Price: £27,995 | Year: 1997 | Engine: 3,201 cc inline six cylinder, 321 bhp
When is a convertible BMW not a convertible BMW? When it's this car, an eye-blinding Dakar Yellow M3 Convertible taken apart, bulged and fettled by the multiple championship winners at AC Schnitzer, BMW conversion specialists extraordinaire. From carbon wings to an Alcantara steering wheel, this is the obsessive world of the – deep breath – AC Schnitzer CS E36 M3, rare, fast and – in this colourway – loud in more ways than one.
There is real motorsport heritage here. AC Schnitzer are independent of BMW but very much approved of by corporate bosses in Munich, not least because of the many Schnitzer victories on track in the likes of the World Touring Car Championship. Even though this convertible is unlikely to spend time jockeying for a position anywhere but a beachside parking place, the ready-to-race look is more than just an attention seeker. Those inflated front and rear wings, for instance, are in lightweight super tough carbon, designed to accommodate the competition spec Type 1 Schnitzer 3 piece rims, wider at the rear than the front.
If they haven’t seen you coming in your not-BMW, they’ll certainly hear you. The throbbing noise this swift boulevard cruiser makes is courtesy the bespoke Schnitzer swept exhaust, while the convertible's straight six is tuned to the exacting standards of BMW's renowned M Division, which transforms everyday saloons into four seater sports cars. For AC Schnitzer, the M Division doesn't go nearly far enough. So there is – for example – added adjustable suspension just in case you do, after all, fancy swapping St Tropez for Silverstone. The filler cap is, as you might expect, in titanium.
Inside there is every creature comfort that's essential in a high-end BMW, with the original black leather sports seats complemented by reminders of just how special this particular droptop is. Front and centre for the driver is an artwork of a steering wheel, clad in race-favourite Alcantara with, at its centre, the AC Schnitzer logo, which also adorns the bespoke gear lever and, just for good measure, handbrake. You won’t find a BMW badge inside. Pedals are drilled, in the racing style, further to save weight.
Best of all is the AC Schnitzer plaque, confirming not only the build date but the names of those responsible. There’s also the production number. This is car number one, which naturally increases its appeal. For all that exclusivity, the convertible carries a price tag that's around that of a new high end performance hatchback, with the added knowledge that you’re unlikely to see another and that there really is performance aplenty to match the promise of its body kit. Just remember you'll have to spend a fair amount of time explaining why it's not really a BMW. Perfect for driving to the beach, fast.