’s just something about the original, six-cylinder model. When it debuted, it was the fastest four-door in the world, with Euro-spec cars topping out at 153 miles per hour. This amazing (for the time) speed was thanks to a 3.5-liter six-cylinder that produced 282 horsepower (North American cars only had 256 horsepower, and ran out of steam at 148 mph. This is also an amazingly rare vehicle. Only 2191 were produced over its four-year run, all of which were hand-built by BMW M.


4) 1986 BMW M3: As with the M5 from above, we wouldn’t kick any M3 out of bed, but we can’t help but love the original four-cylinder version just a little bit more than the rest. The original M3 utilized a 2.3-liter four-cylinder which developed 195 horsepower in US trim 192 horsepower in European trim. Shifting was handled by a five-speed manual. Like the M3 GTR, the original model was a homologation special, allowing BMW to compete with other Group A touring cars. Over its lifetime, 16,202 E30 M3s were produced.


3) 1956 BMW 507: Arguably one of the best looking vehicles, not just from BMW, but of all time, the 507 roadster was a limited run of 252 models, built over four model years (1956 through 1959). It was powered by a 3.2-liter V-8 which sent power to the rear wheels by way of a four-speed manual gearbox. The 507 never caught on with customers, due in large part to its price. With an original target of $5000 (just over $42,000 in 2012 dollars), the 507 seemed a reasonable alternative to the Mercedes-Benz SL. Instead, the actual price ended up being closer to $10,000 ($84,590). BMW failed to sell very many, and the resulting losses nearly bankrupted the company. Due to their rarity, 507s today can go for several hundred thousand dollars today.


2) 1973 BMW 2002 Turbo: If the 507 nearly bankrupted BMW, then the 2002 (or more accurately, its ilk) saved the company. The 2002 Turbo was the M3 of its day, as it was the sportiest member of BMW’s New Class of vehicles, which included the early, life-saving 1500 and the standard 2002. Based on the 2002tii, the 2002 Turbo’s 2.0-liter engine boasted 170 horsepower (40 more than standard). This power, combined with a reasonable curb weight, allowed the diminutive Bimmer to hit 60 in seven seconds before topping out at 130 miles per hour. With a curb weight of around 2300 pounds, it was also a hoot on a twisting road. It was also BMW’s first sporty car that looked the part, with special exterior paint, a body kit, and wheels. (photo credit: pyntofmyld)


1) 1978 BMW M1: Legendary doesn’t begin to define the M1. Only 456 of the Giugiaro-designed M1s were produced, and to this day, remain the only mid-engine car BMW has ever sold. The hand-built M1 was a homologation special, sold between 1978 and 1981, and remains to this day one BMW’s most desirable models. Power came from a twin-cam, 3.5-liter inline six-cylinder that developed 273 horsepower. Top speed was 160 miles per hour. When turbocharged for racing, the M1 produced 850 horsepower. Even after it went out of production, it had an influence on BMW. Both the M635CSi and original M5 used versions of this same engine.

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Editor-in-Chief Seyth Miersma is out testing the all-new, 2013 BMW M6 as we write this piece. With 560 horsepower from a biturbocharged V-8, along with coupe and convertible options, and strikingly pretty sheetmetal, it’s likely that it’ll become a sought-after collector car in the decades to come.
In the meantime, we’ve drawn up a list of what we think are the best BMWs for collectors in the here and now. We’ve got a wide range of vehicles here, with a variety of body types, along with prices and levels of availability. However, this list is hardly comprehensive. If there’s something that you think deserves to be on here (or something you think has no business here), then be sure to chime in down in the comments section. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.
(lead photo credit: pyntofmyld)