Bear in mind, as James told me his story, his wife was home on doctor ordered bedrest, awaiting the birth of their first child. He was at SIG Fest 2004 surrounded by M3s, claiming she understands his obsession.
Back in 1988, there were three guys at my college driving E30 M3s. I fell in love with the car but was left to admire it from afar. Following college, I spent a year in China and decided I needed to have one. Back in the States in 1992, I bought a Sterling Silver 1991 M3-after a 2-month search-showing just 7,000 miles. Seven years and 33,000 fun-filled miles later, a new job and a move to Singapore meant I would make the biggest mistake of my life. I sold the car.
To ease my broken heart, I was determined to channel my energy and refocus on a new goal-or shall I say dream. Way back in 1992, my good friend Mike Gallino had shown me a copy of the European M3 brochure. I had fallen in love with a car, based on a photo of the Cabriolet, that I thought for sure would only be an untouchable dream.
While in Singapore, I decided to find a convertible. I started tracking them in BMW Car magazine and over the course of 5 years, built a database of 50 or 60 cars. In January 2000, while visiting friends in the UK, I made a visit to Munich Legends and while it did not have any Cabrios there at the time, as luck would have it, a customer was visiting with his Sterling Silver M3 Cabrio. That surely whetted my appetite and my pursuit grew stronger. Just seeing the car made the whole trip worthwhile.
I returned to the States in May 2000, eventually purchasing another M3 hardtop, all the while searching for the right convertible. I learned Phil Cataldi had imported the lone M3 Cabrio then in the country. With his help and experience I narrowed the search to a 1989 model. The second production run (of three) had been equipped with catalytic converters making federalization that much easier. The reason the search took 5 years was the car also had to be silver with a black interior and have air-conditioning. If my research was correct, there were 88 produced with cats, 18 of which fit my criteria.
My search was an obsession to say the least. In addition to scanning BMW Car and European Auto Trader-like publications, I searched seven Internet sites daily. I had to refresh the sites all the time, even if I'd looked just an hour earlier to ensure I was getting the latest info.
Then, at last I found a Nogaro Silver Cabrio for sale in Germany through an Internet site. The deal wasn't done immediately, in fact the negotiations lasted from March through July. I sold my M3 coupe and my wife insisted we sell her car rather than take out a loan for the rest. (Her '98 SLK 230 was my wedding present to her.)
Having waited for 5 years, waiting another 9 months for JK Technologies to clear a backlog of Ferraris and federalize my car was a pittance. The search and wait was totally worth it. I enjoy driving the Cabrio, especially when the weather is nice, adding 3,000 to 5,000 miles a year.
Stop by www.patmedia.net/ljliu for a more detailed version of the story and some very helpful links on federalizing a car.
1989 Bmw E30 M3 Cabriolet SpecificationsEngine Type:2.3-liter S14 16-valve twin-cam four-cylinder
Power output195 bhp @ 6750 rpm
External ModificationsEuropean-spec E30 M3 hand-built at BMW Motorsport plant in Garching
Engine Management ModificationsEuropean-spec E30 M3
Drivetrain ModificationsEuropean-spec E30 M3 with Getrag close-ratio five speed gearbox, featuring Borg Warner synchromesh
SuspensionEuropean-spec E30 M3 with Boge gas twin-tube dampers
BrakesEuropean-spec E30 M3 with twin hydraulic circuits and servo assistance
Exterior WheelsBBS 7.5Jx16H2
TiresMichelin Pilot, SX 225/45ZR-16
BodyM3 convertible in BMW motorsport Nogaro Silver, limited-production electro-hydraulic convertible top
InteriorEuropean-spec E30 M3 Cabrio full leather interior