Blue Bimmers And Sicilian Sunsets: Preserving A Factory-Fresh BMW E36 M3
Photography by Armando Musotto
At the Paris Motor Show in 1992, sitting among Italian supercars and an ocean of ‘90s plastic, a small masterpiece peeped out which would later become an icon in the world of sports motoring. Six cylinders in line, 286hp, more than 235ft-lbs of torque, and a design of great stylistic blending between two decades, we are talking about the E36 generation of the BMW M3, a car that would prove integral for the company’s success on and off the race track.
There are those among us car enthusiasts who will firmly claim, and with a lot of pride (likely because they are the owners of such cars), that the M3 is the best car ever made for anything you need to do, the absolute benchmark of sports sedans to date. After being in this beast for a few hours, I’m hard-pressed to think of a car that would have competed in the segment back in ’92, and from an aesthetic standpoint it’s certainly proven itself as one of the more timeless designs from an era that wasn’t really producing the prettiest stuff if I’m honest. In short, I can see why people pick the M3 as a reference point in general, and I’ve learned the appeals of the second-generation example in particular.
Giuseppe, the owner of the one pictured here, thinks the same way, as evidenced by the fact that he’s been preserving this beautiful E36 M3 for some time now. It’s in great original condition, and it wears one of the most spectacular colors available for the car: Avusblau metallic, which in low light offers a splendid gradient of blues and blacks. I’ve always preferred the narrow kidney grilles of the pre-facelift E36 M3s, and to come across one today that’s escaped the fate of so many modified brethren is a refreshing way to experience a car that really doesn’t need anything more than the factory gave it. Of course, a nice M3 fit for track duty is always going to be cool in its way, but when it seems like most have been altered in one form or another finding a preserved car feels all the more special.
“Preserve” is the exact term too for this case, because Giuseppe’s car seems to have just come out of a jewelry store rather than a garage, and for anyone with experience in these cars you’ll know it can be a process to keep up with certain pieces as they age. Giuseppe bought his Bimmer when he was younger, and he’s kept it stock ever since, keen to let the car’s beauty and factory performance speak for itself. It’s completely original, Giuseppe is a true purist, and shiny, perfect, without a smudge on it, the car is one of the most beautiful sapphires I’ve ever seen, set in a necklace or on the streets surrounding Palermo.
I have always been fascinated by the pop culture of the ‘90s and the motor racing from this era; it didn’t seem as manic as the ‘80s, but progress was still being made. I’d known about the cult of M3s that sprang up around the first generation car and never really went away, but being interested in the ‘90s it felt appropriate to seek out the E36 instead of the E30 that garners most of the attention, so I added the car to my long list of subjects to photograph and as chance would have it Giuseppe told me he owned such a machine, and coincidentally in my favorite factory color for it: Avus.
So, when Giuseppe, who I will quickly define as a BMW addicted, told me he’d be up for a photoshoot, I immediately organized myself and my things, put my cameras in my backpack, and left my hometown Sicily for a trip Palermo. Generally when shooting cars I organize my locations beforehand, looking for the best places or perhaps already having a few in mind already. This time however I was guided by Giuseppe, who besides being a BMW enthusiast, is a character perfectly embodying the concept of “Driving Tastefully.”
I found him on the day of the shoot in dark sweater, trousers, a nice watch on the wrist, and he then opens a garage door in a fairly stealthy place, the kind of door that no one would guess hides a gleaming German sports car. We get in, he turns the key and fills the small indoor space with the presence of the powerful inline-six, and we set out for a drive to warm up the car, wherein I note how comfortable and civil the whole thing is. Then when it’s up to temp he reminds me of its purpose with a lightning bolt of acceleration through the first few gears. A wallowing country-lane cruiser this is not!
We find ourselves among the Sicilian countryside where it might seem impossible to take an unflattering photo, among those lost places of mysterious Sicily, where every turnout on the road seems like a discovery. Between the green of the vines of Marsala and the wonderful streets of Alcamo, we find ourselves on a wholly desolate street, alone save for a sole motorist who gives us a curious look as he passes by to leave us are alone again with a magnificently saturated sunset that’s grown from pink to blood red in a matter of minutes.
The BMW is there with us in the silence, soaking in the waning light like a sunbathing reptile, a dark blue brick of granite capturing the changing shades of the landscape as the day closes. I’d finally experienced an E36 M3, and though I still can’t wait to get back in again, eventually it was time for me to head back home and for Giuseppe to put his BMW back in the garage for another night.