Lately I’ve been looking at the Porsche 911 as a possible replacement for my M3. Sounds like a logical move, right? BMW M3 owner moves on to Porsche 911. Nothing we haven’t heard before. But why look at the 911 now when I could have looked at them eight years ago instead of buying an NSX, or the Corvette, or the STi, or whatever the hell else I bought? Perhaps there is a natural progression to car buying.
When I turned 16 my dad gave me a $1,000 1985 Mustang GT. It was truly a love-hate relationship with that car. I loved the sound of the 5.0 but hated the dated styling and that dreadful CFI engine. I read so much information on the Fox body Mustangs that my vision had turned Ford Racing blue and next thing you know I bought a 91 5.0. And shortly after I replaced it with what would become my money pit, a 95 GT.
I definitely spent way too much time on the Corral and StangNet forums reading about engine modifications and suspension upgrades. The weekends were spent hooning around town with friends, detailing the car, or modifying our cars in some way. Working at Ted Britt Ford was a bonus because I got a fantastic discount on Ford Racing parts. It was at the dealership that I met a young salesman with a black E36 M3. That car always caught my eye. We would talk shit to one another all the time. It went back and forth until one day he didn’t show up to work. I never saw him again and we never raced. I could have taken his M3, right? The mystique of the M3 continued to grow.
After my third Mustang I decided I wanted a change of scenery. My good friend, Dan, had a lightly modded Integra GS-R that I really liked and decided to pick up one of my own. This time, instead of drag racing, the Honda-Tech forums sparked my interest in road racing.
In 2004 I attended my first HPDE with at Beaverun in Pennsylvania as part of the National Prelude Meet. I frequently autocrossed my Mustang but there was no comparison to driving on track ad speed. It. Was. A. Blast. Why hadn’t I tried this sooner?! I was soon to be obsessed with track driving and in just a few years found myself competing in the Redline Time Attack Series and instructing with local clubs at Summit Point and Virginia International Raceway.
I only ever owned one car at a time (excluding overlap to sell the previous). Be it an NSX, a full Nismo’d 350Z, bolt-on Corvette, whatever. All were purchased with the intention of daily driving and tracking but I never held on to any of them much longer than a year. I would track them for the season and learn everything I could about their limitations first hand. After a while I always felt like the car I had didn’t do, or wasn’t capable, of something well enough to pull double duty as my daily driver and weekend track car under my budget.
In November 2011 I bought an E46 M3. It’s pretty much been everything I had hoped it would be. Most of my cars never make it long enough to renew registration, so it feels like I’ve owned this car an eternity.
All of my previous cars have been modified in a some way to enhance the joy of driving. The fact that my M3 remains 99% stock after two years is a testament to BMW’s Ultimate Driving Machine. The problem is I have begun to get bored of the M3. It’s no longer exciting. I think that is the reason why I have been looking at 911’s recently.
Even with 155,000 miles on the odometer, the M3 barely shows it’s age. Driving the car is a joy. As my daily driver in the city with the worst rated traffic (Washington, DC), there have been days where the SMG transmission has been a life saver. The E46 M3 has proven to be a marvelous balance of useability and performance. The 3.2 engine has a very flat torque curve which is great for commuting around town and the peak 333 horsepower is more than enough to get anyone into trouble. I will admit a set of headers are sitting in my basement waiting for their day.
So what’s next if I do decide to get rid of the E46 M3? Regret? That’s my fear. The natural progression for sports car enthusiasts is to gravitate toward Porsche 911. This seems to be especially true with M3 owners. And where does one go from the Porsche 911? I’d venture to say the Italian market. Today, that would be a used Ferrari F360 or maybe a Lamborghini Gallardo though I think most people draw the line at the Porsche 911.