﹒Stunning condition throughout ﹒Extremely low miles ﹒Thorough paperwork trail with only 1 owner from new ﹒Largely thought of as a future classic
It's no secret that the six-cylinder BMW 3-series coupe has always been destined to be a car that defines the automotive landscape. With every successive generation starting with the original 3-Series in 1975, the car has consistently been the car to aspire to and for other manufacturers to better. When the E36 3-Series (1998 to 2006) was current, it was attracting five-star reviews throughout the board, with the costs being the only area that the car was knocking it off from being the perfect car.
However, like any prestige car within reach of the consumer, the car has to fall from grace at some point. What often happens after the initial allure, is that the 3 series gets passed onto third or fourth owners, service history becomes neglected, expensive bills run up and then the ownership profile tumbles. The car reaches rock bottom and the image of the once desirable car becomes tarnished until there are just a handful of decent cars on the road and then it starts to appreciate in value.
But what if a car came up that had the same one owner since new, with service records from a local BMW dealer who have known the car all of its life? With the additional promise of a fastidious and careful owner who has garaged and not skipped on spending? What if such a car came up for auction? Get ready because we have a treat for you!
Bought new at BMW High Wycombe by the current owner in September 1999, he had previously owned an E36 coupe which only sported 14K on the clock, which gives you a good idea of the general story of where we are going. The paperwork is as complete as one could expect - with the original sales invoice, Full BMW Service History, MOT’s and DVLA tax reminders. There’s not much in terms of repair bills, quite simply as there has been no need for them. The owner has stated that they have a new BMW coupe in their minds, so feel it's time for someone else to appreciate this car.
The car was specified from new with the grey leather interior, floor mats, sport multi-function steering wheel and the removal of the 323Ci badge. A rear spoiler and rear roller blind were fitted by the dealer in 2001. The car ran on its original tyres until very recently, which suggests that the car has not been aggressively driven - however for the sake of safety they have all been replaced by a new set of boots. Of course, they are the same type of Continentals that adorned the car when new. One aspect of the car is not original, which is so subtle and looks so much like a factory option, most buyers may not even notice it. Keep reading and all will be revealed.
The car comes with all the documentation, dealer stamps and receipts you could hope for when buying a 21-year-old car - all the MOT receipts, as well as every single invoice for the parts bought from the dealer, is included.
The interior will be familiar to modern BMW drivers, the ergonomics and consideration to the dashboard are one of BMW’s crowning achievements in the world of car design. As expected the interior functions are fully operational, with all switchgear and controls said to be working. The subtle blue trim embellishment is a nice touch, many examples of E46 tend to use fake wood trim which is occasionally at odds with the solidly styled cabin. As to be expected it also includes a multi-disc CD player and a complete and unused tool kit, first aid kit and warning triangle. The seats and door cards are unmarked, with very little evidence of wear or cracking, the electric controls are all fully functional. The headlining, carpets and boot are unmarked. There are also a couple of touch-up paints included in the car.
Obviously there’s not much to report in terms of damage, although if we had to be ultra-picky, the alloys have barely noticeable signs of oxidation but you really would be hard pushed to pick it out as a fault. Of course, the wheels have never been curbed and those long heavy doors have never had a meeting with a supermarket trolley either. As stated previously the Continental tyres are only a few months old.
The Metallic Topaz blue paintwork is flawless, there are no major chips on the front, door edges are perfect and those wheel arches are rust-free - this is a common spot for corrosion in the E46. The glass, rubber and trim are as new. No scuffs and scratches on the bumpers. The lower flanks of the car are immaculate, which brings us on to the colour coded mud flaps. They were professionally painted when the car was relatively new and is the only non-original aspect of the car. We shouldn't voice a personal opinion here, but they do suit the car nicely and is a rare case of an enhancement BMW should have offered as an option.
The 323's 2494cc engine is one of the rarer E46 options, having been offered in the 4 door saloon when the car was announced in September 1998. The 323Ci coupe (engine code M52TU) was added to the lineup in June 1999 but replaced the more powerful 325Ci (M54 engine) as the car had a minor facelift in September 2001. This model benefits from the updated engine by offering upgrades including adding variable valve timing to the exhaust camshaft, and at the time it was considered one of the best engines in the world.
While the recorded mileage of under 29K, this may suggest a car that has not been used, but it is taken out on regular runs and covers around an average of 3,000 miles a year. Needless to say, the straight-six is hard to pick a fault with. From the presentation and cleanliness to the engine start, the tick over, to its purr is as good as you could wish for. The FSH and sympathetic use along with its low mileage, confirms that the engine might as well have been a new unit. Underneath, the car correlates with the condition of the engine, with a clean underside, suspension, steering and exhaust.
These sophisticated, stylishly and subtly designed cars continue the long tradition of engineering finesse that the brand has been long established for. From the day the car was launched, it was peerless and even the closest rivals simply couldn’t better it. Like a good Riesling, age has been kind to the E46. Its purposeful coupe styling is not too ostentatious, yet it still commands a presence.
The E46 sits in age group, often known as the minefield phase, where you could buy a decent car for not much more than one that has only a few years left in it. There is no doubt that this example sits way above those cars that are currently clogging up the classified adverts, and has a reserve that reflects its condition. Like anything, you pay as much as you can upfront to avoid the inevitable hidden costs, so this 323Ci should therefore be considered a potential bargain.
There is a genuine prospect of the E46 coupe of becoming a classic in the not-so-distant future, so for those who are looking for a useable and comfortable modern classic, that could be enjoyed on an occasional basis without the need for constant repair or renewal, then this has to be seriously worth considering.
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