The era of analog perfection was always destined to be finite. Since the beginning of time, the human species has failed to recognize a level of contentment, a notion of satisfaction, a brief pause in the pursuit of improvement. Many argue this is our greatest asset; the foundation of the world we have created for ourselves. Unfortunately, I, along with many enthusiasts, would say this is bullshit.
In 2006, life as a car aficionado was best represented by some former ex girlfriends; we didn’t realize how great it was until they were gone. Some of the finest pieces of automobile history were leaving Germany’s factories every single day. From screaming, naturally aspirated V10’s to three pedals on every dealer showroom, these were the good days. Timeless, clean designs with only the essential technology; this was the grand finale of the analog era. The migration of engineering raw driver experience with just the perfect amount of technological innovation was akin to adding the right amount of salt to a medium-rare, grass-fed ribeye. The perfect pinnacle of evolution for the passion which brings so many of us together.
Unfortunately, as mentioned previously, our eager desire to improve technology pushed us into an era focused on new-age screens, functions, and distractions; the entire auto industry followed suit. Obviously, since production of these gems has ceased, demand continues to balloon. Tracking auction prices of late 90’s to late 2000’s German high performance sports cars shows a substantial upward trend over the past five years. Especially when you narrow down what enthusiasts classify as the most driver-oriented. The Audi RS models, the E39 M5, the Carrera GT, the McLaren AMG SLR, etc.– the list is lengthy and breathtaking. Our CLT Month of the Week comes as quite possibly the best optioned version of one of the best driver’s cars available in 2006. The BMW E46 M3 ZCP Competition.
Cited by many as the true ultimate driving machine, the BMW E46 M3 concept debuted at the 1999 German International Motor Show, with the production model showcased in Geneva the following year (1&2). The new M3 displayed a radical new design featuring an athletic, yet modern approach under the direction of Ulf Weidhase, the head of BMW M design at the time. From a completely blank slate, the craftsmen in Munich created a vehicle engineered to provide segment-defining Nurburgring times while offering a vehicle suitable for daily use and long road trips. A homage of sorts to early M3 brethren known for a dynamic driver experience with the now added creature comforts of a luxurious interior and premium equipment. The launch is still the largest BMW M success to date with approximately 85,000 total models being sold over the car’s six year model run (3). The S54, the legendary 343 horsepower naturally aspirated inline six cylinder with an 8,000 rpm redline and individual throttle bodies, won eight prestigious awards at the annual “Engine of the Year” awards ceremony (3).
In 2003 the M3 went through it’s mid-cycle facelift and received only a rear tail-light LED upgrade as designers were cautious to mess with the immense popularity of the model. The following year led to the special M3 CSL edition where BMW M created a track-focused vehicle weighing 110kg (243 lbs) less than the standard model. These weight savings were found in the use of carbon fiber body parts and a significantly stripped interior set-up. The car was also given a slight boost in power with a 17 horsepower increase compared to the base model. The E46 M3 CSL was also only offered in a SMG II automated transmission and was not sold to U.S. markets (3). What came to the shores of North America the next year was the very spec of vehicle that inspired this article.The M3 ZCP Competition, otherwise known as the M3 CS in Europe, featured custom BBS 19” rims, stiffer suspension dynamics, and the steering/brake set-up from the M3 CSL. This was the best model one could order back in 2005, and remains near the top of the collector pedestal in regards to the E46 M3 model. The last year of an M generation is always the most desirable, hence our Find of the Month (pictured below). Although I will always be partial to blue BMW’s, as it was the color of my cherry-popper, this pristine example out of Vancouver caught our attention earlier this week. This west coast special is a 2006 ZCP with the six-speed manual transmission and 34k original miles.
Finished in the Competition-only Interlagos Blue with the rare M Alcantara full interior package, a potential buyer looking for the “right” one should look no further. At the seller’s asking price of $46,900, the number appears to be on the money.
Looking at two comparable BringATrailer E46 M3 ZCP sales, you can see a 2006 Imola Red II model with 56k miles selling for $50,500 in August of 2020, and a 2005 Interlagos Blue model with 48k miles selling for $58,500 in January of 2021. With our chosen model, you fall under the mileage of both examples, yet with a more desirable interior spec. When peeking at the data on the resale market history of E46 M3 models, we can see a sell-through rate of 84% with an upward trend in late models around 30k miles over the past year. In general terms, the collector car market follows the trends of other investment markets, such as fine art; and based on the course of both during this pandemic, we feel great about this car as an investment– albeit everything passes inspection. Analog, manual transmission cars are never going to be made again– the number that are left in the world dwindles every day. More and more are being picked up by investors who are planning to store them away in the years to come, never to be driven again. Clean cockpit layouts with just the essential creature comforts creates space for an authentic driving experience only cars from this era can give you.
The E46 M3 is at the top of almost every enthusiast’s best sports cars ever made list. Looking ahead, the midrange examples will slowly gain wear and mileage, and poor examples will continue to wither away into parts. This inherently increases the value of mint condition examples such as the numerous $50,000+ E46 M3’s sold by reputable analog BMW specialist, Enthusiast Auto Group. It would not be surprising if the E46 M3 follows in the footsteps of its older sibling, the E30 M3, and see prices climb into the six figure range over the next five years. If you were to go for one, this 2006 BMW E46 ZCP M3 with 34k miles, the manual transmission, and drool-worthy full alcantara interior would certainly be the one we’d look at first. Anyone have an extra $46,000 laying around?
Here’s the link to the aforementioned Craigslist Listing