E36 Estate: 1996 BMW 320i Touring Wagon – Sold?
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June 18, 2022, Update – We just confirmed the listing for this “Classifind” expired, so with no replacement found we’re assuming this ride “Sold?” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.
May 11, 2022, Update – The seller just replaced their expiring previous listing with a fresh Craigslist ad. In it, they kept the same description and pictures but lowered the asking price by another $500 to $18,000.
April 20, 2022 Update – The seller of this Gray-Market E36 long roof just lowered the asking price by another one thousand dollars from $19,500 to $18,500.
April 13, 2022 Update – The seller of this Gray-Market E36 slick top just replaced their original listing with a fresh Craigslist ad. In it, they also lowered the asking price by three thousand dollars from $22,500 to $19,500.
Gray-market imports tend to be rare sports models, or perhaps a diesel-powered off-road rig. But if you’re an enthusiast of a certain stripe, wagons are just as appealing as those other models. This 1996 BMW 320i Touring Wagon is an example of a model never sold here, despite the incredible success of the E36 chassis cars here in the states. The seller claims it was imported in 2021, and that it’s equipped with desirable factory equipment like the M appearance package. We first spotted this car in March 2022 on Craigslist in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with 149,384 miles and a revised asking price of $18,500 (the original ask was $22,500). Given this model wasn’t sold stateside, there’s no easy way of proving value, but it’s likely in the seller’s favor given how few of these have ever landed on our shores.
Why is the wagon model is regarded as forbidden fruit by so many European manufacturers? Yes, I know, BMW and Mercedes (and Audi) have had wagons in their lineups for years, but when you realize the variety of derivatives and options we didn’t get stateside, it’s clear the long-roof segment was never seen as a worthwhile market to engage in a deep and prolonged fashion. And while BMW gave customers the option to buy a wagon starting with the E46 model years, the E30 and E36 chassis wagons are infinitely more desirable simply because they were lighter, lither, and simpler machines. The E30 has been popping up regularly as a gray market car in wagon form, but the E36 is now eligible to be imported so I suspect we’ll see more of these coming up for grabs. Even better? It existed before that blasted xDrive started showing up everywhere, so you can get into a true BMW with rear-wheel-drive and a naturally-aspirated inline-six engine.
The Library of Old Car Ads YouTube Channel features this 1996 BMW 3-Series commercial:
The seller has done a masterful job of resisting the urge to modify a car that responds incredibly well to aftermarket enhancements. If you’ve spent any time with an E36, it’s like the Fox-body Mustang of the German car world. The color is beautiful on this example, featuring a Calypso Red exterior with black leather inside. The wagon versions of BMW’s popular 3-Series don’t necessarily add a ton more space, but being able to open the rear gate to get a piece of furniture inside is always a perk. The listing details a wide range of factory options, including the “M” package, an OEM trailer hitch, the desirable BMW “Business” radio, and more. The M3-derived Contour wheels look perfect on pretty much any E36, but they look particularly choice on a wagon. The seller’s asking price is all the money for one of these, but you can’t blame the guy for putting a price on forbidden fruit – and certainly, given the time involved, there’s some added value here in not having to go through the process of importing one yourself.
Here’s the seller’s description:
“Imported from Europe in 2021
E36M3 Contour wheels
Code / Type E36
Engine M52 2.0L
Drivetrain Rear-Wheel Drive
Transmission 5-speed Manual
Color Calypso-red (252)
Upholstery Stoff anthrazit (D6AT)
Manufacturer BMW AG / Regensburg, Germany
Production Date 1996-03-22
235 Trailer-hitch With Removable Head
242 Driver Air Bag+series Steering Wheel
243 Airbag For Front Passenger
246 Steering Column Adjustment Mechanical
282 Light alloy Wheels Sport Spoke Styling
314 Heated Windscreen Washer Nozzles
354 Green Stripe Windscreen
386 Roof Rail
411 Window Lifts, Electric
423 Floor Mats
428 Warning Triangle
498 Headrests In Rear, Mechanical Adjustable
510 Headlight Beam-throw Control front Low Beam
534 Automatic Air Conditioning
556 Exterior Temperature Display
669 Radio Bmw Business radio
676 Hifi Loudspeaker System
690 Cassette Holder
801 Germany Version
806 3rd Stop Light
972 Comfort Package”
BMW battle: would you opt for an older, gray-market E36 wagon or a later E91?
Having owned E30, E36, E46 and E9x versions (not all wagons), I can say that each generation offers improvements to the driving experience particularly in the area of chassis rigidity. It depends on your budget and purpose. As a daily driver, I’ll take the E91. But for a fun weekend driver it would have to be the E36 for simplicity, smaller size and rarity. Straight six and
manual please. With a sunroof.