Find of the Week: 1994 (actual) Euro-spec BMW M3

1994 BMW M3

BMW’s iconic E30 M3, the first generation of 3 series-based M car, was sold in North America for just four years. From 1988 to 1991, just over 5,000 were sold between Canada and the US, with 185 produced for Canada. While those are small production numbers, that represented nearly a third of all E30 M3s sold worldwide.

Charting the BMW M3 Changes: Evolution of the M3

The good sales volume meant that when the E36 chassis M3 was introduced in 1992 it was expected that we would get the new car as well. But that didn’t happen. The E36 M3 went on sale in the rest of the world as a 1993 model, with not a whisper of cars headed to Canada. There was finally an edition built for the US, introduced in 1995. That car had a different engine than the European one. European cars were upgraded that year to a 3.2L straight six making 320 hp. The US got a 3.0L version making a mere 240 hp. There was just a five-speed instead of a six-speed manual, and the suspension was different. All to cut costs for the American market.

1994 BMW M3

Canada didn’t even get that car, at least not right away. We didn’t see the North American M3 until 1997, at which point there was a 3.2L six, still producing a middling 240 hp. The North American car wasn’t bad, in fact it won dozens of comparison tests even against much more powerful cars. But it wasn’t the same. Especially if you knew about the higher powered European cars.

But notice that I said we didn’t see the North American version until 1997. There was a caveat there. An asterisk. A loophole. Canadian importation laws were a little different back then. There was an agreement that meant that if a car was approved for sale in certain European countries it could be sold in Canada as well. BMW felt that a full run of cars for North America would be too expensive, but that if it brought in a small run of unmodified cars, then they could justify the higher price. It was a short-lived loophole, but BMW took advantage of it.

1994 BMW M3

For 1994, BMW Canada brought over just 45 M3 coupes. BMW labeled them the “Euro-spec M3” and they retailed for just under $60,000. A steep sum when a 318ti stickered for just $24,900. But every car was sold within three days. Not a surprise, since the car carried the full-fat M Motorsport 286 hp, 3.0L inline six and had the European suspension. With such low numbers, the 1994 Canadian M3 is the lowest production M3 that wasn’t built specifically for racing.

The only changes for Canada were the addition of a third brake light and daytime running lights. To show just how unique they were, each car was fitted with a numbered plaque. Letting you know where you fit into the lucky 45. Underneath, the 1994 cars kept the stronger rear differential from the European car, and had floating brake rotors.

That handful of “Euro Spec” cars now command a serious following. And a serious price tag. But if you wanted the full M3 treatment, they were the only way to go. Until about seven years ago. Once a car reaches 15 years of age, it becomes much easier to import into Canada. So some M3s from Europe started to cross the ocean. Those cars are much cheaper. They’re the same car, but since they’re not labeled as one of the 45, they’re less desirable.

1994 BMW M3

Our Find of the Week is a 1994 BMW M3 and it was imported from Germany a few years back. The car, in Mugello Red with very rare black M-cloth fabric and suede seats, is for sale in Mississauga, Ontario. It’s a lower mileage example, with just 147,000 km on the clock. It has air conditioning, which was optional on these cars. There have been a few modifications over the years, like smoked tail lights, but the owner reports that an extensive service history is available.

Good examples of an E30 M3 can now sell for over $100,000. The much more rare 1994 M3 Euro models are now selling for upwards of $80,000. But you can get that European M3 experience for much less if you get an imported example, like our Find of the Week. Maybe there’s no numbered plaque in the glove compartment, but it’s still not a common car. This is still a rare opportunity to put yourself behind the wheel of one of the few “real” M3s of the E36 (1992-1999) generation to make it to Canadian roads. Plus this way you don’t have to be afraid to drive it.

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Evan Williams

Evan Williams

Evan is based in Halifax, and has been a car nut for as long as anyone can remember. He autocrosses, does lapping days and TSD rallies, breaks cars and then fixes them again.
  • enthalpy

    There were some differences of course. Really the major was the different engine outputs.
    Im tired of reading the misinfo on the suspension and braking though. The suspension was different…to account for the different curb weights. thats it. Performance was comparable in the handling dept. Braking…Canada got the floating rotors, US did not, but that absolutely does not have any kind of drastic difference on performance unless you are running in an extended race. The us spec car got a newer version of traction/asc(the best at the time) which was more advanced than the euro which didnt have this. Braking performance was essentially the same though. Same calipers, brake pads, rotor size, master cylinder size etc.

    And most feel the us spec is under rated. Its not uncommon to see it pushing near the 3.0L euro hp ratings(with more torque!) with some minor breathing mods. So while it may not have fancy itbs….its still a solid engine ,a solid car which received rave reviews at the time for a good reason. In a sense the differences between the two…the euro is absolutely without a doubt highly over rated. And being in Canada..we are lucky we can have access to ALL variants to compare. They are all comparable…with only the 3.2L euro showing its hp north of 150 kmh. Something none of us can do on the road legally.

    If you have a euro car…great. If you have a us spec. also great. Don’t feel short changed at all. If you want euro options we didnt get, they can easily be had on ebay for a reasonable cost and they bolt right on.

  • enthalpy

    Id also like to add ..although only 45 came here, the numbered cars pop up for sale every so often …so not THAT hard to come by.

  • rdac

    i have owned a eurospec e36 and it is a crazy car compared to the extremely lame us version. it revs to 7300rpm and drives like a go cart. and idles like crap. the one i owned had full brembo brakes and full bilstein adjustable suspension. i have driven a us version and its pretty boring. the euro has a lot of car parts that aren’t the same. it like comparing a e46 m3 to a cls. i sold the car to a friend for a steal of a deal. the cars a tank as far as reliability.