That almost every classic BMW M car has enjoyed some appreciation of late probably isn't a shock. Almost all of them look brilliant, drive really well and are powered by a fantastic engine. With the future of traditional fast cars now time limited, many are understandably seeking solace in the model they've known and loved for a while. Problem being, of course, that as the price of great driver's cars goes up, with it goes the reluctance to actually use them regularly. Sideways in an M3 carries rather more risk if a £10k car has become a £30k one...
That really is the case with the E46 M3, too. In 2012 a really good manual CS could be yours for less than £15k; now it's more like £35k, and that's with an SMG. So how about a 330Ci Clubsport? It's another handsome E46 (is there an ugly one?), with a big straight six and rarity also on its side.
Now, to be clear from the off, the Clubsport was not the stripped out special the name led many to believe it would be. It was mechanically identical to the regular 330Ci, with 231hp, and significant modifications were limited to the removal of some sound deadening, a shorter gearlever, and sports suspension.
In 2002 BMW said the Clubsport sat "neatly between the 330Ci Sport model and the legendary M3 Coupe", but the end product was certainly a lot nearer the former 3 Series than the latter. Still, it looked distinctive, the Clubsport offered in Titanium Silver or two individual colours - the popular Estoril Blue, or Velvet Blue as seen here. It could also be identified by the unique wheels and rear spoiler, one of those upgrades certainly more popular than the other.
The 330Ci Clubsport was not a drastic overhaul, then, which probably worked both for and against its success. You won't make a bad E46 3 Series with such minor updates, but the Clubsport changes may not have looked significant enough to compel buyers to pay the premium (£31,380 in 2002) over the standard car.
As a modern classic BMW, however, the Clubsport's case arguably looks stronger - especially in one of the individual colours. It looks great (even with the spoiler), is probably rarer than an M3, and comes with a couple of little touches - see the natty seats and Clubsport sill plates - that make it a bit nicer than a regular 330.
As well as the colour, this car's cause is helped by the manual gearbox (an auto was offered), a recent service and a fairly low mileage of 82,000. It's been driven by four owners over the past 17 years and is being sold with a six-month warranty. The MOT does expire next month, however, so it might be worth negotiating that into an offer on the £9k asking price. Last thing anyone wants in January is a big repair bill.
Though six-cylinder E46s are available for less money, good ones are becoming harder to find; the last ones were sold 15 years ago now, don't forget. A 330Ci with a few trinkets might have been a tough sell when new, but nowadays the Clubsport looks an interesting way into old-school BMW motoring without the M premium. Even with that spoiler.
SPECIFICATION | BMW 330CI CLUBSPORT
Engine: 2,979cc, straight six
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 231@5,900rpm
Torque (lb ft): 221@3,500rpm
Year registered: 2004
Recorded mileage: 82,000
Price new: £31,380 (2002)
Yours for: £9,380
1 / 5